Local Talk

Best state secondaries for bright girls, anywhere near Cambridge

(33 Posts)
Habanera Thu 29-Aug-13 18:46:07

Hi
DH is looking at a job in central Cambridge. We have DDs going into Y6 and 9 who are both very academic and ambitious, but quiet and susceptible to being even quieter when sadly picked on at times, called geek or weirdo. So they hide their light at school somewhat!

I'd love a fresh start - I know the schools are full but I guess on the plus side we can target the best few villages/areas, choose one, DH can rent, and move them out of their current schools as places come up. Also could home educate in a pinch for a while, we did that to get into primary and it worked.

So far Swavesey and Linton seem especially nice. Any other great ones I'm missing? Comberton seems a bit unknown with the new build and school opening nearby.

northofcambridge Thu 29-Aug-13 19:54:53

the new school run by Comberton is in Cambourne isn't it ? I don't think it impacts on Comberton itself - have only heard good things about it
in Cambridge itselt although housing (much) more expensive - heard good things about Parkside and Chesterton - and I would imaginge there is a fair amount of turnover especially in the more central schools so getting places may not a huge issue

Cantusemyusualnickname Thu 29-Aug-13 20:31:57

Sawston has a reputation for being good for academic children and I know of some who have gone there in preference to Linton. What about Impington?
I found that Linton had difficulties getting good teachers in the past as it didn't have a 6th form ( DS's year didn't have enough Maths and Science teachers when he took GCSEs a few years ago, so it is always worth asking whether there are enough specialist teachers).

Habanera Thu 29-Aug-13 22:44:47

I hope to get them in somewhere they could aim for Hills Road 6th form later on- I thought the Village Colleges didn't go up that high. Need to research more!

Not too sure about Cambourne, it hasn't even opened yet has it?

So do the Village Colleges have little turnover?

Habanera Fri 30-Aug-13 07:38:07

So the list so far is Swavesey, Sawston, Comberton (but have to make sure we move to catchment or will end up in Cambourne) and maybe Linton. I think we want a nice village really, moving to Cambridge itself seems even more difficult with finding a house with parking and in catchment for a super good school.

But maybe that sort of school would be more academic, with more turnover of kids?

DD1 isn't happy of course, but likes the idea of living in a village. I think she would love these schools, lolling at the website. She's worried she would be put in lower sets, and is concerned at leaving her one nice friend alone with the nasty ones. DD2 is moving school anyway and I'm planning to send her to a different secondary in any case-not at all pleased with the local school's atmosphere, bullying and ignoring DD1 then complaining in end-of-year reports she doesn't contribute to class-and yes I have told them why, and named names.

MrsGrowbag Fri 30-Aug-13 22:32:09

The new school in Cambourne is only for children living in Cambourne, so unless you move to Cambourne you won't get in. Comberton takes from the other surrounding villages, and will have some extra spaces as they will no longer be taking the Cambourne pupils, but their pupil intake number hasn't been reduced by as much as the children they are losing (iyswim!).
TBH, I think that almost any village college around Cambridge will be fine. Although there is a mixture in any VC, on the whole most of them have a lot of hardworking, bright children. I have friends whose children have done well at Impington, a friend whose child has just got a considerable number of a/a* at Melbourn, and one whose DD has just done spectacularly well at Comberton.
Schools to the West of Cambridge tend to have a much higher percentage of parents who work at the University, schools to the South tend to have more parents who work at Addenbrookes.
If you go and look around you will get a sense of which schools are right for your DDs.

cammel Sat 31-Aug-13 23:57:49

I'd be aiming for Comberton - it has an excellent reputation and having a sixth form probably helps attract good teachers. If you are willing to consider slightly further afield then Saffron Walden County High is well regarded too.

Habanera Sun 01-Sep-13 06:50:52

That is so helpful! Thanks all!

Why is Cambridge building and expanding so much during this recession? Does anyone have any views?

Cantusemyusualnickname Sun 01-Sep-13 10:32:50

Cambridge is the UK's (and possibly Europe's) centre of innovation especially in pharmaceutical/biomed/IT etc. Firms from all over the world want to set up business here and bring in well qualified professionals from all over the world to work here (e.g. Microsoft and Astra Zeneca recently, but look at all the science parks that are being set up around the city).

cammel Sun 01-Sep-13 11:02:40

Cambridge is also a commuter town for London, so works well for couples with one working in London and one in Cambridge.

www.iconvey.co.uk/articles/soaring-house-prices-in-cambridge-booming-in-a-recession-1132869/index.php

We don't live in Cambridge because it is really expensive to live anywhere near the middle and we don't work in the middle.

I laugh as we pass the new builds in Trumpington with signs saying "perfectly located for Cambridge". Trumpington isn't perfectly located for Cambridge, Central Cambridge is perfectly located for Cambridge. The traffic into Cambridge is horrendous.

