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Primary schools: Milton Road vs University of Cambridge Primary

(23 Posts)
Bagpushkin99 Fri 30-Nov-18 21:52:48

Just looking for current parents' experiences of Milton Road and University of Cambridge Primary. Milton Road is our catchment school, but we aren't too far away from Univ Cam Primary. Liked both, touring them. Obviously Milton Road has had Ofsted woes. Would just love current parents' views: how much do you feel your child is learning? How good is the teaching? How open is the head to communication? Open-minded as (to be honest) have heard mixed reviews of both, but all a bit anecdotal... Many thanks.

Biscuitsneeded Sun 02-Dec-18 14:30:37

I have had 2 kids go through Milton Road in recent years. It had its troubled times with old Head but the new one is very nice, very approachable and not just obsessed with league tables. And despite everything both my kids had a great time at school and left with good SATs (if you care about that!). It's a friendly school and parents are very community-minded. Lots of great teachers although I don't know those at the lower end of the age range any more. If it's your catchment school I wouldn't complicate your life by going elsewhere - and don't underestimate the value of having very local friends for playdates, sharing pick-ups, borrowing costumes for dress-ups etc!

mastertomsmum Mon 03-Dec-18 12:53:14

So if Milton Rd is your catchment I'd go with it . We have friends at the school and they like it.

I think you will find that if you are in Milton Rd catchment then you have a journey across town in the rush hr to get to Univ Primary as it's quite a distance. Again, know people there. Seems ok apart rom slightly fanciful approach to uniform

Biscuitsneeded Mon 03-Dec-18 13:09:53

I think almost all Cambridge primaries do their job well. The children are happy and enjoy being at school and learn whattgey need to know to prepare for secondary. If the kids seem happy and the staff seem lively and engaged in your local school then I think going out of catchment is possibly not worth the extra effort.

NotAnotherJaffaCake Wed 05-Dec-18 14:25:22

I would take the University Ofsted with a skipload of salt. It is a politically very attractive school and hasn't had any KS2 SATS results yet, and therefore no comparitors. It's also stuffed with naice academic kids with tiny numbers of PP, and it's income is miles ahead of any Cambridge LA school.

Not saying it's not a good school, just that it's not a level playing field.

bielka Mon 11-Mar-19 14:04:19

The University school got outstanding from Ofsted but would definitely take that with 2 shiploads of salt. While my children do enjoy the learning environment there are a lot of problems going on, like bullying, which the teachers ignore unless forced to act by the parents. The playground can be like 'Lord of the Flies' and we have been quite distressed at times. the school ethos is on the improving the mind so hardly any emphasis on sports and competitiveness, which our children do need as well, so DH has to step up. There are quite a lot of kids from academic families but that is changing.

just saying this is my experience with the school.

mastertomsmum Tue 12-Mar-19 13:05:24

bielka, when you say that there 'are quite a lot of kids from academic families but that is changing' I don't quite follow. I'd have expected the number of kids from academic families to continue increasing as the school is non catchment and set up for families of academics and students etc.

If they don't take bullying seriously then I'd get every governor you can to lobby re this. You have some excellent and very approachable people on the governors.

Lack of emphasis on sports would attach me as we found a sporty school to be a very harsh environment. Healthy amount of exercise and sport is great but emphasis on learning is where things need to be at

mastertomsmum Tue 12-Mar-19 13:36:10

Oh, just looked at the admissions page for Univ Primary and could not find anything for Univ staff having priority applications. So that would really put me off as I see it as a wasted Univ investment and a needless free school status. I suppose they might have a better ethos but ...

Stillnoidea Tue 12-Mar-19 22:07:42

mastertom UCPS is a catchment school - for Eddington. It's just that for the first few years there was no one in catchment. I guess that in practice University post docs etc will get priority as some of (all?) the University (not market) housing in the catchment is for key workers.

User488573884727 Tue 12-Mar-19 23:10:27

I would echo what bielka has said re: University school. It has many plus points, but also a lot of problems which the head seems to want to bury in the sand/not face up to. I agree re: lack of sports etc.. and also re:bullying. Lack of experienced teachers is possibly a contributing factor to poor discipline within the school. Its a school that has the potential to be outstanding (in a real, not ofsted way), but is in reality far from it at present. I know of several parents who have removed their children from the school for various reasons.

bielka Wed 13-Mar-19 13:50:19

Agree with User488573884727 100%.

