Stephen Perse Foundation

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The Stephen Perse Foundation
Stephen perse logo.svg
Union Road

England, CB2 1HF
TypeIndependent school
MottoYour future starts with a great foundation
PrincipalMiss Tricia Kelleher
Stephen Perse Foundation Junior School library entrance.jpg
Stephen Perse Foundation Junior School library

The Stephen Perse Foundation is a family of six independent schools in Cambridge and Saffron Walden for students aged 3 to 18.

The Foundation is made up of seven 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, for boys and girls aged 3–11; the Stephen Perse Junior School, for boys and girls aged 7–11; the Stephen Perse Senior School, for boys and girls aged 11–16 (boys joined Year 7 for the first time in September 2017); and the Stephen Perse 6th Form College, co-educational for students aged 16–18. The school has a strong reputation for academic excellence and a progressive attitude towards learning and social skills,[1] being named the top Independent school in East Anglia by The Sunday Times[2] on their 'Parent Power' list in 2016.[3] In 2018, Cambridge Centre for Sixth Form Studies joined the school group[4].


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. It developed along separate lines and operates as a separate organization today, providing coeducational education from ages 3 to 18.

In 1881, the complementary but unconnected Perse School for Girls opened, as part of the strong 19th-century movement to educate women. From the Perse School for Girls, the Foundation developed to become the Stephen Perse Foundation in 2007. It opened a co-educational sixth form college in 2008. It now provides a complete educational pathway for boys and girls from age 3 to 18.[5]

Writer and cartoonist Ronald Searle drew from the Foundation and Cambridgeshire High School for Girls (now Long Road Sixth Form College) as inspiration for his St Trinian's School books (published 1946 to 1952), which portrayed the girls at a boarding school as juvenile delinquents. Searle donated original manuscripts and diaries to the school, which are held in the school archive. This material includes a letter, dated 1993, which confirms the link.[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 September 2013, Dame Bradbury's School in Saffron Walden joined the Foundation, as a non-selective school for boys and girls aged 3-11.[10] At the same time, announcements were made of major development plans to admit boys to the Junior and Senior Schools. Boys started at the Junior School in Cambridge in September 2014, and at the Senior School in 2017, with classes from Year 5 through to Year 11 being taught in a diamond formation. This combines the academic benefits of single-sex learning with the social advantages of a co-educational environment.[11][12][13]

Awards and accolades[edit]

In 2013, the Sunday Times named the Foundation the International Baccalaureate (IB) School of the Year for the second time. The paper said: "Students at the Stephen Perse 6th Form College in Cambridge are world-class achievers. Their exceptional academic results this year mean that the school is not only ranked first in Britain but also joint first in the world for the international baccalaureate (IB) diploma."[14]

In November 2014, the school was awarded the title Independent School of the Year 2014[15] and also "Outstanding Strategic Initiative" by the Independent School Awards, decided by a panel of independent judges, including the Chief Inspector of the Independent Schools Inspectorate, Christine Ryan.

In November 2016, the Foundation was named the Best Independent School in East Anglia by The Sunday Times[16] on its 'Parent Power' list. The list is acknowledged as the 'most authoritative survey' of the county's best schools, according to the newspaper. The Foundation was ranked at number 18 in a list of 2,000 schools around the United Kingdom. The accolade was based on GCSE and A Level results – 97.6% of A Level students achieved A* to B grades and 86.1% of GCSE students achieved A* and A grades.[17]. In 2017, The same Parent Power survey ranked the school number 40 in the UK and, in 2018, number 74.[18]

The Foundation was shortlisted for Digital innovation/ed tech school of the year at the TES Schools Awards 2017.[19]

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), with the Stephen Perse Junior School (ages 7–11) occupying a site close by. The Stephen Perse Pre-Prep School was established in 2010, after the Foundation purchased the 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.

In 2017, the school completed a major building project on the main site. It now offers an indoor sports hall, a rooftop multi-use games area, 10 new classrooms, and flexible learning spaces.

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 are available to use before school, after school, and at lunchtimes.

In 2013, the refurbished library and classrooms in the Junior School were covered by The Guardian newspaper in a feature on inspirational teaching spaces.[20]

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


There are currently approximately 800 students: 80 in the Pre-Prep, 140 in the Junior School, and 140 in the 6th Form; and 450 in the Senior School. Usually there are four classes in years 7 and 8, and five 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 11s give their responsibilities over to the Year 10s 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 leads the Student Forum and reads at the annual Carol Service. A Student President is 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 maintaining the link 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.

Each student and teacher are part of a house named after a notable contributor to the school, for example, head teachers and people who donated money to the school. The houses are:

  • Clark
  • Cattley
  • Street
  • Kennett
  • Rose
  • Pollock
  • Sutherland

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, becoming coeducational.[21]


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, Mandarin Chinese, or Russian from year 9.

