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  • University Guidance 2015 - Q&A from our event

    Published 18/12/16

    We were delighted to welcome an exceptional panel for our annual University Guidance event on June 19th. Dr Eleanor David (University of Oxford), Mr Mike Nicholson (University of Bath), Dr Mike Sewell (University of Cambridge) and Mr Paul Teulon - King’s College, London all took questions examining the the changing world of university admissions.

    We give an overview of the questions and answers below.

    1. Could I begin by asking the panel for an overview of their selection procedures?

    KCL (and Bath) operate a centralised system. Specialist admission staff follow a rubric and then the most suitable applications are passed on to the academic departments.

    The advantage of this screening system is that the departments can give more time to the most suitable applicants. Another advantage is that it allows more flexibility as the number of places per subject can reflect the number of applicants per subject; a collegiate system often results is good students being pooled or in the worst case scenario not being offered a place as they were unfortunate enough to choose an over-subscribed college.

    Universities used to be fined if they took too many or too few students. This cap on numbers has has now been relaxed for most subjects.

    Oxford (and Cambridge) use a collegiate system. Admissions tutors are looking for those candidates who will suit the tutorial model of teaching used at Oxbridge, those who are intellectually curious and self-reflective.Oxford make extensive use of admission tests and interviews.

    One of the key differences between Oxbridge and the other universities is the number of offers made per place. Bath made 15500 offers for 3500 places last year compared to Oxford and Cambridge which is barely over one offer per place. This is because universities like Bath are more likely to be declined or to be an applicant’s insurance choice.

    From receipt to offer probably involves between four and five hours of scrutiny per candidate. It is a very thorough process. Cambridge is a world leading, research intensive institution and that informs the teaching. They look for candidates who reflect that, are the most suitable for their chosen course and who relish the challenge of academically challenging courses.

    2. Are top students “better” today or do they just have different profiles?

    Students are more aware of the options available to them. They have access to more information and are better able to interrogate and manipulate this. However, for many, this can be almost overwhelming.

    Students have better IT skills and learn differently now in terms of virtual and digital learning. Many universities haven't really caught up with this yet.

    The best students are very similar to those in years gone by but there is more diversity in the type of qualifications that students have today. There has been a change in culture of students- in general they are more serious but also much more stressed.

    3. How much weight do you place on the Personal Statement as a means of selecting or indeed, selecting candidates?

    In some cases it makes very little difference but in some cases in some it makes all the difference! At KCL it is more likely to make a difference when the students are more diverse and therefore more difficult to compare by conventional means such as GCSE or AS profiles.

    On personal statements: If you are finding it difficult to write your personal statement then you've probably chosen the wrong subject. Less is more, think content, detail, evidence.

    Proof read it carefully. Poor punctuation and grammar are a disaster. Read your statement backwards, last paragraph first; all too often the end of the statements haven’t been proof-read as thoroughly as the beginning.

    Advice for parents “it's their personal statement not yours!”

    Don’t lie!. Don’t pretend you’ve read something that you haven’t. Use your personal statement to show what you think and why you are excited by the prospect of studying this course.

    4. Are there any changes in offer requirements on the horizon post A Level reform?

    It’s too soon to know the effect of A-level reform there are too many unknowns.

    2017 prospectuses go to press in December so there are unlikely to be any changes to grade requirements for that year of entry, however changes will be reflected in whether or not the students are accepted having dropped a grade.

    Demographics show that there is a decline in the number of 18-year-olds. The universities needs students; fewer students = more offers. Offers aren't just based on AS grades.

    5. What role do Aptitude tests have in the selection of candidates? In view of A level reform, will more universities go down this route?

    Bath are highly unlikely to go down the aptitude test route unless all other universities do so.

