Michael Jackson puts son down for Stowe

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The Independent Online

It is difficult to think of a more unlikely pairing. The three-and-a-half-year-old son of pop star Michael Jackson is to join the British establishment.

It is difficult to think of a more unlikely pairing. The three-and-a-half-year-old son of pop star Michael Jackson is to join the British establishment.

Jackson is understood to have put his son forward for a place at Stowe, the Buckinghamshire independent school, nine years before he can take the entrance exam.

Subject to passing that exam, Prince Michael Jackson, will join a school whose list of old boys includes Sir Richard Branson, the actor Sir David Niven, Gp Capt Leonard Cheshire VC and Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, former editor of the Sunday Telegraph.

It is understood that officials acting on Jackson's instruction visited the school and inspected its facilities last year. Now Michael Jackson has taken the decision to send Prince, his first child by his second wife Debbie Rowe, to the school. According to friends, the artist is "very impressed" by the facilities and security measures.

It is unclear where Prince will study before taking the entrance exam to Stowe - boys join at the age of 13 - and the school has no official "feeder" prep schools to provide the fresh intake for each academic year. The educational route for Paris Michael Katherine, Jackson's two-year-old daughter by Ms Rowe, does not yet appear to have been decided.

Set in picturesque parkland, Stowe, a Church of England school, was founded in 1923 with the motto Persto et Praesto - "I stand fast, I stand firm". It is predominantly a boys' school, with girls joining in the sixth form. There are about 455 boys, including 422 borders, and 98 girls, of whom 88 are boarders. Fees are set at £3,600 a term for day the school and £4,980 a term for boarders.

Among its wide range of activities are nautical studies, fishing, outdoor pursuits and Portuguese. If Prince has inherited his father's talents he may be interested in one of the musical bursaries the school offers: it has a choir as well as pipe and brass bands.

And, strange as it may seem, Stowe may be the ideal setting for the son of the unconventional singer. The school has a mildly Bohemian reputation, as its list of slightly eccentric old boys suggests : it was here that Sir Peregrine Worsthorne claims to have been seduced on a sofa by George Melly.

Jeremy Nichols, the headmaster and formerly a master at Eton for 22 years, describes Stowe's admissions policy as "flexible". He does not admit pupils who are going to struggle but, provided a child is strong in some area, he accepts them even if they manage only 40 per cent in the Common Entrance examinations.

Stowe's academic record is not outstanding. In 1998 it was listed as 17th of 44 schools in Buckinghamshire, while in 1997 it slipped to its lowest-ever position at 631st in the national table for A-level performance. It does, however, have a good reputation for dealing with dyslexic children.

Stowe has not been without its moments of tragedy. Yolanda MacPherson, described as a "bright and outgoing" 18-year-old, hanged herself in her bedroom last year. And scandal has tarnished the school's good name. In 1992 a boy and girl in the sixth form were kicked out after being found naked in bed together.

The act of "putting down" your son's or daughter's name for public school is more a statement of intent and a reflection of status in the eyes of the parents than anything else. In practice it is meaningless, for, in most cases, the offspring must still pass an entrance exam. And being first on the list at an early age does not lead to preferential treatment: there is no limit to the number of people allowed to take the exams, and would-be applicants can be put forward for them ahead of the deadline.

But that does not deter celebrities from the musical world from doing just that, and particularly American ones, who, perhaps concerned about the level of violence in American schools, are drawn towards the tradition and reputation for "good breeding" offered by the English public school system. Madonna has checked out Cheltenham Ladies' College for her daughter Lourdes, while Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman have already sent their children Isabella and Connor to private English nursery schools.

Stowe is also expected to receive Gabriel Beauregard, the two-year-old son of Mick Jagger and his wife Jerry Hall, which should make for an interesting parents' open day in 2012. Meanwhile, Jagger's 12-year-old son James has been put down for Eton. Luciana Morag, the Brazilian model, announced that she intends Lucas, her baby by Jagger, also to be educated at Eton.

Not all take this approach. Sir Paul McCartney and his late wife Linda deliberately sent their four children to state schools to ensure they had "good hearts" and because, as Sir Paul once said, he didn't want them coming home and calling him "Pater".