School Quandary - opinions please!(19 Posts)
Hello all, newbie here!
DH and I have twins DS & DD and are beginning to think about the schooling we would like and are able to provide for them. We've been round in circles discussing it and would like some objective opinions!
Our options are,state primary, private primary, prep or faith school.
DH and I followed the prep-public route, although my gut feeling is that the most important thing is not where a child is educated, but that it is happy and supported in achieving its potential (whatever that may be). For this reason I am looking at all available options with DH, who agrees but I sense would be keen for the children to go to a prep. Both DCs appear inquisitive and are happy to take on a challenge - sounds ridiculous to say that when they are so young I know! - so we want them to be stretched but not pushed to a silly extent.
Happy to top up with extra curricular stuff regardless of school - I was a Suzuki kid and I'm excited to do the same with them, as well as swimming, tennis, ballet, brownies, golf etc etc etc (not all at once!). Private is an option but we would need to be sure before committing ourselves with twins!
Would really appreciate your thoughts!
I would start to look at Preps and put names on lists. I would also visit some local state schools, just to see what they offer. In my experience; it is easy to be impressed by some things Preps are doing, which actually they are copying fom State schools. You also need to educate yourself about application procedures for state schools, and how realistic it is that you will get into local schools. Do also look at the budget for school fees, they increase as your child gets older and by 5% or so a year. Lots of people in professions who once could afford private education can no longer do so.
If you go down the Prep route then remember that many things they can do at school, thus meaning travelling about for you, e.g. At the prep where I work the KS1 children swim every week in our indoor heated pool, they can have after school golf lessons with a golf pro, can do ballet after school with our dance teacher etc... That way you then cut down on your travelling time as you only need make the pick-up once, rather than pick them up then take them on to somewhere else, wait around for them to finish it and then take them home.
It completely depends on the available options in your area. Your local state school may be a fantastic, inspiring, nurturing school which gets the best out of all its children and has a full extra-curricular programme in which case it would be daft to pay for what you're effectively getting for free. However it may be that it's struggling, under-resourced and not a pleasant place for your dc to spend the majority of their time.
Being able to pay for private education simply means that you have a wider choice of potential schools. There are some private schools near us that I wouldn't send my dc to even if they were free because they wouldn't be right for them - or they're not very good schools - it's not a given that private automatically means better
It's a lot easier for children to swap from state to private than the other way round (although its perfectly possible) so if you start off down the private route you are probably committing to 14 years of rising fees x 2 so you need to be reasonably sure that even if your circumstances change you would still be able to fund your dc's education until at least they had reached a natural transfer point
Dd started in state, moved to private for y3 and may well go back into state for secondary
Thanks for your speedy responses!
Some very good points, and a lot to think about.
In terms of private primaries, DH and I feel these are probably a waste of money if the local primary is good - we think it is ok, speaking to people locally has given mixed reports but all children seem happy there.
The faith option is a Jewish school which I have mixed feelings about. It is a better school than our local state primary, but I'm not convinced a hands-down better fit for us. From an involvement with local community perspective it would be lovely but I think it's important for them to mix with children of all backgrounds. Are any of your children in faith schools? Any thoughts on this?
I think it really boils down to a local-ish state primary vs a prep, which are wildly different options!
London - don't want to give too much away. We are lucky that there is a really wide choice of schools.
Normally I'd say state primary and private secondary if you can afford it.
But with mixed sex twins, who are likely to take to different extra curricular stuff from the word go, a private school with it all on site may have a huge amount going for it.
If you intend them doing lots of activities, having school sort it while you are at work and not having to drag a disinterested twin to a club they have given up has a tremendous amount going for it.
DF moved her DCs to private because she spent her life taxiing her older DSs to various sports and dragging their little sister along. She said it made far more sense to send them to private school and let them do things with the schools excellent facilities. Also the long days meant she could take in extra work without having to find a flexible CM.
That is a very good point indeed re: childcare! DH works hideous hours in Canary Wharf, so is very much a weekend dad. I work in the City but manage to bring the majority of my work home (not as cushy as it sounds - think constantly removing twins from eachother and preventing inhalation of toys etc while trying to think) and when I do venture in, my MIL or own mum will happily have the children. We have friends with nannies and while it would be a sensible option for pick ups/drop offs/extra curricular supervision etc our mothers would probably write us out of their wills so I actually think a longer school day would be a good option. I have arranged introductory suzuki things on weekends as this is something I could not rely on someone else for drop offs, but doing other activities at school sounds ideal.
A practical note of caution. In some areas - though not all - it can appear that there is a wide choice of state schooling, because there seem to be lots of schools.
HOWEVER, there may only be one - or indeed not even one - that you have any chance of getting into, and this is worth looking into really carefully as part of your state / private research.
Many primary schools in built-up areas have genuinely tiny 'catchments' (ie areas that children are admitted from each year - few areas of the country still have catchments which guarantee entry to a particular school). Our local primary, a 2-form entry school (ie 60 children per year) that we can see from our house, would have taken its furthest non-sibling from just over 100 metres from the school a couple of years ago. Even though it chose to admit a bulge class, so 30 more children, the furthest admission distance only went up to 400m or so. This is less than half the distance to the next school, also very popular, so a whole group of families could not get in to either school, despite living less than 4-500m from both.