    Aptitude tests but only one of a range of options. The loss of AS takes away useful information and there is a lack of clarity about what information the universities will have. Announcements indicate that the reformed A-levels are likely to be ‘more challenging’ but ‘won't disadvantage students’ which conflict each other. We expect that there will be fewer A* grades awarded but who knows. All the universities are taking a ‘watch this space’ approach. Greater clarity is needed from the government and from OfQual. It could be that criteria given to interviewers are more specific/targeted . Aptitude tests are one option but are not a Silver bullet.
    It is highly likely that universities will need more information from schools about their demographics and profile alongside the sequence of delivery of technical subjects. At present AS dictates teaching order to a large extent there will be more variation between schools in the future. Universities will need to know how schools are delivering the subjects in order to compare candidates fairly.

    6. What is your view on the benefits of an Extended essay or EPQ? If a student takes an Extended essay, will it be part of their offer?

    Simple answer is “it's just good for you”. KCL not likely to use it in their offers because it would change the nature of the qualification and its emphasis. They have found that students with EE or EPQ make a better transition and are more prepared for university study.

    At school, students tend to spend no more than eight hours on a subject per week. At university this could be up to 30 hours on one subject per week. An EE or EPQ allows students space to discover and explore a subject in depth.

    Cambridge argue that Including it in an offer would devalue it as a learning experience. The EE/EPQ sits well with the personal statement- it's your topic owned by you and written by you.

    Bath are seriously considering using it in the offers because the skills demonstrated by the EE/EPQ are very useful particularly for those who take industrial placements. It is more likely to be used as an alternative offer for example a candidate may be offered A*AA or AAA+/EE/EPQ. The EE/EPQ may become more common in the state sector because of funding changes. They are cheaper to offer than than AS levels.

    EE/EPQ are valued because they allow the student to reflect across subjects and explore non-school subjects.

    7. How do you equate IB and A-Level offers?

    It would be wrong for universities to discriminate between IB and A-level as most students do not have a choice of which qualification they take.

    Grade inflation at A level was having a negative impact on IB student because the IB offers were increased in line with the A Level offers. In 1999 the standard offer from KCL was BBB or 33 points whereas in 2013 it was A*AA or 39 points and yet there hadn’t been the same grade inflation in IB results. This has now been reviewed and for most subjects the offer is a minimum overall point score of 35 with specific HL requirements that match A Level where A*=7, A=6 etc. The exception is HL Maths where the highest requirement would be 6.

    Cambridge have found there is no difference in the performance of IB and A Level students by Christmas of their first year. For IB research suggests that there is a correlation between overall points score and progress throughout the undergraduate course in the humanities and social sciences whereas in the STEM subjects the correlation tends to be with HL subject scores rather than overall point score. Thus, there may be differences in the focus of offers to reflect this.

    8. There are lots of students here tonight who will be attending a series of Open Days at a range of universities both this year and in years to come. What advice would you give them in making the most of those events?

    Think and plan ahead. Do your homework and make the most of it. Look at the city not just the campus.

    Questions to ask yourself-What will it be like in November? What's the city like? What will it be like in term time? Look at the fixtures and fittings- libraries, laboratories.Take some notes - you could use what you find to inform your personal statement.

    Don't ask questions that you could've answered by looking online. Listen to the answers!

    9. Does College choice matter?

    Prioritize the course not the College.

    10. What advice would you give to a Year 9 or 10 student here tonight with real and indeed valid ambitions to apply for the most competitive courses?

    Pick what you love not what you think you should do. Don't close doors. Enjoy what you do both in school and outside of it.

    Most of you will have a career that doesn't even exist now so don’t agonise too much about the future.

    Grades DO matter in all your subjects. They do make a difference.

    11. What advice would you give to a Year 11 or 12 student here tonight with real and indeed valid ambitions to apply for the most competitive courses?

    It's been found that at the top UK universities it's not your choice of degree that matters but how well you do in it. It's better to choose a subject you want to study as you'll get a better outcome.

    12. What final guidance would you give to parents here this evening in supporting their children?

    Let them choose, they are the one doing it. Learn some life skills! Cooking, cleaning, shopping are all required.
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  • London Mini-Marathon triumph!

