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  • Culford School
    Bury St Edmunds
    IP28 6TX
  • Head: Mr Julian Johnson-Munday
  • T 01284 385308
  • F 01284 385513
  • E
  • W
  • A mainstream independent school for pupils aged from 3 to 18
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Suffolk
  • Pupils: 601
  • Religion: Methodist
  • Fees: Day £8,610 - £18,450; Boarding £21,585 - £28,484 pa
  • Open days: October, November, March and May. Individual visits at any time, by appointment.
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • ISI report: View the ISI report

What says..

Unhurried, almost relaxed air about the school. Excellent staff/pupil relationships, plenty of banter, easy but respectful. Headmaster greets pupils by name. Girls’ uniform, featuring an ankle length pleated skirt, could be a turn-off for some, though we were told by pupils that it is ‘comfortable and cool in summer.’ Parents describe the school as a ‘hidden gem...’

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What the school says...

Culford is an HMC co-educational school with an 'Oustanding' Ofsted rating. Boarding is available from age 7 and the School is set in 480 acres of beautiful Suffolk parkland with a magnificent 18th century mansion at its centre. Recent developments include: boarding house refurbishment; new ICT suites; a multi-media language suite; an indoor climbing wall; Studio Theatre; championship-standard indoor tennis centre with high performance coaching. A multi-million pound new library opened in September 2015. Culford now offers specialist hockey, rugby, swimming and tennis scholarships, as well as Academic, Art, Design, Drama, Music and Sports awards. ...Read more

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2015 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Excellent performance by Boys taking German at an English Independent School (GCE AS level)

Other features

All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2004, Mr Julian Johnson-Munday (late 40s). Educated at Norwich School and Leicester University, where he read English. Previously housemaster at Cranleigh and deputy head of Mill Hill (during his tenure he studied for an MBA at Durham). Unpompous, affable manner but makes no bones about the clear direction of the school and the setting of targets for staff and pupils. Is intent on raising the school’s profile and has overseen a busy programme of building. Seeks to maintain and support the school’s boarding provision (currently nearly 50 per cent) and is not enamoured with flexi boarding options, as he believes this could compromise a vital spark of the school. His wife, Jo, is the school’s marketing and foundation director and they have one son.

Head of prep school Mr Michael Schofield BEd (mid 40s), taught history and games at a boys' grammar school for five years and head of 11-18 day house. Then at a co-ed school where he was sixth form master, head of politics and games teacher. Most recently, at Culford Senior School, ran a senior boys' boarding house and was senior housemaster (part of senior management team). Has always taken an active role in coaching all major games along with, most recently, being master in charge of school golf, plus supporting charity work such as the British Heart Foundation, for the past 11 years. Outside interests include dog walking, mountain biking, skiing and reading historical novels.

Academic matters

Strong performance at GCSE (45 per cent A*/A grades in 2016) and A level (29 per cent A*/A, 59 per cent A*/B) – impressive considering school is not ultra-selective. Head remains calm about occasional downward blips in results, saying with disarming frankness that ‘year groups do vary in ability’. Average class size is 17 (seven in sixth form) with setting in the core subjects of mathematics, English, sciences and languages. All pupils study at least one modern language (French, German and Spanish on offer) with Latin available as a GCSE option too. In mathematics, high ability pupils take IGCSE in year 10 (all gain A*/A) and additional maths in year 11. Science is very strong and has superb facilities; roughly half do separate sciences at GCSE. Learning support has its own department and is well resourced.

Pupil support across the curriculum is arranged either on a withdrawal basis or outside the timetabled day. A popular programme of seminars and tutorials with high level speakers for the gifted and talented and potential Oxbridge punters.

The school day includes eight periods (four on Saturday), plus after-school activities. Day pupils don’t leave until 5.30pm.

Games, options, the arts

Outstanding sports provision includes a 25 metre indoor pool, floodlit Astroturf, games pitches galore, fitness suite and squash courts. The indoor tennis school attracts students from all over with its elite training programme run by professional coaches. Similar regimes are now available for rugby, hockey and swimming. Many pupils train for and take part in athletics events at county and national level and the whole school does two 80 minute periods of sport each week.

New theatre and dance studio are well used, with two major productions each year (some taken to the Edinburgh fringe) and plenty of choirs, orchestras and ensembles. Large numbers take instrumental or singing lessons and a pupil recently won a choral scholarship to St John’s College, Oxford. Art and design are strong subjects in the school with good results at GCSE and A level. Plans are afoot to improve the present facilities.

