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

(1000 Posts)
happygardening Sun 06-Jan-13 13:22:36

Thought I repost the OP although the debate has moved on a little smile .
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>.

Bonsoir Sun 06-Jan-13 16:29:50

And in France teachers decide what's "best" in the educational system which is why it is going down the drain.

MordionAgenos Sun 06-Jan-13 16:30:28

The root of the accessibility issue is applications. If kids don't apply then they have NO CHANCE. That is why I take so much issue with the negativity being expressed by people who claim to be teachers (or at any rate who claim to work in schools) in this and the other thread. It's easy to point to dodgy stats (all stats are dodgy in some way, if you don't understand that then I'm not going to waste hours explaining this to you - but anything can be proved with judiciously selected numbers and (most importantly) parameters) to dissuade a kid from even thinking they have a chance. It is also easy to point to real life examples of people who are in no way exceptional who came from the sorts of background you cite as having no chance - but who got in. And did just fine. Which is going to be more inspiring? The naysaying or the positive example?

I was particularly disgusted with the 'they think they won't fit in (and they may not)' comment. Who is any of us to tell anyone they will or won't fit in anywhere?

creamteas Sun 06-Jan-13 16:31:36

Because of all the studies on cultural capital and education that have been conducted in the UK in the last 30 years.......

Bonsoir Sun 06-Jan-13 16:37:56

Curious. Teachers/academics don't usually get classes in the same socio-economic class as consultants or judges.

Bonsoir Sun 06-Jan-13 16:38:08

classed

Mominatrix Sun 06-Jan-13 16:43:32

I think that the case in France is quite different, Bonsoir. Teachers are foncionnaires and wield a greater amount of influence over top school allocations and grading than a teacher here. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a student at Henri IV who was not a child of a foncionnaire.

creamteas Sun 06-Jan-13 16:46:52

Well that depends of which stratification system you are using doesn't it......

In the UK, if using the NS-SEC all professionals are in 1 or 2 Analytic Classes.

Bonsoir Sun 06-Jan-13 16:47:58

I think that's a bit of false generalisation, Mominatrix. We have lots of friends with children at Henri IV and Louis Le Grand, and plenty of friends who went there themselves, and not a fonctionnaire in sight!

Bonsoir Sun 06-Jan-13 16:55:32

Not very refined then, is it?

fivecandles Sun 06-Jan-13 17:02:38

Mordion, you are completely misunderstanding the arguments here. The stats are available to see. Try as you might to find flaws in them, it is highly likely that the admissions data produced by Oxbridge universities themselves are likely to be accurate. Nobody is using those stats to 'naysay' anyone else or tell anyone that they have 'no chance'. It is only you and nobody else on this thread who has suggested that that is what's going on.

I don't know why you are so against talking about the stats TBH. Is it better to bury your head in the sand? Is ignorance bliss? Do you take the same view of statistics in the NHS. That it is not for ordinary people to know them?

Personally, I think knowledge is power. Knowing what you're up against and seeing the big picture is hugely important.

Of course, you have no chance if you don't apply but I'm much more interested in the discrepancies between those who DO apply with the same A Level results but who have different success rates according to their skin colour and what school they went to. I thought I'd made that perfectly clear and I have said it a number of times now.

As for your comment, 'Who is any of us to tell anyone they will or won't fit in anywhere? ' I totally agree. There is quite a difference between saying that some people won't fit in at Oxbridge and saying that I make or would dream of making that judgement for them.

You really do seem to be misunderstanding quite a lot of what I've said. It might actually interest you to know that I've got quite a good rate of getting kids into Oxbridge. Might I suggest that if you're not sure what I mean or what my position is that you ask for clarification rather than making assumptions that are a long way out?

MordionAgenos Sun 06-Jan-13 17:05:18

On the contrary, I'm not misunderstanding anything.

MordionAgenos Sun 06-Jan-13 17:08:03

And I'm certainly not the only person who has had an issue with some of the wilder things you have said in these two threads.

Dowding Sun 06-Jan-13 17:09:09

Fivecandles, how far do you think it is Oxbridge's responsibility to make up for the errors in parenting, education or personal choices that may have been made for/by pupils by the time they arrive at its gates?

