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St Paul's Cathedral School ((12 Posts)
we have been offered a reception place at St Paul Cathedral School, and have realised that we have some late questions I'm hoping someone can help me with:
- They are building an extension to the school which I think means the playground will be surrounded by tall buildings. As school rooms have quite narrow windows I'm now worried the kids will get no direct sunlight during school days. Am I overworrying? Will they perhaps be able to access separate/additional grounds of the Cathedral to get some vitamin D?
- the playgrounds are quite small. Do active kids get enough running around? I remember as a kid thinking that spaces were much bigger than I think there are now, so I am probably overthinking it, but would be good to hear if kids need more physical activities after school than was thought?
- how is parental involvement at the school versus other schools, average? Are parents all so busy working they manage less involvement? (I know it will be a struggle for me)
- I thought most kids were from close by (Islington, Camden), but then read kids come from up to 10 miles away. Which would make it harder for playdates. Is that generally the exception?
I do realise I'm asking questions I should have asked of the school when I had a chance, but I'm hoping there might be someone out there who can help!!!
I am a SPCS parent. Re the building works, the plan is to have the pre prep playground on the roof of the extended dining room so the children will get sunlight while they play.
There’s some stuff here about it. The project is starting a year later than originally planned.
The playgrounds are not massive but the children seem to make the most of them. There are afterschool clubs offered by the school (from year 1) that include football and outdoor games. I think there are quite a few extra afterschool clubs once the children get into the prep school (there has definitely been a running club and fencing) but my children are both still in pre prep.
The majority of families have two parents who work (there seem to be a huge number of female barristers). Quite a few parents work close to the school and slip out the office to watch school plays etc. Most of the pre prep productions are in the morning and afternoon to make this easier for parents (and so everyone can fit in the school hall).
There are a few children who come from south London but most seem to live in Islington / Barbican / Clerkenwell. The number 4 bus is very much a school bus (to be fair there are quite a few schools in the area).
I am extremely happy with the school. If you’d like to PM me, I’ll be happy to answer any other questions.
Realise this might be a bit late @Rainbowdandelion, we have a friend who told us about the lack of playground issue at the moment and how physically cramped the space is for the younger children with all the construction. They basically fed the younger children cheese sandwiches and crisps in their classrooms for lunch twice a week for a term because there wasn’t enough space for all the children in the canteen.
That and the number of teachers and children (7+) leaving the school made us decide against accepting the school for our child. There seems to be something going on at St Paul’s Cathedral School. Not sure if it’s related to the new head, but there’s been grumbling amongst the parents based on what we’ve heard. Hope all’s gone well for your child.
I am a current SPCS parent and I don't think that Chatlune's post, which seems to be based on hearsay rather personal experience, paints an accurate picture of the school.
Yes, the school is cramped for space at the moment while the building work is completed. The site is not large and the school desperately needed more classroom space. It's difficult to see how major building works lasting many months could have been completed on a site that size without temporarily affecting the space available to the pupils. The school have done a reasonable job of managing the restricted space; some of the seemingly obvious solutions to accessing adjacent outdoor space were found to be impossible for legal reasons when the school explored them. It didn't particularly bother me as a parent because it's temporary and the school will benefit greatly from the new space once the building work is completed. I can't comment on the food provided for the younger children as my DCs are in the prep school, but the standard of food at the school is generally excellent.
I don't know how many pupils are leaving the school at 7+ this year, but in my experience of the school over a number of years very few pupils (maybe one or two a year) leave at 7+.
Staff turnover is low, and the school has recruited and retained some outstanding teachers during the time my DCs have been there. Thinking back over recent years, the small number of staff who have left have tended to move more senior positions after a number of years at SPCS (e.g. heads of department at larger schools, deputy headships), have decided not to return to work after maternity leave, or have retired. Certainly no droves of disgruntled staff fleeing as the previous post implies.
The education the school provided for my DCs during lockdown was excellent - a mixture of live online lessons and offline tasks that kept my DCs engaged and learning without too much screen overload. They also tried their best to keep up extracurricular activities, with music lessons continuing and choirs rehearsing online and making recordings, an end-of-year concert, and a virtual sports day.
The "new head" is not new, but has been in post for 4 years, almost as long as the previous incumbent. SPCS is an excellent, thriving school and I'm more than happy with the whole package it offers my DCs. The description of "something going on" at SPCS really isn't one that rings true to me as a current parent.
Sorry if I’ve offended you, @Methren. I’m just passing along what I’ve heard about what’s happening at St. Paul’s Cathedral School as of late. For us, the final straw was seeing how cramped the space is for the children during this construction phase. Trying to go to school in the middle of a tight building site wasn’t what we wanted for our young child’s first experience with school.
My understanding is that there’s been quite the turnover these past couple of years in pre-prep. The head of pre-prep is leaving along with having two new teachers in pre-prep. Maybe it’s nothing, but it does affect the overall continuity of experience for the children. I would expect teachers to be more experienced at a top independent school.
