Meet the Head: The Perse School Singapore

Claire Bell, the founding principal at the new Perse School Singapore, talks to WhichSchoolAdvisor about bringing one of the UK’s top ranking British schools to Bukit Timah.
Meet the Head: The Perse School Singapore
By Carli Allan
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2020 marks the start of a new year, a new decade, and a new start for several international schools in Singapore. While Dulwich College (Singapore) has been the one and only British public-school export in Singapore since 2014, it will now compete against three new UK independent schools.

The first of these is The Perse School Singapore, which opened this month; North London Collegiate School (Singapore) and Brighton College (Singapore) will both open in August 2020.

Times are changing but there is still a demand for school places in Singapore, particularly in the most popular international schools. So, the opening of a new school in central Singapore will not go unnoticed. And a small, standalone primary school founded on British traditions, with modern facilities, a strong academic focus, and fees at the lower end of the scale, will certainly appeal to many families here.

While The Perse School Cambridge may not be instantly familiar to everyone in Singapore, it is a well-regarded British independent school in the UK. It makes its first move internationally with the opening of a primary school in Bukit Timah, which will enrol up to 480 students aged six to 11 years. Teaching follows the Cambridge International Primary Curriculum combined with elements from the Perse Prep curriculum. And with annual tuition fees of around $25,000, The Perse School Singapore is significantly cheaper than many other top-tier schools in Singapore where average fees can reach $39,000.

Read our review of The Perse School Singapore here.

So what can we expect from a school that promises to team “the tradition of an outstanding British School with state-of-the-art educational technologies”? We spoke to The Perse School Singapore’s founding principal, Claire Bell, to find out…

You are competing against a range of international schools, including two other new British schools – Brighton College (Singapore) and NLCS. What makes The Perse School Singapore unique?

Many aspects of the school are characteristic of The Perse School UK: high expectations of students and teachers; excellence in academic work; a high degree of quality participation in extra-curricular pursuits; high quality pastoral care; a genuine focus on the individual; and the development of leadership skills.

The Perse School Singapore has chosen to teach the Cambridge International Primary Curriculum, rather than the UK National Curriculum or the IB Primary Years Programme? What are the strengths and benefits of this curriculum?

The Cambridge Primary is designed to be culturally sensitive. It includes top quality teaching and assessment resources appropriate for teaching and learning in local and international schools. The structure of Cambridge Primary encourages teachers to use their own materials, bringing in local, national and international examples.

Cambridge Primary aids identification of a learners’ strengths and areas for development and can be used to support learning and development. Cambridge Primary enables learners to progress seamlessly into middle years’ curricula, such as Cambridge Lower Secondary.

How does the teaching of Chinese feature in The Perse curriculum?

It is a vital component in our pupils’ learning. Our pupils have Chinese lessons on a daily basis. Our lessons are delivered by specialist language teachers who ensure that the sessions are engaging, interactive and allow for an understanding of cultural awareness.

We feature a dual-track system to meet all our pupils’ needs. Children who are already fluent in Chinese will be placed in a different class from those who are learning it as a foreign language. This way, we ensure that our classes appropriately challenge our pupils.

Is there a selective admissions process?

Part of our admissions process is our Perse Placement Assessment. This process gives us more insight into a potential pupils’ skills, knowledge and understanding. It is a computer-based system that is marked in the UK, to give us predictors relating to the pupils. This is aligned to our curriculum and our UK school, giving us comparative data and allowing us to benchmark our potential pupils against years of data. It can also be used as a future benchmark to see how far our children have improved from their enrolment to their graduation.

What facilities can we expect to see at your campus in Bukit Timah?

We have an exciting campus that is completely child-centred. Our classrooms are designed to be light, bright and airy, with a large multi-purpose hall and other learning spaces. Furthermore, we have two dedicated and fully functioning science labs, music room, art and creation room, a reading room, activity room and our Think Pad, which is a dedicated space allowing pupils to have an area in the school to work independently or in groups. It also gives the child who is not so comfortable with the hustle and bustle of a playground a calm area to spend their break-time in.

All areas in our school have technical advances, allowing our pupils to work using up to date technology such as touchscreen TVs and Apple devices integrated into the everyday learning of our pupils.

What do you bring to the school as the founding principal?

Experience, tenacity and an all-round love of seeing children learn. As a headteacher who has worked for many years in educational management in schools throughout South East Asia and the Middle East, I bring tried and tested methods to Singapore within a British based education. My passion for seeing children improve and staff feeling supported in their professional development is at the forefront of my agenda.

Where are you recruiting teachers from? And will there be specialist teachers for all year groups?

We have specialist teachers throughout our school, available for all year groups and subjects. Recruitment of the right staff for me is critical. I search globally for the right matches. Though qualifications and experience are important to us, the personality of our staff is equally important. They must have a passion for child-centred learning and be able to adapt to fit into our dynamic team of teaching staff.

What do you expect the main challenges of founding a new school here in Singapore will be?

I see the challenges of founding a new school in Singapore based mainly about market positions and parental trust. Although we are over four hundred years old in the UK, we are a new face here in South East Asia. That brings with it challenges for parents who have little knowledge about our ethos, philosophy and values. I believe that as soon as parents see what we have to offer in terms of their child’s care and educational journey with us, we will attract many pupils.

The Perse School has some of the more affordable tuition fees in Singapore. How can you deliver a quality education for less?

Educational institutes here in Singapore are very competitive financially. Here at The Perse School Singapore, we believe that we can provide a world class education with solid British values at an affordable price.

Are there plans to expand into an all-through/secondary school in the future?

Yes, it is something that is presently in process as we truly believe that we can offer a continuous, world class provision educationally for our pupils.

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