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Independent pre-prep Cambridge - recommendations?

(26 Posts)
Tweetinat Fri 07-Oct-11 19:24:37

We've just started looking at schools for DS and have been looking at the independent schools in Cambridge. I've tried searching but my god, MN search is bloody awful and can't seem to find much. Wondered if anyone has any current experience of the independent schools here who would like to share?

Also looked on the Cambridge board but there's already a post where she's been directed here so I thought I'd give this board a go first.

Erebus Sat 08-Oct-11 20:56:16

It can't be that hard, can it? There could only be a couple, surely! You must have an idea whether you want single sex or mixed; academically selective or not. That somewhat narrows the field down, doesn't it?

An0therName Sat 08-Oct-11 22:17:13

only thing I would say is that there a load of very very good state primary state schools in Cambridge; so I would visit your local ones too
I am just outside Cambridge and v impressed with mine
there are quitea few private schools in Cambridge to be fair -it was a suprise to me - having just moved - and considering how good the state schools are as well - and most of them do seem quite similar - mainly co-ed, good facilites etc etc

Tweetinat Sun 09-Oct-11 08:17:37

Erebus - what I mean is I can't find many reviews/opinion on Mumsnet. I know what schools there are for us to consider but I'm keen to read what others think. Found a couple about the Perse and one or two about St Faiths but they're relatively old.

Tweetinat Sun 09-Oct-11 08:20:09

An0ther - we're nearer Royston than Cambridge actually so Cambridge primaries aren't an option for us. Our village school seems okay but my dad (who's been a teacher) wasn't too impressed so we thought we'd look at private.

Tweetinat Sun 09-Oct-11 08:26:23

Sorry for all the individual messages. Using my phone and it doesn't allow me to look at replies once I've started a post.

My original OP wasn't clear and even now I don't think I'm saying it right so i'll try again!

We're looking at private schools in Cambridge (St Faiths, Perse, Stephen Perse foundation, Sancton Wood, St Johns, Kings etc) and have started to visit on open days, request prospectuses etc. but would be interested in reviews/recommendation from parents with Children's in these schools or those with experience (teachers, support staff etc). Thanks.

PollyParanoia Sun 09-Oct-11 11:41:47

I grew up where you are and that's a hellish commute. My hatred of it has sort of informed my whole life ( have lived in uk and ny, and have always swapped space for avoidance of a commute). I can still tell you numbers of all the buses. I did a Royston primary followed by a Cambridge secondary and that was bad enough. My best friend lived 14 miles other side of school...

An0therName Sun 09-Oct-11 11:49:12

have you been to visit the local school, talked to parents that have kids there? is the problem the ofsted report/sats result? they are not the be all and end all would other schools nearer be an option?
and I agree for a 4 year old it would be no fun at all getting in cambridge for 9 am - its no fun for an adult if you are driving... I would do a trial run see what you think..

Tweetinat Sun 09-Oct-11 14:34:30

I agree Polly - a nightmare commute and it's a major reason against any school in Cambs. The only reason I'm considering is that DH currently does the commute anyway so it wouldn't necessarily add much to his journey every day. Plus once they reach Y3 there is a free bus from the Trumpington P&R which we would hope to get use of... We're definitely going to try a trial run once we've narrowed down the schools a little and it could still be a deciding factor.

Not been to visit the local school yet An0ther but are planning to do so soon. What put my dad off, was the quality of the work shown on the website. He felt that it showed the teaching as very 'standard' and nothing exceptional. He was commented that if this was the best body of work that they wanted to show off then it didn't show much imagination in methods of teaching. He is a perfectionist though and was very keen on coming up with novel and unusual ways of teaching and this is probably influencing his view tbh. On the other hand, I know how passionate he is about it and that's the kind of environment I want my DS to learn in so maybe not such a bad thing to get his opinion.

PollyParanoia Sun 09-Oct-11 15:16:51

But even from Trumpington it's a bit of a way. Some friends moved to Trumpington and their dcs are at St Johns. They blithely assumed that the 3 mile journey would take 10mins (assuming that bad traffic is an exclusively London phenomenon) and have been rather taken aback that it takes 30mins. Does your DH finish work at 3.30?
My kids' school's website it a pile of crap, but I wouldn't let that put me off the school, which is in fact marvellous.

Tweetinat Sun 09-Oct-11 19:12:22

He'd do the drop offs and I'd do the pick ups so I wouldn't escape the commute hell totally and having worked myself in Cambs and also had to navigate past these schools at drop off/pick up time I'm well aware of how nightmarish is can be sad

It wasn't the website itself that he had a problem with but the examples of the children's work that they'd chosen and (I guess) the teaching philosophy behind them. Before then I hadn't thought twice about sending DS there but when he raised doubts I found it very interesting as my Dad (until last year) taught primary in the state sector in a very deprived area (other side of UK) and I wouldn't have thought he would have suggested we look at private without consideration.

teacherwith2kids Sun 09-Oct-11 19:18:37

"My kids' school's website it a pile of crap, but I wouldn't let that put me off the school, which is in fact marvellous."

