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Cambridge Schools

(31 Posts)
IndecisiveMama Sat 07-Oct-17 22:43:48

We are considering moving back to the UK after 17 years overseas. Purely because of the children's education. We don't fancy boarding them so have started the entrance procedure for the Perse, The Leys and St Mary's. We have 2 boys and 1 girl. (13, 11, 11). This is a heck of a huge decision and I would appreciate any feedback on the three schools - and our chances of getting the kids in! The 13 yo is clever (that's why we have to come back!) but the twins are ... well they are top set but not in the top 1-2% shall we say. How hard is it to get into Perse/ Leys/ St Mary's? So many decisions rest on their education that I don't know where to begin.

BluebellGal Sun 08-Oct-17 10:05:15

Why go private? There are some excellent state schools in and around Cambridge - in fact many much better than the Leys. St Mary’s is very good, but the Perse is in a league of its own.

When they hit 16, Hills Road (state) is the preferred option for many families who have been in the independent sector until then.

Why not try the very clever child for Perse and put the other two in state sector?

Biscuitsneeded Sun 08-Oct-17 14:20:32

Clever children at state schools in Cambridge will find like-minded souls and will absolutely flourish. No need to pay a fortune for it. Have a look at Chesterton, Parkside, St Bede's etc before you start shelling out the ££. And if you are really keen to go independent then bear in mind that The Leys is a lot more expensive and yet doesn't seem to do quite as well (possibly because of the type of kids it has rather than anything wrong with the teaching). And you have to do Saturday school, and may feel like a lesser being if you don't board. St Mary's seems to take all sorts but you have to be OK with the idea of single sex education. And the Perse will be all-consuming.

IndecisiveMama Sun 08-Oct-17 14:20:53

Thank you, BluebellGal! Do the state schools have to take you if you are in their catchment area? Where are the best state schools? Def something to investigate smile.
I guess my problem with this would be down to our family dynamics. The kids are currently all at the same school with equal opportunities. My fear is that the younger children would feel they were not treated the same.
They have always been at the one school and I have no idea how the system works in the U.K. nowadays. Thanks again!

IndecisiveMama Sun 08-Oct-17 14:23:45

And thank you, Biscuitsneeded! Can you give me pointers about how to get into state schools? Is there a best practice!?

fibo Sun 08-Oct-17 14:39:20

Comberton Village College is a fantastic school

Biscuitsneeded Sun 08-Oct-17 15:07:56

No, the state schools don't have to take you if they are full, but if you move into catchment you will be very near the top of the waiting list if there is one, or you may be lucky and there may be spaces. Are the 11 year olds already in Year 7 (ie were 11 before 1st Sept 2017) or would they be going into Year 7 next September? Either way your kids are of an age where they could all be at the same school within the next year subject to availability of spaces. Cambridge is very international with quite a transient population so I would imagine the turnover of school places is pretty high as people move on. You would need to find a house, move here and then contact the local authority as soon as your accommodation was definite to get on the waiting list for your preferred school. As I said, Parkside and Chesterton are both outstanding city schools. St Bede's also very good if you have a religious background (you would need a letter saying you went to church regularly etc). If you're happy to go outside the city then Comberton, Sawston, Linton and I think possibly Swavesey , Impington and Bottisham are all good.

IndecisiveMama Sun 08-Oct-17 15:20:40

Thank you Biscuitsneeded! I will look into the city centre schools - we know where we would live so will see about catchment areas.
I would still welcome any feedback on how steep the competition is for the Perse/ Leys etc? Does anyone know how many children apply for each place? Cheers!

Biscuitsneeded Sun 08-Oct-17 15:49:27

I have no idea about The Perse/the Leys but if you're not applying through the traditional application process (ie mid-year) I guess it will come down to whether they have spaces and whether they want your children. If you're offering 3 sets of fees you are probably an attractive prospect! Obviously entrance to The Perse is competitive, but there have been kids from my kids' primary who went there who were quite clever but not by any means the biggest brains in the year group. The only two children I know at the Leys are by their parents' admission not academic, and were drawn there because of the drama/sport/music etc. And St Marys I only know children who struggled in state sector and needed smaller classes, although I do know they have some able ones there too - girls who preferred single-sex. I hope I'm not offending anyone because I have no personal experience of these schools, but am going on the experiences of the families I know. If you want the more academic independent schools you might want to look at Stephen Perse as well.

IndecisiveMama Sun 08-Oct-17 17:16:49

Again, a huge thank you! We are going through the normal application process for next Sept (entrance to years 7 and 9) and trying to decide whether we need to unpick our life here in favour of Cambridge.
All 3 kids do well here but I'm sure that doesn't translate to doing well in the academic hotbed of Cambridge!
I have been scared by stories of people who coach their children for a year (or two!) to get in. Some employ consultants to advise them! I had no idea it was this competitive so feel rather a fool for not doing my homework earlier.

