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>.

TheseJeansHaveShrunk Sun 30-Dec-12 11:46:34

Yes, that's right rabbitstew. In my OP I said:

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

Hence I was asking about academically selective private schools, not any private schools.

Not sure why you're being quite so aggressive? If you read my OP you will be able to see the parameters of my question clearly.

rabbitstew Sun 30-Dec-12 11:52:26

Sorry, TheseJeansHaveShrunk, I was just trying to clarify what you meant - at no point did you mention academically selective private schools in your OP, just private schools and the "best" private schools (do you assume best is always selective?). Also, if you re-read your own first paragraph, you don't talk about selective education there at all, you just refer in your second paragraph to children who MIGHT be bright enough to be able to benefit from an academically selective education, but preferably who are not doing so at the moment in the state sector. I think your opening was therefore a little bit vague and unclear....

MrsSalvoMontalbano Sun 30-Dec-12 11:54:57

OP do you live in London? I know many people who could afford indie but use state, just not those in London. Outside London is is possible to have a diverse intake - in London it seems more polarised. My DC were ata state school that was not at all diverse - consisted solely of families that could afford 800k+ houses, and not ethinaclly diverse. They now attend an indie with very poor (bursry) ver rich, lots of middling and very ethnically diverse. As with everything, ymmv.

anonnona Sun 30-Dec-12 11:57:37

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?

I say that it is down to the temperament of the child. In my example of the cousin who was clever enough for Oxbridge, he was in the "bright but idle" category. He was naturally cleverer than the hardworkers so he sailed through GCSE. The 'achieve or slack off' question didn't arise - he could do it anyway with minimal effort. He never learned to work but it caught up with him and he suffered the consequences at A Level. He floundered for a few years but has come right in the end. If he had worked at school he might have been a highflyer (Oxbridge, magic circle lawyer, financial whizz) but he isn't that sort of personality.

TheseJeansHaveShrunk Sun 30-Dec-12 12:00:23

rabbitstew, sorry if it wasn't clear. I did specify that I was considering non-selective state schools because most people don't have access to grammars, and I thought the reference to academically selective education within the context of "would you pay for private if you could afford to?" qualified the private schools I was talking about.

So, to refine things further, I think the real debate is selective v non-selective, but since selective education in the state sector is very limited, the question that applies to more people is: non-selective state v selective private.

MrsSalvoMontalbano, we live outside London.

anonnona Sun 30-Dec-12 12:11:09

some maths professor from Cambridge ... for maths, even the best state schools generally teach only to the A-level syllabus, whereas the best private schools take their candidates well beyond the syllabus and so the state school applicants are at a huge disadvantage

I disagree. I have a friend whose DD is very bright and got a scholarship. Although the school was generally good it was deficient in the DD's specialism, which was Maths. In fact, it was worse than that. The Maths teachers were intimidted by her ability and actually tried to put her down. However, because she was bright and moivated she got into Oxbridge despite these setbacks. She got her input from places other than school.

However I want to add the caveat that Oxbridge pupils are always a special case and a minority so you can't generalise from them. Your question OP would have more relevance if it wasn't restricted to Oxbridge candidates.

GrumpySod Sun 30-Dec-12 12:18:37

if you think state school is better even though you could afford private education, then why is that?

Not "better". Quite often in life I am satisfied with adequate by the time I consider all the other tradeoffs (many in our case), my kids don't always have to have the very best.

DH & I both attended mediocre state schools & got top results.

mellen Sun 30-Dec-12 12:24:44

I could send my DDs to private school. I don't, firstly because I think that the primary school that they are at is better than our local private school, and secondly because I know that already some universities will ask for higher exam results from certain private schools than from some state secondary schools. I don't want to pay for private secondary school if in the end they might have been better off in a state school, if all I do is raise the bar in terms of the qualifications that they have to achieve.

Elibean Sun 30-Dec-12 12:33:40

We chose state primary for our dds (in London) as, out of four local primaries we looked at (two state, two private) it was the one we liked the best. Mostly because of its ethos, and because of the enthusiasm and love of learning we picked up on our visit. We also loved the Head, who has since changed - but we still love the Head, so all is well!

