Pre-Prep - builds foundations or complete waste of money?

(64 Posts)
Phoenix78 Mon 27-May-13 13:29:09

I'd be interested in people's views on this as I am undecided.

I know from my own experience that I barely remember by pre-prep days other than winning an award for a poetry reading and learning how to count in French. I believe the main positive influences in shaping my character, aspirations and willingness to work hard came from prep school.

I wondered how many felt that education at ages 4 to 6/7 were key years in determining a child's blueprint.

How important is it to you and why?


ReallyTired Fri 31-May-13 19:25:07

I remember being bored witless in music lessons in a private secondary school as the teacher was spending her time teaching music theory and I was grade 2 standard in two instruments at the age of twelve. Inspite of the fact that there were one or two girls of grade 7 standard in the class the teacher still spent her time explaining the difference between a crochet and a quaver.

A friend of mine who was really gifted at music went to Trinty Guildhall on Saturdays for her music. The private school offered her nothing musically as there are very few twelve year olds of grade 7 standard.

Music lessons at state primary are pretty non existant. Which in many ways is preferable to having really dire music lessons. I feel children learn better with music lessons outside school as they can go to an orchestra/ choir/ emsemble that suits their ablities.

Many music groups that my son attends/ has attended are heavily attended by private school children.

wordfactory Fri 31-May-13 19:33:22

teacher there is some research somewhere (I'll see if I can dig it out at some point _not tonight-apologies) that shows private school outcomes versus state school outcomes including SATs.

I know many private schools don't bother with them. But those that do, are included I think.

The data shows that DC in private schools do better (on the whole) right from the first Key Stage. Though of course you have to factor in SN and how that affects the stats, I should think.

Mutteroo Fri 31-May-13 20:06:07

My DC went to a wonderful state Infant school which had Womderful grounds, small classes (20-23 pupils) & first rate teaching. The school as situated on the edge of a council estate with a large proportion of pupils getting FSM. We selected it over 3 more local schools which included 2 church schools & one highly sought after. For us the feeling of the school was important & in part so were the results. We picked a school which was on the up & don't regret that decision one bit. DD moved to the independent sector in year 9 & DS in year 7.

I'm glad we were not in a position to pay for independent schools for ages 4-7 because I feel we would have selected private thinking it was better & not even looked at the state options. Instead we found there was good & bad in both sectors of education.

teacherwith2kids Fri 31-May-13 20:07:14

Word, that's not quite what I mean.

The question is:
Do you do better by the end of schooling if you have been in private school for longer?

So of those who leave at 18, do those who have been private schooled since 4 schieve better than those who joined at, say, 11 or 13? Are the benefits cumulative each year, or can a child who movs to a private school at 11 on average catch up with a child who has been in a private school from the start of their school years.

That's slightly different from 'At 11, do private school educated children on average do better than their state school counterparts?' - which it would seem to me obvious that they should, as the average ability of their intake is higher at the point of entry (as someone earlier in the thread said, those who have made enough money to send their children private tend to have used their intelligence to make that money, and intelligence is to a degree inherited).

A more interesting question along those lines is, of course 'do private school pupils from exactly the same type of family background in terms of education and income, and with the same ability on school entry do better than their state counterparts', but even that wasn't the question that I was asking!

wordfactory Fri 31-May-13 20:16:38

Well I guess there might be a cumulative affect (?). If good teaching and small classes help outcomes for, say, two years, then I suppose one might assume it would help even more for fifteen years...

But I'm not certain you could measure that.

ReallyTired Fri 31-May-13 20:38:59

I think there are so many variables. Its not just family income or intelligence that affects how children perform - the most important is thing is the mindset of the family.

This research suggests that parental support is more important than quality of school for academic achievement.

Attending a good quality school does help, but good parenting can make up for a bad school. Certainly being able to read well is important and prehaps there is something to be said for concentrating resources in the early years were vital skills are learnt.

Xenia Fri 31-May-13 20:59:58

We all know that when women make sensible career choices that enable them to pay school fees their children (the 8%) get 50% of the best university places, make up vast numbers of high level jobs and do much much better in life than simply being 8% would ever manage. It is just about the best thing you can give a child aside from love. Whether you gain the same effect by say just moving to the private system for A levels or not I very much doubt. There will be some cumulative effect.

teacherwith2kids Fri 31-May-13 21:08:30

Word, tbh I think it would be fairly easy to measure - simply take the children at 18, divide them into cohorts depending upon point of entry, and compare the outcomes.