Biscuitsneeded Sun 08-Oct-17 18:41:01

Cambridge has some very academic children, of course, but all that means is that the state schools get great results and the independent schools get to be a bit more picky than in some other cities. If your children are doing well where you are now there really shouldn't be too much of an issue. State schools will need you to have a definite address in order to apply, so you can't do that until you get here - when are you moving? For the independent schools I guess you can apply in the normal way this Autumn. I don't know too much about it all but I haven't heard of people coaching kids to get into the Perse - but it's not my world I'm afraid!

Allthebestnamesareused Sun 08-Oct-17 18:46:13

I have messaged you.

BluebellGal Sun 08-Oct-17 18:53:32

I’m speaking from my personal perspective as I’ve lived in Cambridge most of my life, went through state school system, had family /friends who went through independent sector and now have a child about to go into (state school) primary. I’m a professional.

Pick where you will be happy to live don’t base it on schools. Wherever you live in Cambridge the secondary schools are very good: Netherhall and Coleridge are the poorer performers but honestly it’s all relative as Cambridge has some of the best states schools in the country. Things also change - 15 years ago Netherhall was the most desirable school.

I don’t think it’s a problem sending one child to private school if that’s what is right for them. My family sent one child to Perse because he was very clever and the other child went the state school route - was absolutely fine. I think that’s really normal around here. You need to be very bright for the Perse. No point sending a child who is not going to respond positively to the academic culture. Btw - both are successful adults - Perse grad is leading in his field, other child running own successful business. It’s all about giving your child the best opportunity for them. If they’re into performing arts then for example, pick a school that excels in this.

We have lots of good state primary schools not so many outstanding but things do change overnight. The vast majority are very good schools.

In my personal experience, Cambridge gives children the opportunity to be surrounded by a mix of children - aspirational peers, international backgrounds, different cultures, British born families from mix of socio-economic backgrounds. That’s positive for kids to be exposed to such a mixed community in my opinion. It will be more homogeneous/ international at independent schools. But wherever your children go, they will be exposed to positive peer pressure and this I truely believe is what makes children want to achieve. Teachers here are also on the whole very good and intelligent. That’s generalising, but as cambridge is such a nice place to live, schools have no problem attracting the best teaching staff.

I don’t know anything about Perse entrance exams. In terms of extra tutoring I imagine most ‘middle class’ kids at secondary schools here get it - that was the norm at my school over 20 years ago. Can’t imagine that’s changed. It’s also very normal to do extra curricular activities.

Honestly if I can’t imagine spending my money to send my child to private school as the schools are so good here I have confidence that she would achieve the same outcome. If I lived in a different part of the country, I might feel differently. But I came through the Cambridge state school system and work in a highly skilled profession alongside many people from leading independent schools. The only thing they have that I don’t is a natural air of confidence - I have to work harder at that!

Hope that helps and good luck with your decision smile

Biscuitsneeded Sun 08-Oct-17 19:11:31

Yes, just to second Bluebellgal - I have 2 DC who are reasonably bright without being geniuses. They are both doing well in Cambridge state schools and I honestly can't imagine what additional benefits in terms of facilities/extra-curricular opportunities could possibly be worth £30K + per year to send them both private (not that I've got £30K !). I am sure there are parents who can quantify exactly what the £££ are buying them but if your kids are reasonably able they will be just fine in a Cambridge secondary. Oh and I believe Netherhall is on the up again now... OP, do you know what your state catchment school would be, since you say you know where you will be living?

IndecisiveMama Sun 08-Oct-17 19:27:42

Thank you all for this input. Just looking at the website and it seems that the catchment area is Chesterton Community College Academy but the nearest secondary school is Parkside Community College.
We will rent a house off family but would plan to come back to the U.K. As late as July. Cheers.

Aftershock15 Sun 08-Oct-17 19:42:59

I have children at the Perse. The advantage for us was that we didn’t have to be living in Cambridge to apply so didn’t have to rush the move to be in catchment to apply for school. I wouldn’t say mine are geniuses - but fairly bright and hard working. One was very bullied at his primary for being seen as too bright, so it was really for him that we made the move.

I think it is harder to get in to year 9 than 7 - just because there are less places. I would disagree that it is all consuming and an academic hot house. Just this afternoon I was talking to a parent of a child at a state school (not in cambridge ) who is making their child give up an activity after Christmas, on a Sunday due to pressure of GCSE school work. Perse kids are actively encouraged to keep on with extra curricular stuff.

It works very well for my children but can see it might not suit everyone. For me the security of having school places sorted before the move made it the right decision.

Biscuitsneeded Sun 08-Oct-17 19:52:24

OP if you can get your children into Parkside or Chesterton you'll be fine. Both have recently been visited by Ofsted and graded outstanding. If you're not arriving till July then you may not get places straight away, so I can see the attraction in that instance of perhaps applying to The Perse who won't mind what your current address is.