CCF and D of E popular; CATS - Culford Adventure, Training and Service - is designed for fourth years who don't want to do CCF, and includes first aid, life saving, fair trade and outdoor pursuits. Links with schools in Malawi and India; as well as raising funds, pupils visit to help with general maintenance.


Just under 200 full senior boarders and 15 or so flexi, accommodated in five boarding houses, including one co-ed house for the prep school boarders (35 full and 20 weekly and flexi). Good range of evening activities; weekends may include eg a trip to the beach or to Norwich, quad biking, white water rafting, a movie or magic night.

Background and atmosphere

Sublime setting in 480 acres of landscaped parkland, complete with Grade I listed bridge and gardens designed by Humphrey Repton. The main building, originally owned variously by the Cadogan and Cornwallis families, is 18th century. The school moved to its present site in 1935 and has maintained the original fabric to a high standard and made full use of its assets. Lord Cadogan’s morning room is the head’s study – complete with distracting vistas of the park. The grand visitors’ lavatory installed for a visit by Edward VII is still in situ, together with a photograph of the royal visitor. In the grounds, a series of newer and, for the most part, well-designed buildings house classrooms, science laboratories, sports and boarding facilities. High standards of maintenance throughout are helped by generous bequests from old pupils - a notable feature.

Unhurried, almost relaxed air about the school. Excellent staff/ pupil relationships, plenty of banter, easy but respectful. Headmaster greets pupils by name. Girls’ uniform, featuring an ankle-length pleated skirt, could be a turn-off for some, though we were told by pupils that it is ‘comfortable and cool in summer’. Parents describe the school as a ‘hidden gem.’

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

One of the school’s great strengths, and the one most frequently mentioned by parents, is the care of pupils. Tutors and house staff deal with everyday matters but the headmaster keeps himself very well informed and can be the key figure at a moment of crisis. ‘My son was confused about his future,’ one father told us. 'The headmaster took him out for a walk with the dog and that seemed to sort everything out.’ Emphasis is on consideration for others - kindness and politeness towards staff as well as to other pupils, and few discipline problems.

Pupils and parents

Majority of pupils are drawn from professional and business families from within a radius of 50 miles. They include a fair sprinkling looking for a different pace from that offered by some of the other local schools. About 20 per cent of boarders are Forces children and just over 10 per cent from overseas, including a cohort of 10 from Germany, who attend for a year. Families are tremendously loyal and many pupils are the children of Old Culfordians.


Admission at 7+ and 11+: entrance papers in English, maths and non-verbal tests, plus satisfactory school reference and recent school report. Entry at other ages consists of similar papers at age-appropriate levels, again with satisfactory school reference and recent school report.

At 13, admission is by examination, school report and interview. Around three-quarters join year 9 straight from Culford Prep, with the remainder coming from local state and prep schools. The school report and interview are as important as the exam result – the head knows what he is looking for. Sixth form entrants need seven good GCSEs, with at least Bs in the subjects to be studied at A level.


Prep school pupils prepared for common entrance. Around 95 per cent proceed to senior school at 13. Around a quarter leave after GCSEs; just over 10 per cent to return overseas. Almost all go on to university, wide range of destinations including Russell Group institutions.

Money matters

A complex web of scholarships and exhibitions available at main entry points (normally worth between 10 and 20 per cent of the fees). Academic, music, art and sports awards are on offer, together with bursaries for the financially hard-pressed, including new foundation academic scholarship at 13+ and 16+ for candidates with Oxbridge potential. Reductions for Forces children and siblings. Overseas pupils charged at a slightly higher rate.

Our view

A thriving, happy school with excellent foundations and confident leadership. It deserves to be better known than it is.

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Special Education Needs

We are an independent selective school that has a very clear academic emphasis. We do aim to meet individual needs within a mainstream setting through the delivery of a differentiated curriculum. We have pupils with SEN. Mild dyslexia; mild dyspraxia and mild dyscalculia are the most common difficulties. We do not have a dedicated SEN unit but we do have fully qualified specialist staff who provide learning support lessons on a withdrawal basis. 10-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Syndrome [archived]
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders [archived]
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Delicate Medical Problems [archived]
English as an additional language (EAL)
Epilepsy [archived]
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
Not Applicable
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

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