If you can afford private education but remain in the state sector...

(1000 Posts)
TheseJeansHaveShrunk Sun 30-Dec-12 08:59:01

It's going to be hard to avoid this becoming another state v private thread, but what I'm interested in is a slightly different take on that debate. It's not "which is better?" but "if you think state school is better even though you could afford private education, then why is that?"

The question is based on the assumptions that the DC in question is/are reasonably bright (so might benefit academically from academically selective education), that the state school is non-selective (as most people don't have access to grammar schools), and that you hope for your DC to go to a good university (to make the £££££ fees worthwhile!)

I've been mulling this over ever since I heard some maths professor from Cambridge talking on the radio about the age-old private v state inequality of Oxbridge admissions. He was all for improving access for state school applicants but said that the simple fact was that for maths, even the best state schools generally teach only to the A-level syllabus, whereas the best private schools take their maths/further maths A-level candidates well beyond the syllabus and so the state school applicants are at a huge disadvantage - they simply don't have the starting level of knowledge required for the course.

This made me wonder: with this sort of unequal playing field, if you have the choice of private education, what reasons might you have not to take it?

Would be interested to hear from those who've made this choice - how it's working out, or if your DC have finished school now, how did it work out? Did they go to good universities/get good jobs, etc? On the other side of things, if you paid for private schooling but now regret it, why?

My DC go to a state school by the way.

<Dons hard hat>.

anonnona Sun 30-Dec-12 10:04:35

The question is based on the assumptions that the DC in question is/are reasonably bright (so might benefit academically from academically selective education)

That is a big assumption. My DC are bright but not keen nor particularly interested. We sent them to private junior school so they would get all the advantages but they didn't make the most of it and they didn't get into selective upper schools. There was no way that I was going to throw good money after bad so they went to the local state school for secondary. You can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink.
They have come out the other end and are/have been at RG universities so we got to the required result without spending (further) £££££ which pleases me.
FWIW some of their cousins went to super-selectives and some of them bombed. They still ended up at University though and are now employed in graduate-level jobs. One in particular could have been considered Oxbridge material based on his 11+ result but, again, the mind-set was missing. The geek-gene must be missing from this generation!

Going back to your Maths example - you can always get your own personalised "well beyond the syllabus" from tutors for cheaper than school fees.

SandStorm Sun 30-Dec-12 10:06:26

I have one at state school and one at private - it all depends on the provision available. Our primary schools are good round here, secondaries not so much.

rabbitstew Sun 30-Dec-12 10:07:50

You appear to be ignoring the fact that not all private schools are the "best private schools." Plenty are absolutely useless at teaching maths in particular. If you don't live anywhere near the "best private schools" why would spending money on private schools automatically be better than using the state schools on offer? It all depends on where in the country you live, your personal circumstances, and your specific children. Children are not born a standard type any more than schools all fit a set mould. Parents with money have the luxury of shopping around for the "best fit," which not everyone feels the need for, and avoiding the God-awful, which the vast majority would like to be able to do.

Selky Sun 30-Dec-12 10:11:00

My state school is good - and just round the corner. At early primary I think my child benefits far more from having a short school day and local friends that any academic input. We are also close to a university so many children of academics so good, motivated catchment area.

Really no reason to go private.

Tincletoes Sun 30-Dec-12 10:11:33

Re your specific example...
My experience of secondary schools is limited as I have small children, but both my old school and our local secondary school (state) offer further maths.

You get good schools and not so good schools in both sectors. Anyone who thinks differently is just wrong.

And equally what makes for a good school for one child could be totally wrong for another.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 30-Dec-12 10:16:17

Because I have ideological objections to private education.

Why would the Maths course at Cambridge not start from the common end point for all school leavers? Surely that can't be right?

ChristabelChristmas Sun 30-Dec-12 10:22:30

I think this is a really interesting question which I am pleased to see, hasn't thus far, turned in to a bun fight!
My DC go to private school and this is for a multitude of reasons. 1). Both DH and I went to private schools and we had a fantastic experience and so we are sticking with what we know. 2). The secondary states here are not very good. 3). I used to teach in private schools and was always really impressed with the level of all round education (curricular or extra) the children receive.
In my view it's not all about academic results but there is a lot to be said for selective education if you have bright DC. What you have to consider is the breadth of ability which might be present in a non-selective school and whether the children are set or streamed in their subjects. If your children are in a mixed ability class in a non-selective school then the teacher might be having to cater for children capable of getting anything from an A* to a G. I know as I had to do that during my teacher training. This unfortunately means that the ones who are most able are often left to get on with it as they can and the help is given to the ones who struggle more. I'm not criticising - that's just what often happens, even if it ideally shouldn't. This means that children who might be capable of an A* or A might get a grade below as they aren't challenged as much as they need to be.
Hope this hasn't turned in to a bun fight whilst I've been writing this!

ChristabelChristmas Sun 30-Dec-12 10:26:18

TheFallenMadonna there is no such thing as a "common end point for all school leavers". The difference between a top A / A* and a borderline A/B is enormous. I would also point out that if you are studying at Cambridge then you have been selected because you are the very cream of the crop and so have achieved above and beyond the standard top grade level. The amount of extra reading and study which is necessary to get through an Oxbridge interview is enormous.

