The Perse School

About us

Welcome to the oldest secondary school in Cambridge, 400 years in the making


The Perse is Cambridge’s oldest surviving secondary school, founded in 1615 by Dr Stephen Perse, a fellow of Gonville and Caius College. Initially a theologian, he became a tutor in medicine and a successful practising physician but made most of his fortune through investment in land and property and, in a pre-bank age, by funding the ventures of others.

Dr Perse saw first-hand the limited life-chances of many of the poorer patients he treated, and despaired of the deep rift between town and gown. He left a considerable sum to establish a ‘free grammar school’ for talented boys from all backgrounds, hoping to provide a route out of poverty and into the University.

In the following 400 years The Perse has expanded to offer prep and pre-prep education and to welcome girls. Yet we remain firmly true to our historic roots. We retain close links with Gonville and Caius College and the University of Cambridge, and through our £1 million per annum means-tested bursary programme, educate more than 120 pupils whose families would not otherwise be able to afford a Perse education.

The School has a history of innovative education, including such celebrated approaches as W.H.D. Rouse’s direct method of teaching modern languages and Henry Caldwell Cook’s ‘play way’ tradition of teaching English and drama. Today The Perse is known for ‘learning by doing’ in all subjects, and in the sciences and technology there is an emphasis on practical experimentation.

We look confidently to the future, having invested around £40 million in new facilities over the last decade. More than 1600 children – from age 3 to 18 – enjoy the high quality education on offer, characterised by academic excellence, extra-curricular achievement and supportive pastoral care.

The Perse is at once firmly rooted in its local community, while preparing pupils for a global future through its international partnerships.

3-18 education

The youngest Perseans are just three years old; the most senior members of the student body are 18. Pupils are educated on three separate sites, each with a distinct personality but with the same philosophy of learning, common values and commitment to quality. Pupils enjoy each stage as a fresh chapter of their school life. The journey begins at the welcoming Pelican, progressing to the purposeful Prep, and finally onto the vibrant Upper and its prestigious Sixth Form.

Inspection reports

In 2016 – for the second inspection in a row – the School achieved a clean sweep of the highest possible scores on each aspect of the education it provides, from its ‘stimulating teaching’ to its support for pupils and its range of extra-curricular and leadership opportunities. According to independent school inspectors, who rated children’s achievement here as ‘exceptional’, our students ‘make extremely rapid progress’ and are ‘confident, self-aware and articulate’ . Click here to find out more and read the report.



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