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  • St John's College School
    75 Grange Road
    CB3 9AB
  • Head: Mr Neil Chippington
  • T 01223 353532
  • F 01223 355846
  • E [email protected]
  • W
  • An independent school for boys and girls aged from 4 to 13.
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Cambridgeshire
  • Pupils: 446
  • Religion: Church of England
  • Fees: Day £12,825 - £16,095; Boarding £25,425; Choristers £8,475 pa
  • Open days: Virtual open days 8th and 15th October 2020
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • ISI report: View the ISI report

What says..

A very tactile school. ‘If a child needs a hug it gets one.'  Many parents spoke of their children ‘being allowed to be children and not to grow up too quickly.’ ‘They are imaginative and modern about learning,’ said one parent. Clean, bright, mixed boarding house. Lots of comfy sofas, snooker and table football. A large kitchen with huge table. ‘Our parents can come and see us and have a cup of tea with us after services,’ said one chorister. Very much an open door policy for parents. Strict rules within…

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Other features

Choir school - substantial scholarships and bursaries usually available for choristers.


Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.



What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2016, Neil Chippington MA (Cantab) FRCO (40s), previously head of St Paul's Cathedral School. Music scholar at Cranleigh, organ scholar at Cambridge, Fellow of the Royal College of Organists; music is certainly in his blood. Came to St Paul's from Winchester College, where he was a housemaster for eight years, and having himself been a quirister (chorister) at Winchester Cathedral. He is a keen cyclist and runner who regularly takes part in half marathons and triathlons, usually for charity, and recently completed a 280-mile three-day cycle to raise money for Leukaemia Research. In addition, he has a strong interest in travelling and has over the years led school trips to a wide range of countries including Jordan, Iran and Turkey. He is married to Leisle, who is also a teacher, and they have two sons.


Oversubscribed but not excessively so. For entry at 4 the children are ‘assessed’ – using sequencing and other methods which, even at such a young age, show their potential – as are the parents. ‘We want parents to have a feel for the place and we see what they want for their child. If we agree, we can work together.’ Don’t be complacent; children here are bright. At 7, assessments in English and maths and child is observed during half a day at the school. ‘It’s all about the child fitting in and coping.’ Chorister bursaries for up to five scholars, all boys, at 8, of at least two-thirds of the fees. Means-tested bursaries for those who would particularly benefit. At 11+, potential music scholars welcomed as boarders, with scholarships available. Siblings take priority and then boy:girl ratio to keep the numbers even. Children come from a wide commutable area around Cambridge, or further afield for boarders. The majority of parents are academics, medics from Addenbrooke’s or employed on the Silicon Fen, with a Newmarket contingent as well. Many work in the City. All parents very ambitious for their offspring, but nicely so and welcoming to newcomers.


The odd leaver at 11 but very unusual, usually heading to the state sector. No ‘evictions’, but occasionally, after much discussion and agreement, the occasional one will be moved on to ‘somewhere they will be happier at’. Virtually all leave at 13. Lots of help with future schooling. ‘They guide us away from making the wrong choice.’ Over half of the year get scholarships/awards, academic as well as music – 23 in 2020. At least 50 per cent go to local private Cambridge schools, the rest off to board: many to The Leys, Perse Upper, King's Ely, St Mary's, Oundle.

Our view

The school is owned by St John’s College and was originally set up in the 17th century to educate the choristers. Now housed on a leafy road in Cambridge opposite the college’s playing fields, which they share, in three adjacent houses, recently redeveloped to include new outdoor woodland area on what was once the staff car park. On entering the main building the first thing you see are the choristers’ gowns hanging in the hallway. They are very proud of the choristers, rightly so. They travel the world and are very talented. But once in the school they are just normal pupils. There are no ‘stars’ in this school so no cabinets full of trophies on display. They have them, but discreetly hidden in the dining room. The life of the chorister is slightly different from that of other pupils as they start practice at 7.30am, running through to the start of school at 9am, and again after school for a couple of hours. It’s a massive commitment but handled well. The school ensures they don't suffer academically or personally.

A very tactile school. ‘If a child needs a hug it gets one.' Many parents spoke of their children ‘being allowed to be children and not to grow up too quickly.’ ‘They are imaginative and modern about learning,’ said one parent. ‘We are told very firmly to leave the education of our child to them and not to stress about exams. It works, the children are pushed, achieve highly but don’t feel under pressure.’ No exams until the penultimate year. Children taught to have enquiring minds and embrace learning. Mindfulness is taught to all, even the little ones, and stands them in good stead for future years. Hugely supported by parents. ‘All of the teachers are of a similar mindset and embrace the concept and love the children. They wouldn’t be here if that wasn’t the case.'

