Stephen Perse Foundation

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The Stephen Perse Foundation
Stephen Perse
Stephen perse logo.svg
"Discovering a love of learning"
Union Road
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
England, CB2 1HF
Type Independent school
Established 1881
Founder Professor Clark
Gender Co-ed 3-11 Female 11-16, Co-ed 16-18 (Dame Bradbury's is co-ed 3-11) - also see note in the text re changes
Enrollment circa 800 (1050 with Dame Bradbury's School)
Affiliation Non-denominational
Stephen Perse Foundation Junior School library entrance.jpg
Stephen Perse Foundation Junior School library

The Stephen Perse Foundation is an independent day school in Cambridge, England. The Foundation is made up of six schools: The Stephen Perse Pre-prep Schools in Madingley and in the City, for boys and girls aged 3–7, Dame Bradbury's School in Saffron Walden (boys and girls aged 3–11), Stephen Perse Foundation Junior School, for boys and girls aged 7–11, Stephen Perse Foundation Senior School, for girls aged 11–16 (and boys from 2017), and the Stephen Perse Sixth Form College, (boys and girls aged 16–18). The school has a strong reputation for academic excellence[1] but does not submit data to league tables.[2]


The school was originally founded in 1881 as The Perse School for Girls. Its first Headmistress was Miss Street. The name of Dr Stephen Perse, a fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (who died in the 1600s) has always been associated with the school.

In 1615, Dr Perse's will included a bequest of land for the establishment of what was then described as a Grammar Free School, in Cambridge. It became The Perse School and was originally reserved for boys but, in 1881, the complementary Perse School for Girls opened, as part of the strong 19th century movement to educate women. The school adopted the legal name of The Stephen Perse Foundation in 2007 just before opening a co-educational sixth form college in 2008.

It was also part of the inspiration for the St Trinian's School books by Ronald Searle, alongside Cambridgeshire High School for Girls (now Long Road Sixth Form College). Searle donated original manuscripts and diaries to the school, which are held in the school archive. This includes a letter, dated 1993, which confirms the link.[3]

In May 2013, the school announced merger plans with Dame Bradbury's School, Saffron Walden.[4] At the same time, announcements were made of major development plans to admit boys to the Junior School in 2014 and to the Senior School in 2018 - to be taught in a diamond formation.[5][6]

Around the turn of the 20th Century, the school accepted boys into its Kindergarten, including a young John Maynard Keynes.[7][8][9]

In November 2014, the school was awarded the title Independent School of the Year 2014[10] and also Outstanding Strategic Initiative by the Independent School Awards, decided by a panel of independent judges chaired including the Chief Inspector of the Independent Schools Inspectorate, Christine Ryan.


The Stephen Perse Foundation implements the house system. All students in the Junior and Senior Schools are put into one of the six houses, each named for a previous headmistress or governor; Cattley (dark blue), Clark (yellow), Kennett (red), Pollock (white), Rose (green) and Street (light blue). Houses take part in term competitions, as well as a Sports Day for the Senior School, which takes place on last day of the Summer Term. The Junior School has their Sports Day earlier in the Summer Term. The Houses also compete in Talent and Music shows. The Junior School has a Swimming Gala for Years 4-6, later in the year.

Site and Facilities[edit]

The main school site occupies a city "block", three sides bordered by residential streets and the fourth by the University of Cambridge Department of Chemistry. This houses the Stephen Perse Senior School (ages 11–16). The school recently redeveloped the school hall, dining room and library.

The Stephen Perse Junior School (ages 7–11) occupies a site close to the main secondary school.

In September 2008, the school established the co-educational Stephen Perse Sixth Form college in Shaftesbury Road. The school teaches both A-level and IB, and was awarded the IB school of the Year by The Sunday Times newspaper in 2010 and 2013 and held the highest IB average point score in the UK in 2013 (42.2pts per student) which was also confirmed as being the joint-highest score in the world.

In September 2010, the school established the Stephen Perse Pre-Prep School after purchasing Madingley School Pre-Prep on the retirement of the previous owners. Most of the Stephen Perse Pre-Prep is situated in Madingley, a village outside Cambridge, and the rest is located at the Junior School Site.

The main site includes a dining room, hall, library, visual arts centre and a sick bay, with renovations in other classrooms. All classrooms contain interactive whiteboards. There is a class 3 listed gymnasium on site too, as well as ICT rooms which were available to use before school, after school and at lunchtimes.

In 2013, the refurbished library and classrooms in the Junior School has received attention from The Guardian newspaper in a feature on inspirational teaching spaces.[11]

The school also contains a fenland nature reserve, astroturf playing fields and a pavilion.


