Please help me to choose a school - state v private I'm afraid

(131 Posts)
clevername678 Mon 11-Feb-13 08:59:22

I know it's been done to death and I've read loads of old threads, but am still struggling to make a decision and now only have one week before accepting a place at the independent school and paying a hefty deposit.

DS has been offered a place at our local independent school - it seems to be well regarded (top 50) and is academically selective. It has great facilities, great results, lots of extra curricular stuff etc but he would have a longish commute (car journey to neighbouring village where he can catch the school bus, an hour door to door).

This would be an easier decision if our catchment state school wasn't also very well regarded - Ofsted outstanding, top 250, also great facilities, and obviously free.

The reason we looked at the indie is because DD1 and DD2 are at the state school and, despite the pr, there are lots of things that we aren't happy about - having said that, they're both doing well.

We could afford the fees easily, and would not have to sacrifice holidays or anything like that, but obviously don't want to waste money - I have no doubt at all that the indie is better than the state option, but remain unconvinced that it is better enough iyswim.

I'm going round in circles and would welcome any views.

INeedALieIn Mon 11-Feb-13 15:50:28

I imagine places at a top 50 inde or a top 250 state (I think they are the 2 options) will both be highly sort after in yr 7 or later. It may be which ever you opt for, you will lose the hope of a fall back place at the other.

I think your DDs are probably excellent judges of whether DS would thrive in their school - and it does seem that they don't think that he would.

I would talk to some parents who have DC on the bus, though - and if possible to the DC themselves, especially if they are a bit older and have been doing it for a few years - because the reality of what happens on the bus may be very different from the school's version. I did a similar bus journey, BTW - and whilst I certainly don't resent my parents for making the decision (they offered me the option of boarding, but I hated both the idea and the reality when I tried it for a couple of weeks), my happiness/friendships/social life depended a lot more on the bus than on school. Think about it - the "bus crowd" will be who your DS is spending 2 whole unstructured hours of each school day with - that's a lot more free time than he is likely to spend with the rest of his class. You need to know more about that bus.

NTitled Mon 11-Feb-13 15:55:29

"Interesting that music teacher suggests trying the indie with a view to moving to state if it doesn't work out, while faxhatpam suggests doing it the other way round. I wonder whether it is easier to move from indie to state, or state to indie, if the first choice doesn't work?"

My guess is that one you and your DS have experienced an indie, you will never consider moving him back to state. I know countless people who were very much in two minds, but who became completely committed to independent schools once they had tried them. An independent school would have to be very poor indeed to compare badly to a good-enough state school.

But even if you would try it with a view to moving him, I would definitely try the indie first. I would normally say that if you're doing it for one child, you have to do it for all of them, but it sounds as if your DDs are sane and sensible enough about this, and realistic enough about their school, to support you.

NTitled Mon 11-Feb-13 15:56:10

Btw, I loved the school bus. My mum used to collect my sister from school (we lived about 45 minutes away), and I still got the bus because it was the biggest laugh of the day...

Oh, NTitled, so did I, on the whole. One of my friends from the bus (different indie school, shared bus) is now Godfather to one of my DC. I am not trying to say that the bus is a bad thing, just that the OP needs to know - because there were some other buses (country school, large catchment area) which were hell on earth for some DC, and that would be a horrible thing to have accidentally put a DC into.

INeedALieIn Mon 11-Feb-13 16:01:05

Fully agree with ntitled re the bus gang. Dd is shy, but through the bus she has a ready made group of boys and girls, of varying ages. Without the safety of the bus I can't imagine she would have ever dared speak to the older kids.

NTitled Mon 11-Feb-13 16:02:18

<faints> at the idea that any of the boys' school boys on the bus could have been a godfather to any of my DC. grin

But, yes, you're quite right - school buses can be horrible too if there's the wrong mix. Worth investigating.

seeker Mon 11-Feb-13 16:09:32

Grimma- so no parties then? sad

seeker Mon 11-Feb-13 16:10:22

Oh, and dd was sooooo pleased to give up the school bus and start getting the train once she started 6th form!

GrimmaTheNome Mon 11-Feb-13 17:03:28

>Grimma- so no parties then?
eh? what gives you that idea? She had her 14th last weekend, a nearly 24 hour skating followed by sleepover party. I suppose when they're older it becomes a bit harder if they want to go to a party which doesn't involve sleepover but then I wouldn't want her walking or coming home alone by public transport very late anyway so I'm not sure what the difference (apart from a bit longer parental drive time) is.

wordfactory Mon 11-Feb-13 17:16:20

TBH I'm unconvinced that DC should have all local friends who live a stones throw away...maybe when they're little, but when they're older?

By the teen years, isn't that a little suffocating?

TheOriginalSteamingNit Mon 11-Feb-13 17:16:39

Well, a £5 taxi door to door is easier to organise once in a while than in the situation Seeker describes her dd in, I guess.

School buses I think vary in appeal according to season! I used to quite like sitting on the top through the countryside in June - not so keen on hanging around on cold dark November mornings waiting for it! But such is life.

Chandon Mon 11-Feb-13 17:18:24

I will have this decision to make next year.

My Ds does not run the risk of being eaten alve or anything, but he has Dyslexia and is easily distracted, and I can soooo see him do better in a smaller class in a smaller school.

His brother would, and di, do well at the local state school as he is ambitious, hardworking and has no SEN.