Lots of after-school clubs, but not until year 3. Enrichment programme each Thursday afternoon for 9-13 year olds explores cross-curricular work across arts and sciences, plus My Mind programme, which includes tai chi for year 4. As expected, loads of music, not just for the choristers. The majority of the children learn an instrument, many two or more. Bands, choirs, quartets galore. All the usual sports teams, well supported. Drama very popular. Very impressive artwork framed and displayed throughout the school. A large, airy, newly refurbished art room where the older children can pop in and set to. ‘All children can draw by the time they leave St John’s,’ the very enthusiastic art teacher told us. Timetables are flexible. Extra tuition offered, some at no extra cost, very quickly if needed. Individual needs department proactive. They are on top of the children academically and extra time allocated towards subjects for those aiming for certain scholarships.

A small contingent – including all choristers – boards. ‘It means we can manage their time well rather than it being wasted travelling.’ Larger numbers boarding higher up the school, many weekly, some flexi. Clean, bright, mixed boarding house. Lots of comfy sofas, snooker and table football. A large kitchen with huge table. ‘Our parents can come and see us and have a cup of tea with us after services,’ said one chorister. Very much an open-door policy for parents. Strict rules within the house. No child can enter another dorm. No mobile phones in the boarding house and, very contentiously for our chatty guides, no tuck. ‘They decided the choristers were getting too much sugar so cut tuck to twice a week and have now cut it out completely,’ was the outraged comment. ‘So when we go home we beg our parents for sweets.’ There used to be accompanied visits to town with the older ones going in threes, ‘as long as one of us was wearing a watch,’ but these have now been stopped. ‘They said all we did was buy sweets, but we only had £2 so what can they expect?’ from our opinionated guide, ‘and how do they expect us to manage money if they won’t let us out to spend it?’ All said with very good humour and a big smile. We feel our guides have a bright future ahead of them. Homesickness handled well. One pupil allowed to bring her rabbit last term. Lots of contact with parents, though not before bed, in private phone booths. ‘Please note the phone number for Childline is listed on our contact lists pinned to the door.’ This guide will go far. Dormitories clean and tidy. Bunk beds, six to a room max. Boarders change their own bed linen. Duvet covers brought from home. Houseparents loved by all, children and parents. ‘I couldn’t ask for more from them and the receptionist is magnificent.’

Uniform stands out with bright red blazers. ‘The uniform is too expensive,’ said one rather disgruntled parent, ‘particularly the blazers.’ The girls wear a rather dowdy summer dress, far too dull for the bright, exuberant characters donning them. ‘Pastorally excellent,’ was said by every parent. ‘There are issues, usually girls and their friendships, but the school handles them sensitively and effectively.’ The year 8s mentor the incoming year 5s.

Nearly every parent we spoke to felt ‘we are very lucky to have our children at St John’s.’ We can see why. Certain schools have ‘that feel’, and this one does. It’s a joyous place that’s buzzing. Lessons are alive, the children are working hard, utterly engaged. And they are happy, exuberant, confident little people, from the youngest up. Children being children, nurtured through some tough, turbulent times, meeting adolescence with equilibrium and well set for future schooling. Long may it continue.