As I said in my first post, there are complicating factors about competitiveness of entry at different points, but if there genuinely is a strong 'private school effect' it should over-ride the small variations due to difffering ability at various point of intake into the same schools.

teacherwith2kids Fri 31-May-13 22:36:36

Interesting that you mention A-levels, Xenia. Even I had assumed that entry only at 16 might not confer significant benefit ... but then I thought about the many overseas students who do join many schools in the higher years and, in many cases, do so much to improve their headline exam passes.

So I refine my question still further 'Of those who are in private schools who would have been eligible for English state schooling throughout their school years what is the benefit of being in a private school vs a state one if family backgrounds are the same, and how does that benefit increase over time?'

I have always thought, by the way, that stripoping out overseas students would make a much fairer comparison in league tables of secondary schools that compare private and state schools - after all, even the best state schools cannot go on a recruting round to the Far East or wherever to boost their cohorts.

teacherwith2kids Fri 31-May-13 22:41:02

(Of course, neither can private day schools - but many private boarding schools do. I suspect that some very well-known boarding schools would drop sharply in the rankings, while day schools from both sectors would rise to fill the gaps)

KarlosKKrinkelbeim Fri 31-May-13 22:44:53

Appalled - but sadly, not surprised - to find a teacher automatically equating SEN with low academic achievement.
My ds has ASD - is the best at reading and maths in his class in yes, a private prep school. Where I sent him, in part, to keep him away from ignorant, bigoted teachers who cannot shake their low expectations of children like him.
Couldn't think of a better way to spend my money, frankly.

teacherwith2kids Fri 31-May-13 23:03:52

Karlos, Apologies. As a parent of an able child with strong ASD traits (though no formal diagnosis) I understand exactly where you are coming from.

Of course, there are schildren who are on the SEN register who are very academically able. In fact, DS was put on the register initlally because he was so very able that special provision needed to be made, before ASD even came into the equation. But the fact tremains that, purely statistically, the majority of children on the SEN register are those who need additional help to learn and progress (especially as in many areas part of the criteria for being placed on the register is a gap between expected and actual progress and ability). Therefore statistically, a school where, say, 35% of children are on the SEN register has a higher proportion of children needing additional help to rach the expected standard than a school with 2%.

Within those broad statistics, yes there are very able children who also have SEN. Just as there are exceptionally academically able children who receive FSM and come from very troubled backgrounds. But taken as a statistical whole (which was how I was using the expression), having 33% more children on the SEN register than another school makes it harder - not impossiible, but harder, because of the additional needs of the children - to achieve particular benchmark results.

If you knew me in RL,saw my classes and met my family, you would know that I am absolutely the last person to have lower expectations of a child just because they are on the SEN register.

teacherwith2kids Fri 31-May-13 23:06:53

(I would also say, in relation tio your comment about a prep school, that several private schools - and indeed one outstanding state school - made it very, very clear that DS was NOT welcome, because of his ASD traits. I think the line used by the most brutal was 'well, he'd just have to shape up and be normal HERE')

teacherwith2kids Fri 31-May-13 23:12:55

Dredging my memory for other choice lines, I can also remember 'We don't have an SEN register here, of course, as we don't really cater for that type of child'.

The state school - legally in a more difficult position of course, went for the 'Well, I really think that DS would be happier and better catered for in a school with better understanding of his particular needs' line.

JoyMachine Fri 31-May-13 23:18:16

I don't have any research specific to independent schools... however, I know (from having analysed 45,000 children's end of key stage assessments) that changing schools has a negative impact on attainment, indeed, the larger the number of changes, the worse children perform (in relation to prior attainment).

If you cannot afford to remain in the independent sector (at least until 11) then I would hesitate from going into independent at 4.

It really depends on the schools available to you- there is no blanket statement that applies across the UK.

I do believe the first 7 years of life are the most important though.

teacherwith2kids Fri 31-May-13 23:31:58

Further comment to Karlos - because Iam genuinely sorry that the use of broad statistics in a post has caused an individual pain.

