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Port Isaac, Cornwall

Living in Cornwall

It’s a life-questioning moment familiar to many of us: surrounded by family beach holiday detritus, we lie back on sandy towels, soak up the warm sun, listen to the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach and our children giggling in the sand dunes behind us while thoughts drift with the overhead seagulls…what if we were to move here? Would that work? Let us fill you in…

Cornish childhoods really are the stuff of dreams, running out of school straight onto the beach and leaping into the sea - uniform still on; standing with all your classmates on a paddleboard bobbing in the harbour, ice cream in hand; de-rigueur school surf club and a village atmosphere where you feel part of something special. Tightly-knit communities that, despite press to the contrary, are endlessly welcoming and inclusive to new permanent residents, particularly if you are bringing children to swell numbers in the small schools.

It is a county of extremes with vast regional differences. From the dramatic cliffs, sandy estuaries and windswept rolling fields of North Cornwall that attract holiday makers in their thousands every summer to dip their toes into the iconic surf culture in Polzeath and Newquay, to the south’s gentler appeal of hidden valleys, pretty harbours and a general fixation with sailing and water skiing on rivers and creeks around Falmouth and Truro. The Poldark peppered history of mining shapes the landscape, from the vast clay pits in the south that now host superstars like the Eden Project to the much-photographed abandoned mining buildings teetering on cliff faces along the north coast from St Agnes. Then you have West Penwith, the far west of Cornwall and the wildest, most staggeringly beautiful peninsular with crashing Atlantic waves on one side and the sparkling sailboats of the Channel on the other, with wild moorland in the middle that rivals the likes of Dartmoor for stunning stomps and scattered ancient iron age settlements.

Cornish culture is rich with a deep Celtic and Pagan history, people are proud of their independent heritage and you will find yourself quickly swept along with the enthusiasm, singing along to the rousing Trelawny anthem on St Piran’s day or marching behind the fascinating Pagan parades that bring light to the city streets in the dark of winter. It is a long drive back to the capital from here but if the likes of the Barbara Hepworth and Tate galleries in St Ives and the fabulous cliff top setting of the Minack theatre aren’t enough of a cultural fillip, you can opt to fly from Newquay to Gatwick (one hour 15 minutes) or pick up the regular train service that cuts across the country from Penzance to Paddington (around five-and-a-half hours).

Education scene in Cornwall

Local Education Authorities in Cornwall
Cornwall Council

‘But where would the children go to school?’ is the most common question raised by those considering a move to Cornwall. It has one of the lowest numbers of independent schools of any county in the UK and, if you are not prepared to look beyond the independent sector, you will find your choice limited by a required proximity to Truro or need to accept a boarding option out of county. That being said, Truro is a hub of enticing educational options and, thanks in part to its relatively central position in the county, can offer the solution to many moving here.

Venture into the state sector and you will find some of the most exciting options in the country. There is no grammar system in Cornwall and this coupled with the limited range of independent schools mean that the county’s state schools educate almost everyone. Children of wealthy local entrepreneurs and landowners are educated alongside those from the most socially deprived families from nursery right through to university - and it works.

We have split the county into four broad areas (Penzance, Truro and Falmouth, North Cornwall and, finally, St Austell and south east Cornwall) and taken an in depth look at the schooling on offer here. There is only one local authority, Cornwall County Council, which manages all state school place allocations centrally. Officially, catchment areas are used to assign places but for the most part schools are undersubscribed so you can usually appeal for a place at a school of your choice even if it is not the geographically closest option.

Looking for the best schools in Cornwall? Our education consultants can help

The Good Schools Guide  education consultants work all year round to help parents across the world to find the best schools for their children. Our UK team is spread out across the country and each expert has their own specialist area of knowledge. If you would like our help to find a school place or are keen to know more about your family’s education options in Cornwall, we are ready to help. Read about our education consultancy services or get in touch at [email protected] 

Your experience of education in Cornwall

Do you have experience of education in Cornwall, or indeed elsewhere, that you would like to share with us? We depend on our large network of parents and teachers to make sure the advice, guidance and information we publish is accurate, helpful and up to date. Please write to us at [email protected]

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