MrsGrowbag Sun 01-Sep-13 13:29:36

If your DH is commuting into Central Cambridge it is worth looking at the villages immediately outside Cambridge, ie within cycling distance. Otherwise you can end up queuing quite a lot in rush hour. I leave home at 07.45 and get to my office in Cambridge just after 8. If I leave at 08.15 I am sometimes not there until almost 09am. Which part of "Central" Cambridge will your husband be in? If he's North of the river then it's worth looking at villages to the north and VV for the South - getting across Cambridge is the real problem. Haslingfield and Barton (Comberton VC catchment) are good for both, Histon (Impington VC catchment) is good if you are coming in from the North, Shelford/Stapleford (Sawston VCc catchment) are good if you work in the Southofr the city or in Addenbrookes and Hills Road area (but Shelford, whilst lovely, is very pricey).
If your priority is the secondary school, go and look at them and then pick a village / villages in that catchment and see how long the commute would be. Also think about other issues such as how big the village is, what other facilities are there (we looked at a lovely house in Harlton once but it wasn't right for us as there were so few facilities in the village).
Good luck with the searching!

ihatethecold Sun 01-Sep-13 15:23:53

My ds13 goes to comberton. its a good school, it seems to get very good results. we live west of comberton and my husband commutes into London from royston, takes about 15 mins to get there.
his train is then about 35 mins into kings cross.

There are some really nice villages to the west of Cambridge

I know that swavesy also has a very good reputation.

Seoulsister Sun 01-Sep-13 20:53:45

According to the Telegraph GCSE league tables, which are one (and only one) starting point, Comberton is very good. DD went to Parkside years ago; DS just finished. Feel they do pretty well because of having fair amount of pupils with aware/educated and or prof backgrounds, often in education. Maths teaching hasn't been great in my opinion. Works for those with a real maths ability; others may need help outside if they want more than a C.

JimJamboree Mon 02-Sep-13 11:56:19

I don't think there is a recession in Cambridge. DH's firm is expanding every month, and really struggling to hire because so are all the other firms in their sector. They're talking quite seriously about advertising in Spain and Portugal to try to get well-qualified people to come to Cambridge.

And the AstraZeneca move is bringing something like more 2,000 jobs to the south of the city, just with one company.

Tingalingle Mon 02-Sep-13 16:58:25

I'm kind of resigned to this outing us, but hey...

We have, or have had, children at all three of Linton VC, Comberton VC (including the new 6th form) and Sawston VC.

Of the three I'd say Sawston and Comberton for geeky kids to fit in; Sawston for science clubs, and for dramatic or musical types (Comberton also does amazing drama productions but not everyone gets picked to be in them...); Comberton for very good special needs provision and general tolerance, probably because of this; Linton for currently the nicest buildings and grounds; Linton for nice straightforward sporty types.

My three get a bit competitive over the current school rankings, so I know without looking it up that Sawston is right on Comberton's heels academically on this year's headline GCSE results, with Linton trailing rather behind. Last year it was the other way round.

SVC is usually not full and will take from beyond catchment.
LVC is usually full though not for this coming yr 7.
CVC usually is oversubscribed, probably with good reason; it's very efficiently run (DC reckon the head is a corporate manager rather than a teacher at heart).

I don't have one at Swavesey or Impington. Might have to send DD just to continue our accidental survey of local schools.

Tingalingle Mon 02-Sep-13 17:02:07

I'm not sure from your OP whether you are currently near enough Cambridge to commute in, so could defer the schools question till you're sure where you would like them to go -- or do you have to decide on the job and the move all in one fell swoop?

JimJamboree Mon 02-Sep-13 17:33:02

Yes, I too get the impression that the CVC head is a corporate manager type, but it has the advantage that he thinks seriously about how to recruit good teachers to do the actual teaching bit!

MrsGrowbag Mon 02-Sep-13 17:59:44

Being a good teacher doesn't necessarily make you a good head and vv. I think JimJam is right about the corporate head at CVC recruiting good teachers.
TBH, I wouldn't get too hung up about league table results, the most interesting score I think is the Value Added. All Village Colleges immediately around Cambridge are pretty good, if you visit you will get a feel for which one is right for your child. There are open evenings coming up soon, so even if you don't have a child in Year 6 it might be worth going to the ones you are particularly interested in. I have friends with children in various VCs and there are good and not so good points with all of them. Good luck!

NewtoCambridge Mon 02-Sep-13 21:50:58

There isn't a recession in Cambridge, houses are selling quickly and often for over the asking the price. Lots of people are moving to the area, even just a look at this board shows the number of people who have moved here (me included). Definitely look at where you and DH will need to commute to and don't live on the opposite side the City.

But there is a ring of lovely villages around the City depending on where you need to get to.

Habanera Tue 03-Sep-13 07:32:26

Thanks so much for all your thoughtful contributions! Tingalingle I never in a million years thought I would get such high quality specific info!

I've heard comberton isn't much for instrumental music, I have both pretty good string players and one also brass - not their future career by a long shot but it does add a nice arty and social dimension-shame to lose that. Plus upcoming concerts make for better practice than my nagging! Any views?

