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Best primary schools in Cambridge??

(95 Posts)
4cookies Thu 25-Feb-10 12:44:54

We'll be moving to Cambridge next fall and are trying to find out which primary schools are best. Any tips on the best areas to live in or schools for our children?

Thank you!

PollyParanoia Sat 27-Feb-10 18:20:59

Do you know what Xenia, perhaps you should just butt out. The op hasn't said she is interested in private, in fact by using the term primary schools I think it is implicit she's talking state. I'm from Cambridge and perse boys and, even more so, perse girls has always had amazing results, in part because they are super-selective, but that is not everything that matters, especially when you refer to A levels and the op is talking about a child that is 5.
Your continual belief that best school is synonymous with most As at A level is tedious and to most people's minds erroneous. It is also very offensive to harp on about private being the best when the average UK salary wouldn't even cover the basic costs of a couple of kids.
I don't know why I'm even giving your opinions any response. I should do the sensible thing and ignore them, which is what other posters have clearly done.

OhBuggerandArse Sat 27-Feb-10 18:56:40

Not to mention that the Perse gets those high results with a notoriously hothousing pressured atmosphere, and there's an incredibly high rate of neurosis, burn out and eating disorders among their graduates. Just another example of why A level results don't equal education.

Babyonboardinthesticks Sun 28-Feb-10 11:39:38

The best primary school in Cambridge in the Perse. The poster sounded American and probably doesn't know that much about schools in the area. Why on earth should she not be allowed to be told the best school? I know children there. They are very happy. Just because they are clever doesn't mean they can't be happy.

There are just as many children with problems in staet schools and we all know 7% of children go to private schools and yet make up most of the successful adults in the UK in work and earnings terms anyway - look at the boards of companies, judges, Government even... the school is often one of the most important things so if the mother can work full time even if her pay only just covers the fees at the Perse it's arguably the best thing she can do for the child. And it's not a nasty hothouseed school. Plenty of children are very very happy there.

coolma Sun 28-Feb-10 12:52:47

What a hilarious presumption that 'perse' automatically equals 'clever'. I know a lot of people who went there who are actually not very 'clever' at all.
And it really is a terrible thought that some of these 'clever' people are running the country
Actually I think Hills Road has better results at A level than the Perse, and, deep breaths, 'State School' children go there shock

I love you Polly grin

Babyonboardinthesticks Sun 28-Feb-10 13:05:04

But the piont is an American needs to know that in the UK there may be more of a divide between state and fee paying schools than may be in the US and that it is an option, if they can afford it and there are other advantages to private schools too which we won't go into here.

Also if there is huge competition for a place (not sure of how many compete for each place at the Pelican or Perse Prep) and none in another school you are bound to get brighter children and they can work at their own level with other bright children so the class tends to do better. Anyway I was just giving my view. She can certainly choose a state school if she wants to.

But it would be wrong to find it very funny to say children at the Perse are clever. Of course they are and any selective school including the state grammars in Kent and Bucks etc has similar clever children. that is what selection is about whereas state primaries are comprehensive, average UK IQ is 100 and many above and below average will be in state primaries.

coolma Sun 28-Feb-10 13:37:37

But does 'best' always mean best academiacally? Perhaps other things are necessary - such as pastoral care, the needs of the child and, erm, It's a shame that it is automatically assumed that to be a good school you have to be so academically competetive and, yes, 'hothoused' is a good expression. My middle son is never going to be brilliant but is exceptionally sporty, so at the moment he is ideally suited to his state primary. We are considering, when he's 13, dependant on lots of factors of course, entering him for a sporting scholarship at the Kings Ely - not a particularly very very academic school, but one that may well suit him better than the local comprehensives. Hopefully the OP will define 'best' as she means it and we can be more helpful!

OhBuggerandArse Sun 28-Feb-10 13:38:22

Actually, I think you could make a decent argument that since the late eighties or so when the Perse fees became so far out of reach for the academic families who were traditionally the mainstay of its constituency, you're more likely to find high concentrations of really bright, super academic kids at the state schools in Cambridge.

And in my experience they go on to do much better at university, too - less likely to end up gibbering wrecks once they're on their own without the relentless pressure support they're used to at school. The statistic that is really instructive is final degree results; look at the number of Perse kids who get coached within an inch of their life to get their A*s and their Oxbridge place who end up with mediocre 2:2s, versus the Hills Road/Long Road kids who are used to being able to work independently and go on to flourish in a university environment where being able to think for yourself is what counts.

coolma Sun 28-Feb-10 13:45:29

I would agree. It even shows in some of the state primaries - lots of trendy mums at Morley who would very likely have sent their dc to st faiths or the perse prep a few years back...I'm not one by the way honest!! And the vast majority of last years year 6's went to Coleridge which would have been unheard of a while back!