If as you say inequality is entrenched by the age of 4, why should a university be the one getting it in the neck for not righting the wrongs decades down the line? If clever children are corralled into a smaller number of schools (through selection or scholarships or whatever) and then stretched it's not rocket science that a good proportion will get in. A clever child in a group where everyone else is struggling to survive the A Level syllabus is simply not going to have the same shot at a place as one who attends a school where other kids are at least as bright as they are, with teachers who can treat A Level requirements merely as a starting point. The dearth of selective state education has actually caused Oxbridge's diversity to backslide - in 1969 only 38% of places at Oxford went to private school pupils.

Universities can only choose from the people who apply, and there are so many summer schools and initiatives to try to expand the pool. Have you met many Oxbridge tutors? They're such a diverse and international group that notions that they're trying to perpetuate some English public school myth are absurd. They're not after some gormless Hooray Henry; they're academics at the cutting edge of their profession.

"then there's the subfusc and the interviews and all the rest of it."

What on earth is the problem with gowns? People all over the world wear them. I stand by what I said before about uniform being a leveller - if you're all in sub fusc you can't tell whether the person next to you would otherwise be draped in a pashmina, or a hoodie, or dungarees or tweed... shock

The whole point of interviewing is to get beyond the initial impression of the candidate - what's fairer when we're swimming in a tide of A grades? An entrance exam? It used to be a useful tool but got kicked out. I still think it's very patronising to suggest that, for poor students to cope, Oxbridge must do away with academic dress, being interviewed by tutors and - what does "all the rest of it" refer to? Historic buildings? Maybe we could bulldoze the cities and replace the colleges with Stalinist tower blocks so that inner-city pupils feel more at home. God forbid that they might aspire to something different.

Bonsoir Sun 06-Jan-13 17:10:27

I have also taken issue with your rigid and shallow adherence to raw statistics, fivecandles. I also suspect you might not be the poster who is the most accustomed to statistical analysis and interpretation.

Bonsoir Sun 06-Jan-13 17:14:03

"A clever child in a group where everyone else is struggling to survive the A Level syllabus is simply not going to have the same shot at a place as one who attends a school where other kids are at least as bright as they are, with teachers who can treat A Level requirements merely as a starting point."

I agree very strongly with Dowding's point.

rabbitstew Sun 06-Jan-13 17:17:18

happygardening - please could you stop typing "your" instead of "you're" or "you are," and "its" instead of "it's" or "it is"???? I'm beginning to find it quite distracting!

JoanByers Sun 06-Jan-13 17:22:27

One of the things about grammar schools is that by the standard of schools as a whole, even the worst-managed grammar school in the country will get very good results and an Ofsted 'Good' rating at a minimum.

On the other hand a school with a low ability intake has very little chance of performing well and being rated 'Outstanding'.

I think it's one of the biggest myths that there's anything special about grammar schools. The stats for performance published by the DFE are broken down by performance at entry at 11. According to these stats many comprehensives perform better with their 'high attainers' (those attaining Level 5 at 11) than grammar schools do.

As I understand it grammar schools will generally get less funding than comprehensives, although I know that comprehensives will tend to concentrate their resources on the bottom sets, so it might balance out.

Of course mediocre comprehensives are dreadful places for bright kids, but a grammar school isn't necessarily anything great.

Private schools vary regionally, I know that there are parts of the country where the private choices are very mediocre, but in areas where there is a lot of competition parents will generally visit half-a-dozen or more schools before making a decision, something that I doubt the parents gloating about getting into the local grammar school will do.

AuldAlliance Sun 06-Jan-13 17:23:53

And in France teachers decide what's "best" in the educational system which is why it is going down the drain.

I think that is a little sweeping, Bonsoir. Some "teachers" (actually more lecturers in IUFMs and inspecteurs, who are not teachers any longer and are, IM(personal, therefore limited)E, alarmingly out of touch with reality) may decide what's "best."

If I understand your use of "best" correctly, which I am not certain I do.

A majority of teachers are constrained by regulations and limits imposed from above and by the difficult conditions in which they work.

