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St Paul's CoE state school vs. Cambridge independent primary schools

(14 Posts)
surrealflea Fri 16-Mar-18 12:49:34

DH and I are moving to Cambridge soon with our 2 year-old DD. We're both Americans and understanding the different school system has been a steep learning curve. Our 28 month old DD is obsessed with numbers, already knows her phonics, and can sight-read some words (much to our dismay), so we want to choose a school that will support her passion for learning and advanced reading skills.

We're particularly confused about the benefits of sending DD to a good state school vs. independent school.

Our new home is in the catchment of St Paul's CoE. For independent we're looking at Stephen Perse, The Perse, King's School, St John's School, Heritage, and St Mary's.

Money aside (which is an obvious difference), how does St Paul's directly compare to local independent schools - not other state schools - in student performance and happiness?

Tid1 Fri 16-Mar-18 14:48:15

I can't comment on the independent schools but st.pauls recently (Jan 2018) received a 'Requires Improvement' grading from ofsted (a government regulatory body).
Although these gratings are not the be all and end all, and your child still has a few years before starting, it is worth knowing. Good luck

GrouchingTiggerHiddenSomething Fri 16-Mar-18 17:24:01

St Paul's has a new head who started last September so things are likely to have changed before your DD starts (Sept 2020?) It's a small school - just one class of 30 in each year - and has a real community feel. I think these things are very hard to judge at a distance and the best thing would be to visit for yourselves.

Biscuitsneeded Mon 19-Mar-18 09:06:43

To be honest I would start at a state primary. If you really feel they aren't meeting your child's needs you an always switch to private later. But Cambridge is packed with very, very bright kids. They are often the children of parents who are academics, and whose salaries don't stretch to private education, so your DD will find like-minded souls wherever she ends up.If you're just about to move here there is so much to be said for local school, local community and schoolmates on same street. Ignore Ofsted reports and go with how you feel when you visit the school.

mastertomsmum Mon 19-Mar-18 09:58:52

St Paul's is a nice small school with some links to the local church. This could mean that - in addition to the very good Parkside secondary school - St Bede's is a further secondary option. Although that is obviously thinking long term.

Both Perse options, King's College School are good academically, St Mary's likewise. St John's very good all round school and has good pastoral care. Only disadvantage with John's might be the blazer and tie from age 4.

I have heard positive things about Heritage but we felt it wasn't a fit for our quite academic child.

You don't mention St Faith's. My DC was there in Pre-Prep and Prep. Pre Prep seemed ok at the time but in retrospect wasn't that great. Prep was awful as far as we were concerned.

NewbyCambs Mon 19-Mar-18 14:27:53

Just jumping on this thread! You mentioned St Bedes being a secondary option as St Paul’s has affiliations with the church. Do you happen to know if this is a criteria for entrance to St have come from a faith primary school? I would like my DD to go there but they are not at a faith primary (not through choice but oversubscription) she is baptised

Tid1 Mon 19-Mar-18 17:44:04

Newbycambs- no children do not need to have attended a faith primary. Being baptised is fine but when applying you need to get some sort of letter from a priest/ pastor etc to say that you are a member of a church

NewbyCambs Mon 19-Mar-18 18:14:19

Thank you, I thought that sounded a bit unfair, as the schools are all so oversubscribed!

hopingforsleep Tue 20-Mar-18 12:54:44

My child is in reception at St Paul's. The new head is trying to turn lots of things around but there is a long way to go. I don't feel as though my bright child is being stretched at all and extra curricular seems very minimal.

mastertomsmum Tue 20-Mar-18 14:12:49

What I meant was that being a CofE primary can mean that children become interested in going to church and may get baptised or confirmed. The school might have Open the Book - although it is true to say that both our local primaries have Open the Book and only one is a CofE primary.

If moving to an area then a school linked to a church might be the church one choses to attend. My son is Yr7 St Bede's and the criteria go sibling, church attendance, distance. With the church attendance criteria there is a form for your vicar/priest/minister to fill in. There is a section on regularity of attendance. Most 'weekly' attenders from our school got offered a place, some 'occasional' did not. Additionally, St Bede's is CofE and Catholic foundation (originally just Catholic) and we know some children who are of other denominations and had 'weekly' attendance but did not get offered a place.

Cathy9000 Sun 29-Apr-18 23:57:28

Stephen Perse Foundation is very academic- at secondary level best in east anglia. The junior school is a lovely environment which cultivates academically curious children. My daughter loved her primary school years there. I can’t really comment on other schools!!

ZMN2018 Mon 05-Nov-18 12:17:24

I hope this is not too late. As others have already said, one of the many benefits of living in Cambridge is that there are just so many good state schools for the reasons mentioned by others. Many people move to Cambridge from other cities for the schools.

If you are considering private/independent schools, then the Stephen Perse Foundation (formerly known as the Perse Girls School) would be the best place for her, on the basis of how you described her. Most of the girls there are happy. There are now boys in the school but they are still outnumbered by the girls, and the school was originally designed for girls, with girls in mind. Boys and girls are taught separately in all key academic subjects. The school follows the Diamond Model of separating boys and girls when teaching key academic subjects. So children get the best of both worlds: single sex education plus co-education.

Most of the children in the school are academically very exceptional.

The Perse (formerly for boys only) is equally brilliant. The two Perse schools (Stephen Perse Foundation and The Perse) are academic rivals.

Both schools offer excellent support to children who struggle to keep up with the highly demanding academic pace.

If your DD is into sports then The Perse Prep is probably the best place for her. They take sports seriously there. The Stephen Perse Foundation now also has excellent sports facilities and a good sports programme but they have always been known for being more "bookish" than sporty. They will tell you that they take sports seriously but the reality is that the culture in the school is focused more on hardcore academics. They produce brilliant and academically strong students.

The Perse School on the other hand has an Elite Sports Programme knows as PESP. It has produced some of the country's top sports persons. They too produce brilliant and academically strong students.

surchacam Fri 04-Oct-19 00:14:06


I'm a governor at St Paul's and, if you're still interested in the school please check out an updated post I made on another thread ( about the school. There are some great observations above but also a few things that are out of date imho. If you're still deciding, please do email the school for a visit - you should def check out the brand new Reception play area that was built, bespoke a year ago.

Regarding your general question about state vs private school, as a fellow US citizen who has now lived here for a number of years (before this we lived in San Francisco, CA) I can say that the choice is pretty similar to the US. Just like US public schools, while some cities can have issues, a place like Cambridge is full of super-bright kids and those peers (and their education-minded parents) tend to mean that even the smartest kid is going to be stretched at a state school.

Private schools in Cambridge also benefit from smart kids but have the limitation that they only really have other people who can afford them attending so, if you want your child to have exposure to a broader cross-section of society you aren't going to get that. On the other hand, they undoubtably have fancy facilities, etc and, if your child is struggling academically the smaller class sizes may help them get more attention.

We have neighbours who send their kids to three of the private schools mentioned above who are a similar age to our kids (10 and 6) and, so fa have seen no sign that they are any more (or less!) educated/etc. In fact, last year, a team from St Paul's won the local math challenge, beating most all of the private school teams.

Hope that helps!

mastertomsmum Tue 08-Oct-19 10:30:39

surchacam , I would definitely agree with you that private schooling at primary age offers little that is different academically. Of course, facilities are better but that's what one pays for and may not be all that important.

I should add that, when my DC left St Faith's, his Maths was significantly behind what was expected for Yr5 in a local primary prepping for SATs. He easily achieved what was expected of him once he arrived at the primary.

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