Please be frank: is paying for prep/junior school worth it?

(279 Posts)
IHideVegInRice Sat 20-Apr-13 00:40:19

Hello, continuation from my previous thread but with a more specific question! We have mixed sex twins - while private is an option at this stage, the local faith school is pretty good.
What can a prep or private junior school offer my DC that could not be matched by state + extra curricular activities?
Looking further ahead, would they be disadvantaged when applying for highly ranked public schools (if we/they feel this is right) later on if they did not attend private school at primary level?
Thanks!

MTSgroupie Sat 20-Apr-13 01:40:13

Some people will spend £7 on a takeaway that they can cook themselves for £3 if they could be bothered to go shopping or to do the shopping.

Same with prep schools. They don't offer anything that you as a parent can't do yourself IF you have the time and the inclination.

Having said that, prep schools will prepare your DCs for the 11+. A lot of primary schools don't. So, if you are thinking of applying to a highly selective secondary school, private or otherwise, then you will need to tutor DC yourself.

Lonecatwithkitten Sat 20-Apr-13 07:58:16

It really depends on the prep school you are looking at. In my case my much greater use of independent learning that local schools and much greater language exposure French, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin studied between reception and year 6. And finally much greater sport 7 hours 20 per week in school.
Not all schools are the same this is only for me a direct comparison with the other primaries available to me and the particular school I choose with reference to my own child.

bulletpoint Sat 20-Apr-13 08:08:33

Your children will not end up at a 'highly ranked' public school if they never went to prep school, it is marginally possible but highly unlikely. The top public schools begin at year 9, meaning your children will have to sit the 13+ common entrance exam, only prep schools prepare for this.

scaevola Sat 20-Apr-13 08:20:02

What a prep can offer depends on the prep. If you local state school was 'pretty dire', rather than 'pretty good', you'd be considering this question in quite a different way.

What you have are schools where you think you could secure places (by admissions criteria or nice fat cheque) and you need to take the funding out of the question. Think instead about what elements you'd like to see in your DCs education and then see which school offers the closest thing to it.

The bigger 'higher ranked' private schools BTW usually have additional entry routes for those not being prepared for CE. So I wouldn't worry too much about school transfer yet. Though of course, as there are usually no SATS results standardising prep school performance, you need to enquire about leavers' destinations as a rough measure of academic level.

bulletpoint Sat 20-Apr-13 08:20:09

Just to add, the first thing you need to decide is what kind of senior school do you want your children to end up at ? There are plenty which only require the 11+ or equivalent exam, in this case i agree it is possible to go state and prepare for the exam via external tutoring, but if you're thinking ' top public' your only choice is prep school i.e goes up to yr 8. People tend to confuse private primaries with prep schools, private primaries only go up to yr 6, these are not really preps.

AvrilPoisson Sat 20-Apr-13 08:41:32

It depends entirely on the individual schools concerned!
Your DC would be disadvantaged if you expect them to sit CE after state primary/2 years secondary.
If you want them to go to selective secondaries then that is certainly possible from state in some areas, but highly unlikely in others.

AvrilPoisson Sat 20-Apr-13 08:44:36

Oh, and could you guarantee a place in your local faith school? For ours, even the devout must live within 240m of the front gate!

MTSgroupie Sat 20-Apr-13 09:04:44

In that case bullet you need to have a word with the Sunday Times. Our 'private primary' was Prep School of the Year a little while back AND it goes up to Year 6.

The 'prep' feeds into the senior school in Year 7 but there remains a 13+ entry for other 'traditional' preps.

Slipshodsibyl Sat 20-Apr-13 11:26:33

If by top public school we are referring to the top twenty in tables then it is possible to get in from non- traditional schools as I and friends have children who have done it at 13. the schools test for potential at 11 (year 6) then if you get an offer your child need to pass CE at 13 which can be done either by employing tutors (many will work via skype now) or by working hard yourself. It helps to have your child at a very good secondary for years 7 and 8. The children have been able and keen though.

