Pipers Corner, Chilterns
Facilities and green space to make you swoon at this high-achieving school for girls 4-18 years in Buckinghamshire's idyllic Chiltern Hills.
Pipers Corner is day school set high in the Chiltern Hills for 590 girls 4-18. Set over an extraordinary 96 acres in Kingshill, near High Wycombe behind wrought iron gates and a long leafy driveway, it’s a beautifully manicured site that has seen huge amounts of investment over the last 10 years.
The main building is a white painted brick and looks slightly characterless from the front, though there’s a fantastic atrium once you get inside, and looking back towards it from the other side it’s much more appealing. Externally, the largely modern additions lack charm (a lot of practical brick) but inside there’s much style and as well as thought on how to make the most of each space. Class sizes are small, no more than 8 in Pre-Prep, 18 in Prep and 22 in Senior School. A level classes are around 6 – 12 depending on the subject.
With 96 acres there’s no limit to what you can offer the girls, and there’s no question that its facilities are one of Pipers Corner’s massive selling points. There’s a fabulous Sixth Form centre, opened in 2016, that I think is one of the best I’ve seen. Clearly there’s been careful consideration to how it can really work for the girls – so it’s a large open plan area, with sociable ‘booths’ at the back, quite study areas, a kitchen and furniture placed so that you have a curved line of vision rather than a birds eye view of the whole space.
A £5m Arts Centre, 8 years in the planning, also opened in 2016, contains a lovely theatre seating 280, along with orchestra pit and state-of-the-art sound and lighting facilities, so that the girls have the advantage of working within what is in fact a professional theatre space.
There’s also a cool cafe in the centre – think downlighters, trestle tables and Sixties chairs – that’s open for staff and Sixth Formers in the day and can be opened when there are evening performances too.
Also worth mention are the Library, redeveloped in 2016 and thoughtfully designed, and a stand alone dance studio in the grounds. If you’re head isn’t spinning yet, let me tell you that since 2000, 24 extra classrooms and 10 new department offices have been created, and 26 existing classrooms have been completely refurbished.
Sports wise, there’s a 25 metre indoor swimming pool here – one of the few full lengthers I’ve come across on site – along with a sports hall, and gym. Outside there are fields galore of course, plus a triple flood-lit multi-use games area. Get your bearings with the site map above.
Pipers Corner is a non-selective school, but you can rest easy about sending your daughter here from an academic perspective. In 2019 50% all GCSE grades were 9-7 (A*-A). Top subjects were Maths, English Lang, English Lit (from Y6 the girls are put in sets for these subjects depending on ability) and ICT. For A level it was a similar story – just shy of 50% achieving A*-A grades across 21 A-level subjects and more than a third of all subjects achieved 100% A*-B.
Away from exam papers, it’s also a pretty story. The Pipers Corner team won the whole Young Enterprise National Company of the Year 2019 (and went on to represent the UK), and were finalists in Innovation School of the Year at the National Food, Farming and Environment Competition, both this year, which is pretty impressive.
In terms of SEN provision the school’s head of individual learning is both a Chartered Educational Psychologist and a teacher, and the Individual Learning Department is accredited by CReSTeD (The Council for the Registration of Schools teaching Dyslexic pupils).
Netball and hockey are the major sports here, with athletics and rounders in summer. Cricket is currently an indoor sport which seems a shame given the grounds, but it’s only a matter of time. In the meantime rounders remains popular here.
MUSIC & DRAMA
Pipers has a reputation for excellent performing arts, not least with its snazzy theatre space – other than the specialist schools, it’s one of the best equipped schools for drama. 15% of the girls take LAMDA exams here with many continuing to A-level. Music wise, there’s the usual range of music groups as well as several choirs including Sinfonia (Prep and Senior), Barbershop, Gospel, String Chamber, Classical Guitar Ensemble, Ukulele Group and Senior Singers.
I really liked Helen Ness-Gifford, who has been head here since 2007. She has overseen many of the innovations and developments at Pipers and also dug her heels in where necessary too – mobile phones have always been banned during the school day here, and now there is a rule that until Y9 girls can only have a school-standardised non-smart phone which I’m totally in love with. Given the extent of the grounds here, an area to develop further is outdoor lessons and an extension of Forest School provision right up to GSCE age. If that happens, that will be the first time I’ve come across it.
The Pre-Prep kids are taught in a separate building in their own bit of the campus, following a Forest School curriculum. French, Music and Dance are taught by specialist teachers, and a major benefit of the school for littlies are of course the facilities, as they use the swimming pool, sports hall, drama and dance studios.
Click here for the Compliance report (2019) and integrated ISI report (2015).
Pipers is the first school (to their knowledge – and mine for that matter) to install a Resident Environmentalist, which couldn’t be more timely. Pipers is to get its own radio station and purpose-built studio in the next few months – that’s pretty groovy by anyone’s standards. Also unusual is the fact that Y14 girls can come back and take individual A levels here. This year the school instigated its first Literary Festival – small but punchy with the likes of Lucy Worsley and Laura Child on the schedule. I’m guessing it will be bigger next year and who knows where that ends? Maybe ask Magdalen School in Oxford – their Oxford Festival of the Arts is a major cultural event in the city.
WRAP AROUND CARE/TRAVEL
Drop off from 7.30am for breakfast club, and the girls can stay until 6pm. School buses pick up from 14 routes locally, from the likes of Marlow and Beaconsfield to Aylesbury and Seer Green.
On the higher side locally I’d say, but given the facilities you can justify it. Reception – Y2 £3050 – £3700; Y3-4 £4490; Y5 £5185; Y6 £5685; Y7-13 £6420.
WORD ON THE GROUND
It’s definitely not hot-housy, though one of the girls I spoke to, who described herself with honesty as ‘very sporty but struggling academically’ couldn’t speak highly enough about her teachers who gave her extra lessons and put it the effort to support her. Parents praise the breadth of the extra-curricular offering here and the emphasis on belief and empowerment. And unlike many schools, there seems to be a genuine mixing between the year groups.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: Parents keen to put the emphasis on all round character – it’s not an exam factory and the girls I spoke to seemed very aware of the real world and the skills they need to thrive in it. The facilities and green spaces will make you swoon.
NOT FOR: The school’s relative rural isolation may be seen as a weakness by the time your daughter gets to Sixth Form – but with a state of the art café girls can still get a flat white here! The mixed ability academic cohort will either thrill or worry you, depending on your outlook.
DARE TO DISAGREE?
Be my guest! The Open Day is on 21 April 2020 or to arrange a visit please contact the Registrar on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pipers Corner, Pipers Lane, Great Kingshill, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, HP15 6LP. Tel: 01494 718255