I’m sure St Paul’s Cathedral school has been excellent for your older DCs, but just wanted to share what we’ve learned with other parents who may have younger children.
Not offended at all, @Chatlune, and I'm sorry if that was how my post came across. My DCs have been at SPCS since Reception; the experience has been overwhelmingly positive, and I'm happy to admit I have great affection for the school as a result. I'm also conscious that it's easy for changes within a school, such as staff leaving, to appear negative or sinister when the full story isn't apparent.
The exiting head of pre-prep at SPCS is an extremely capable teacher who has worked in several increasingly senior roles at the school over a number of years and is now moving on to a very well-deserved deputy head position at a larger prep school (an opportunity that wasn't on offer for the foreseeable future at SPCS). There has been some turnover of pre-prep teachers in the past couple of years, mostly I believe due to staff taking maternity leave, which is difficult to avoid! I agree that new teachers introduce an element of uncertainty, but SPCS always seems to attract excellent staff, many of whom choose to commute quite long distances in order to work at the school.
Coincidentally parents received an email from the school yesterday introducing new staff for the coming year - new teaching staff across the whole school can be counted on the fingers of one hand and most changes are accounted for by retirement, promotion and maternity leave.
The pre-prep department has never had much space within the school (hence the need for building work) but the school is something of a Tardis and it doesn't seem to detract from the quality of the education. The site is small and doesn't always suit very energetic children who need a lot of space to run around, but again the school does the best they can to work around this, e.g. by going off-site for games.
I can understand completely that the building work might put prospective parents off, but most of the current parents I know regard it as a temporary but necessary nuisance which the whole school will benefit from in the long run. We're told that the work is apparently on track to be completed within the next year, in time for the first 2-form entry intake into Reception in September 2021.
Current parent here, both pre prep and prep. All in, we’re very happy with the school. Methren has summed it up really well. In our view, there’s certainly not ‘something going on’. The old head of pre prep is moving for a well-deserved promotion and was so sad to leave. Her replacement is fantastic (an internal move - the previous lead for the International Primary Curriculum). Oh, and not one of my child’s’ year left at 7+. Please feel free to PM me.
It sounds like St Paul’s Cathedral School is the right choice for your families, especially if parents work nearby in the City.
Based on everything that we saw (cramped and without playground during two years of construction!) and heard from friends (pastoral care is lacking and not strong academically), we decided it’s not the right place for our DC despite the incredible music programs. It’s very hard for parents to know what school to choose and the more balanced views the better!
Chatlune it isn't quite clear why you are so determined to criticise and spread misinformation about a school you have no direct personal experience of (except perhaps to justify not choosing it for your DC).
SPCS has not been without "without playground" during the building works. The school site had two outdoor play spaces of approximately equal size, which previously were used by different year groups within the school. During the building works the whole school has shared the use of the remaining play area on a rota system, so that younger and older children use it at different times. The prep school years also go off-site for half a day once a week for games. After the building works are complete, the second play area will be in use once again, and the school will return to having two play areas available on the school site (and the prep school children will continue to go off-site for games as usual).
Pastoral care is most definitely not lacking. In my experience (and I have had direct experience with my DCs) the school takes pastoral care issues very seriously, is responsive to issues as they arise, and actively seeks to work with parents to find solutions.
As for academics, Chatlune's comment that the school is not strong academically is wildly inaccurate. Each year the school sends pupils to the most academic senior schools at 11+ and 13+ (a list of leavers' destinations is available on the school website), and academic scholarships feature regularly in the leavers' list. This year one of the Year 8 boys was awarded a Queens Scholarship to Westminster. Most children receive multiple offers from senior schools, and most end up at their first choice. I've had conversations with other SPCS parents whose children have moved on to well-known academic senior schools, who comment on how well the academic grounding provided by SPCS has prepared their children for senior school.
I"m sure Chatlune has put a great deal of thought into selecting a school for their DC and I hope their child has a happy and productive time at their chosen school. Everyone has their own criteria for evaluating a school, and no parent is obliged to like a school just because others do. However the implication that SPCS is some sort of substandard option that is only chosen by parents who prefer to prioritise convenient proximity to their workplace over the quality of their child's education is, quite frankly, ridiculous.
I can understand why those who have children at St Paul’s Cathedral School are so eager to promote the school. Yet it’s important for parents who are making the difficult choice of deciding on a school to have a balanced view as it’s rare for parents with children at the school to speak up when there’s something amiss. Many of the posts here are based on hearsay from parents who know people at the schools. I don’t see why this is an issue.
There are things that make St Paul’s Cathedral School unique and yet there are also things that might not make it suitable for some families. As someone who had to make the difficult decision recently, I thought it would be helpful to share the factors that impacted our school selection.
