If you can afford private education but remain in the state sector...

(1000 Posts)
TheseJeansHaveShrunk Sun 30-Dec-12 08:59:01

It's going to be hard to avoid this becoming another state v private thread, but what I'm interested in is a slightly different take on that debate. It's not "which is better?" but "if you think state school is better even though you could afford private education, then why is that?"

The question is based on the assumptions that the DC in question is/are reasonably bright (so might benefit academically from academically selective education), that the state school is non-selective (as most people don't have access to grammar schools), and that you hope for your DC to go to a good university (to make the £££££ fees worthwhile!)

I've been mulling this over ever since I heard some maths professor from Cambridge talking on the radio about the age-old private v state inequality of Oxbridge admissions. He was all for improving access for state school applicants but said that the simple fact was that for maths, even the best state schools generally teach only to the A-level syllabus, whereas the best private schools take their maths/further maths A-level candidates well beyond the syllabus and so the state school applicants are at a huge disadvantage - they simply don't have the starting level of knowledge required for the course.

This made me wonder: with this sort of unequal playing field, if you have the choice of private education, what reasons might you have not to take it?

Would be interested to hear from those who've made this choice - how it's working out, or if your DC have finished school now, how did it work out? Did they go to good universities/get good jobs, etc? On the other side of things, if you paid for private schooling but now regret it, why?

My DC go to a state school by the way.

<Dons hard hat>.

anonnona Sun 30-Dec-12 10:04:35

The question is based on the assumptions that the DC in question is/are reasonably bright (so might benefit academically from academically selective education)

That is a big assumption. My DC are bright but not keen nor particularly interested. We sent them to private junior school so they would get all the advantages but they didn't make the most of it and they didn't get into selective upper schools. There was no way that I was going to throw good money after bad so they went to the local state school for secondary. You can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink.
They have come out the other end and are/have been at RG universities so we got to the required result without spending (further) £££££ which pleases me.
FWIW some of their cousins went to super-selectives and some of them bombed. They still ended up at University though and are now employed in graduate-level jobs. One in particular could have been considered Oxbridge material based on his 11+ result but, again, the mind-set was missing. The geek-gene must be missing from this generation!

Going back to your Maths example - you can always get your own personalised "well beyond the syllabus" from tutors for cheaper than school fees.

SandStorm Sun 30-Dec-12 10:06:26

I have one at state school and one at private - it all depends on the provision available. Our primary schools are good round here, secondaries not so much.

rabbitstew Sun 30-Dec-12 10:07:50

You appear to be ignoring the fact that not all private schools are the "best private schools." Plenty are absolutely useless at teaching maths in particular. If you don't live anywhere near the "best private schools" why would spending money on private schools automatically be better than using the state schools on offer? It all depends on where in the country you live, your personal circumstances, and your specific children. Children are not born a standard type any more than schools all fit a set mould. Parents with money have the luxury of shopping around for the "best fit," which not everyone feels the need for, and avoiding the God-awful, which the vast majority would like to be able to do.

Selky Sun 30-Dec-12 10:11:00

My state school is good - and just round the corner. At early primary I think my child benefits far more from having a short school day and local friends that any academic input. We are also close to a university so many children of academics so good, motivated catchment area.

Really no reason to go private.

Tincletoes Sun 30-Dec-12 10:11:33

Re your specific example...
My experience of secondary schools is limited as I have small children, but both my old school and our local secondary school (state) offer further maths.

You get good schools and not so good schools in both sectors. Anyone who thinks differently is just wrong.

And equally what makes for a good school for one child could be totally wrong for another.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 30-Dec-12 10:16:17

Because I have ideological objections to private education.

Why would the Maths course at Cambridge not start from the common end point for all school leavers? Surely that can't be right?

ChristabelChristmas Sun 30-Dec-12 10:22:30

I think this is a really interesting question which I am pleased to see, hasn't thus far, turned in to a bun fight!
My DC go to private school and this is for a multitude of reasons. 1). Both DH and I went to private schools and we had a fantastic experience and so we are sticking with what we know. 2). The secondary states here are not very good. 3). I used to teach in private schools and was always really impressed with the level of all round education (curricular or extra) the children receive.
In my view it's not all about academic results but there is a lot to be said for selective education if you have bright DC. What you have to consider is the breadth of ability which might be present in a non-selective school and whether the children are set or streamed in their subjects. If your children are in a mixed ability class in a non-selective school then the teacher might be having to cater for children capable of getting anything from an A* to a G. I know as I had to do that during my teacher training. This unfortunately means that the ones who are most able are often left to get on with it as they can and the help is given to the ones who struggle more. I'm not criticising - that's just what often happens, even if it ideally shouldn't. This means that children who might be capable of an A* or A might get a grade below as they aren't challenged as much as they need to be.
Hope this hasn't turned in to a bun fight whilst I've been writing this!