Tingalingle Tue 03-Sep-13 09:56:12

Sawston all the way! The music concerts are the sort I'd happily pay to go to see (but don't have to). They have the best head of music you could wish for; string orchestra, senior and junior wind bands, jazz band, samba, brass band (mostly yr 7 girls at present because the older ones gravitate to the wind band) and a student-run ukelele band. Oh, and choirs, all-boy, all-girl, mixed for younger years.

Ahem. I'm sure the music is jolly good at Linton and Comberton too. But given that Linton has at least one violinist in the wind band because they don't have a string orchestra...

Tingalingle Tue 03-Sep-13 13:58:04

My Comberton child thinks I'm being a bit unfair about their music, as they have a genuine composer on their staff at present. Fair enough. best to decide that one after a visit.

MrsGrowbag Tue 03-Sep-13 20:07:44

Am probably outing myself here but... CVC does have orchestras and my DS plays in their jazz band. They went to Germany last year "on tour" (!) and have a reciprocal arrangement with a (flipping brilliant) German school orchestra. The music teacher who is a composer has written quite a bit of stuff including a musical for CVC which they took to the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of years ago. I dont know how that compares with other schools though. CVC offers music A level in the 6th form which means they have a very high standard amongst those pupils. I do know that Impington is reputed to have very good dance and drama. Maybe Tingalingle needs to send a child there to check that out!

Tingalingle Tue 03-Sep-13 22:27:53

Yes, I had a feeling I wasn't doing CVC justice (the child who's there has no interest in that side of things so we haven't been to much, whereas the one at SVC adores music and has joined everything going).

Should have remembered about the orchestral exchange as we get the email asking to put them up each year!

MrsG, I'll mention to DH that we need another child... not sure the OP can wait 11 years for the results of the survey though.

mynameisnt Thu 05-Sep-13 12:55:37

I went to Linton several hundred years ago and loved it. Every time we drive by a get a warm feeling <old> I would love my two to go there but we live in the city centre. It is a lovely lovely school - although a lot bigger than when I was there!

thisisalmostimpossible Sun 08-Sep-13 17:55:52

Would agree that there are fanastic musical opportunities available at Comberton. Annual musicals are frequently of a professional standard and the show is going to Edinbrough festival again in 2014.

Tingalingle's comments are spot-on. All the South Cambs secondaries do very well, with Comberton often just hitting the top-spot academically. But please don't judge a school just by its results. Visit and make up your own mind. The head at Comberton is a very influential figure in education and it can feel that his "empire" is spreading across the local educational landscape at a phenomenol rate. However, he has a fantastic "brand" which works. No wonder other schools want to buy into his expertise.

Neither DH or I had a good experience at secondary. We both comment that we wished we could have gone to Comberton as it provides so many opportunities in education, sport, music.... Both our children have loved their time at Comberton.

We are so lucky in the South Cambs area as just about all the secondaries seem at least "good". The impact of living in an area where many parents value education, support their local schools and their children I think! Just don't get me started on the private sector....

Tid1 Tue 10-Sep-13 21:03:41

I would recommend impington, comberton or swavesey. Parkside is great for high achieving kids but catchment is tiny. I have worked in all these at one time or another!

Tingalingle Wed 11-Sep-13 09:36:47

I always get a bit twitchy on Local threads because the chances are that any given teacher will have taught at least one of my offspring at some point...

Tingalingle Wed 18-Sep-13 10:30:23

Just going to add to this thread to offer the OP a couple of Sawston VC films which might either enthuse your girls or send them shrieking in horror from the room.

First up is what DS describes as 'the world's cheesiest film', from which I assume he isn't in it (though it looks like half the school are).

Second is worth scrolling down to zombie movie http://www.sawstoncinema.org.uk/?page_id=654 if you like a chance to assess a headteacher's disciplinary policy. Why give detentions when you could offer students a lingering, painful undead experience instead?

DD (somewhat shy, hardworking) reckons that pupils arrive at SVC relatively normal but gradually go bonkers as they settle in.

Incidentally, most of the kids think 'ASPIRE' is also the world's cheesiest school slogan, but don't seem to hold it against the school too much. When the library burnt down last year (now that was an exciting start to the term) they rechristened it 'ASH-PYRE' instead.

Tingalingle Wed 18-Sep-13 10:32:24

Sorry, linky failure:
zombie school

MrsGrowbag Wed 18-Sep-13 22:17:04

Brilliant film, tingalingle, much better than anything CVC has ever produced. OP, if your DDs are into making films/being creative, then it looks like Sawston might be the way to go.
OTOH, acccording to Mr "I'm taking over the world" Munday, head of CVC, Comberton was yesterday named as one of the top 9 state schools in the country based on pupil intake and attainment. www.combertonvc.org/pdfs/wsl_130916.pdf
I'd still advise you to go and look round all of them. Let us know how you get on.

Cowardy Tue 08-Oct-13 19:09:47

A friend of mine's daughter hated Comberton - too big. Odd uniform too.

Tingalingle Thu 10-Oct-13 10:26:05

Cowardy -- it is, isn't it? Very square sweatshirts. You could fit two of DS in his one -- it looks like a smock top on him.

Cambourne's uniform looks to be the same but with blue bits.

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