    Published 18/12/16

    Congratulations to Alice, L6th, who completed the London Mini-Marathon in a great time and took second place in her class!

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  • Engineering Scheme

    Published 18/12/16

    The Engineering team from our Lower Sixth have been working for six months on their "BuddyBot" , a device to help parents and carers look after young children.

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  • Pelinguist on iTunes store!

    Published 18/12/16

    The Pelinguist is a long-running tradition at the Stephen Perse Foundation 6th Form. Each year, students spend a day creating a newsletter reporting on international affairs, in the languages they are learning.

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  • News from our Alumni

    Published 18/12/16

    Our alumni get up to some incredible things, and we like to bring you updates of what they are doing to inspire and give ideas to our current students of paths that people take. Being part of our thriving alumni community and network offers everyone the chance to connect to around 2,500 professionals all over the world.

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  • CAS Visual Arts Event

    Published 18/12/16

    On Tuesday 30 June CAS students held a ‘1960’s Tea Party’ at the Visual Arts Centre for residents of St. George’s Court Care Home as part of their enrichment programme. 

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  • Success in Science

    Published 18/12/16

    Congratulations to Leonie Woodland in Year 12 who has been invited to a residential Chemistry camp at the University of Cambridge after achieving a Roentgenium award in the University’s Lower Sixth Chemistry Challenge Competition. A result that places Leonie in the top 0.7% of the 8481 entries. This will take place during the summer break at St Catharine's College and the University Chemical Laboratory.

    In fact Leonie has had a remarkable year achieving a silver medal in the Royal society of Chemistry’s Olympiad competition which is aimed at Year 13 students. 

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  • Sports Day 2015

    Published 18/12/16

    A fantastic morning of sport! The sun shone down as the students tried their best, competing for their houses. There were some fantastic performances with several records being broken along the way.

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  • A level results 2015

    Published 18/12/16

    A Level 2015

    This is a stellar set of results for our students and an enormous credit to all involved!

    Tricia Kelleher, Principal said, "It is the variety of destinations that really stands out for me. As well as the lawyers and medics, historians and anthropologists, we have a growing number opting for acclaimed Liberal Arts courses in the UK or abroad including at Princeton, USA. To have students with such contrasting futures ahead of them, be it Computer Science at Cambridge or History of Art at the Courtauld or even at the world-renowned Translation and Interpretation degree at the University of Geneva, it is ever more important that the individual students’ stories are not lost in any set of results."

    • 28% of all grades were A*
    • 70% of all grades were A* or A
    • 98% of grades were A* to C
    • 100% of grades were A* to E

    Click to download a breakdown of the 2015 A Level results by subject.

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  • IB Results 2015

    Published 18/12/16

    Students are celebrating another excellent set of results in the International Baccalaureate Diploma, announced on 6 July 2015. The average score for students gaining their diploma is 39.6 points, out of a total of 45, which will place the Stephen Perse Foundation in the top group of IB schools in the UK for the sixth consecutive year.

    This is equivalent to almost 4 A Levels at A*A*A*A* plus an additional A in AS level. A score of around 40 points places students within the top 5% globally.

    The Stephen Perse Foundation has been teaching the IB since 2008 and has twice been awarded the Sunday Times IB School of the Year. Stuart Jack, Head of 6th Form, said “this is another set of superb and well-deserved results – students and staff will be delighted. One of the advantages of the IB system is receiving the results so early in the summer – it's a great way to start the holiday period."

    Students can now look forward to the university courses they have worked so hard to access. A few of these courses are: Geography, History, Psychology and Behavioural Studies at Cambridge, Electrical Engineering at Imperial, Psychology and Philosophy at Oxford, Arts and Sciences at UCL, Dentistry at KCL and Liverpool and Liberal Arts at Utrecht.

    One student fulfilled the requirements of the prestigious Bilingual Diploma in English and Russian, an exceptional achievement.

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  • The Exploration Society

    Published 18/12/16

    Students from the Stephen Perse 6th Form college along with Year 11 pupils from the Senior School are currently trekking in the Himalayas with The Exploration Society following their community service project.