Absolutely. As the person updating it is probably a teacher (I do ours), would you rather they spent their time teaching, or making the website look impressive??

Go and look at the local school. In fact, go and look at all the local schools around you that you might get into. Take your dad to the ones you like. Also go and see the private schools you like, again with your dad, on a normal day.

Private schools may be great at making their marketing (e.g. website, open day) look very slick... but 'creative and innovative' aren't two of the adjectives I would use to describe the teaching / learning in the private schools I have visited [please note, the sample I have seen is in no way representative of every private school everywhere, you would have to go and see]. 'Formal, old fashioned and pandering to parents who want their children to have exactly the same type of education as they did 30 + years ago - lots of chalk and talk and formal worksheets' would be more like it....

An0therName Sun 09-Oct-11 20:46:21

have a look in primary education section - loads of threads about choosing a school, and a long one about difference between private and state -
also there are loads of plus points as well as the travel to going to your local school - friends near by, being part of the community

Tweetinat Sun 09-Oct-11 21:10:50

as I said teacherwith2kids - it's not the quality of the website that my Dad was unimpressed with, but the teaching examples/children's output. I couldn't agree more about where I would rather the teacher's time was spent, but this isn't the issue here.

Of the private schools we have seen, we didn't see 'lots of chalk and talk and formal worksheets' - in fact, quite the opposite which surprised me and DH. I went to a private school that was exactly like that but things (here at least) seemed to have changed significantly.

I'm not looking for a private/state debate just yet - that will come I'm sure. Just want to get opinions on the specific schools I've mentioned to help me get a different viewpoint when looking round.

Thanks - will head over to the primary board.

Littlewinnipeg Sun 09-Oct-11 22:23:49

Hi, we are in the same position as you! We also live out towards Royston and have been looking at the Independent schools in Cambridge. We have looked at most of them and have discounted a couple of them because the location would be very difficult to get to in the height of rush hour.

I have come to the conclusion that we are very lucky to have some very good Independent schools in Cambridge, but it does make the decision all the harder! We have started to centre our thoughts on St John's or Kings. The location means that you can do a lot of the journey without touching much of the A10 or m11 if necessary.

They both offer a broad curriculum from an early age with specialist teaching in quite a few subjects from the beginning. The children seemed very happy at both. Facilities at Kings seemed more modern e.g science, language labs, music rooms etc but St Johns is planning to build new facilities in its senior section next year.

Which schools have you looked at?

yesbutnobut Mon 10-Oct-11 22:07:43

Both KIngs and St Johns are excellent schools. If you're after a school with excellent music then King's is amazing but obviously so is St John's as it is also a choir school. I am a King's parent myself. There were some discussions on the mumsnet local site about Cambridge prep schools I believe (a while back).

Tweetinat Sat 15-Oct-11 21:28:55

Littlewinipeg & yesbut, sorry I've been absent so long - don't get much chance to get on here in the week! Your input is exactly what I was looking for and St Johns/Kings are the next ones on our list to go and visit.

We've now been to St Faiths, Perse Pelican's and the Stephen Perse Pre-Prep. DH and I both have St Faiths at the top of our list, but we're not sure if it's because we were taken by the extensive facilities such as music rooms/art block etc which are used from Yr3 onwards but which you don't get a feel of at the other two. Was very surprised at how small the Stephen Perse was! Beautiful surroundings but overall we felt a little claustrophobic and didn't get a good vibe. The Perse definitely 'felt' like a private school and to be honest I think we would have been uncomfortable there.

I've heard so many good things about Kings/St Johns that I'm really hoping we like them too. DS is very musical (although how can you tell at 2!) but is always trying to play the piano or humming a tune and DH is keen to encourage that as he too has a musical ear.

Still not convinced about the travel yet though so we're far from making a decision.

Littlewinnipeg Mon 17-Oct-11 22:03:36

Hi, we also looked at the Stephen Perse Pre Prep and were quite disappointed by it. When we looked there was no grass for the children to play on, no cooked meals or kitchen ( I believe they can now receive a cooked lunch) and limited space. The location was great and we felt that the school needs to continue to develop for a few years (it had only been on the Madingley site for one year when we looked).

