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independent secondary options for boys in Cambridge?

(51 Posts)
redtulips123 Fri 20-Jan-17 00:25:33

Am i understanding this correctly -- are there really only 2 independent school options for boys in Cambridge, The Perse and the Leys? We are moving to Cambridge this summer. My son will be Y9 in the autumn. Is The Leys even a good option for a Day student -- I can't imagine it would be so great to be one of the few who don't stay overnight? And The Perse, well, my son is bright and keeps up good grades, but really likes to have time for fun.

I don't have a big issue with Independent vs State school, being a product of the American state schools myself, but my husband has been bragging to me for 15 years about how amazing English private schools are and how American schools can't even come close, so I think he will be very disappointed....
Our son might be able to pass admission tests for the Perse (he's a smart kid, if a bit lazy at times), but I think we have missed all the deadlines already anyway...
What other independent secondaries do people living near Cambridge look into for the boys?

Perilla Fri 20-Jan-17 12:11:27

Not sure what you mean by the 'likes to have time for fun' bit? Do you think he'd have to work super hard and long hours to keep up or that the Perse works them so hard they don't have free time. If the latter take a good look at the Perse website, lots of stuff about wellbeing, rounded individuals etc which might reassure you.

Stephen Perse is going mixed from Sept 2017 but I think it starts with the Yr 7 intake so wouldn't be an option for Yr 9 entry - you might want to double check that though.

I think there are other schools such as Heritage in town that are mixed however that is pretty different from Perse/Leys I believe. Beyond that you have to look further afield (and plenty of people in Cambridge do that). Options to consider would include Kings Ely and perhaps Friends in Saffron Walden (now called something else - Walden School perhaps?).

HereIAm20 Fri 20-Jan-17 19:44:26

The entrance tests for The Perse for year 9 this September were last weekend so if you want to have any chance of getting in there you will need to act fast and ask whether he is still able to take the entrance exam.

People have a very weird perception of The Perse and assume it is some sort of hot house. It isn't, honest! There is plenty of time for extra curricular in and out of school.

I currently have 4 year 10s upstairs here!!

HereIAm20 Fri 20-Jan-17 19:45:58

As regards the Leys I think many of the offers are on a day boarder basis (ie. they stay for activities, dinner and prep and are collected at 9/9.30ish) so it might be worth checking if your son has out of school activities.

redtulips123 Fri 20-Jan-17 20:36:42

I'm glad to hear that my first impression of reading about Perse was misinformed. I suspect my son would flourish in a work hard/play hard environment. DH went to St Paul's, so he would like The Perse.

At this point, from what I understand, it's too late to be considered along with the current set of applicants.... I think we have to wait until February and see if any places are left.... Or if anything opens up due to attrition.

The Leys is not for us, since it's mostly boarding. And I have no interest in Day Boarding either.

I also have a Y4 son - but Y4 does not appear to be a standard entry point for any of the Preps -- I'm sure he will be way down the waitlist at Perse... But it looks like there are lots of independent Prep schools, so he might have more options. I've got my eye on St. Faith's for him, but again, they say we have to wait til late February to see what's left.

For DD (Y7), I am looking into St. Mary's. I can't quite wrap my mind around the concept of an all-girls school, but the more I think about it, it might be actually be ideal. St Faith's does have Y7-8 but I keep thinking it might be weird for her to start there at Y7.

Finding school places for 3 kids from abroad is enough to make me pull my hair out! I thought it was pretty good to know this far in advance of a relocation, but it looks like we needed to know even a few months earlier...

HereIAm20 Fri 20-Jan-17 21:15:53

Actually some people will enter St Faith's at year 7 if eg. They are leaving the state primary after yr 6. Have you thought of The Perse for your daughter too? Are you going to be living in central Cambridge or nearby. If so then King's Ely would probably have space for both year 4 and year 7 as it is still in Junior section of school.

redtulips123 Fri 20-Jan-17 22:06:45

Kings Ely looks interesting option, will keep it in mind, especially if nothing else seems to be working out.
We don't know where we'll live yet. Either in Cambridge not far from the Perse or a larger village south (Great Shelford?). We'd rather live on the S side of the city since we have a lot of family in N London and West of London (and know no one in Cambridge). It will depend on where we can find a house to rent and also upon where we find school places. Work is not far from Cambridge Station.
I think my boys have better personality fit for The Perse, but we'll see about DD as well.
Thanks for all the advice!

orchardy Sat 21-Jan-17 11:11:28

I think Sancton Wood also takes boys. But OP I would urge you to consider the state schools too, especially if you yourself have no problem with state education. Lots of them are good, in and around Cambridge. Otherwise if you don't fancy the Leys or the Perse, King's Ely might be the way to go.

HereIAm20 Sat 21-Jan-17 16:19:43

Yes but I would assume that Sancton Wood is very possibly full as it has such small class sizes and if the kids are sporty it doesn't really offer school sport as such.

Great Shelford is a very popular choice as the Senior Independents are all this side of Cambridge.

