The Perse School

Boasting a 400-year history, the Perse is Cambridge’s oldest secondary school and is rooted in four traditional values: endeavour; intellectual curiosity and scholarship; breadth and balance; and respecting each other and the environment. That it upholds the second, in its commitment to learning, is evidenced by routinely strong exam results: in 2020, a whopping 93 per cent of A-level entries were awarded A*–A. Meanwhile, the pledge on breadth and balance is achieved not least through a thriving music department (lately, a 120-strong virtual orchestra gave a spirited online rendition of Bernstein’s Mambo). There’s also a brilliant performing arts centre, where students recently delivered riotous versions of Billy Elliot and Matilda. The building is home to an art gallery, too. Other extracurricular opportunities are available in more than 100 clubs, which range from film-making to volleyball. As for respecting each other and nature, students have the run of 27 acres and engage in an outdoor pursuits programme that includes canoeing and intrepid bushcraft. There’s also a focus on working in the community. Upper-sixth pupils take sessions in a variety of subjects at 23 local primary schools, and the charity committee is always busy raising funds for good causes.

Location: Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 8QF


Head: Edward Elliott, MA, since 2008; previously Head of Sixth Form

Pupils: 1,259 day: 703 boys, 556 girls

Ages: 11–18

Term fees: £6,481

Oxbridge: 23%

Admission: School’s own exam, previous school’s report and interview

Alumni: Physicist John Polkinghorne, founder of the RSC Sir Peter Hall

Prep head: James Piper

Prep Pupils: 281 day: 144boys, 137 girls

Prep Ages: 7–11

Prep Term fees: £5,879