Still, I would not send one of them private and the other not, so I will either send both, or neither. I think.

My best froend went to state school whist his brother went to a private school, and 20 years on he is still very resentful about this. Kids compare, if jot now, when they are adults...

So, tricky one! What does your DP think?

happygardening Mon 11-Feb-13 17:19:33

A few years ago DS2 was offered a place in yr 9 at one of the UK's top and most competitively fought over grammar schools. We had to decide whether to take it or a place at one of the UK' super selective boys boarding schools. A vision of exotic holidays decent cars and trips to the ballet appeared before my eyes. But it was the travelling to the grammar that was the biggest factor in my decision. It was approx. 1 hour that was after I'd driven him 10 miles to the bus. We rural so he would not have gone to school if had been snowing, if he's stayed after school for extra curricular activities I would have to gone and got him a three hour round trip, his friends would have come from miles around as the school was in the next county and has an enormous catchment area as it does not have a defined catchment area and most importantly for me the agro of getting him to the bus in the morning and always being available to pick him up for the next five years. I just didn't want the hassle. So chose the boarding school and have never once regretted it. We also have one of the top 50 comps on our doorstep a perfectly decent school lots of nice children but we would not put him in a school without streaming of any description.

clevername678 Mon 11-Feb-13 17:38:44

Lots of good advice and things to think about, thank you all.

I just rang someone who has children on the school bus to the indie - sounds like it's quite a fun part of the day, no bullying issues that she is aware of, her children choose the bus even if offered a lift apparently.

I think I'm also going to discount the friends thing too - he will still be doing local activities and (I hope) keeping in touch with good friends who live nearby, and there are enough children being bussed out to the indie to suggest a decent pool of indie children living locally.

But the point that chandon and others have made, about how his sisters will feel about it in later life, is still causing me concern. They are adamant that they don't want to go, and that they are happy for him to go, but I still wonder whether they will resent it at some point or feel that I should've tried harder to persuade them.

But what's the answer? Either they grow to resent the fact that DS was given a great opportunity, or DS resents the fact that he couldn't take up a great opportunity because his sisters weren't interested in changing schools?

In answer to the question 'what does DS want to do' - he says he's leaving it up to us (so no help at all)!

NTitled Mon 11-Feb-13 17:44:16

re. your daughters' views. It sounds as if they are very firm about this. I suppose you have to think for them at this point. Are they doing so well at their current schools that you can see no reason to move them? Would they feel mightily aggrieved/miserable at having to leave a school they love, and make new friends (etc)? I do think it's harder to move schools at 'funny' times (it's easier at 11+, 13+, 16+). If you feel that on balance they are right to stay put, and that the indie is a better bet for your DS, I would go with that.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Mon 11-Feb-13 17:47:03

The fact that you keep referring to it as a 'great opportunity' suggests to me that - as I said earlier - you know in your heart what you want.

ReallyTired Mon 11-Feb-13 17:47:49

Making a child travel for over an hour is plain stupid. If you have loads of money then there is lots you can do to top up a rather vanilla state school.

Are your children happy? If they are happy then I would leave them at their present school.

Sulawesi Mon 11-Feb-13 17:48:17

My children still have their local friends and are always spending time at the weekends with them or school evenings when the evenings are lighter. There was the odd hiccup to begin with but they adapted very quickly and now have new and old friends as it were.

I think either way you will be left wondering 'what if' but I think I would prefer to deal with the possible resentment of the two sisters than your son not coping with that particular school further down the line.

newgirl Mon 11-Feb-13 17:57:50

you may have already done the sums - can you afford uni fees for all 3? That is a huge factor for us.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Mon 11-Feb-13 18:03:55

But sula there is no more reason to think that the son won't cope with one school than the other, as far as I can see.

lesmisfan Mon 11-Feb-13 18:04:18

You choose the school which suits your child and don't worry if you choose an independent school whilst leaving his sisters at the very good state school. Despite what mumsnet would have you believe, having different children and state and private schools is not unusual. Your duty is to give your children a good education and the fact that some of it comes at a cost and some doesn't is neither here nor there and if you don't make a big deal of it then neither will they. Having said that, a big commute when you have a good school on your doorstep seems insane. I did the coach thing for 11 years and it wears you down in the long run not to mention that as everyone came from different directions it was a pain in the neck socially and I really wished my parents had sent me to a more local school. I rarely had friends come over as we weren't centrally located and any kind of meet ups involved several buses and hours of my time so for that reason alone I would take the local option.

lopsided Mon 11-Feb-13 18:12:08

Sulawesi, I think it would be very hard to deal with the resentment (possible) and the local school could turn out to be a great fit.

The commute though will be a pain, with friends potentially an hours drive away. I said I enjoyed the school bus at the time. Reading Just 17 was really fun, but I was really tired and had a tonne of homework and I'd rather have been at home. I never complained as I knew how much my parents wanted this school (one of the girls schools often talked about here).

happygardening Mon 11-Feb-13 18:27:56

"having different children and state and private schools is not unusual."
I have one in each neither would be happy in the others school.
The best piece of advise I've ever read on MN: "if you don't make a big deal of it then neither will they"

seeker Mon 11-Feb-13 18:41:07

Please don't underestimate the pain in the neck that driving people around at the weekend is! It is horrible to realise that all of Saturday morning is going to be taken up collecting a child from a sleepover.

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