If you fancy meeting up for a coffee when you get here feel free to PM>

Cammumm Sun 22-Jan-17 15:14:39

The Perse has apparently had record applicants this year so your chances of getting in having missed the exam may not be great. I think you may have missed the Leys exam too as it's around the same time. They do have day students too though, about a third are I think.

Kings Ely is commutable from Cambridge, (though also 2/3 boarders) and you could also consider Culford, who I think to a pick up from some of the Cambridge park and ride sites. Worth looking at state schools too, especially if they're close to where you'll be living.

HereIAm20 Wed 01-Feb-17 19:44:57

Kings Ely is not 2/3 boarders only about 10% board

NeverKnowinglyUnderstoodinCamb Wed 01-Feb-17 22:54:21

I have children at kings ely and there are loads of children who get the minibus from the science park or the train.
It works really well a great community.
School is fabulous. My children love it and are doing v well.

redtulips123 Fri 03-Mar-17 22:51:47

Hi Ladies. OP here. Sorry I dropped out for a bit - I have been waiting (and waiting...) for my husband's job transfer to officially go through... It is finally signed, sealed and delivered. He starts next month. We join him in July. No house, no schools, but we're coming.

Thanks for all the advice. We are flying over to Cambridge the week after Easter and staying for 8-10 days. I'm planning visits to schools, etc. It's a mess trying to cram all this in, evaluating multiple schools for each of 3 kids, but I want to get it all done so I don't have to fly back until we make the big move.
DD Y7 and DS Y4 -- I've spoken with the local independent preps and St. Mary's and registered the kids at schools with reserve places. We will tour and do assessment when we are in Cambridge.

DS Y9 is still the tricky one.... We won't know for a couple of weeks whether The Perse or The Leys have reserve places, but it doesn't look promising. And DH doesn't like the vibe from The Leys. I personally like what I've learned, sounds like camp to me! But Saturday school- yikes I think that might be a deal breaker.

Anyway, I'm getting more curious about King's Ely. I hadn't really considered it since it is in another town. But from posts on Mumsnet and also from talking to others I've connected with in Cambridge, it sounds like an option I should consider. Please do tell me anything you know about King's Ely.

I'm also getting more curious about the state secondaries. I had considered living outside of the city, but now I'm determined to live in the city. We've done the suburban thing for 15 years. Time for a change. I want to be able to walk places. I'm weary of driving kids everywhere.... I want the kids to have independence.

I'm hoping to visit a couple of state secondaries while we are in town. I realize we don't have an address yet, but this whole process is all messed up for us anyway. At this point, we end up with the dregs of private or state sector. Any recs for decent state secondaries that don't fill up with the first set of applications?

Thanks again for all your advice so far!

orchardy Sat 04-Mar-17 08:03:11

Chesterton is a very good school, and has lots of international families like yours that do come and go, so you might be lucky and get a space. Parkside very central and also a good school. St Bede's a bit further out but also very popular if you have any religious credentials. Don't know what your housing budget is but if you can afford de freville or kite areas your DS could easily get to Parkside or Chesterton on a bike and your other children would also be able to get to St Mary's . I don't know anything about Kings Ely I'm afraid . Good luck!

ChasingSquirrelsinCambs Sat 04-Mar-17 08:09:57

Yr7 Sep allocations (state) cane out this week - is your DD Yr7 now or going into in Sep?
I have the oversubscribed / still have places section of the letter if she is going into Yr7 in Sep that might be useful to you?

orchardy Sat 04-Mar-17 08:28:39

I also meant to say that Cambridge is an ideal small city to give your kids independence. Mine have walked/cycled to school unsupervised since Year 5 and it's very common for secondary kids to cycle a couple of miles to get to school. And there's plenty for young people to do and get involved with.

Cammumm Sat 04-Mar-17 09:34:03

If you look on Cambridgeshire county council website it will tell you which state schools still have places for Y7 entry in September. I'm not sure whether your DC2 is Y7 now, or will be in the autumn. If they're starting schools at other times (as your Y9 child definitely will be) it's a bit random which schools may have places, as it just depends when people leave. So you wouldn't necessarily get the least popular ones.

Living in central Cambridge is great if you can afford it, and worthwhile if you are likely to end up with DC at different schools, as there's quite a few within walking/cycling range. The south side of the city is probably best if you're considering the independent ones, as they're all over that side (and for Kings Ely you'd want to be near the station, which is also south side). As an American you'll probably find the central Cambridge houses rather tiny though!

Oxonian Sat 04-Mar-17 09:41:37

We have found King's Ely to be great. Lovely school, much more open to diversity and flexible in approach than the Leys. No Saturday school. Easy to get to by train, many kids travel from Cambridge or further. Teaching is very good, and the ability level of students is improving as more and more people look beyond the Cambridge schools. Also flexi boarding option if they need to stay late for rehearsals, debates etc.

redtulips123 Sat 04-Mar-17 16:55:51

Wow, you guys are great!! this is all so helpful.

First, yes, DD is going into Yr7 in the autumn.

It looks like we can afford housing in city. The main issue seems to be that all the sizable rentals appear to be geared toward students and sharers, rather than a single family rental.... We know we won't get the size of an American home, but we still need some space with 3 kids...... We could probably get a bigger place in Great Shelford, but at this point, I'm holding out for in city. I know we have to, but I'm really not looking forward to renting. Ugh. I haven't rented in 20 years.... I can't bear not being able to paint the walls, etc....

