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>.

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 08:59:53

What mnistooaddictive said. Also, just as a point of information- comprehensive school is not synonymous with mixed ability teaching.

Oh, and if Cambridge entrance really asks for more than a state school candidate can offer, shouldn't someone be looking at those entry requirements?

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:01:03

"The most important factor for me, though, is that when I think of the people I know who have happy homes, with jobs they enjoy and are good at but which they can leave behind at the end of the working day, those people almost all have the same pattern of education - they went to good state comprehensive schools."

And do you think that that life pattern has a future to it?

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:02:15

seeker - "Oh, and if Cambridge entrance really asks for more than a state school candidate can offer, shouldn't someone be looking at those entry requirements?"

Why do you think should Cambridge university be a follow-on course to the NC, GCSE and A-levels?

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 09:07:33

"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

As a university lecturer I would say that if this is happening anywhere, it is a failure of the university itself. A degree course is not in some bubble removed from schools, it is to take DC from level 3 to level 6 (eg A level or honours degree). No one would say it is a failure of sixth forms than there is a big jump between GCSE and A level!

Yes there have been changes in what students know when they arrive. In my area (social science) it is notable that freshers have less skills in analysis now than they did (no notable difference between state and private in this). But it is my job to instill those skills, not just comment on the loss!!!

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 09:10:43

"Why do you think should Cambridge university be a follow-on course to the NC, GCSE and A-levels? "

I don't. But I don't think it should be a private club for the privileged classes either!

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:11:50

Why not? Do you think all universities should offer the same courses at the same level?

mumzy Mon 31-Dec-12 09:12:24

Cambridge as with our Russell group universities have to compete with the best in the world for funding and that means recruiting the best brains. I'm not being rude but they're not there to make up for the deficiencies in our school system. Our current state education and exam system is a shambles and this has been the result of excessive interference by successive political parties for their own ends. When I compare it with the asian countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore we should be very afraid.

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:14:22

I'm not being rude but they're not there to make up for the deficiencies in our school system.

Absolutely, and if anything saves the British education sector it will be those universities who compete ferociously in the global market for brains and cash.

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 09:17:14

I think you mean compete ferociously for educated brains and cash.

Theas18 Mon 31-Dec-12 09:17:15

Are you asking selective vs private really?

Hereabouts the Grammars are superselective. On the whole it seems that the very brightest go to grammars and the next band who can pay but didn't get into grammar, on the whole fill the private schools. Of course that's a broad generalisation, but I only know 1 who turned down a grammar place to go private out of the 3 grammar intakes I was involve in. That includes 2 of mine that had some sort of financial award for the private schools, and a mate of DS who had a large award and still the choice was for Grammar. All the kids i know who sat both tests got places at both.

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 09:18:17

Mumzy All the Russel Group unis (inc Oxford and Cambridge) take taxpayers money to provide degree level education to UK students. Their income from overseas students and research is not affected at all by how they select UK undergraduates.

The continuing prejudice of Oxbridge against state school kids (and that is what it is) has nothing whatsoever to do with recruiting the 'best brains' or protecting their income. It has everything to do with the demands of middle-class people to keep the imagined advantage to themselves

mumzy Mon 31-Dec-12 09:18:48

I thinks some subjects such as social sciences which may not be themselves A level subjects this is a valid point Creamteas but for subjects such as maths and the physical sciences, first year students should beable to access the first year course without having to be taught content which would have been covered in Alevels 30 years ago. It seems university degrees still start at the same level whereas A levels have been watered down to make them more accessible.

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:19:01

No, I don't. Why feel the need to qualify?

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 09:20:17

Isn't it the case that some universities see themselves as important educational establishments and some as research and innovation centres with a somewhat irksome sideline in education, if the result can be the production of generous and grateful donors and more talented innovators and researchers?

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:21:02

"All the Russel Group unis (inc Oxford and Cambridge) take taxpayers money to provide degree level education to UK students."

In the past, that was true. But the model for UK higher education is to make it student-funded and to provide degree level education to whomever the universities choose (along the US model).

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 09:22:49

The need to qualify, Bonsoir, is because if the A-level system is not educating our brains sufficiently, it doesn't mean we don't have brains worth educating - hence looking overseas is just looking for people with better qualifications, not better brains.

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:24:55

No, looking overseas is not looking for people who are "better educated". It is about looking for students who are clever and have a different perspective to bring to the table. The best universities want students (UG and PG) from different horizons to come together. It is, in my happy experience, a very powerful thing to bring students from all over the world and many backgrounds together in one place.

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 09:25:35

* It seems university degrees still start at the same level whereas A levels have been watered down to make them more accessible*

All degree courses should start at the point of education where the intake is. This is not watering down it is a basic premise of teaching and learning.

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 09:25:44

I remember many years ago talking to a nun about the process of selecting the pope. "He's chosen by the Holy Spirit" she said. Long pause "it is interesting how often the Holy Spirit chooses a rich Italian"

In the same vein, it is interesting how often the "best brains" seem to be in the heads of rich people who go to Eton!

mumzy Mon 31-Dec-12 09:25:56

Having met lots of oxbridge academics the majority are left wing leaning and actively want state school pupils however what they can't get over is admitting students who don't have the breadth of knowledge or ability to think independently and argue their case eloquently (things which our current education & exam system stupifies). I'm in no doubt lots of state educated dc can do well at the best most selective universities my argument is the current system is not educating our most able to their full potential.

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 09:30:26

"All the Russel Group unis (inc Oxford and Cambridge) take taxpayers money to provide degree level education to UK students." In the past, that was true. But the model for UK higher education is to make it student-funded and to provide degree level education to whomever the universities choose (along the US model)

The balance has shifted, but universities (except the rare private ones such as Buckingham) still get lots of millions of state money for teaching. All lab subjects are still funded partially by the state, and as far as I know, this is continuing (otherwise the fees will go up a lot more!)

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 09:30:49

I think, somehow, that looking overseas is done for more than one reason - money, variety and potential to name but three, not necessarily required together where politically expedient to keep them separate. And sorry, but "clever" in university terms is assessed primarily by exam results and by other means afterwards, so education is vital to getting into university...

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:31:02

creamteas - that is very odd opinion. University in the UK has never been about being "the next year in the programme" after A-levels.

mumzy Mon 31-Dec-12 09:32:13

I think Creamteas that Cambridge or universities of a similar lilk won't do the government's bidding and dumb down their entrance requirements further in order to take in more state educated dcs. What they will do if pushed enough is become private universities and become even more exclusive sad A university like that would be fine without public funding like the Ivy league

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:32:41

It is a given that education is vital to getting to university, hence no need to qualify.

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