ChristabelChristmas Sun 30-Dec-12 10:26:18

TheFallenMadonna there is no such thing as a "common end point for all school leavers". The difference between a top A / A* and a borderline A/B is enormous. I would also point out that if you are studying at Cambridge then you have been selected because you are the very cream of the crop and so have achieved above and beyond the standard top grade level. The amount of extra reading and study which is necessary to get through an Oxbridge interview is enormous.

MotherOfTheBritishEmpire Sun 30-Dec-12 10:28:53

Our state school offers "academically selective" education in that it is streamed from yr 7. Teaching in top streams is in advance of NC levels. This is a benefit of true comps.

Dc take advantage of many out of school clubs which extend the curriculum, maths club, chess club, STEM, music groups.

I was at a private school, a school regularly recommended on MN, a popular academically high achieving girls day school. It was a stultifying cloying atmosphere that gave a false sense of security and did not equip me for the realities of the world, which I learned with a bump at University. My DC are actually more knowledgable and wise than I was.

I really hate the whole teach to the test culture that league tables has fostered. If DC will benefit from a wider deeper subject curriculum at A level I might consider private education, but would be more likely to look for teaching as a supplement to state school.

I hated the sense of obligation I had from knowing that my parents paid for my education. I hate the feeling that I got where I am with the help of a leg up. It undermines my confidence.

So, my experience of private school underpins our choice. And the fact that DC are thriving in the state sector. We are not so wealthy that we could afford private without thinking about it, so there is an element of having chosen not to take on financial strain. I am not anti private education per se or for others. If we need to or our position or circumstances change we might think again.

GrimmaTheNome Sun 30-Dec-12 10:31:53

>You get good schools and not so good schools in both sectors. Anyone who thinks differently is just wrong.

Absolutely. I went to a state school (tail-end of GS) which was better than the mediocre private DH went to.

So we considered all options (other than 'faith' - but that can be one reason some parents do choose state) for DD - private, local state comp and GS in next town. As it turned out she got a place for the last, and it was where she preferred (that is a very valid consideration - can affect the child's attitude) - results same as for the best of the private alternatives(and better than most of them) and better choice of subjects for dds technical bent ( GCSE options include electronics, comp sci in addition to the trad academic subjects). But most of her local friends - some of whose parents could afford private - go to the good local comp. Its on the doorstep and is a good school.

difficultpickle Sun 30-Dec-12 10:35:34

I know plenty of people whom have chosen state over private. Their catchment school has 20 to a class (ds's prep has 22) and is in the top 20 in the country. If I could afford to live in catchment and work school hours then I would too. It is a lovely village school that offers no wraparound care provision. They tried to offer that but there was no demand for it and after a year of trying they stopped it. The houses in catchment start at £600,000 and go to several million. They are also in catchment, although out of county, for a very good grammar school.

TheseJeansHaveShrunk Sun 30-Dec-12 10:40:03

Thanks for all your responses.

Rabbitstew, my question is not focused on "the best private schools" - that was the comment of the Cambridge professor, probably because Oxbridge students tend to come from the most selective schools. However, I have assumed that most people able to pay for private schools wouldn't pay for one that was just middling. The people I know whose children are educated privately are mainly in it for the better exam results. All the extra facilities and so on are nice but at the end of the day the main benefit seems to be better results. I didn't say spending money on private education would "automatically be better than using the state schools on offer". I've used the context of this professor pointing out that the best private schools take pupils beyond what state schools offer. Like I said, it's not a private v state debate, it's a question of "if you can afford a private school which offers more academically than the state school near you, why would you not?"

annonona, what you say is v interesting. One of the things I wonder about is the extent to which a "bright but idle" child might achieve more if in an environment where all the other kids around him are bright and hardworking, i.e. how much does the peer pressure to achieve as opposed to slack off count? In my own family there is an adult whose parents spent a fortune on private education but he was bone idle and just never did a thing at school - left with no A levels and still lives with his parents in his 30s. Obviously that would be disappointing as a parent. On the other hand I also know a family with a rather lazy child who has flourished in a private school. His mother says that it was moving from a (state) school where he just drifted along in the middle of a large class to a selective private school where classes are smaller and every pupil is expected to engage much more, that was the catalyst for him. Suddenly he really enjoyed school whereas before it was "boring".

It does seem that this is more relevant at secondary level when the big exams happen. I'd love to hear from MNers who can afford secondary private education but have stuck with the non-selective state sector. Is it true that an able child will do as well anywhere? Is there a confidence that private schools instil that perhaps state schools don't? What are the other differences?

RubyrooUK Sun 30-Dec-12 10:41:52

I got a scholarship academically to the local private school but my parents chose state education for me instead.

Why? These were their reasons:

They both passionately believed that if able children with interested, education-conscious parents are taken out of the state system, this means that it becomes a second tier system, which disadvantages everyone.

They believed that single sex education did not represent real life and it was better socially to attend a mixed school with both genders.

They wanted their children to attend a school with people of multiple different backgrounds as they felt this would create more rounded people with more insight into how other people live.

They felt that your home environment is the most important aspect of learning and as they were both big readers/loved learning, it was more important for school to have a social purpose.