It would be easier to go to prep school or to go to a selective secondary which starts at 11. A number of very well known schools bypass CE and allow non prep children to take their own exam which doesn't require children to have followed the CE syllabus. You can easily check which they are and whether they match your idea of a top school as we all tend to have different ideas about what that means.

If you are keen don't assume this is not a possibility for non prep children but be aware there will be a fair bit of effort involved from you and your child.

lesmisfan Sat 20-Apr-13 14:55:57

I have replied to your previous post. As I have an indication of the schools you may be considering I am assuming you are looking at preps until 11 followed by good independent day schools. The honest answer is that you gain very little by going private at primary, some more sport and art essentially and certainly more homework and a lot more testing from year 3. I am not aware of any of the local preps offering many languages and certainly no mandarin or Latin. You would absolutely 100% be able to top up any of the schools you have alluded to with a good tutor, that is what everyone does. Every year the children who sit for private schools from good state schools get into the top private day schools in the area, the tutors have many children from the good state schools coming to them and the private schools are very receptive to these children. If you go private you will still be tutoring, everyone does and you won't want to fear that you will miss out.

difficultpickle Sat 20-Apr-13 15:23:40

Quite a few 'highly ranked public schools' offer their own exams for dcs who are in the state system and therefore won't do CE. Perfectly possible. Probably easier though to go through the prep system as a good prep will give guidance on suitable senior school chocies.

If you are looking at senior day schools rather than the likes of Eton, Winchester, Harrow etc then lots of those start at 11 and will take in a share of pupils from state schools (still have to do an entrance exam).

The only real difference between prep and state at primary age is smaller class sizes (although not always the case), access to a range of extracurricular activities, better wraparound care provision. You may also find that if you have a average ability child they may get more of a push at prep.

Mominatrix Sat 20-Apr-13 16:37:27

I agree that it depends on what you want for senior school. We went the prep school route as it is the prep division of a top 5 nationally senior school, and we would avoid the 11+/CE route (there is an internal exam for passage into the senior school, but it is more of an exam you would need to fail, as opposed to an exam you need to pass). However, to enter into this prep, there was the matter of a highy selective 7+/8+ to enter. As I am not confident enough to home-prepare DS for this, he started in a pre-prep which did an excellent job getting him up to speed for that exam.

happygardening Sat 20-Apr-13 18:13:10

Some preps are just like primaries with smaller classes ridiculous uniforms no specialised teachers games once a week. Those charging £7000 + a term will have specialised teachers for nearly all subjects from at least yr 3 science labs language labs DT suites art rooms music departments some have golf courses, ponies, shooting ranges, squash court and large covered swimming pools are obligatory. There will be at least one MFL 4-5 times a week from yr 3 Latin 4-5 times a week from yr 4 no literacy and numeracy hour Then theres a whole raft in between. It all depends what you want and how much you want to spend.

mummytime Belgium Sat 20-Apr-13 18:36:09

It depends as in all cases on the specific schools involved. Some children from DCs state primary even go on to Prep for a couple of years to do common entrance.

LePetitPrince Sat 20-Apr-13 20:01:54

It very much depends on the individual schools.. It seems to be so difficult to get a decent state school in London that is equivalent to a prep (there are obviously some exceptions), but very possible outside London.

teacherwith2kids Sat 20-Apr-13 20:27:09

Locally (not London), there are 2 types of private primary / prep schools.

Type 1 goes up to 11, and their chief raison d'etre is to prepare children to take the 11+ to enter state grammars (of whom there are a few locally), with a sideline in sending girls to the local all girls private, which obviously starts at 11.

As local state primaries are good, and the grammars draw mainly from state primaries (so having done e.g. more languages or separate sciences isn't critical when starting secondary), there is little advantage of such primaries over and above state school + 11+ tutoring (at home or professional). Unless, of course, your child is the type who will genuinely need 7 years of focused preparation to stand a chance of passing the 11+ OR your picture of 'a good education' is children in immaculate uniforms sitting in silent rows of desks being talked at by a teacher and taking dictation using a fountain pen...