Special Education Needs

‘‘Each child is special: each child has needs: each child has special needs. These are truths as old as time, carried in the heart of any parent and any good teacher.’ (K L Jones, Head) As set out in the school’s Ethos and Aims, we aim ‘to meet the individual needs, foster the aptitudes and nurture the growth of each child.’ In this sense, the school’s Individual Needs provision is part of a wider commitment to helping any child to discover his or her ability. The provisions of SENDA aside, we do not view learning difficulties as disabling but rather as obstacles to fulfilling potential which, with appropriate support, can in many cases be overcome. This difference of emphasis has significant consequences. It is by no means the case that learning difficulties are experienced only by the less able. Indeed, the problems encountered by the most gifted children can require considerable specialist attention. St John’s is therefore committed to meeting the needs of children who have an identified learning difficulty, whatever their innate ability. It is worthy of note, in this respect, that many children who gain academic awards to their senior schools have, at some point, been given Individual Needs support. While the Individual Needs department’s Procedure for Referral and Organisation of Provision (PROP) follows the approach recommended by the DfES Special Educational Needs Code of Practice 2001, the school far exceeds any statutory obligations in its approach to identifying and meeting a child’s needs. St John’s has specialist staff, trained and qualified to assess, recognise and deal with learning problems throughout the age and ability range. We do not have a separate Individual Needs ‘unit’ because the close relationship and constant communication between individual needs and mainstream teachers (many wear both hats) is an essential factor in the early identification and the continuing management of any difficulty. As a consequence, ‘internal’ assessment of children is commonplace when a difficulty has been observed and has been discussed with parents. In a similar vein, the ‘threshold’ of intervention is much lower than in most schools. The vast majority of children in receipt of support will have very mild or mild specific learning difficulties. For many of these, the provision will be relatively short term, addressing a particular concern at a particular time. For others, support may be needed throughout their time at the school and beyond. The level of awareness of all staff is very high. There is an ‘Action Plan’ for every child in the school which is constantly updated and formally reviewed and attention to the individual child is a part of the culture. For children with learning difficulties, through specific training and through involvement in framing each child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), the mainstream teachers are made fully aware of any child’s difficulties and can therefore plan their teaching accordingly. In this respect, all children benefit greatly from the teachers’ awareness of different learning styles, irrespective of whether they have a learning difficulty. The level of communication with home is, likewise, very high. Parents are informed of any concern, give their permission for any assessment, discuss the outcomes of such assessment in detail with the staff concerned and are fully involved thereafter in the creation and regular updating of a child’s IEP. They meet formally and informally with a child’s Individual Needs teacher to discuss progress and agree action. The school is able to refer children to a wide range of outside agencies (Educational Psychologists, Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Optometrists, etc) all of whom work in close co-operation with the Individual Needs department. Any such referral is discussed with parents before it goes ahead and the outcome of any assessment is communicated to all mainstream teaching staff. The effect of a learning difficulty on a child’s self-esteem is of paramount concern. While the identification of a difficulty is naturally a cause for concern to parents, it is almost always a source of comfort to the child. To know that there is a difficulty and that you will be helped to overcome it is a reassuring process and, while children’s self-esteem is very closely monitored and carefully nurtured by the department and by the staff as a whole, being given Individual Needs support is felt as positive by the vast majority of children concerned. It is a matter of pride, in this respect, that our children will talk openly and without embarrassment to prospective parents about their difficulties. The range of Individual Needs teaching, as outlined below, is wide and will vary according to a child’s needs. • At Byron House, we offer small group Enrichment English and Mathematics support and Motor Skills Groups free of charge. The School may also provide, free of charge, one Individual Needs lesson in the Pre-Prep. • All Individual Needs tuition in Form 1 and above is charged to parents. • At Senior House, a range of provision is made, free of charge. Enrichment classes in English continue and Spelling and Listening Skills clubs are offered to children who would benefit from the small group support. Small groups of children are also invited to attend Touch Typing classes if their needs warrant this provision. Curriculum support is also available to those who do not study Latin in Forms 4-6. In Form 6, children who would benefit from extra help to develop study skills and examination technique attend short courses in small groups. The school has a library of laptops for those children who will benefit from their use in the classroom. In due course, some children will move on to home owned laptops. Provision for the use of laptops in examinations is negotiated by the school, as appropriate, with a child’s future school. EAL The school may admit children for whom English is an Additional Language (EAL) if it deems them able, with appropriate support, to benefit in due course from the mainstream curriculum. Until such a time, individual tuition in English is provided by a specialist teacher in place of mainstream lessons as appropriate. It is a condition of admission that the cost of such tuition and of any necessary assessment charges should be borne by the parents. Such charges will be communicated to parents with the offer of a place. Timetabling of Individual Needs Lessons The individual needs of each child are taken into account when timetabling lessons. Lessons take place before school, during part of lunchtime or in specified timetable slots which cause the least disruption to mainstream teaching. Assessment It is the policy of the School that a child requiring individual provision is assessed by one of our specialist assessors, the cost of which, as advised by the Head of Individual Needs, is borne by parents (although the school may be willing to provide financial support, if necessary). Many Senior Schools require an educational psychologist’s assessment prior to entry to confirm examination concessions. Where the School proposes a referral for assessment by an Educational Psychologist for this or other reasons, the cost of a referral is borne by the parents. The Head of Individual Needs makes arrangements for all forms of internal or external assessment of children. In the best interests of the children, parents are expected to share with the school any information arising from external assessments which they have themselves arranged. Where an Individual Needs assessment by the School’s staff or by an outside agency is deemed necessary prior to the offer of a place, parents of potential new entrants should expect to bear the cost of such assessment. Statutory Assessment As set out in the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice 2001, 7.9: ‘In some cases, schools…. will conclude, after they have taken action to meet the learning difficulties of a child, that the child’s needs remain so substantial that they cannot be met effectively within the resources normally available to the school.’ In such a case, the school has ‘a statutory right to ask the LEA to conduct a statutory assessment ….. of a child’s educational needs’ (Education Act 1996, 329A) which may result in a Statement of Special Educational Needs, as documented in the Code of Practice. In such circumstances, the school undertakes to work in accordance with the Code of Practice and in co-operation with parents, the LEA and other agencies as appropriate, to reach an outcome that is in a child’s best interests. With regard to the admission to the school of a statemented child, the school operates in accordance with its Disability Policy. 09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
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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