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selective independent, an option for my daughter?

(17 Posts)
masquerade Thu 31-Jul-14 13:27:31

I've just requested a prospectus for a local selective independent school after a friend mentioned I should look at it as a possibility for my daughter.

I've looked at the website and it looks, in theory, like a place where she could thrive. They have good academic results and also offer a wide range of extra curricular activities, but there is a lot to consider as it is not the obvious choice for us.

The school offers bursaries which would definitely be needed - the monthly direct debit is only a couple of hundred pounds less than my take home wage. The website states 'priority will be given to those who perform particularly well in the entrance assessment'. Dd is bright, she's easily working at level 5 at the end of year 5. She seems to have benefited from being in a composite class this year as mentioned things she'd picked up from listening to the teacher explain things to the older children. I don't know how this compares to what is considered 'performing well' by this school. The entrance assessment is computer based assessments in maths, vocabulary and problem solving, a piece of extended writing and a spelling test; I would say dd does well in all of those things and is well exceeding the national average (according to her report) in all of those areas (apart from problem solving, which isn't really assessed), but I don't know how that will measure up to what is expected by this school and how likely it even is she'd be offered a place/bursary.

If she were to get a place and be offered a bursary to attend would she be at a disadvantage socially alongside children from wealthier families? She's a lovely girl, happy and outgoing and makes friends easily at new places, but at school doesn't want to partake in any sort of 'pecking order', she often plays with the kids others don't want to - not out of obligation, she just takes people for what they are and maybe finds these kids easier to get on with. I want her to be happy and have an accepting group of friends, in some ways I think the smaller year groups at this school would suit her but only if the other children (and their parents) weren't too concerned about wealth and social standing. I have a profession, but in healthcare so I'm never going to be rich and its not the sort of jobs that's going to have me climbing any social ladders! I was a teenage parent, now a single parent, we live in area that isn't even currently served by the school buses in a small rented house; I'm imagining this is quite a different background to most of the families who have children at that school.

At the same time, would attending this school isolate her from the friends she already has, locally, through school and guides etc?

The ongoing financial commitment, not just to the fees but uniforms, school trips, extra-curricular activities is not to be taken lightly. Also relationship wise, if I were to meet someone over the 6-8 years, I would be asking them to take on that financial commitment too.

I'd love to hear opinions from anyone who has been in a similar position either as a parent or a child. Or just people who have children at a similar school, or decided against it.

Weirdly I have just remembered my parents wanted me to sit an entrance exam for a similar school when I was dd's age, I outright refused because I wanted to go to the same school as everyone else. I don't think dd would, she's already likely going to a different secondary school to most of her classmates and she's not bothered.

A few years ago I never would have thought I'd be considering this as an option.

Sorry it's such a long post!

middleclassonbursary Thu 31-Jul-14 14:22:24

My DS has done 10 years on a bursary, we are not hard up in the grand scheme of the things but we can't afford 35k a year. Over the 10 years we have channeled a lot of our disposable income into school fees.
Its inevitable that vast majority of his fellow pupils/friends are exceedingly wealthy Sunday times rich listers, minor royals, wealthy hereditary aristocracy etc, massive houses, swimming pools, expensive holidays and cars etc are the norm. We live in a nice very small old cottage but it's shabby and drive normal cars and are holidays are cheap. I can say with complete honesty it's never been a problem. Bursaries are confidential, I believe our HM knows, but none of the other teaching staff, my DS may have told some, I've asked my DS if it's a problem at his current school he assures me that few are bothered, any that are are also unpopular with others.
It's is a huge financial drain I'm not going to pretend it isn't! We've only a few years to go and it will be a relief when it's over. Yes you can buy uniform second hand (we do a mixture of both) but the kit list is usually significantly more extensive than it would be at a state school e.g. Two pairs of trainers, two pairs of shorts etc, sometimes it's easier to just buy knew ones (my DS is also an odd size) we pay for exams, text books, extra curricular activities etc. our extras bill recently arrived and it was in excess of £400 for last term.
To answer you final points:
If you meet someone and they live with you you might loose your bursary because they could take his income into consideration many will also ask you about your DD's fathers income even if he doesn't live with you.
You can obviously arrange for to meet her current friends when not at school just depends how dedicated you are we've kept up with few, but she will obviously make most of her friends at her new school.
I don't regret what we've done, I listen to him talking and know I've done the right thing, but I've never actually sat down and works how much we've spend over the years I feel it's best not to know!

ZeroSomeGameThingy Thu 31-Jul-14 14:48:40

When you say "local" do you mean "local to you or "a school exclusively attended by local children"?

I'm assuming that as you are considering this school you feel there is something lacking (for your DD) in her current school? If so you need to find out about more than just one alternative.

If you think she could do more - academically or in extra-curricular things somewhere else - your first task should be to find some other schools to compare this independent school with. Is it the best in the area? (State or private.) Fee paying schools are a big committment, however large the bursary, so it would be a shame to find out once committed that there's another even better school twenty minutes away...

Ideally you'd want three or four to visit. All suitable as to selectivity, financial security, ethos etc, etc. All your other queries would fall into place after that.

inthename Thu 31-Jul-14 16:13:36

agree with both posters above, compare it objectively with the other options, then see what you would be gaining for what you would be likely to be asked to pay (few bursaries are 100% and as the others have said you do need to price up uniform and typical extras like school trips which will be more than state schools) and also consider what their results are like - ' private' doesn't always equate to 'better' so check results carefully.
I moved ds from state to private in yr 5, hes loved it. I'm also a lone parent. Do be aware as middleclass said that the independent school may request your ex husbands signature and financial details (some are more able to see around this than others depending on the forms they use)
Its always worth making the enquiries as someone has to benefit from the bursaries available so why not your dd

Soggysandpit Thu 31-Jul-14 20:05:40

Also do remember that fees tend to rise by 5-10% per year so you need to factor that into your calculations.

middleclassonbursary Thu 31-Jul-14 20:16:52

You're right soggy fees do rise annually but I personally have never known then rise by 10% off the top of my head I would say that about 5% pa is the maximum ours have ever risen by. IME bursaries usually take the rise is fees into consideration; our bursary slightly increases year on year because the fees rise yr on yr.

