school dilemma (long)

(38 Posts)
brushyourteethNOW Mon 10-Mar-14 22:59:14

Ds is 8yo. He has just been through the selection process for a boarding prep school and has been offered a place. He's not sure about it: he loves his current school and when he spent a day at the potential new school he said the lessons were like y2 lessons. However, ds really likes his music to the point of being obsessed and the new school is fantastic in this respect.

It will be very hard for us to pay the fees but we can do it in theory if we are very frugal. We don't have to pay full fees so it would be "only" around 10k pa. But then it's not as if we can find that sort of money down the back of the sofa...

I'm not sure what to do. The music would be fab for ds and he'd love that. But he's happy now. He might always resent it if we didn't take the opportunity. But it will be really hard financially if we do. And is it worth paying such a huge chunk of the family income so ds can do lots of music?

I think the new school is probably similar to his current (fantastic state) school in terms of academic standards. He'd finish in y8 and there is no chance we'd be able to send him to an independent school afterwards so we'd be trying to get him a place in a local school for y9.

And on top of this is the boarding. I'm sure he'd cope but I would miss him awfully. Now I have written this it seems all the arguments are pointing to keeping him at home. He won't have this opportunity again though - it is start this school at 8yo or nothing.

What to do?

ooerrmissus Mon 10-Mar-14 23:02:47

From what you've put, I'd keep him where he is and spend a fraction of the fees on music lessons.

You say it's a great opportunity but the academic standards are the same, he isn't sure he wants to go, you'd end up looking for a place at a state secondary 2 years after all the friendship groups are established, and you'd miss him like hell??? Doesn't sound like an opportunity to me.

LePetitPrince Mon 10-Mar-14 23:04:18

I wouldn't take the place at boarding school. Instead I would pay more more music - concerts, music groups, extra tuition..
Unless he was DYING to go and the academics were better, it sounds like he is not going to gain that much from the experience

noblegiraffe Mon 10-Mar-14 23:05:51

10k would buy a lot of music lessons and you'd get to keep your DS at home in a school that he loves.

Picturesinthefirelight Mon 10-Mar-14 23:12:09

I think I'd keep him where he is

I have a dd at a specialist boarding school (dance) however she's a day girl, is similarly obsessed & turned down a place at a more selective academic school to go there.

But the biggie for us was that she wasn't happy at her old school. If your do is happy, plus he is much younger, I'd spend the money on music lessons/groups/summer schools.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Tue 11-Mar-14 00:14:14

It does sound a bit pointless if there is no intention of prepping him for public school (or grammar school....) Especially if it would be a step down academically.

But what was in your mind when you entered him for the selection process? What made you choose this particular school? Are you sure there isn't one that might offer music and a high enough academic standard to make the move worthwhile? With a clear plan for the right senior school?

brushyourteethNOW Tue 11-Mar-14 06:48:03

At this school ds would be a cathedral chorister.

If he stayed at home he would do the grammar school test in y6 as we live in an area with grammar schools. But there are other schools locally if he doesn't pass the test (the music opportunities aren't as good though).

If he goes to the new school we would try to get him a place at one of the grammar schools in y9.

summerends Tue 11-Mar-14 07:02:30

Are you able to travel to a junior department for music at the weekend instead? That would allow him to immerse himself in high quality music without needing to board. However if singing is his passion then being a chorister would be a wonderful experience for him although time consuming and in this case the necessity to board so young. There are quite a few very academic choir prep schools so it sounds as though he has been unlucky. Also, should n't he be receiving a major remission in fees as a cathedral chorister?

summerends Tue 11-Mar-14 07:07:10

Sorry, missed the 'reduction' to 10k. Grammar school entry at year 9 is not easy.

brushyourteethNOW Tue 11-Mar-14 07:10:17

We looked at the fees for other choir schools and they were on a par with this, if not more. There was another boarding school we would have considered but they had already filled their intake this year.

Thepoodoctor Tue 11-Mar-14 07:14:09

I have a nearly 8 year old and would also miss him like hell were he to board.

However on the other side, I went to a cathedral choir school and the musical training is pretty amazing. I stand to be corrected but I think you would have to pour a lot into extra lessons and activities to replicate what he'd get there. I suspect the opportunity to be with a lot of other very musical people day in day out is important too.

How far is the school - could you visit and hear him sing? And how does DS feel about boarding?

Clobbered Tue 11-Mar-14 07:17:15

Choir schools vary a great deal in the amount of support they offer their choristers for their individual musical development (rather than training them together as a fantastic choir). However, they do offer the most amazing opportunities for those who love the life. It's not the only way to immerse your child in music though, and most cathedrals have youth choirs or similar arrangements to allow older children or ex-choristers to continue their involvement.
I'd be wary of removing a child who was happy at his current school and putting him in an unfamiliar boarding environment where you have no way of knowing whether he will settle or be happy. £10K a year buys you a lot of lessons, instruments, holiday courses etc - certainly enough to keep a musical child satisfied. You could always consider a specialist music school when he is a bit older?
Plenty of kids from our local grammar schools go on to study music at uni or conservatoire and equally, many of the ex-choristers at our local cathedral school do nothing more with their music once they leave….

meditrina Tue 11-Mar-14 07:19:08

Boarding as a chorister is quite different from other boarding.

What are the destination schools like for the choir school leavers? Some score major music scholarships to highly regarded secondaries. Is this musical path something you think would suit your DS and is he (burningly) interested in it?