EllieFredrickson Sun 08-Oct-17 22:31:55

Would agree if you have able kids (top set) then you'll be well served by state schools in and around Cambridge. DD has just started at Hills with an outstanding set of GCSEs from one of the village colleges south of Cambridge. She's mixing with those who have come from the private schools and doesn't think it makes any odds.

bridgetreilly Sun 08-Oct-17 23:10:15

Could also be worth looking at the Heritage School. Everyone I know whose kids are there absolutely loves it.

IndecisiveMama Sun 08-Oct-17 23:37:30

Thank you all. I am researching all these suggestions thoroughly and can't thank you enough for the input. It's nigh impossible to get a feel for the possibilities remotely! We all have children with unique needs so it's great to have all the range of options that Cambridge offers. The one decision I have made is that Cambridge per se is the right choice!

mastertomsmum Mon 09-Oct-17 10:37:45

My son used to be at the feeder school for The Leys. The best thing we ever did was leave. He is very bright but was very prem and has some minor difficulties. His academic performance was fading and his self esteem hit the floor in a school that didn't know how to nurture the non sporty child with minor difficulties. He'd begun to think of himself as disabled.

After 2 years in a local primary (good but not outstanding Ofsted) we applied for secondary - St Bedes, Coleridge (catchment school) and one other local school - and also put him in for Perse Upper and Stephen Perse.

He made the waiting list at Perse Upper and was offered a place at Stephen Perse. The current year 7 are the first cohort of boys at the Stephen Perse.

redtulips123 Mon 09-Oct-17 11:30:39

We just relocated to Cambridge in August. If you can afford private, it is so much simpler than trying to get into the state schools without a local address. Unless you can somehow get an address ahead of time. We went the private route, and it was such a huge relief to have schools sorted before the move. In fact, we only just moved out of temporary housing this past week and finally have a long term address. I would have been an absolute mess trying to find 3 state school places this late. The more highly rated state schools fill up with the first registration, which is I believe October the previous year (?).

Anyway, everyone has their opinions about schools, but I can say that so far, I am amazed by St Faith's, which is a feeder school for The Leys. The staff and facilities are outstanding. The parent circles seem a bit of a fortress, but more importantly, my kids have made tons of friends and they really enjoy the curriculum. I was worried that my Yr 7 DD would have to deal with a bunch of girl drama, but her transition has been seamless, and the girls have really welcomed and included her. She is a very self motivated child and is thriving in the academic environment there. Her writing has improved so much already- I have concluded that they must have a particularly fantastic English teacher St Faiths.

My oldest really likes Perse Upper. He is bright but prefers to have fun over hard work- he has made a lot of friends and is indeed having fun, while at the same time, it seems like the teachers really do inspire him to work harder. So, I say so far so good!

mastertomsmum Mon 09-Oct-17 14:48:40

Carrying on from where I left off earlier ...

The entrance test for Perse Upper seemed a bit tougher, not least because the atmosphere was more intense. There were about 200 kids chasing 60 places as I remember. We know about 4 kids who got in. 2 St Faith's, one a child the school acknowledged as a bright kid who was also sporty. The other, a boy much like my son - bright, not sporty - who had never been given credit where due in the brain department.

The other 2 kids we know who got offers from Perse Upper, had been training with their tutors with the aim of getting to Perse Upper for as long as I've known them. Both were at state schools.

My son was also offered his first choice of state secondary and is now at St Bedes. It's what he wanted. The class sizes are not greatly different from Perse Upper or Stephen Perse. The feel is grammar school, the trips offered (skiing, language study based etc.) are much of a muchness with independent schools. The choice of subjects is just as wide if different - no cookery at Stephen Perse. for example.

It would have been fine if he'd opted for Stephen Perse. The major difference in the state system is access to help in the classroom. All the labs have TA help. It's there for all but specifically aimed at making sure anyone with difficult accessing the curriculum can do so. There's usually a special needs person or 3 in each class plus kids like my son who have minor difficulties who might need help holding a test tube steady etc.

One of the big problems for us at St Faith's was that if my son received even the smallest amount of help it was reflected in his Effort and Attainment grades. So he can't open jars and something as small as that counted towards a lack of academic independence, even asking for help counted. In the workplace they call that discrimination.

Should add that new staff have come in since we left so it could be totally different.

DorothyParker111 Mon 09-Oct-17 15:53:46

This thread seems to have drifted away from the original enquiry but FWIW St Faith's was great for my disorganised and in-need-of-learning-support boy. And I agree with redtulips, the English staff teaching Yrs 6-8 were nothing short of brilliant - genuinely enabling pupils to work at a standard and with concepts I associated with O-level and beyond. Hugely impressive.

Justaboy Mon 09-Oct-17 16:27:00

Just my tuppenny worth- good to see St Bedes is doing well;)

Also have a look at Newport grammar and the schools at Saffron Walden, slightly further afield is Hockerill Anglo European school well connected to Cambridge on the railway line, don't know what its like now but a few years ago it was excellentsmile

They do take some pupils from out of area.

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