The school has huge potential but has a long way go. To clear up confusion, the school was not set up for "families of academics and students" There are quite a few children from academic families in the University, but it does have a catchment area, so anybody in the area can apply and there are children in the school, from outside the catchment areas as well.

The school/head initially sent out emails/papers to parents saying, that there was no such thing as bullying, that it didn't exist, then managed to contradict themselves in other letters/emails by saying that bullying existed. Further circulars begged parents to stop contacting each other to sort out bullying issues and to talk to the teachers first. I can tell you one of my children was told by a teacher that it was only bullying if they were hit seven times or more.

The school on one hand tells children to seek a teacher's help if they have been attacked. The trouble is certain teachers will just say "sort it out by yourselves" . I have heard that from my children many times and the teachers or TA are always the same ones.

To be fair, they trying harder now, but it is too little, too late. There is poor discipline in the school and the previous poster is correct, children have been removed from the school, because of their parent's concerns regarding bullying and the cack handedness and wishy washy way the school was dealing with it.

In regard to sports, i'm sure that most parents would agree that sports and exercise are essential to their children's well being and development. It's not about the winning (though that helps) but about the taking part. I'm sure that any literate person could find a hundred plus academic articles citing why sports for children is beneficial, and that the positives outweigh the negatives. Plus, competitiveness in sports can increase confidence and happiness and transfer over to academic and career competitiveness.

The school/head has zero interest in sports (he manged to cancel the last two sports days and didn't rearrange) so any kind of physical activity was either limited or contracted out. Only now is it starting to change, via a senior teacher, but you have to ask yourself, how long is this going to last? For some time, P.E. was run round the courtyard in a circular fashion.
This puts unneeded pressure on parents to finding outside sports for the children to do at the weekends.

The school could be outstanding in so many ways, and rival the private schools but it has to work on the basics first.

mastertomsmum Thu 14-Mar-19 10:53:37

Bielka - that's so interesting. A long time back I went to a meeting about the setting up of the University Primary and the original idea was to set up a school for Eddington and with criteria to admit the children of academics, staff and students of Cambridge University. It was stated that the school had to be a Free School to accommodate that. Some at this open meeting were very against the concept of Free Schools but satisfied with this explanation. My child is older so was never going to be eligible.

See what you mean about sports. It's great to have facilities and a good ethos in regard to fitness and team sports. However, if anyone is looking to private schools to accommodate a desire for excellence in sport I'd caution to choose carefully. If ones child is sporty there are certain places in Cambridge that would be ideal, but disastrous if they are not. Perse - both versions - and St Mary's get the approach just right. Some other places definitely don't. Sad that sport is so way down the list of priorities at Univ Primary. New school is an opportunity for new sports facilities missed by the sound of it.

The bullying stuff is worrying. I met some folk at swimming who transferred their kids from Girton to Univ Primary in search of excellence. Wonder if they gave up on it.

Back to the set up - as a Univ employee, I am disappointed at how the place has turned out based on this Mumsnet thread. I think a strong Univ connection with criteria to admit the children of staff etc. would have kept it sharper.

bielka Thu 14-Mar-19 18:56:36

In essence, the school is a test bed for Cambridge University Education department. The problem is, like many things, theory is different to reality.
Yes, there are quite a few children of academics and some from the admin side, but also many who are not connected with the university.

The class sizes are large, 25-30 and if you want your children to prosper you need as a parent, to put the effort in. They don't have enough staff, and the teaching assistants seem to have their time taken up with the special needs children, who can be violent and distract the other pupils. I was told by another parent, that they had seen a older girl enter a younger class, and stand on a table and fling marker pens at the younger children. It only ended after a teacher picked her up and carried her off. The classroom teacher did nothing and pretended that nothing had happened.

Retaining staff is a major issue/problem, and every year we expect teachers to leave, and they do. It is unclear as to the reasons, but the turnover is absurd.

The school/head is excellent at PR spin and talking the talk, and there is no little amount of arrogance shown by them when dealing with parents. Now that the school has been awarded 'outstanding' this has only added to the issue. There is a lot of burying heads in the sand when dealing with problems, otherwise why would the school send multiple emails/letters out telling parents not to contact each other or talk to each other about children's bad and violent behavior.

Eddington was needed, especially for the students/post grads. although it is not really viable for long term renting (sneaky annual rent increases up to 3.5% a year!)