For GCSE, there are many options available, with students taking 10 or 11 GCSEs. 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 choose up to four options from History, Geography, Religious Studies and Philosophy, German, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Art, Drama, Design and Technology, Music, Latin, and Greek. 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.[22][23] 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[24] and was named the Sunday Times IB School of the year in 2010 and 2013.[25][26]

In 2013 the school was reported as holding the joint-highest IB results in the world, with a student average score of 42.2 points[27]. In 2018, the average IB points score was 36, as reported in the Sunday Times Parent Power Survey ranking.[28]

The school makes extensive use of technology in the curriculum. It has been featured by BBC News regarding the innovatory use of iTunes U courses.[29]

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 creations with a wide variety of materials, 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. There is also a Senior School Chamber Choir, and a Middle School Chamber Choir, which have around 15 students in each by audition, and the Jazz Singers, Year 7 choir, Middle School Choir, and Year 7 boys choir, which are attendable by all. 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 voice.

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 Metamorphoses]] in 2010, in which students from the sister schools came to Cambridge to take part in workshops including dance, drama, art and textiles.

Residential trips are organized for both fun and learning. Year 4 students go to Burwell near the end of the year, and in the summer term, Year 6 students have a three-day residential. In previous years the year sixes have been to Paris, Edinburgh, and Normandy. 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. 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 meet the people they help through fundraising initiatives. The school also raises money for Barnados with Barnados Day. This takes 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[30]'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.[31]

Notable alumni[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. ^ The Sunday Times Retrieved 7 February 2017. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Pilgrim, Tom (25 November 2016). "Cambridge independent schools beat state secondaries in Sunday Times ranking". cambridgenews. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  4. ^ Newsdesk. "CCSS joins Stephen Perse Foundation". Cambridge Independent. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  5. ^ "Stephen Perse Foundation – History". 7 February 2017.
  6. ^ "Stephen Perse Foundation – our history". Stephen Perse Foundation. Archived from the original on 25 June 2013. 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, archived from the original on 22 August 2015, retrieved 25 January 2014 includes a photograph that is said to show Keynes as a child at the Perse School kindergarten.
  10. ^ "Saffron Walden school to merge with nationally acclaimed Cambridge school". Saffron Walden Reporter. 14 May 2013. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  11. ^ "Diamond formation". Stephen Perse Foundation. 07/02/17. Archived from the original on 8 February 2017. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ "Girls' school that inspired St Trinian's to let boys in". Cambridge News. 14 May 2013. Archived from the original on 13 December 2013. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  13. ^ Duffin, Claire (14 May 2013). "Inspiration for St Trinian's opens its doors to boys for the first time". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  14. ^ "Stephen Perse Foundation Awards". 07/02/17. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  15. ^ Independent School Awards Retrieved 15 November 2014. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ Pilgrim, Tom (25 November 2016). "Cambridge independent schools beat state secondaries in Sunday Times ranking". cambridgenews. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  17. ^ "Sunday Times Parent Power". Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  18. ^ Times, The Sunday. "Parent Power 2019: Best UK Schools Guide". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  19. ^ TES. "TES Schools Awards: TES Schools Awards 2017". Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  20. ^ Spiller, Lisa (25 November 2013). "Inspiring school spaces". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 June 2013. Retrieved 20 May 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ "Answer today's philosophical question and get Cambridge thinking". Cambridge News. Archived from the original on 5 August 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  23. ^ "Everyone loves a winner". Cambridge News. Archived from the original on 5 August 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  24. ^ "International Baccalaureate Organisation". International Baccalaureate. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  25. ^ "Sunday Times Parent Power Survey, 2010". Sunday Times. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  26. ^ Uzel, Suzan (13 November 2010). "Sixth form college best in country for Baccalaureate". Cambridge News. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  27. ^ McCall, Alastair (17 November 2013). "The brainy belles of St Trinian's". Sunday Times. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  28. ^ Times, The Sunday. "Parent Power 2019: Best UK Schools Guide". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  29. ^ Coughlan, Sean. "Textbooks replaced by iTunes U downloads". BBC News. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  30. ^ "Stephen Perse Foundation". Archived from the original on 4 May 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  31. ^ "Stephen Perse Foundation news". Archived from the original on 5 August 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  32. ^ Vaizey, Marina. "Olive Muriel Cook (1912–2002)". ONDB. OUP. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  33. ^ "Hodgson [née Rosenthal], Miriam Ann". ODNB. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  34. ^ BBC News
  35. ^ Nettell, Stephanie (2 January 2007). "Philippa Pearce". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 January 2007.

External links[edit]

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