I have chaired and participated in several jurys de baccalauréat and the whole thing is so tightly rigged to ensure maximum pass rates, irrespective of teachers' assessments, that it is laughable.

Teachers are more aware than many other people of the impact that government policy will have on quality and conditions in schools in the short and medium term. They also have direct experience of that policy and of what choices ensure better classroom conditions and chances of success than others, and they use that experience accordingly. Different to, but by no means more reprehensible than, an old boys'/MBA/however you define it network like yours.

There are of course also other social reasons why teachers' children gain access more easily to selective academic filières than those of other socio-professional categories.
The fact that the system is going down the drain is not solely related to teachers, by any means.

fivecandles Sun 06-Jan-13 17:34:40

'some of the wilder things you have said in these two threads'

Gosh, I'd like to know what I've said that's 'wild'. And I thought I didn't get out much!

fivecandles Sun 06-Jan-13 17:43:07

'"A clever child in a group where everyone else is struggling to survive the A Level syllabus is simply not going to have the same shot at a place as one who attends a school where other kids are at least as bright as they are, with teachers who can treat A Level requirements merely as a starting point."

Which would be understandable if it weren't for the fact that kids from state schools go on to outperform kids from private schools with the same grades.

Which does suggest that all the confidence and their glowing list of extra curricular achievements etc that they can present at interview are just that really and are no measure of their actual academic ability.

Which is a way of addressing Dowding's points, most of which I've already discussed addressed at length so won't bother repeating, but in fact Oxbridge do already use exams. Exams and lotteries are infinity fairer and much less subject to prejudice than intereviews.

This is why most forward thinking universities have abandoned interviews long ago.

Interviewers, whether they are aware of it are not, are biased, and often choose people they find it easiest to identfiy with.

This may at least partly explain why, in a university with no black staff, black students are much less likely to be given places than white students with the same grades.

NamingOfParts Sun 06-Jan-13 17:44:19

I wonder what proportion of 'possibles' apply from private schools compared to comprehensives? I wonder how many potential applicants from comprehensives simply rule themselves out and see Oxford/Cambridge as not for them or not worth the bother.

My DD is planning to study chemistry after A level. Looking at the Cambridge website I can see why she isnt interested in applying there. It looks sooo insular. DD is interested in courses with an Erasmus year - errr, no. Perhaps if you grow up seeing this as normal then it appeals. If not then it looks so stultifying.

Do Oxford and Cambridge actually need to market themselves better to comprehensive students if they want to broaden their range of applicants? Or are they happy as they are really?

fivecandles Sun 06-Jan-13 17:45:13

In fact, of all my Oxbridge successes, I've had years where like the other poster, the successful applicants were the least bright but the most confident.

fivecandles Sun 06-Jan-13 17:48:48

'Fivecandles, how far do you think it is Oxbridge's responsibility to make up for the errors in parenting, education or personal choices that may have been made for/by pupils by the time they arrive at its gates?'

I've quite clearly said that what Oxbridge can do about this stuff is limited.

However, there are things they could quite easily do to make themselves more accessible. I've mentioned some of these already.

It would be good if Cambridge could try to ensure their staff were more representative of the ethnic and social diversity of the population at large for a start. It is shocking that there is not a single black member of staff.

JoanByers Sun 06-Jan-13 17:54:14

"Which would be understandable if it weren't for the fact that kids from state schools go on to outperform kids from private schools with the same grades."

Eh, but they are not admitting on the same grades.

A child from Eton will be a given higher offer than one from a Bootle comp.

According to this study: http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6077920

students from all sources performed at a similar level across 2005-2010.

Of course most of these studies are conducted with a certain agenda, but I think it's worth pointing out that A Levels are extremely dumbed down compared with how they were 25 years ago or so, and that schools that teach purely to the syllabus will most likely NOT be adequately preparing their students for an Oxbridge degree course.

NamingOfParts Sun 06-Jan-13 17:55:54

Interesting point about interviews fivecandles - while perusing the Cambridge website I see that the vast majority of the Cambridge colleges use interview or test at interview for the selection process. Will that identify the best scientist or the person who is best at talking about science?

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