In my classes - which have contained up to 40% of children on the SEN regsiter - every child is an individual. I know that the child with severe mental retardation caused by an unknown genetic disease has very different needs from the child with pathalogical demand avoidance, from the child with foetal alcohol syndrome and from the child with acute visual tracking issues. I know the barriers to making progress that each og those children has, and in conunction with support staff, SENCo and external agencies do my absolute utmost to enable every child to make the progress they are capable of - because although statistics like SATs are used to 'benchmark', what really matters is the progress made by each individual child every day. For one child, that progress might be recognising the first letter of their name. For another, it might be finding an environment in which it is possible to show their true mathematical ability without experiencing distress from auditory or visual stimuli.

But on a general statistical level, having 10 or 12 such children in a class of 30 makes reaching specific test benchmarks a harder job than it is in a class where there are virtually none and many children have tutors outside school to hasten their academic progress...

Xenia Sat 01-Jun-13 08:19:48

Most private schools are not bioarding schools and the day private schools have very very few overseas students. I cannot think of a single one in the classes when my older children were at Habs, NLCS, MTS so surely most of the private school results are not good because they have 30% Chinese in the class. I don't think over seas students warp figures therefore and in fact I'd always assumed the overseas ones tended to do worse in the boarding sector than native speakers and schools with a lot of them were schools that could not fill their UK places because there was not that much competition for entry and the school was not that good. Of course a school with the odd Arabian prince is a different - I mean boarding schools with 20 - 30% of all pupils boarding from overseas.

wordfactory Sat 01-Jun-13 09:55:36

Overseas students are concentrated in pockets. Schools that offer termly boarding. Not many left and not all that selective.

teacherwith2kids Sat 01-Jun-13 10:35:58

They may not be all that selective, but they probably include a fair handful of 'well-known names', especially outside London. I think that many of the remain all-girls' borading schools - CLC, Roedean etc - rely quite heavily on overseas boarders, and would be interested to know the proportion of overseas pupils at e.g. Oundle, Rugby etc, or even Eton and Winchester.

Not something that I have researched in detail, so I am quite prepared to be told that all those contain very few overseas pupils. I appreciate that the situation is very different in London.

happygardening Sat 01-Jun-13 11:14:12

We have lots of friends who didn't send their children to pre preps just used local schools often not rated ofstead "outstanding", they moved onto boarding preps at yr 3 the parents took the view that any problems/gaps will be sorted out by the prep school thats what your paying a ridiculous sums of money for. Nearly all have gone to very selective top independent schools including two who got the KS into Eton so obviously didn't do them any harm.
I'm not fully signed up to this get them reading writing math thing at 3 yrs old. DS2 didn't start school till yr 1 and its certainly not had a detrimental effect on his ability especially for math.

happygardening Sat 01-Jun-13 11:15:40

teacher I believe about 12% of boys at Winchester come from overseas. The head vision for Winchester is to turn in into an "international academic centre of excellence".

Xenia Sat 01-Jun-13 17:19:22

Yes, but even if the boarding schools were stuffed to the gills with overseas students as it is such a small % of private school children at boarding schools it would mean that the overseas element is not what makes the exam results so stunning. In fact with a few rare exceptions in the best schools those boarding schools with high numbers from overseas are the ones with falling numbers and which you would be best to avoid. I think some boarding schools has an unofficial % limit.

Post private school pupils are not in boarding schools.

teacherwith2kids Sat 01-Jun-13 17:35:10

Xenia, that's not what I mean in this particular case, though I agree that it does not shed much light on the 'length of time in private school - adds additional benefit or not?' debate..

I was pondering more about how the results of overseas pupils influence the position of individual private schools on local league tables, and their wider reputation.

I agree that in London, the 'big name' private schools are day schools - this is not the case where I live, where off the top of my head I name only one private secondary (certainly only one anywhere near the top 30 or so schools in the local league tables) without a boarding element. the others, through my observation, are possibly c.15-20% from overseas, in one case possibly more - and the latter, with an international reputation, is the only one that does better than the local comp.

Xenia Sat 01-Jun-13 22:05:21

On the basis many of these overseas pupils are usually not the brightest int he school but they are filling up places otherwise no one would take in mediocre schools and are a cash cow I would imagine they lower results not raise them particularly as the children are struggling with language issues but I might be wrong.

ReallyTired Sat 01-Jun-13 22:15:31

I imagine that boarding schools have a lot of army children who may have issues that affect their academic results. (Ie. anxieties that Daddy may well be blown up in Afghanistan or have been in loads of different state primaries before being sent ot boarding school.)

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