We had a good tour of St Faiths which certainly had impressive facilities, but we felt it was SO big with four classes in every year from the start, that it wasn't quite what we were looking for. Saying that, I did very much like the idea of the breakfast club where families can have their breakfasts together at the school before going on to work. If I remember correctly the headmaster said they serve approximately 200 breakfasts a day! It certainly would help to beat the rush hour traffic in the morning.

We were quite taken with King's. Very good facilities, with plans underway for a new sports hall and indoor swimming pool, superb music block which you would expect and good amounts of grass! The children seemed very happy and the place was bright and cheery. We also met some of the teachers who seemed enthusiastic and answered our questions well. No breakfast club though!

I wasn't sure what I thought of St John's, I think it confused me as I wanted to love it. It also has a very good reputation, but I was disappointed by the facilities. They felt a little tired and a little small to me. The kindergarten rooms felt particularly cramped in comparison to the other schools we had visited. We did of course meet some nice teachers too and we really enjoyed meeting the headmaster and liked him a lot. I know that the Senior school is undergoing a building program to replace the the portacabin style rooms they currently have, but not the junior part of the school as far as I am aware. As with the other schools the children seemed bright and cheerful.

The dilemma continues...

How did you get on with King's/John's?

yesbutnobut Mon 17-Oct-11 22:21:51

You can't go wrong with either King's or St John's. Both are spending money on facilities and both have very supportive parent bodies. My DS loves King's - he will be leaving in the not too distant future and is dreading it as he feels so at home at the school. You will never love every teacher at a school but we have found teachers at King's prepared to go the extra mile (as it were). The music is phenomenal thanks to Simon Brown.

lonelyplanet Tue 18-Oct-11 14:40:56

There are some fantastic State Primaries in the South Cambs villages towards Royston. If you live in a village you really should look at them. A lot of them are quite small and really nurture individual children. The children at mu dcs school are very happy, love school make excellent progress and only have to walk down the road to get there. No contest.

BoffinMum Tue 18-Oct-11 19:39:17

King's is pretty well regarded, friendly and the music is fabulous. But the traffic is difficult, which put us off.

A little tip - St Faiths has one or two teachers who were, shall we say, persuaded to leave by local state primaries on the grounds of being less than brilliant.

Several outstanding primaries locally including Spinney in particular.

PollyParanoia Thu 20-Oct-11 10:13:38

Sorry me again to reiterate what I said before and to agree with lonelyplanet. Usually you can only get a parent's perspective on a school and I can offer you a child's one (ah, feel very blessed by my largesse). Really really think carefully about the commute. Question whether your child wouldn't be happier and more fulfilled with the local school and some extra music lessons or trips with you. I met someone from my old village recently and I was shocked by how completely divorced from my community I was (even my primary was a faith one in nearby town). My family had lived there for 4 generations and I knew no one there, never went to the local pub nothing.
Ignore my advice obv, but am speaking from my own experience.

besty42 Tue 08-Nov-11 23:24:53

Take a look at The Phoenix School Cambridge in Willingham (was St Colettes) - great little school, excellent OFSTED report and parents and children come from all over Cambs area and have created their own close knit community (it is a parent run, independent Pre-Prep for 3 - 7 years planning to expand to a Prep next year). It's not your typical private school establishment - a loving ethos and learning equally as important and class size is a max of 12. Places in starting to be in high demand as the word spreads as St Colettes had an outstanding reputation and The Phoenix continues it's track record. Teacher escorted transport is offered from Parent collection points in Cambridge city and then en route to Willingham (www.thephoenixschool.co.uk) My little boy adores it smile

cambridger Thu 08-Dec-11 15:43:48

I can vouch for the Phoenix School as well. My little girl was at St Collette's, then carried on into The Phoenix with her old teachers when St. Collette's closed. Best decision we've ever made. The teachers are utterly brilliant and my little girl just adores them. The teaching standards are very high, but what I really love is the way they make learning such great fun. My daughter feels under no pressure whatsoever, and yet her reading/maths standard is so high! She breezed through the Perse Pelican assessment tests, was offered a place by them, but she decided she would rather stay with her old teachers at The Phoenix and I am so glad we agreed to that. Definitely, check it out if you are looking for a Cambridge Pre-Prep without all the morning traffic hassle of getting into Trumpington Road/Grange Road.

kbs18 Tue 14-Mar-17 13:47:59

Littlewinipeg & Yesbutnobut, my DS is about to start reception at King's in September. We went for an individual visit and loved the ambience of the school. DS was allowed in an ongoing reception class and taken in straight away. So haven't really got a chance yet to meet other parents. Wonder if you might give some first-hand experience tips.
We are moving to Cambridge in August as DH starts work at Addenbrookes. Any idea about nice area to live which would be an easy commute to King's? Many thanks for your help.

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