The Purcell School is a specialist music school in Hertfordshire for gifted students looking to further their studies at conservatoire level.
This co-ed boarding and day school is home to around 180 students aged 10 to 18 years with a shared passion for music. Students audition for places, and entry is based on musical ability and potential rather than academic grades, background or ability to pay. Annual fees range from £26,775 for day to £34,188 for boarding students, but very few here pay the full fees. The majority of places are funded by the government's Music and Dance Scheme.
There's a music-focused curriculum with weekly one-to-one specialist tuition, academic music lessons, and ensemble sessions. There are six music departments within the school (strings; keyboard; brass, percussion, harp and voice; woodwind; composition; and jazz). As well as studying an instrument or discipline in the classical tradition, students have the option to study a jazz specialism and music technology.
Performance is part of daily life, with students taking part in the school’s orchestras, bands, choirs, chamber music, operas, and masterclasses during and after the school day. Facilities include two recording studios, recital hall, practice rooms, and fully computerised composition classrooms, which admittedly you can find at several UK schools with special music provision. However, it's the number of hours dedicated to music tuition, the expert specialist teachers (many also teach at the London conservatoires) and the school's close links with music colleges and conservatoires around the country that makes The Purcell a centre for musical excellence.
While music is an integral part of an education here – students spend between 25% and 50% of their timetabled day on music – the importance of studying academic subjects is not overlooked. Teaching follows the UK curriculum and covers a limited subject range of English, science, maths, languages, art, drama and history up to GCSE and A Level; unsurprisingly the arts (English literature, art and music tech are most popular). Students may take fewer academic subjects than other schools, and many will take exams such as music IGCSE one year early.
Most students graduate to study music at one of the top London music colleges. In 2021, the majority of leavers went to Royal Academy of Music, London or Royal College of Music, London; there are occasional students who leave to study subjects such as physics and aeronautical engineering, and an Oxbridge offer in most years.
Principal Paul Bambrough, who was previously Vice Principal at the Birmingham Royal Conservatoire, joined the school in 2018.
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