Lilymaid Sun 28-Feb-10 13:57:44

The OP is interested in primary schools not secondary at the moment - but it is useful to know what secondary school the primary school feeds into as, for example, there is a big difference between the Manor School and Parkside.
Yes Xenia, the Perse is very good - [proud ex-Persean mum emoticon]) - and Hills Road is probably even more selective for entry than the Perse and has a significant percentage of ex-independent school pupils.

Babyonboardinthesticks Sun 28-Feb-10 14:28:14

I just think the original poster should know that's all and then make a choice depending on what she earns and her political views about paying for schools etc etc. And there are parents who think primary private schools are even more worth the money than post 11 actually but I'm obviously biased as my siblings and I never went to a state school and nor do the 9 cousins who are our progeny etc. The Perse prep has bursaries for very clever children whose parents don't earn much money.

I've 5 children (and I don't live in Cambridge) and 3 are now at university etc stage but I am glad we went for the private school route and also the idea that it's may be easier to get them into these very competitive entry schools at age 4 or 5 than at 11 as it takes the pressure off later and you tend to get nicer grounds, lakes, parents' choirs, better demographic, nicer accent although may be not in Cambridge where perhaps state school achieves its unfairness simply by house price rather than choice to pay which is arguably morally even worse. My local comp gets 34% A-C at GCSE and that's up from 22%. My daughter's old school North London Collegiate gets 99% A and A* never mind A- C. Of course it's selective but it's better for the chidlren to be in a selective environment anyway if they're bright and even in these selective schools they set in subjects. My other daughter at Habs was in set 5 of 5 for maths and still got an A.

PollyParanoia Mon 01-Mar-10 12:57:27

I love you too Coolma. Was going to say something about Hills Road, but you and Obaa have done it all for me...

4cookies Mon 01-Mar-10 17:41:05

Thank you all for your opinions. It give us much to consider. Since we know very little about the educational system in the UK and Cambridge in particular, it's a great help to hear about the differences between private vs. State schools. Obviously you all are very passionate about the topic!

My confusion is this...

In the U.S., children go to the public (i.e. State) school they live closest to. So when choosing where to live, Americans with children generally try to live in a district (catchment) with the best schools. By "best" I mean consistently high test scores, good parent reviews, good class sizes and student/teacher ratio, happy children, loving/supportive/well-trained teachers, and extra curricular offerings like a foreign language and music.

If you happen to NOT live in a good school district, (and unfortunately, this tends to be the case more often than not because of educational funding cuts), parents then may opt to send their children to a private school and pay the high fees associated with them in order to provide their children with a better education. This is a huge source of debate and anger with many parents here because many feel a good education should be provided to every student regardless of how much money their parents have... And good public school districts are more plentiful in more expensive, wealthier living areas further compounding the issue.

With all this said, I'm assuming through the research I've done through the County Council website that in Cambridge it doesn't matter where you live--that you are admitted to state schools based on whether they have a spot available. Am I understanding this correctly?? Does it matter if you live close to a preferred school?

Since my dd will be in Year 1 and joining a school in the January term, we'll only be able to apply 6 six weeks in advance. I think b/c of our situation we may have to be happy to just be admitted, but it helps to at least be able to have some idea of what schools we should try to visit and put down on our application. It sounds like there are many wonderful schools in Cambridge so I'm not too worried.

Thank you all for your opinions and advice on this topic! If there is anything else you think we should know, please tell us. We're beyond excited for this move to the UK and for the fantastic experience it will provide for our children getting to live in such a beautiful country.

Lilymaid Mon 01-Mar-10 21:31:22

"Actually, I think you could make a decent argument that since the late eighties or so when the Perse fees became so far out of reach for the academic families who were traditionally the mainstay of its constituency, you're more likely to find high concentrations of really bright, super academic kids at the state schools in Cambridge."
Our experience of the Perse was that the school was full of the children of academics/medics/scientists from biotech firms etc and there were very few parents who didn't work in a learned/research/professional environment. But we have also found plenty of academics etc whose children were at DS2's village college - such are the demographics of the Cambridge area.
4cookies - yes in the UK and Cambridge location matters in the state system for both primary and secondary schools. You won't get into a good school on the other side of Cambridge to where you live unless you can show very good reasons - so choose where you live carefully so that your DC can go to a primary and secondary school that you will be happy with.

4cookies Mon 01-Mar-10 22:09:24

Thank you for clarifying, Lilymaid! That's important to know and will help us with the house hunting.

cjn27b Mon 01-Mar-10 22:38:13

4cookies go to (or it could be com) type in the area you're interested in - cambridge. Then on the left menu you'll see an option saying 'primary schools' hit this and little green spots come up showing you all the primary schools in the area (not including private). Hit a green dot and you'll see more details on that school in the left menu and a link to the Ofsted (government school inspection body) report. You want to find a school with a grade 1 (outstanding) or at least grade 2 (good) report. The resport covers all manner of things and should give you a very good idea about a school. Once you've done this and identified the schools you're interested in, you need to get in touch with Cambridge Country Council and ask about catchment areas. They change each year depending on number of applicants, but can give you last years catchment which will give you a good idea.

