Guide to Independent Schools

School details

King's Ely)

King's Ely, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB7 4EW

Enquiries & application

the Admissions Co-ordinator

T:  01353 660702

Co-ed, 2½-18 Day, 8-18 Boarding
Pupils: 985, Upper sixth 76
Fees: 26196003 (Day), 63498690 (Boarding), 10,927 (international boarding) per term
Affiliation: HMC, IAPS, SofH


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School details

King's Ely)

What it's like

Founded in 970 and re-founded in 1541 by Henry VIII, it has a superb position on the edge of one of the most beautiful cathedral cities in Europe. Much of the school is housed in the buildings of the old Benedictine monastery, which include the 14th-century Monastic Barn (now the school dining hall) and the Porta (gateway of the monastery) now a superb library. In the last ten years there has been extensive development and modernisation including a sports hall, all-weather pitch, DT centre, art department and library. There is also a new music school and recital hall and the medieval Old Bishop's Palace provides spacious accommodation for the sixth form. The school provides continuous education for boys and girls from 2-18. Ely cathedral serves as the school chapel and its choristers are boarders in the junior school. A friendly school, which accepts and develops children with a wide range of abilities and talents, aiming to produce confident, thoughtful and sociable young people with enthusiasm for life. A high standard of teaching prevails and examination results are good. High fliers achieve their potential, others are encouraged to exceed expectations. Very strong indeed in music and drama. A wide range of sports and games (standards are high). A lot of emphasis on outdoor pursuits and adventure training (expeditions to eg Corsica and Himalayas). Full use is made of the city's facilities, those of Cambridge (15 miles away) and London (an hour by train).

Pupils & entrance

Pupils: Total age range 2-18; 985 pupils (763 day, 222 boarding). Senior department 13-18, 444 pupils; 298 day (179 boys, 119 girls), 137 boarding (71 boys, 66 girls). Entrance: Main entry ages 2, 4, 7, 11, 13 and 16. Own entrance exam used, Common Entrance occasionally. For sixth-form entry, 5 GCSEs at least 2 grade B and 3 grade C (grade B in sixth-form subjects). No special skills required. C of E orientated school and pupils are expected to attend school services. 75+% senior pupils from own junior department.

Scholarships & bursaries

Some scholarships, up to 50% fees: academic awards, others for sport, art, drama, music, design technology, boarding. Bursaries for choristers, service families, clergy families and siblings.

Head & staff

Principal: Mrs Sue Freestone, appointed 2004. Educated at Clifton High, Royal Academy of Music and Bristol University. Previously Head of Sibford School, Director of Music at Colston's Girls School, Director of Instrumental Studies at Clayesmore and Head of Music at North Foreland Lodge. Teaching staff: 124 full time, 20+ visiting music teachers.

Exam results

GCSE: 82 pupils in Year 11, of which 95% gained grade C or above in 5+ subjects (67% included English, maths, a science, a humanity and a modern language). A-levels: 76 in Year 13, gaining a final points score of 325.

Pupils' destinations

98% of sixth form leavers go on to a degree course (20% after a gap year). 23% take courses in science (including medicine), 5% in engineering and technology, 20% in humanities and social sciences, 11% in art, drama and music. A few go on to non-degree courses eg music or drama schools, or straight into employment.


GCSE, AS and A-levels, Extended Project Qualification. 29 AS/A-level subjects. Sixth form: All sixth formers take 4 subjects at AS-level (usually a wide range), 3 at A-level; general studies not examined. Vocational: Extensive careers guidance. Special provision: Some support for mildly dyslexic pupils and for those with mild learning problems. Languages: French, German and Spanish from age 10 and offered at GCSE, AS and A-level. Exchanges (many prefer to make their own arrangements) and group visits. ICT: Taught both as a discrete subject and across the curriculum, eg spreadsheets, databases. Computers for pupil use (including in evenings), all networked and with email and internet access.

The arts

Music: Over 40% of pupils learn a musical instrument; instrumental exams can be taken. Many musical groups including orchestras, ensembles, jazz band, concert band, steel band and various choirs. Concert band and choir tour overseas; pupils include the Ely Cathedral choristers. Drama: Drama and theatre studies offered at GCSE and A-level. All pupils are involved in school and house/other productions. Regular entrants to established drama schools. Art and design: On average, 25 take GCSE, 10 AS-level, 4 A-level. Textiles, photography and fine art are offered. Pupils to art colleges, running own design studios etc. Frequent visits to London for opera, concerts, theatre and exhibitions.

Sports & activities

Some 15+ sports available including rugby, athletics, sailing, adventure training, badminton, riding. A-level sport and PE offered. County, national and international representation at various sports. Bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award; community service. Wide range of activities (over 50 last year) reflecting the enthusiasms of staff and pupils.

School life

Uniform: School uniform worn; business dress in sixth form. Houses and prefects: Houses predominantly pastoral. Prefects, head of school and deputies, head of house and house prefects - undergo selection process and professional leadership training away from school. Sixth-form committee. Religion: Church of England. 2 morning services per week. Occasional Sunday service for boarders. Social: Trips overseas include language exchanges, music tours (concert band to eg Austria, South Africa; annual choir tours to eg Paris, Thailand); expeditions to eg Corsica, Himalayas.


Pupils failing to produce homework will have to complete it in detention; work-force for minor offences of behaviour; suspension for 1 week or longer if more serious; expulsion if very serious.


Most sixth form in single study bedrooms, others share with 2 or 3. Single-sex houses of 50-60. Pupils can provide and cook own snacks. Exeats each weekend (weekly boarding increasingly popular). Visits to local town allowed out of school time and weekend activities arranged eg cinema, sports fixtures, bowling.

Association of former pupils

is run by Hon Sec, Old Eleans' Club, c/o the school.

Former pupils

Alan Yentob (BBC); Lord Browne (BP Amoco); James Bowman (counter tenor); Matthew Amroliwala (journalist); Nigel Colborn (broadcaster, gardening expert); Goldie Sayers (Olympic athlete); Rupert Sanderson (shoe designer, Vogue writer); Aubrey Powell (designer); Oliver Jarvis (racing driver); Gus Unger Hamilton (Alt-J).