Really nice to hear good things about Chesterton. It was actually one I was looking at, especially since Parkside will be full, St. Bedes probably too, and while the kids are technically Catholic, we don't go to church enough to get an endorsement anyway. I will ring Monday and find out if there are any Chesterton places left. Then there is Netherhall. Good south city location but looks huge! I'll follow up.

I've been reading the Ofsteds of the in city state secondaries. Yikes. Why are they almost all "Requires Improvement?" Except the ones that are always oversubscribed. Geez. What's up with that? How do you feel about signing up for a school that is officially marked as struggling? Very disconcerting.

It's all so different from how they do state school placement where I live in the US. Basically, each residential address is assigned to a school. Period. It doesn't matter when you move there, you still get a spot in that school. Even mid-year arrivals. And exceptions are very rare. If you want a certain school, then you get a house in that area.

Anyway, you guys make me feel like maybe I can actually pull this off. I love that you confirm my thoughts that Cambridge city would be a great place for the kids to get around on their own. It's ironic that American' culture values independence over almost everything else. However, outside of some of the very big cities (NYC, Boston, etc), we are much more set up for driving everywhere than public transport, and this results in parents becoming taxi drivers for their kids activities.... In the end, the kids don't get the very independence that is so highly valued in American culture. (until they get kicked out of the house after graduation at 18, which is actually not unusual).

I've contacted King's Ely as well. I'm really hoping to hit all the schools of interest in the 10 days we are visiting.

Thanks again.

orchardy Sat 04-Mar-17 21:21:53

Don't worry too much about Ofsted. Not the be all and end all. Chesterton is a really good school with lots of sport, music, drama etc. Facilities a little sad and tired but enthusiastic staff, a great Head and a very international and interesting student body.

How many bedrooms do you need as a minimum, OP?

orchardy Sat 04-Mar-17 21:28:38

Only asking because this would be a great rental. It doesn't look particularly promising from the exterior but is Chesterton catchment, 5 mins to the river, near cafes and amenities, and a very easy cycle to city centre. It's the only 4 bed I have found so far that isn't a student house.

But between now and July, more houses may come up...

redtulips123 Sat 04-Mar-17 21:57:15

I checked the school availability list, which may still change. At this point, in city, only Netherhall has Yr 9 places. Chesterton, Coleridge, Parkside, St Bedes are all full. Sawston has 3 Yr9 places.

Also Orchardy- thanks for the house link. We do want 4-5 bedrooms. Minimum 4 for sure.
I do check RightMove and the like sometimes, but since I know availability will change so much by the time we arrive, I try to resist (but mostly give in).... I can get so obsessed looking at houses online! smile Also, because we do get 60 days temp housing once we move over (while waiting for our stuff to catch up!), it seems we should be able to find something in that timeframe. Shouldn't we? Honestly I have no idea...
I also want to see which independents we get offers. For example, if DS ends up at Kings Ely, proximity to station becomes critical... I realize we can't get state places without an address so I guess we will be at the mercy of attrition. These things are beyond my control, but it is what is. Such a bummer to leave a school where all 3 of my kids are thriving to the great unknown, where all the schools are full and we have to hope things work out. But I do have a good feeling about the whole thing, honestly.

I'm planning to talk to letting agents when we come over in April. Are some letting offices better than others?

orchardy Sat 04-Mar-17 22:23:16

A lot can change between now and July/Sept, both for housing and for school places. Cambridge has a very transient population so you could be lucky. I don't know about letting agents as new names seem to pop up all the time, but I'd trust Redmaynes. Good luck - keep us posted.

Cammumm Sat 04-Mar-17 22:35:08

DS went to Netherhall. It's been through a bit of an unsettled time in the last few years but now has a new head, so I would hope is on the up. It's not bad though. DS was very happy there. It's not particularly big (180 a year ish) I'd have thought Sawston must be bigger. The Perse is similar in size.

As a last resort, be aware that there are rules on the UK that the local authority does have to find you a place somewhere. If necessary they can make a school take a pupil even when it's technically full, so you will definitely get them in somewhere.

Also, when looking for a house, your don't need to go very far out the centre to avoid the student rentals. Students don't tend to live in Chesterton, or anywhere over Hills Road railway bridge to the south of the city.

mastertomsmum Wed 15-Mar-17 13:37:59

I just wanted to say that I would not recommend St Faith's or The Leys unless what you are looking for is an English public school experience. Both the Perse schools are more of an independent grammar school set up.

St Faith's is a funny place. It looks and feels comforting when one visits but it's quite regimented and the kind of child they like was - increasingly over the time we were there - nothing like mine. We were there for 5 years and my son came away and had to go up ten levels in maths to be where the state primary he joined thought he ought to be for Yr5.

He got dreadful Effort and Attainment results and a lack of credit where due. In his state primary it's totally different and he's flying academically and just won a place at the Perse.

For some, St Faith's does work but they don't adapt to your child. It's more of a one size must fit all approach.

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