Hope that helps.

ps. I know two kids who recently left the Perse (pelican) and went to the local primary (thanks to recession and fees becoming too much). They were very happy at the Perse, and knew no different before. Now they're even happier. Both were rather beta-males, and are enjoying a school that's a little less pushy. I guess what works for one family mayn't work for the next - all depends on you're approach to education. Is it all about results, or enjoying school, or if you're really lucky you'll find a way they can have both.

Vallhala Tue 02-Mar-10 00:15:42

Park Street C of E, without a shadow of a doubt. A small school based on Christian values but not pushy about them. Largely middle-class, concerned and very friendly parents who will introduce themselves at the gate and go out of their way to make you welcome. Fantastic pastoral support. I'm neither C/E nor middle class but was made very welcome, as were my DCs. Also a very enthusiastic PTA, the parents really care about the school, the kids, the community and education.

Great academic results, a mix of children, some locals, some from academic families on placement, which helps as although it's a very desirable school there are often mid-year places as people move on from the area. Some international parents (one of DD2s friends had an American Mum and Japanese dad, for example), but neither racism or OTT PC attitudes. Old-fashioned headmistress (reminded me of my own Miss - and very much a MISS - at my own Grammar school!). Staff know all the DC and families by name and personalities.

The only down-side is that the playground is so small that the DC use the local public space, Jesus Green, for breaks, thus there are passers by all the time but the DC are supervised of course and have strict boundaries to adhere to. Sadly there are a few undesirables there and needles have been found on the Green, which I wasn't happy with when my DC attended as my younger DD is an odd child with some problems and of the pick things up off the ground mentality and was only 5 when she went there (I didn't know about the needle problem when I enrolled them). However, I was content that my elder DD, 18 months her sister's senior, was able to adhere to the rules and safe... it was just DD2 who made me decide to move them from Park Street. Had it not been for her particular problems I would never have wanted them to leave!

Park St do a lot for and in the community and have good connections with local organisations and the Uni. Teaching staff are mostly older and with huge experience, patient, kind and knowledgable.

Two examples - I was diagnosed with cancer soon after my DDs started there. The school secretary, who even by then knew us well, reassured me... "You look after yourself dear, we will look after the girls". And they did! Parents I didn't even know came up to hug me and offer to have the girls for tea, help with the school run etc.

Also, when my DD (then 5) spoke to another girl the little one got upset and burst into tears. Instead of assuming my DD had done something wrong, the child's Mum immediately invited her to tea in order that the DC could get to know each other. My DD and hers became great friends.

I really, really, can't recommend it enough.

Other good ones were St Pauls (although the old head, Cindi Fiddy, has left, and I don't know what the new one is like, someone here has reservations) and Milton Road, largely very oversubscribed, good reputation and excellent academic results but comparitively big.

Hope this helps. There is one school in Cambridge I would suggest you avoid like the plague. The web will no doubt show you which, suffice to say that it's not in the centre but on the outskirts of the city boundary.

All the best!

cjn27b Wed 03-Mar-10 16:57:23

Xenia - we don't even know if the OP can afford Perse fees. Clearly they have posted to gather a variety of view points so they can make a more informed decision.

4cookies Wed 03-Mar-10 18:48:13

Thank you, Vallhala! It's so nice to get honest, personal recommendations and hearing about your experience with a particular school--the good and the bad. We'll definitely visit Park Street. Your hint at a school to avoid like the plague has me stumped--obviously b/c I'm so unfamiliar with the area. But we'll stick with looking into recommended schools and Ofsted reports, and hopefully avoid it altogether.

Cjn27b, thanks for the website... I needed that straightforward direction! I went directly to it and realized it's going to help us immensely in our house and school search. You are wonderful--thank you!

As far as Perse goes... It certainly looks like a lovely school. But it's hard for us to justify spending the money it would take to send our kids to Perse if there are several great state schools nearby. Now, if we can't get admitted to any of these state schools b/c of arriving mid-year, then we might have to look at it again. But Perse probably has a waiting list too, I imagine.

As long as we're talking about independent schools...Has anyone had any experience with St. Collette's?

We just want our children (ages 3 and 6) to feel accepted in their new school, to be challenged/encouraged academically, and for the school to have a loving, supportive atmosphere.

So far, I've had these recommendations... St. Pauls, Park St, Milton Road, Morley, and Queen Edith. Also, read good things abut The Spinney school in Cherry Hinton and Cottenham primary, although those are further out. Does this about sum up the state primaries?