In your shoes, I would work out which state primaries - if any, both faith and community - you would stand a realistic chance of getting into (bearing in m mind that the increased birth rates mean that effectie catchment areas are shrinking year on year at the moment) and then compare those schools only to the private options. It would be only too easy to be seduced by a great state primary that you stand no chance of getting into.
If you DO have a decent state primary accessible to you, then I would go for that option first. Much easier to transfer to private e.g. at pre-school age (perhaps with a little extra-curricular tutoring) than to go the other way.
We do state + masses of extra-curricular. It's busy, but it works really well for us, as where we live the extra-curricular opportunities available in my children's preferred sports / activiies are of a quality that rivals the priovate school ones - in fact may of the children who attend e.g. my DD's ballet classes come from the local privates because their in-house provision is relatively poor.
(Oh, and our state primary has excellent before and after school provision, from 7.45 am to 5.45 pm - so longer 'in school' time is not just a preserve of privates. The great thing about it is that if e.g. DD has an early ballet class, I can collect her at 3.15 or 4.00 or whatever, but if I need to work later - I teach - then she can stay in after school care until 5.45)
After and before school care free once the kids in the prep where I work is free. KS1 before school free but after school KS1 is a small payment, as they are activities rather than care. Our KS2/3 children can finish at 4.30pm, or stay and do their prep at school until 5.30pm, they can be looked after until 6.15pm (these children usually stay for supper). Do research how much before/after school care would cost for your preferred state school
I would go for the faith school. I have no idea which one you are referring to bit feel free to PM me and I may be able to be more specific. Almost without exception the schools of the faith you mention are good schools with nice like minded families. No, they are not as good academically as the highly academic preps but the are on par with the other ones and they all seem to get a steady stream of children into the top independent schools at 11. Extra curricular is generally good, the parents expect results and generally the schools deliver. The spiritual side of the faith schools you mention is amazing, it's impossible to put into words the gorgeousness and spirit of the religious occasions even if you are not religious and we aren't. I am incredibly pleased that the prayers, knowledge etc my kids have learnt will stay with them for the rest of their lives even if they decide not to use them.
In terms of only mixing with one faith, they mix with all faiths at extra curricular, football, drama, summer camps so I wouldn't worry about that. It's not hard to switch to prep if you aren't happy, and loads of parents come into reception planning to do just that yet few end up doing so.
Thank you all for your time and helpful replies, DH and I really appreciate having an outside view. Lesmisfan - thank you for your insight into jewish primaries. I realise this might be difficult to answer, but how heavy is the religious element generally? On the one hand, I like the idea of the twins going to school where judaism is the 'norm' and is just there iyswim? I'm not sure I can really put it into words, I mean that it would be nice for them to grow up with a jewish identity - but obviousy it's a minority religion in the UK so they won't be surrounded by jews in real life and I think it's important to have diversity? But that said, going to a jewish school isn't going to mean they never meet anyone else. It's a tricky one, both DH and I and our siblings went to secular or (v slightly) CofE schools and I have tremendous respect for my parents in that they left it to us to figure out our relgious stance. They are fairly religious but liberal, and we are much more liberal but with a religious element too. I'd like to allow the children the same freedom to explore their identity - I'm not saying a jewish school wouldn't cater for that though...can you tell I'm really unsure and confused about this?! From what I remember as a child I went to the local prep which happened to be a) very good and b) where most of the other kids went, and when the time came for CE my parents helped me pick my favourite and off I went. I'm sure it isn't really more complicated now?
The religious side is part of everything about the identity of the school, it is what defines the warmth and spirit of the school which I have never seen replicated anywhere else but the religious mix of the children is huge from those who are observant-ish to those who are entirely unobservant and have a parent of a different faith They learn by osmosis and my children have a far better knowledge than I ever had yet they totally understand that what they learn at school isn't necessarily part of our everyday life. They still understand Xmas and Easter, know xmas carols etc even though they don't learn it at school and they have no issues whatsoever mixing with children of other faiths, cultures and races.
What they don't have though, is an appreciation of people from a different economic background. Most families are affluent and more than able to afford private education therefore, my children do think that holidays to far flung places, lots of days out, meals in nice restaurants and as many extra curricular activities as they want to do are completely the norm and have no idea whatsoever how privileged they are. They would most definitely get that understanding from the local state school but not from any of the prep schools.
Thank you for another very insightful post. Wasn't sure how to ask about the socio-economic mix so am doubly grateful for this! I'm also very glad to hear that the children know that the school"s approach to religious matters is just one approach and that there are many other, equally valid approaches including no religion at all - that's something I feel is really important.
Virtually impossible to write anything meaningful on a blackberry so will reply properly later.
Thank you all for your time - apologies for the delay in getting back, things have been hectic!
DH and I are in the process of arranging visits to a handful of preps just to get a feel for what it's all about etc but this doesn't mean we've discounted the state option. I just want to know that the provision in a prep school is worth the cash!
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