Greengrow Fri 01-Aug-14 20:24:40

Depends on the school too. Very selective academic day schools tend to have a wider mix of parental incomes than posh country side based boarding schools where the children have a wider range of academic ability. In our children's day private schools there are a wide range of parents including many who are not in any sense rich and might be pooling all family money to fund the one school place.

BadgerB Mon 04-Aug-14 06:05:19

My sister was/is a single parent and has educated her daughter in independent schools throughout with the help of bursaries. It was a struggle at times, but with the help of 2nd hand uniform and a judicious choice of which school trips to take, they have managed. Her DD has just finished university, and is a lovely girl. DSis says she would do it all again.

plumnc Mon 04-Aug-14 06:52:08

Sunday times rich listers, minor royals, wealthy hereditary aristocracy etc, massive houses, swimming pools, expensive holidays and cars etc are the norm

Ehhh no...

Whereas there are some schools like this, you will find that most selective indies have a wide social mix with a sizable middle of children of hardworking parents in good but fairly normal jobs. For most, every bill HURTS. I would visit and if you know anyone with children there, ask about the social mix ( the head will probably be quite happy to answer your question tbh).

Kenlee Mon 04-Aug-14 09:09:59

My daughter is in independent school....She loves it...

A quote from her...

"It doesn't seem that I am ever in lessons that much. Although I seem to know a lot more than when we use to work at my old school"

She thinks it just fun so things stick ....

O btw you have to match the school to your daughter. We went with non hot house but gets results. Great pastoral care. She is thriving and actually loves school.

Taz1212 Mon 04-Aug-14 11:23:03

I just wanted to comment on keeping local friends. DS commutes an hour each way to his private school. He has kept all of his local friends. He doesn't have time to go round to see them during the week but at the weekend and over the holidays, he meets up with them during all of his free time. He also swims in a local club and has a number of local friends through that.

DH and his family had been extremely dubious about his ability to keep his local friends this was used as a strong argument against going private but I grew up in a situation where I had friends all over the place and it never occurred to me that he wouldn't keep his local friends if he wanted to!

middleclassonbursary Mon 04-Aug-14 12:52:29

plumnc maybe I didn't make myself very clear I was not implying that all children at independent schools were like this, the point I was hoping to make is that whilst the majority of my DS's school friends are very wealthy, we are very normal but he has never felt "socially disadvantaged".
People applying for bursaries frequently ask a similar question I hope my experiences put their minds at rest. There are issues with being on a bursary but however wealthy or not the vast majority of your school peers may be this is in my experience a non issue and should not be a reason for not applying for one.
Good luck OP.

plumnc Mon 04-Aug-14 18:27:54

middleclassonbursary I get you - very valid point. Maybe that one sentence could be misunderstood and I didn't want the op to be scared off. In our school there are the odd very very wealthy, but more from 2up2down kind of homes. It seems around here all the indies are academically selective to a degree, but some more than others. Here it seems that the more selective are the less in-your-face rich and the least selective more so (think footballers).

Also in our school I would say you really wouldn't know who is on a bursary (although it's probably clearer that some are most likely is not). Unless the dcs talk about it themselves, nobody knows (including teaching staff) and nobody cares.

middleclassonbursary Mon 04-Aug-14 20:01:31

plumnc my DS's have full boarded since yr 2 on bursaries and one still boards at one of the most famous (selective) schools in the UK fees are 35k a year before extras. The advantage is big names have correspondingly big bursary pots but as only 10-15% of the school are on a bursary it is inevitable that the rest of the pupils don't come from 2up2down properties.
IME people who can afford that kind of money in school fees (and most have two kids at the very least either at his school or something similar) have correspondingly exceedingly lavish life styles but neither parents or children have ever made up feel inferior.
It is a useful life lesson my DS and I are very aware that that kind of money doesn't make you happier (in fact far from it) healthier or a better person and you can only live in one room at once!

plumnc Mon 04-Aug-14 21:08:53

middleclassonbursary I meant there are more 2up2down than insanely rich -not that the majority of the school is 2up2down. That is based on our specific school (top 10 day school, but I don't think that is particularly relevant). I simply wanted to point out to op that it is not all 'Sunday Times Rich Listers and aristocracy ( as with two dcs, in 6 years I haven't come across any of those at ours yet)'. IME paying for school fees does not necessarily equate to lavish lifestyle. It does for some but for others it equates to an otherwise very tight budget. But as I said, it varies from school to school and I'm hazarding a guess that in terms of parental wealth, boarding schools may be a notch up from day schools anyway.

Anyway, I think we both agree - that the social mix isn't that scary and the indie is definitely worth checking out if op thinks it may be good for her dd.

I'm off to enjoy some wine - Good Luck OP

Kenlee Tue 05-Aug-14 01:23:27

Actually Op you find the richer the kid's family are the less likely they will talk about money. The less likely they will have the newest gadgets or the fancy stuff. My daughter found that it was the poorer girls who would flash their stuff.

In fact most girls don't care about how rich you are. Well unless you want to be part of the self proclaimed popular girls. Who are all pruning and competing with each other.

Schoolsearchconsultant Sat 09-Aug-14 20:29:01

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