    The group have been working in two schools in Ladakh, building a playground and helping with lessons.

    We look forward to hearing all about their adventures when they return.

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  • Alumna visit to promote Graphic Design

    Published 18/12/16

    Alumna Lizzie Reid (SPF 2004-2010) came back to visit our Visual Art Centre, and to talk to students, on Friday 7 November 2014.

    Lizzie left school to do an Art Foundation course at Kingston University, with initial hopes of a degree and career in politics. Enjoying the art course so much though, this led to her changing her decision about her degree course at Kingston and working towards a career in the creative industries instead.

    Students from our 6th Form and also Senior School saw a presentation that Lizzie put together for students to make them think about all the different avenues open in this field. Lizzie maintained her interest and passion for politics during her degree, with one of her pieces looking at how engagement with politicians and relating to them could change attitudes towards them.

    We really appreciated Lizzie's visit, and we hope to follow her career at Pentagram, the design agency she now works at. You can see a film about the agency on Vimeo here.

    Photos of Lizzie's visit are here on our Flickr feed. And Lizzie also recommended some blogs for our students:

    If you are an alumna who would like to share your story with our students, please get in touch with Melissa Santiago-Val. 

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  • Sixth Form Curriculum Choices

    Published 18/12/16

    We were pleased to host our curriculum choices evening on 21 October 2014 when a full hall heard an outline of the changes to the A Level system that is being implemented from 2015 onwards.

    We will continue to offer a wide range of subjects to our students, giving them the chance to study 4 full A Levels or 3 A Levels and 1 AS Level. The reforms are complex but Dr Helen Stringer, Vice-Principal, presented a clear message of calm transition into the new qualifications. The school is exceptionally well prepared and used to teaching in the linear-style that will be required – it is how the IB is taught and many of our teachers have long experience of the pre-2000 A Level which was in that format as well.

    Damian Henderson, IB Coordinator, gave a resume of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme which we have taught since 2008. Being Sunday Times IB School of the Year in 2010 and 2013 certainly proves our credentials in this area and we know that universities are delighted to accept applications to all disciplines from the IB route.

    Stuart Jack, Director of Sixth Form summarised the way in which we approach guidance for careers and university entrance. The reformed A Levels have no impact on the nature and quality of advice that we will be giving but it probably does mean that A Level students will need to evidence their progression during the 6th form years more overtly, given that there will be no modular results to submit to the universities. Again, we are pleased to be exceptionally well-placed to support this and it is actually a very exciting time to be a 6th form student with us.

    If you missed the presentations please download a PDF here

    The A Level and IB summary document is available below

    A Levels and IB at a glance.jpg

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  • Ladakh 2014

    Published 18/12/16

    Ladakh is an ancient kingdom located in the northernmost state of India, Jammu and Kashmir.

    During the summer holidays the exploration society took a group of Year 11 and the 6th form students out to Ladakh to spend 3 weeks living in the high altitude desert environment of Ladakh.

    After an overnight flight, we stepped out of the airport into the oppressive heat of Delhi and loaded onto an air conditioned coach. After briefly unpacking at a hostel we set off to do some sightseeing. We visited a Hindu temple and enjoyed the excellent underground animatronic boat tour where we learnt that the Indians invented everything. An early bedtime followed to prepare us for a 2am start before catching a plane to Leh, Ladakh. The flight was just an hour, but the views of the sun rising over the Himalayas were stunning and we all spent the whole journey with our noses pressed against the glass of the windows.

    Having gained 2000m in altitude we had to take a rest day in order to allow our bodies to acclimatise. The next two days were spent exploring Leh, one of the principal towns in Ladakh. The locals were very friendly.