For those boys who do not continue music specialism, what sorts of destination schools do they move on to? I'm not suggesting you change your tack for move at 11+, but it will give you a feel for the academic level of the school and whether DS's impression of his taster lesson is likely to be accurate enough.

brushyourteethNOW Tue 11-Mar-14 07:22:20

The school is one hour away. Ds is very confident and I'm sure he would settle into boarding. He'd miss us and he'd miss his old school but I know children settle in at new schools after a while.

It's just a question of whether we push ourselves into 5 years of frugality and uncertainty about secondary school transfer so that ds can sing. It's a bit of a head vs heart decision.

summerends Tue 11-Mar-14 08:10:38

Could you explore further fee remission or if bursaries are available if needed later?
The academic standard of the school is a concern if you think it is poorer as he won't have the time to catch up any deficiencies within the boarding chorister timetable.
However if he really loves singing then it is difficult to say no. If he is more likely to be an instrumentalist then he would have more time for that outside a choir school but would n't be surrounded by as many like-minded friends in the school week.

brushyourteethNOW Tue 11-Mar-14 08:50:15

It's not that the choir school has poor academic standards - the children get through common entrance after all - it is just that ds said the work the children did was easier than his own school, and he'd found the maths questions very much like things he did last year. We are blessed with a very lovely village school so I wouldn't dream of going down the route of private education if it wasn't for this.

It's 10k a year, uncertainty about secondary school transfer, the possibility he'll tread water in his academic work (maths particularly) when we have a great school on the doorstep for free and he'll have a chance of grammar school.

Or singing, which he loves and will find fulfilling and provide him with the best possible musical education for a child his age.

On the money thing I don't think we could get a bursary as private schools expect parents to make some sacrifice to pay the fees. It's not as if we have an extravagant lifestyle - we have had 2 family holidays in the last 8 years, self catering in the uk, and the house is in a bit of disrepair while we are paying for nursery for a younger child, but once we stop paying nursery next September the savings on nursery fees could go on ds school fees.

Picturesinthefirelight Tue 11-Mar-14 08:52:57

Is there any possibility that he could commute. I don't say this lightly as dd commutes to her specialist school an hour each way & it's hard with the hours involved & Saturday school for her (Sunday for him I guess)

But at least you'd get to keep him at home.

But going back to your OP - he isn't sure he wants to go & he loves his current school. My dd was adamant she wanted to go & she was unhappy at her current school.

Martorana Tue 11-Mar-14 09:00:55

Just to say you are very unlikely to be able to get him into a grammar school in year 9- so you really will have to have a Plan B. Is there a cathedral choir he can get into without being part of the choir school? (The one near us has some places on that basis)

mummytime Tue 11-Mar-14 09:07:05

I would seriously look at the alternatives. What other opportunities are there for him more locally. Church/Cathedral Choirs (not all board) other youth choirs, Orchestras? (A lot of Choristers do miss out on the Orchestra experience). Exactly what other music does the choir school offer (sometimes it is limited because of the amount of time in choir). What about sport?
I would also strongly recommend looking at Saturday Academies. They may provide far more in terms of music.

Also what will you do if in 5 years he says he wants to do something else?

On the plus side, a lot of Choristers do go on to Music scholarships at top schools.

CharityCase Tue 11-Mar-14 10:13:36

I think you need to talk to the school about the 'what next' plan- what have boys in his situation done historically. It may be that they have a good record in getting scholarships to secondary schools.

Also, do you have other children? Does spending this money on ds limit their opportunities?

brushyourteethNOW Tue 11-Mar-14 17:00:39

Commuting isn't possible. The choristers have to board and the rush hour into the city where the school is, is horrendous.

The school has a fantastic record of choristers getting music scholarships to public schools. The thing is, these tend to be worth about 5% of fees, which leaves 95% to find. And with 2 younger children that wouldn't be fair even if we could afford it.

Spending the money on ds will mean everything is tighter and more frugal, so we will continue to have a kitchen that's falling apart, rusty old cars and not much in the way of holidays. So it will affect the other 2 but dd is at nursery now and when she finishes we will be better able to find the fees and it will get easier.

In 5 years I'm not worried if he doesn't want to be a musician - he'll have done something amazing and fulfilling for 5 years. Singing is an end in itself, and from what I've seen choristers tend to reflect very positively on their time in a choir.

We chose this school over a more local one because the boys get scheduled time for two instrumental practices during the day - some schools don't do this. The general standard of music at the school is very good and some of the stuff the choir tackles is breathtaking.

And there aren't any cathedral choirs nearby without schools attached.

Floralnomad Tue 11-Mar-14 17:08:39

Did you apply because your son wanted to or because you wanted to ?

celestialsquirrelnuts Tue 11-Mar-14 17:17:46

It's a long shot but are you near oxford? If so have you looked at Radley college? That has an excellent choir for 8yo up, but is a couple of evenings and Sundays only, term time only, so a) you stay at your current school b) don't have every christmas and Easter ruined by services and c) still have the benefits of a fantastic musical education.

If you aren't near oxford that won't help you but just thought I would check...

brushyourteethNOW Tue 11-Mar-14 17:17:49

Ds pestered us to take him for a voice trial. That's what's led to this dilemma.

I'm trying to get an understanding of the opportunity that we could be throwing away. Balanced against my adored ds away at boarding school and it costing us £10K per year.

Will your other children be affected financially by this opportunity that is only going to benefit one of your children? Whilst I am all for giving a children different opportunities depending on their abilities and personalities, I would not let my younger child suffer because all our money was tied up in the older one.
Even if your younger ones aren't able to go to choir school etc, they shouldn't be restricted in their own chosen activities if money is tight from paying school fees for their older brother.

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