I’m not the first to mention the lack of academic focus at St Paul’s Cathedral School. There are posts from others on this site that go into more detail on why academics isn’t a strength at the school. Not saying that there aren’t children who do well academically at the school, but it says something that the list of school leavers at 11+ and 13+ is no longer public on the St Paul’s Cathedral School website. I asked for a list and was given a broad response similar to the ones from @Methren above, though never was shown a list in the end.
Pastoral care can be subjective. I don’t wish to go into specific details here, but we can agree to disagree on the quality of pastoral care. I’ve heard enough from parents at the school to know it’s not the level of pastoral care that I would expect from a private fee-paying school.
Forgot to also mention that St Paul’s Cathedral school also typically breaks for the entire month of April to accommodate the choristers Easter schedule. Something to keep in mind for working parents.
Parents who are seriously considering any school will certainly go visit, see the space, ask questions and make up their minds for themselves. It’s unclear to me why some are allowed to share their opinions (respectfully) and others are criticised for it. No one will just read some strangers’ opinions on Mumsnet and let that be the basis of their decision making. All we are doing is sharing each of our opinions and information to help other parents.
Chatlune, of course you are entitled to your own opinion about SPCS or any other school, and you have every right to air your opinion on a public forum. But I'm sure you can appreciate that as a parent with almost a decade's experience of the school in question, it is quite frustrating to read posts that repeatedly present factually incorrect information painting SPCS in a negative light, from someone who's never had a child at the school. Far from being "so eager to promote the school", I only began contributing to this thread in order to correct the erroneous information you posted, based on my first-hand experience as a parent at the school.
Your last post says that SPCS no longer releases its 11+ and 13+ leavers' destinations and implies that this has been done deliberately in order to conceal poor results. In fact, the leavers' destination for the last 5 years are publicly available to download from the school's website, and have been ever since the website was redesigned several years ago. The list can be found here:
The list needs updating to include this year's destinations, which include (off the top of my head for children I know personally):
City of London
City of London Girls
Some of those destinations are more academic than others, but all are academically selective and most offered places to multiple SPCS leavers this year. That is not a set of destinations that a prep school with substandard academics is likely to achieve without a fair bit of luck (and yes, this year's list is typical of previous years). I might add that tutoring is not particularly common at SPCS and I know of more than one pupil who achieved a senior school academic scholarship this year with no tutoring at all.
Out of interest, I searched back through MN for see whether you were "not the first to mention the lack of academic focus at St Paul’s Cathedral School". I couldn't find any posts in the last 10 years from other parents with children at the school who expressed this opinion (quite the opposite), and the vast majority of posters reporting second-hand opinions from family or friends were very positive as well. You may know people who are not happy with the academics at the school, (and I'm sorry to hear that is the case), but this is not a widespread opinion amongst parents with direct experience of the school, nor does the evidence of the leavers' destinations support it.
Opinions on pastoral care can indeed be subjective. Having experienced what poor pastoral care looks like at another school, I am very happy with the level of pastoral care at SPCS. It's not perfect, but I doubt that any school is perfect.
I would urge any parent considering SPCS to visit the school for themselves once open days resume, and form their own opinion. The school has a very special atmosphere that is much easier to gauge in person than from posts on an internet forum. I have absolutely no vested interest in promoting the school beyond the fact that it has done very well by my DCs and for that reason I'm very happy to recommend it warmly to others.
My goal in responding (without bias) to the original post by @Rainbowdandelion was simply to help other parents who may be in a similar situation, trying to make a decision about St Paul’s Cathedral School.
What I find unhelpful is the one-sided and subjective nature of some of the responses from parents with DC’s at St Paul’s Cathedral School.
First, here’s a link to another thread here on MN from 2017 (with comments by @Methren** in the thread) about how another parent has seen St Paul’s Cathedral School children needing as much tutoring as state school students:
So clearly, I’m not the first parent on here to question the academic caliber of St Paul’s Cathedral School.
Regarding the list of leavers at 11+ and 13+, the link @Methren** posted shows leavers from 2017-19. It’s NOT five years of data. There’s no numbers showing how many students were accepted in which year. It’s simply a list of all the schools that St Paul’s Cathedral School’s leavers have received acceptances from over past THREE years.
Now compare with the leaver’s list from nearby schools:
See the difference?
Four or five years ago, St Paul’s Cathedral School used to also publish yearly leavers information with details about how many accepted at which schools and types of scholarships received. Since 2017, that has no longer been the case.
Why the change? Everyone can draw their own conclusions.
@Methren** wishes to accuse other posters of presenting “factually inaccurate information” or to accuse me of posting “erroneous information” whenever the information is less than favourable to the school.
Rather, the factual information I’ve posted about St Paul’s Cathedral School has been very accurate, and I’ve been clear to point out where the opinion is a subjective one.
I‘m happy to agree to disagree about subjective matters. However, I do not accept parents with DC’s at a school using character attacks to try to discredit factual matters or dismiss the concerns of other parents who are trying to make a very difficult decision about where to pay thousands of pounds to send their DC’s to school.
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