RubyRoo's parents' reasons make sense to me too.

TheseJeansHaveShrunk Sun 30-Dec-12 12:36:09

The comments of the Cambridge maths professor were context only. I think the issue is relevant to all subjects, not just maths, and all "top" universities, not just Cambridge.

After hearing this interview, I looked at the Sutton Trust tables and some other research showing that regardless of universities' policies to widen access, it is still a fact that the majority of students at the best UK universities are for private schools. That depressed me, particularly given that I thought the universities set slightly lower offers for state school applicants than private school applicants to allow for the difference in opportunity.

happygardening Sun 30-Dec-12 12:37:40

We pay for 1 DS and send the other to a top performing comp. I am absolutely convinced that the one at the comp would not achieved any more in the independent sector or done anymore because of the person he is. I am also convinced that the one in the independent school (full boarding) may have achieved the same exam results in the comp perhaps not the same university as we've one (maybe even two) eyes on the Ivy League and his school sends a sizable number every year thats our personal choice but he would not have the same opportunities both intellectual and non intellectual outside and beyond the curriculum in any state school. For him as a personality this is essential

Arisbottle Sun 30-Dec-12 12:41:07

Out children are all at state schools and we could have afforded fees, especially if I had stayed in my previous career. We have also been offered the money for school fees.
Not in order of importance :
1) we believe in state education and don't agree with private education
2) we want our children at the local school ( this has not worked out for one who had to go to the grammar)
3) most of our children would be happier in a mixed sex environment
4) the local comprehensives are good and when it did not work out for ds there was the second best option of a grammar
5) DH and I got into Oxbridge from fairly crap to middling state schools, so if our children are of that calibre they can manage it from an outstanding state school in an age when the colleges are more open to state school applicants ,
6) DH and I do not need a private school to fill in the gaps of our parenting, we are very hands on and very supportive of our children's schooling and able to make a difference . Again both DH and I managed to get to a good university without such help so our children can do so without any boost from a private education - if it is a boost .
7 ) our children have a privileged upbringing as it is and we have to work hard to keep them grounded , I want then to attend a school with a cross section of people .
8) I would rather spend the money on things that make their childhood memorable . We have horses, the children sail, we travel etc.

fainche Sun 30-Dec-12 12:54:53

I have friend who is a graduate of St Paul's Girls and Oxford. She and her husband can easily afford private schools but have enrolled their children in a state school in the expectation that there will a state school bias for Oxbridge applicants when the children reach University age. If there are any gaps in the children's education, I don't doubt that she'll fill them herself and/or hire a tutor. She and her DH are both very hands on parents.

sleeplessinsuburbia Sun 30-Dec-12 13:10:42

Arisbottle you sound like a great mum.

creamteas Sun 30-Dec-12 13:13:13

I could afford private but would never consider it for similar reasons to those outlined above, including:

Ideological objection
Knowledge that educational outcome is predominantly related to parent's social class and secondly child's ability. School doesn't make a lot of difference
Passionate about schools being part of the community and therefore only considered catchment area schools (this criteria is above distance in our LEA)
Belief that education is about social as well as subject issues so wanted my DC to met people both like and unlike them in all sorts of ways.

Arisbottle Sun 30-Dec-12 14:15:14

Thankyou sleepless grin

Easy to make yourself look good on an anonymous forum . In reality I am often knackered and usually grumpy but my intentions are good .

TheseJeansHaveShrunk Sun 30-Dec-12 15:41:33

Arisbottle, I can totally see your point of view. My DCs are in the state sector and their friends come from a range of backgrounds. However, rather than give them a real sense of people coming from all backgrounds, so far they just don't really seem to distinguish between themselves and other people at all. Maybe that will change at secondary as they become more interested in "stuff" - mobile phones, iPads etc. Out of interest, do you work, or are you a SAHM?

A major benefit - aside from exam results - in some private schools seems to be that the school "does" everything (for a price) for the parents, which for working parents I suppose is easier. I work full time and my kids don't get to do much after-school stuff simply because there's no one to ferry them around.