MrsTicklemouse Wed 03-Mar-10 19:19:50

St Colettes is lovely, about the education and happiness of kids not the image of the school, have just registered my DS
let me know if you need more info, i'm not going to get involved in a debate wink

4cookies Wed 03-Mar-10 19:45:06

Thanks, Mrs. TM! We requested a prospectus from St. Colette's just to know what all of our options are... Would love more info from you, particularly what helped you to decide on St. Colette's, if you don't mind.

JumpJockey Sun 21-Mar-10 20:29:53

Sorry to drag this back from the depths... does anyone have any experience of St Philip's Primary? It's the nearest to us and the one dd would be automatically eligible for, but as far as I can see it's the only primary in Cambridge to get a 3 on its most recent OFSTED rather than a 2 like all the others. Does anyone have a child/children there who can say what it's actually like?

Builde Mon 22-Mar-10 12:17:47

In the early 1980s I was at Park Street for two years. Have very fond memories of it compared to the other primary schools (in other places) that I intended.

However, this is 20 years ago and it might have changed!

We played on Jesus Green, didn't have a uniform and just had great fun. The memories still stick with me.

However, we were mostly bright, middle-class children of academics!

Cambridge1 Sat 10-Apr-10 18:46:16

Sorry for bumping up an old thread, I kind of found this by accident but I had to say to James79 that I have a child at St Paul's and we remember you well! You were the most inspirational, supportive, warm-hearted teacher ever and we still talk about and miss you! And yes, I am 99.9% certain it is you. COME BACK!!!

I totally agree with previous comments about the school. I used to like it's slightly off-beat and relaxed attitude and do feel it has disappeared with the new Head. A lot of the old traditions, in terms of celebrations, assemblies and fund-raising have been replaced by some serious messaged, religious toned items and it not only heavy in terms of the message but also on the wallet! I do hope it is just teething problems and he will relax a bit in due course. I don't want to bash him too much on a public forum as he is also a very well meaning, kind person, I think it's his first position as a Head Teacher in the UK and he needs some time to adjust. The school does has some really hard working, dedicated teachers who make the school worth sticking with but it does seem to have lost some of the sparkle it used to have(probably because James79 left!). I also think the input from the University and the parents themselves is also a real plus point

In terms of schools in Cambridge in general, catchment is the real issue. I believe from talking to other mums that St Paul's, St Matthew's and Park Street were only really able to offer places to those in catchment this year.

Re. The Perse, I think the beauty of Cambridge is that the standard of state schooling is so high that private education is not an issue ( certainly for us) we are certain our child gets a fantastic education in the state schooling here and are grateful that we don't have to fork out £10k+ a year in school fees, although the house prices to live in catchment more than make up for that!

james79 Sat 10-Apr-10 19:54:40

Hello Cambridge1! Yes I think you know who I am, oooh how strange! I've never crossed cyberlife/real life before! Thank you so much for your kind comments, I really welled up. I loved my time at St. Paul's, I felt so fortunate to have trained and taught in such a supportive environment, the parents were totally involved and energetic, the children were just inspirational themselves, it was hard work and I just loved every minute. I miss working with all the children very much and when I bump into families it's just so wonderful to see how they all are. I particulary miss my co-worker MJ who was just fantastic in every sense. We had such fun and I just hope every child enjoyed it too. I will never forget the memories I have, especially the laugh out loud ones, I have to say that becoming a parent myself has enabled me to see things from such a different perspective, how much trust you put in us to encourage and chrish your children. I was truely blessed-thank you! I would come back in a heart beat if I could persuade MJ to go back to full time grin and of course if I could afford the house prices in catchment!!wink Best wishes to you and your child. Ok gush over smile

hopkins1 Tue 20-Apr-10 19:42:27


I am a parent with my child attending St Colette's. I cannot praise it enough. He is just 4 years old (last month) and is already reading and writing beautifully. He loves school, and literally would go every day given the choice.

The teachers are wonderful and the level of pastoral care is so high that i feel i am leaving my son with a relative rather than a teacher!

The company that own St Colette's prep school have just announced that it will be closing at the end of this academic year, but a parent body is setting up a "new" school in its place which will be run as a charity and will be opening in september. This we hope will continue to grow into a full prep school (ie to take children through to year 6/ age 11)

If you are interested in more details, please contact me and i will send you all the details.

The fees are set to be one of the lowest in the entire of Cambridge and having two children in state schools and 1 in St Colette's i can honestly say that the value for money is exceptional! I would never now consider the fees to be an issue (we aren't rich but just perhaps have different priorities to other people?)

The classes are so much smaller, the teacher is approachable, he has one on one tuition every day, the lunches are fabulous, the facilities are great.... i could go on and on.

Anyway, please just let me know if you'd like more information about the school. I promise that for once in life the value of theservice you receive will far outweigh the cost!

Very Happy Parent

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