There are currently approximately 800 students, with 80 in the Pre-Prep, 140 in the Junior School and 140 in the Sixth Form, as well as 450 in the Senior School. Here there are usually four classes in years 7 and 8 but 5 classes in years 9, 10 and 11. In the Junior School there are two classes in years 3,4,5 and 6.

The Student Forum offers students the chance for their views to be heard. Each form elects two representatives to sit on the forum. The Student Forum meets once every half term to discuss issues that are affecting the lives of the students. This enables the school to know what issues the students want addressed. The Junior School has a School Council, with responsibilities similar to those of the Student Form.

Girls are given the chances in their final year to hold responsibilities. These include sitting on one of the school's committees, mentoring the younger years, or creating the school's yearbook. The Year 11's give their responsibilities over to the Year 10's when they start their exam period in the Spring Term. The Head Girl is chosen in Year 10, elected by both her peers and her teachers. The Head Girl's responsibilities include leading the Student Forum and reading at the Carol Service. A Student President is also elected in the same manner for the Sixth Form. The Student President acts as a liaison between staff and sixth formers, as well as monitoring the work of the sixth form student committees and ensuring the link remains between the sixth form and the senior school.

Form groups lead an assembly every year, and also run charity initiatives for that Term's charity. The class that raises the most money is given a certificate in a frame, which they can hang up in the classroom for the rest of the term.

The plans to introduce iPads for educational use in the Senior School started in September 2012. This was extended to the 6th form from September 2013.

In 2013 it was announced that the school will be accepting boys for the first time in to the junior school in 2014 and then the senior school in 2017. This will be coeducational, despite promises that it would remain separate. [12]


There is a large range of opportunities for learning at the Stephen Perse. Students learn French from Year 3 and Spanish from year 4, and can choose to learn German, Italian or Russian from year 8. For GCSE, there are many options available, with students taking 10 or 11 GCSE's. All students take Maths, English Language and English Literature IGCSEs, and Biology, Chemistry and Physics GCSEs. Students also take an IGCSE in either French and/or Spanish. Students then choose up to four options from History, Geography, Religious Studies and Philosophy, German, Italian, Russian, Art, Drama, Design and Technology, Music, Latin, and Greek, and take an ECDL in ICT. Critical Thinking is taught as a non-examined course, as is Physical Education. Students can take a short course Physical Education GCSE as an extra-curricular activity.

Recently, a new lesson was introduced in the Junior School: Thinking Skills.[13][14] This includes a range of topics from social to political, encouraging sharing points of view through debating, and asking questions about the wider world. It is based around the Philosophy for Children programme (P4C).

The 6th form students choose either the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme or A Levels (Music is taught through the Cambridge Pre-U qualification). All students in the 6th form take the IB course in Theory of Knowledge. From September 2013, A Level students will also have the opportunity to take an Extended Essay (from the IB) for qualification.

The school has been an International Baccalaureate World School since 2007[15] and was named Sunday Times IB School of the year in 2010 and 2013.[16][17]

In 2013 the school was reported as holding the joint-highest IB results in the world with a student average score of 42.2points[18]

The school makes extensive use of technology in the curriculum and has been featured by BBC News regarding the innovatory use of iTunes U courses[19]

Sport and the Arts[edit]

Sport is played throughout the school. In the younger years, students play hockey, netball, rounders and tennis. They also do Gymnastics and Athletics and the school offers a wide range of sports clubs. When students reach Year 9, they are given more choice of sports, and they can be instructed in rowing, volleyball, basketball, squash, badminton, cricket, touch rugby, lacrosse and dance. Many Stephen Perse teams compete regionally in hockey, rounders, netball and tennis and several students compete at National level in their chosen sports. In 2013 there was a Hockey tour to South Africa.

Drama is taught throughout the school. Every year group is given the chance to perform in a play, or help backstage or with lighting. Every other year, Years 10- U6th put on a musical, which is performed at the Mumford Theatre. Each year in the Junior School, Year 5s are the main focus of the Christmas Concert and near the end of the Spring Term the Year 6s put on a play as well. At the end of every year the Year 4s also put on a show accompanied by the other Years in singing.

A range of arts are taught by experienced teachers in the recently built Visual Arts Centre. Students have the chance to try Fine Art, from painting to drawing to sculpting, Textiles, which includes fashion designing and vibrant surreal creations with a wide variety of materials to experiment with, and Digital Media on the Macs.

Music is also an important part of the school. There are many orchestras and choirs that students can join. The Singers, a choir open from Year 10, regularly goes on choir tours in Europe, and sometimes sings Evensong at Ely Cathedral. Students are given the chance to sing or play at the Christmas carol service at Great St Mary's Church, the spring concert at West Road, and Jazz on a Summer's Evening. Individual Music Tuition is readily available in a range of instruments from Saxophone to Oboe to singing.