    The two volunteer groups said goodbye to one another and set off to their respective projects. The SECMOL campus is located 18km outside of Leh, on a plateau overlooking the indus rive valley with beautiful views of the mountains. In 1998 the SECMOL campus at Phey was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama and began to accept students. The campus offers another option to students who have failed the matriculation exam. Students who have failed the matriculation exam apply to study at SECMOL and are interviewed by leaders to assess their eagerness to learn. There are only 30 places for foundation year students and often double this number applies. Once accepted, the students live on campus for one year and retake the matriculation exam during the course of the year. However the main focus of SECMOL is to provide practical and pragmatic skills to the students, in order to educate them for life, as opposed to educating them in order to pass the exam. After an interesting drive which involved (slightly dangerously) overtaking a large pack of donkeys we arrived wide eyed, stunned by the scenery around us. We were all a little anxious at first, but the staff members quickly made us feel at home. We introduced ourselves to the students at dinner to a chorus of cheers and applause and soon both Ladakhi and English students realised that we're all just normal teenagers! Days were spent helping with the every day running of the campus, doing activities such as mud brick construction, milking the cows and helping in the gardens and kitchens. We cherished every minute at SECMOL, even more so after speaking with the students who were always smiling, grateful for their place at this institution and we never heard a complaint. We spent about 2 hours a day doing English conversation classes with the students; a topic was set and we would rotate around the students learning about the different cultures and environments while improving the Ladakhi students' English. The campus itself was hugely sustainable and learning about the history of the region from the staff and students widened our knowledge and minds. We were lucky enough to be treated to a ladakhi dance party on the final night, and it was a unique and immensely fun experience! The students loved to dance and we had an incredible time dancing with them to Hindi and Ladakhi music. We all hope to keep in touch with the friends we made at SECMOL and saying goodbye to this rare and inspirational place was very difficult for us all!

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  • Auction of Mitcham’s Models

    Published 18/12/16

    There will be an auction of Mitcham’s Models on Sunday October 19th at the Portland Arms. The mannequins can be viewed between 12 noon and 6pm, and the actual auction will start at 7pm.

    During July, Mitcham’s Models were put out on display in various locations around Mitcham’s Corner. The models were mannequins that were specially decorated by a variety of local artists and groups, including Wintercomfort; Rowan Foundation; Access Art Students; Greenway Family; ArtWorks Studio; Stephen Perse Foundation and Trumpington Gallery. We used recycled mannequins donated for the project, which were carefully refurbished by Morley Brothers at Milton. The project was funded by a grant from Cambridge City Council.

    The auction catalogue can be downloaded here and the Stephen Perse Foundation’s entry can be found on page 16!

    The proceeds from the auction will go to support Tom’s Trust (, a local charity which funds psychologists to work with children diagnosed with brain tumours.

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  • Sixth Form Cabaret

    Published 18/12/16

    For one fabulous night only, the college library was transformed into a jazz club complete with staging, silver backdrop and lights.

    A large and very appreciative audience sat sipping fruit cocktails at candle-lit tables enjoying a wide range of highly accomplished and very entertaining acts performing music, dance and comedy.

    We were delighted to welcome audience members from other schools as well as a large number of our own lower and upper sixth students and their parents.

    The evening raised over £300 for the charity Unicef and was organised by Ms Barrell, Virginia Ma, April Chen, Nat Abell and Yutong Yin.

    Thank you to all the immensely talented performers who took part and to the staff, parents and students who supported this event.

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  • Himalaya Expedition 2014

    Published 18/12/16

    In August 2014, students from the Stephen Perse Foundation, St Mary's Cambridge and Hills Road 6th Form travelled to Ladakh, a region of the Himalayas in Northern India.

    The first part of the expedition was spent working on community service projects in schools and the second involved trekking to the summit of Stok Kangri at 6123m.

    Find out what they got up to in our video:

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  • Photography competition prize giving evening

    Published 18/12/16

    There will be an informal prize giving ceremony by Dr Sutherland, chair of governors, and viewing of the Photography Exhibition in the senior school dining room on Monday 15 September from 17:30 - 18:30, with prizes awarded at 17:45.

    9 Aoife Husband 'What is learning' Year 10.jpg

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