Arisbottle Sun 30-Dec-12 15:53:13

I work, although I teach which means I can ferry them about if I need to , particularly as two children are at the school in which I teach, it will soon be three children. So some evenings I drop a child at an activity and then return to work until it is time to pick them up. I can also take my marking with me, so I can take them to an activity and work while they " play"

We also have a home help who drops the children at activities and the mother of our stepson also helps us ferry the children about. At least one child is doing an activity every day of the week.

My children are aware of the differences, although not my youngest who has only just recently started primary school. They have friends who live in council flats, friends who live in more average houses , friends like us who have larger houses and then friends who have swimming pools and huge houses and a drive full of cars. They can also tell when they discuss holidays after the summer.

CarlingBlackMabel Sun 30-Dec-12 16:04:51

MrsSalvo - We are in London. My children are in a state comp, an excellent school which is extremely diverse in every way, including socio-economic. In fact we have a good choice of 2 such schools from our address. Friends just over the borough border have the same experience, with 2 other schoosl. I know there are difficult areas re schooling and it's tough if you are in one, but the 'London Schools - Here Be Dragons' reputation is a bit over hyped IME.

wheresthegin Sun 30-Dec-12 16:10:03

I think it's all about what's on offer in your locality.

Elibean Sun 30-Dec-12 16:36:20

I know this isn't why you started the thread, OP, and I'm sorry for the mini-hijack, but I have to say....its lovely not to feel like the odd one out for a change smile

stayinginstate Sun 30-Dec-12 17:28:27

We can easily afford private and are close to some of the best private day schools in the country but are not even considering them despite having a child who would stand a good chance of getting a place. We also have one of the best comprehensive schools in the country on our doorstep. It is heavily streamed from day 1 so I am happy that they will be taught with other children of similar ability, the curriculum is broad, almost all of the sixth form continue to Russell Group universities and for the last 5 years they have sent no less than 15 children a year to oxbridge. The facilities are fantastic, the children who showed us around were enthusiastic ans clearly love school telling us it is a place where it is cool to do well. I sat behind 2 sixth formers on the bus a few weeks ago discussing the merits of applying to Oxford over Cambridge and which other medical schools they are applying for and it really reinforced my view that it is a school with high expectations of their pupils. My DC have many friends with siblings there who are doing very well and who I would be delighted for my DC to have as role model. I simply do not see the need to pay £15k per child per year for them to get a virtually identical outcome.

wheresthegin Sun 30-Dec-12 17:45:58

stayingstate - where where oh where do you live????? House prices must be sky high????

jessjessjess Sun 30-Dec-12 18:02:14

We are lefties who don't like the idea of going private and wouldn't even if we could afford it. Many private schools are too focused on league tables and results, and put too much pressure on pupils. I left a private school (I had a scholarship) after 3 years as I hated it and lots of my friends told me how lucky I was to be allowed to leave.

Personally I would prefer my children to mix with people from a wider range of backgrounds. When I think of my friends, the ones from private schools haven't done substantially better in terms of university entrance, income, professional success, any of it. I have friends from my state school who got into Oxbridge and friends from my private school who do poorly-paid jobs they dislike.

I would only consider private education if there was some special need for it. I do not believe it is "better". I don't like the idea that kids from wealthier families need to be kept away from riffraff like DH, whose mum is a cleaner, is the first in his family to go to uni and got all As at A level, to pick one example of someone for whom private education was never an option. I don't know what's more unfair, the ability to opt out of the state system or the idea that kids who can't are somehow not fit to mix with little Tarquin and Saskia.

wheresthegin Sun 30-Dec-12 18:18:50

I would only consider private education if there was some special need for it. I do not believe it is "better". I don't like the idea that kids from wealthier families need to be kept away from riffraff like DH, whose mum is a cleaner, is the first in his family to go to uni and got all As at A level, to pick one example of someone for whom private education was never an option. I don't know what's more unfair, the ability to opt out of the state system or the idea that kids who can't are somehow not fit to mix with little Tarquin and Saskia.

??????

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