Type 2 go up to 13, and are attached to the traditional 13+ entry schools, which are now mixed but were boys' schools. They take extra classes in at 11 - one of them I believe doubles in size at that point - but they do offer some advantages IF a child's eventual destination is the senior school attached - almost automatic transfer between schools, an extraoridinary amount of sport (the senior schools have poorer academic results than the local comprehensives but their sport is VERY impressive) and some subjects - e.g. Latin, languages - that a child transferring at 11 or 13 would have to pick up.

So I would start from a secondary school choice, and work backwards, thinking about when the 'big' entry points are e.g. 7+? 11+? Locally, I wouldn't bother with the 'to 11' privates unless I happened to live in one of the few areas with a genuinely poor primary, and would only bother tranbsferring to the 'to 13' preps at 11, because that is such a big entry point locally (they scoop up 11+ grammar school failures from the 'to 11' privates, as well as state school pupils looking to go to the senior schools)

IHideVegInRice Sat 20-Apr-13 22:15:56

Thank you everyone, much appreciated. It hadn't occurred to me to be thinking about secondary school and working backwards but actually it's really quite obvious so thanks for pointing it out. We are lucky in that there are a fair number of day schools in London, although boarding isn't a something we'd dismiss out of hand if the school was right - I boarded for sixth form and loved it, while DH boarded from 13.

Am I right in thinking that if we would like DS to try for schools along the lines of Eton/Harrow etc effectively our only option is prep to 13? But for the London day schools we'd be ok with a state school?
For DD we'd be looking at 11+ options or 13+ for co-ed I suppose, but regardless we would be sending them to the same school until 11 at least.

We have concluded that we'd be more than happy with our state (faith) option as long as it would be the best preparation for the DCs' secondary transfer -so if we decide on a good day school, this would be fine, but if we go for the public boarding school route, we need to find a good prep. Hill House, anyone?

happygardening Sun 21-Apr-13 01:06:28

I don't think you absolutely have to be in a prep for entrance into Eton/Narrow et al. It's easier certainly as good preps know what the individual schools want but it's not essential and as already said most now offer alternatives to CE for those from state schools. If on the other hand you were trying for a scholarship into Eton or somewhere similar you would be very pushed to get your DS up to the required level if he was at a state school unless you were prepared to spend your every waking spare moment tutoring him.

kimmills222 Sun 21-Apr-13 06:29:08

When the kids are sent to prep they get familiar with the environment outside and also open up with other children. It is always a plus for them.

teacherwith2kids Sun 21-Apr-13 09:22:31

Public boarding school would probably need a good prep for a few years - but not necessarily a pre-prep. One possibility might be state for infants, then prep for juniors - or state primary, prep for a couple of years to prepare for 13+.

(Anecdotally, relative bitter that after spending much money on several children at mediocre pre-prep, eldest of said children has not made 7+ or 8+ entry into prep school, while several children from the good state school round the corner have made exactly that transition with ease ... possibly worth asking the state school of your choice whether they have had any experience of their pupils moving at 7+ to prep)

happygardening Sun 21-Apr-13 10:19:17

I know 2-3 children at my DS2's school have come from state senior and a few at other public boarding schools so it is doable but I think it can he a bit of a culture shock not just boarding because plenty from preps haven't boarded but it's a huge change in ethos.

LittleFrieda Sun 21-Apr-13 10:21:37

Why not send him to a prep school at 11?

LittleFrieda Sun 21-Apr-13 10:26:13

One of our local prep schools sent a boy up to Winchester last year, he was state educated to 11 and transferred to the prep for two years.

happygardening Sun 21-Apr-13 10:32:34

The biggest problem with sending them at 11 is that if a senior school uses CE it could expect a child from a prep school to sit it and the problem arises with the MFL which I am reliably informed is very much equivalent to GCSE. Remember most children at prep have been learning at least one MFL (usually French) since yr 2/3 not half an hour of singing a week but proper French lessons, Latin is also required by some schools as well again prep school children will often have been doing this regularly since yr 4. Its not impossible and some senior schools will allow you to not sit these subjects but parents need to beware that it could limit your choices and certainly impact on scholarship exams into super selective schools.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now