It is sad about the sport, talked to another parent recently who has a child in reception and they were unhappy about the lack of sports and the bullying that was happening to their son. The parents have enrolled the boy in a martial art just so he can defend himself. Very sad.
Things won't change until there is a change of leadership and more funds.

mastertomsmum Mon 18-Mar-19 19:50:50

All sounds a bit worrying. I hope it works out ok for you

NotAnotherJaffaCake Sun 31-Mar-19 20:51:02

As a free school, the University school won’t have governors as you know them, so your options to complain are very limited. The head at Girton was absolutely fabulous by all reports but moved on 5 or so years ago - he’s got a headship at another Cambs Primary now.

Funding should not be a problem for University of Cambs primary - they get boatloads more cash than comparable schools:

£1.31 million per year vs. £1.1 million for next closest comparable primary.

NotAnotherJaffaCake Sun 31-Mar-19 20:54:38

The catchment is nonsense. Post docs generally only stay for 3 years or so, so unless they move on to permanent posts at the university, then the chances are that the spaces made whenever their children leave will be taken up by sharp elbowed Cambridge parents who want their kids to go to an “outstanding” school. So unless your academics live in Eddington when applying for a reception place, then I can’t see how the children of academics will get in. If there’s no space when you move to Cambridge, you’ll get your kids settled into other schools. And if you move to Eddington accommodation held back for academics with children in (say) Y4, there won’t be any space for your children because it’s full up already.

mastertomsmum Mon 01-Apr-19 11:32:02

They do have Governors and some are Univ folk, which seems like the right thing.

As regards governors elsewhere. It's a pretty thankless task, one sometimes undertaken by professional committee participators but best performed by those with close links to the school.

I think I am right in saying that one primary has a governor who was head of a famous East Anglian school that basically went bust.

oldwhyno Mon 01-Apr-19 15:54:58

"sharp elbowed Cambridge parents who want their kids to go to an “outstanding” school"

- I would say the school is for sharp elbowed Cambridge parents who want their kids to go to a primary school associated with the Uni, in the misguided belief that their children will benefit.

Let's face it, the same parents wouldn't be traveling comparatively long distances to take their kids there if it was just called "Eddington Primary School".

bielka Mon 01-Apr-19 20:38:37

If the school has so much money then how come the parents are always being pressurized to buy cakes at the multiple bake sales to raise money in order to pay for school trips and a mini bus at one point.

They certainly don't have enough money to pay their staff, as so many of them leave after one school year. I heard from another parent that a distant friend was offered a teaching position at the school -she didn't take it as they wanted to pay her £10,000 less than her current salary.

I have also heard on the grapevine that at least one of the parent governors is extremely concerned and has voiced their opinion about the quality of the teaching among other things.

SkyRainbowsAndRainDrops Mon 01-Apr-19 21:45:26

It's sad the school is a bit of a disappointment (but with some gems - some hard working teachers and a parent pool with expertise and ideas which could be embraced to drive forward positive change if their was a willingness from the school to embrace this) Sadly though, currently children don't seem to make good progress. Behaviour is not well managed. Children in the middle ground get overlooked. But the school could make strides if there was some willingness at the top to listen, to learn, to accept room for development, and to move forward (rather than bury head, deny difficulties exist and spend energy selling a surface, perfect image of the school on social media)

maslinpan Tue 02-Apr-19 17:29:25

The UCPS has certainly persuaded some local families to abandon Girton PS, but despite not being as shiny and attractive as a new school, Girton has a really good head in place who is committed and energetic.

Enneirda Sun 14-Apr-19 12:10:59

I was off the record told to not apply for a teaching post at Cambridge university school. I won’t go into details but in my opinion I’d stick with Milton road. I live close by and although I decided on Arbury primary as I wanted more diversity for my children, I have friends who’s children have been very happy there. As mentioned quite a few had problems with the old head but the new one is supposed to be nice.

SauceForTheGander Wed 19-Jun-19 11:34:07

I know this is an old thread but for the benefit of anyone else looking to UCPS - I echo what has been said above about taking the ofsted with a few truck loads of salt.

If you can send your child to your nearest school, do that.

Parking at the school is pain - so if you can't bus or bike I would think carefully about your school run. Eddington have hit parents with numerous & massive parking fines (run by a private company) and have made a fortune out of parents just trying to do the school run. You can park for up to an hour for free but the machines often aren't working and the app wasn't clear / people didn't want to use it. Anyway masses of people got £60/£100 tickets for a 20 minute school pick up.

The road by the school is used as a rat run as the barriers are never up so it can feel very busy at morning peak times. Lots of parents park in Sainsbury's but as the school grows and grows to be upward of 650 children I expect more and more will have to use the park and ride nearby - with a walk to the school from there.

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