Convenience - both my brother and I could attend the same secondary school but private would have meant different schools.

I'm glad they did choose the state school route for me. I made lots of close friends at school of both genders which has ultimately been more important to me than academic achievement. And myself and a group of friends were offered places at Oxbridge so it was fine academically too (wasn't an outstanding school on paper but very encouraging of individuals). Obviously I have no experience of private education though.

I could afford private, but have chosen state because we are in Scotland, where all secondary schools are what I think you call "comprehensive" - ie, even if a school has Grammar or Academy in its name, they only take children from their catchment areas and there are no exams to get in.

This means that we don't have the same disparity between good and bad schools that you have in England, and it also means that private schools are few and far between and are usually used by parents who need the wraparound care or whose children would benefit from a smaller class.

The private schools offer, on the whole, the same subjects and exams as state schools, but, granted, they often have more children coming out with five As. But private school background isn't necessary advantageous to get into a Scottish university, where many have quotas of students from a poorer background.

If either of my children were being bullied, I'd have considered a private school. Fortunately neither were. The money that I would have spent on private education has been spent on extra curricular activities, interesting holidays, theatre tickets etc. It will also pay for accommodation at uni.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 30-Dec-12 10:45:29

I don't know much about Maths, but I know a lot about the subjects I do teach (Science), and I know that the difference between an A* and a B is not content, but about approach and critical thinking (and exam preparation and technique to be honest).

I took the OP to mean that Cambridge Maths admissions tutors were looking for "knowledge" above that which is required in an A level.

GrimmaTheNome Sun 30-Dec-12 10:46:53

>Our state school offers "academically selective" education in that it is streamed from yr 7. Teaching in top streams is in advance of NC levels. This is a benefit of true comps.

Its a benefit for most children - however for some streaming (as opposed to setting) is disasterous. I know one boy who went to a highly regarded CofE secondary which streamed - he was really good at English but weak at maths (or maybe vv) so he got put in a low stream. His parents have moved him to a non-selective private (well, there's an entrance test but everyone we know who's taken it passes) where they don't stream but give more individual help.

As ever - depends on exactly what schools are available and exactly what sort of child.

rabbitstew Sun 30-Dec-12 10:48:54

TheJeansHaveShrunk - maybe best not to quote a Cambridge professor talking about maths in a tiny number of private schools if that is not what you actually want to talk about... as going beyond the curriculum and teaching extremely effectively to the test are two completely different things which you seem to be conflating.

kslatts Sun 30-Dec-12 11:11:16

We could afford private school for our DC's but have chosen to send them to state school. The main reasons are similar to the reasons that RubyRooUK was sent to state school:

We want them to have friends from different backgrounds.

We did not want a single sex school.

We think it's important for us to give the children experiences outside of school which will enrich their learning. For example, we took them on holiday to Kenya where they got to see animals in the wild, visit a local village and an orphanage. We would ratehr spend money in this way than on school fees.

TheseJeansHaveShrunk Sun 30-Dec-12 11:14:35

I disagree rabbitstew. Teaching to the test and going beyond the curriculum are naturally 2 sides of the same coin. The first is what has to be done as the bare minimum; the second is what is desirable but can only be done in a class setting if all members of the class have secured the essential knowledge to succeed in the test first. Ergo, in a mixed-ability class the wider teaching is less likely to happen.

The professor's comments were just the context of what set me thinking about this. His comments only applied to maths but the discussion as a whole obviously covers all subjects.

The wider comments made here are really interesting.

sleeplessinsuburbia Sun 30-Dec-12 11:23:57

I could have written rubyroo's post word for word!

ImperialSantaKnickers Sun 30-Dec-12 11:33:42

I like the mixture of backgrounds that ddtwins friends have from attending good comp rather than v. famous public school that's actually nearer (think Duchess of Cambridge). I also like the fact that we can afford tutors for the few odds and ends that are left over, principally art and music.
I also like the fact that our 1st XV routinely beats theirs at rugby!

rabbitstew Sun 30-Dec-12 11:35:00

So, you're talking about selective education, not state versus private?... or do you think private schools can get a wider range of children to the point where they have covered everything they need for the exam and can then go further - ie don't need to be as "selective"?....

rabbitstew Sun 30-Dec-12 11:37:01

Or do you think that any type of selection is really nothing more than selection by family background and that therefore ALL private schools are highly selective in a way that enables them to teach beyond the test?

rabbitstew Sun 30-Dec-12 11:46:26

In my opinion, whether teaching to the test and going beyond the curriculum are two sides of the same coin depends on the tests in question and whether a huge amount of credit is given for going beyond what is expected. You need intelligently marked exams to give credit to intelligent answers and my impression is not one of an exam system which allows much intelligent marking - certainly not given the volume and frequency of exams being taken. So I wouldn't pay for a private education just to bump up my child's exam results, which is what you imply most people you know are doing, despite then going on to talk about going beyond the examination syllabus. If a child capable of getting an A* gets a B, then I don't think they have very effectively been taught to the test.

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