Extracurricular activities[edit]

The Stephen Perse Foundation holds the British Council International School Award in recognition of the work the school undertakes with schools in Finland, Hungary, Portugal, Italy, France, Russia, Spain, Germany and Japan. The Comenius project aims to bring the teaching of Classics into the modern world. The school hosted a week on the topic of Metamorpheses in 2010, in which students from the sister schools came to Cambridge to take part in workshops including dance, drama, art and textiles.

There are many opportunities to take part in Residential trips for both fun and learning. Year 4 students go to Burwell near the end of the year and Year 6 students go to Brancaster quite promptly after the autumn term begins. At the beginning of Year 7, students and year staff go to Grafham Water to take part in team building exercises. This helps the year to get to know each other and become closer. In Year 10, all students who can afford it go to Flanders, for a cross-curricular trip. Exchanges take place for all modern languages taught; The French Exchange in Years 8 and 9, and the others in Year 10. The Year 9 Ski trip and USA exchange are also very popular. In 2013 the 6th form went to Costa Rica (science expedition), in 2014 to Ladakh, India and in 2015 to Zanzibar, Tanzania.

The school was connected to The Gambia, and each year money is raised by initiatives such as the Journey to Africa walk, and occasional soup days. Students from the older years took part in a journey to the Gambia yearly to directly meet the people they help. The school also raises money for Barnados with Barnados Day, an event taking place every two years where each class decorates their form room with different themes. This is a much-loved event with much cake, games and bizarre costumes.

All parts of the school support a different charity each year as well.

The school has an extensive speaker programme known as [20]'inspire me'. Participants have included: Doug Richard (Dragon’s Den entrepreneur), Bridget Kendall (BBC journalist), Stephanie Cook (Olympic gold medallist) and Wendy Tan White (founder of Moonfruit).

Lord Williams of Oystermouth, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and former Archbishop of Canterbury, spoke at the leavers’ service in 2013.[21]

Notable former pupils[edit]


  • Miss Street 1881-1909
  • Miss Kennett 1909-1926
  • Miss Cattley 1926-1947
  • Miss Scott 1947-1967
  • Miss Bedson 1967-1979
  • Miss Bateman 1979-1989
  • Miss Smith 1989-2001
  • Miss Kelleher 2001-

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sunday Times Parent Power Survey". Sunday Times. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  2. ^ "Stephen Perse Foundation results". Stephen Perse Foundation. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  3. ^ "Stephen Perse Foundation - our history". Stephen Perse Foundation. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "Saffron Walden school to merge with nationally acclaimed Cambridge school". Saffron Walden Reporter. 14 May 2013. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "Girls' school that inspired St Trinian's to let boys in". Cambridge News. 14 May 2013. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  6. ^ Duffin, Claire (14 May 2013). "Inspiration for St Trinian's opens its doors to boys for the first time". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  7. ^ Skidelsky, Robert (1983). John Maynard Keynes: Hopes Betrayed, 1883-1920 Vol 1. Picador. pp. 69–73. ISBN 978-0333115992. 
  8. ^ Deane, Phyllis (2001). The Life and Times of J. Neville Keynes: A Beacon in the Tempest. Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 168–. ISBN 978-1-84064-534-7. 
  9. ^ 130 years of Perse Girls - Stephen Perse Foundation, 2011, p. 8, retrieved 2014-01-25  includes a photograph that is said to show Keynes as a child at the Perse School Kindergarten.
  10. ^ Independent School Awards Retrieved 15 November 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ Spiller, Lisa (25 November 2013). "Inspiring school spaces". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Answer today's philosophical question and get Cambridge thinking". Cambridge News. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  14. ^ "Everyone loves a winner". Cambridge News. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  15. ^ "International Baccalaureate Organisation". International Baccalaureate. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  16. ^ "Sunday Times Parent Power Survey, 2010". Sunday Times. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  17. ^ Uzel, Suzan (2010-11-13). "Sixth form college best in country for Baccalaureate". Cambridge News. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  18. ^ McCall, Alastair (17 November 2013). "The brainy belles of St Trinian's". Sunday Times. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  19. ^ Coughlan, Sean. "Textbooks replaced by iTunes U downloads". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  20. ^ "Stephen Perse Foundation". Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  21. ^ "Stephen Perse Foundation news". Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  22. ^ BBC News
  23. ^ Nettell, Stephanie (2 January 2007). "Philippa Pearce". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-01-02. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°11′49″N 0°7′33″E / 52.19694°N 0.12583°E / 52.19694; 0.12583