MotherOfTheBritishEmpire Sun 30-Dec-12 10:28:53

Our state school offers "academically selective" education in that it is streamed from yr 7. Teaching in top streams is in advance of NC levels. This is a benefit of true comps.

Dc take advantage of many out of school clubs which extend the curriculum, maths club, chess club, STEM, music groups.

I was at a private school, a school regularly recommended on MN, a popular academically high achieving girls day school. It was a stultifying cloying atmosphere that gave a false sense of security and did not equip me for the realities of the world, which I learned with a bump at University. My DC are actually more knowledgable and wise than I was.

I really hate the whole teach to the test culture that league tables has fostered. If DC will benefit from a wider deeper subject curriculum at A level I might consider private education, but would be more likely to look for teaching as a supplement to state school.

I hated the sense of obligation I had from knowing that my parents paid for my education. I hate the feeling that I got where I am with the help of a leg up. It undermines my confidence.

So, my experience of private school underpins our choice. And the fact that DC are thriving in the state sector. We are not so wealthy that we could afford private without thinking about it, so there is an element of having chosen not to take on financial strain. I am not anti private education per se or for others. If we need to or our position or circumstances change we might think again.

GrimmaTheNome Sun 30-Dec-12 10:31:53

>You get good schools and not so good schools in both sectors. Anyone who thinks differently is just wrong.

Absolutely. I went to a state school (tail-end of GS) which was better than the mediocre private DH went to.

So we considered all options (other than 'faith' - but that can be one reason some parents do choose state) for DD - private, local state comp and GS in next town. As it turned out she got a place for the last, and it was where she preferred (that is a very valid consideration - can affect the child's attitude) - results same as for the best of the private alternatives(and better than most of them) and better choice of subjects for dds technical bent ( GCSE options include electronics, comp sci in addition to the trad academic subjects). But most of her local friends - some of whose parents could afford private - go to the good local comp. Its on the doorstep and is a good school.

difficultpickle Sun 30-Dec-12 10:35:34

I know plenty of people whom have chosen state over private. Their catchment school has 20 to a class (ds's prep has 22) and is in the top 20 in the country. If I could afford to live in catchment and work school hours then I would too. It is a lovely village school that offers no wraparound care provision. They tried to offer that but there was no demand for it and after a year of trying they stopped it. The houses in catchment start at £600,000 and go to several million. They are also in catchment, although out of county, for a very good grammar school.

TheseJeansHaveShrunk Sun 30-Dec-12 10:40:03

Thanks for all your responses.

Rabbitstew, my question is not focused on "the best private schools" - that was the comment of the Cambridge professor, probably because Oxbridge students tend to come from the most selective schools. However, I have assumed that most people able to pay for private schools wouldn't pay for one that was just middling. The people I know whose children are educated privately are mainly in it for the better exam results. All the extra facilities and so on are nice but at the end of the day the main benefit seems to be better results. I didn't say spending money on private education would "automatically be better than using the state schools on offer". I've used the context of this professor pointing out that the best private schools take pupils beyond what state schools offer. Like I said, it's not a private v state debate, it's a question of "if you can afford a private school which offers more academically than the state school near you, why would you not?"

annonona, what you say is v interesting. One of the things I wonder about is the extent to which a "bright but idle" child might achieve more if in an environment where all the other kids around him are bright and hardworking, i.e. how much does the peer pressure to achieve as opposed to slack off count? In my own family there is an adult whose parents spent a fortune on private education but he was bone idle and just never did a thing at school - left with no A levels and still lives with his parents in his 30s. Obviously that would be disappointing as a parent. On the other hand I also know a family with a rather lazy child who has flourished in a private school. His mother says that it was moving from a (state) school where he just drifted along in the middle of a large class to a selective private school where classes are smaller and every pupil is expected to engage much more, that was the catalyst for him. Suddenly he really enjoyed school whereas before it was "boring".

It does seem that this is more relevant at secondary level when the big exams happen. I'd love to hear from MNers who can afford secondary private education but have stuck with the non-selective state sector. Is it true that an able child will do as well anywhere? Is there a confidence that private schools instil that perhaps state schools don't? What are the other differences?

RubyrooUK Sun 30-Dec-12 10:41:52

I got a scholarship academically to the local private school but my parents chose state education for me instead.

Why? These were their reasons:

They both passionately believed that if able children with interested, education-conscious parents are taken out of the state system, this means that it becomes a second tier system, which disadvantages everyone.

They believed that single sex education did not represent real life and it was better socially to attend a mixed school with both genders.

They wanted their children to attend a school with people of multiple different backgrounds as they felt this would create more rounded people with more insight into how other people live.

They felt that your home environment is the most important aspect of learning and as they were both big readers/loved learning, it was more important for school to have a social purpose.

Convenience - both my brother and I could attend the same secondary school but private would have meant different schools.

I'm glad they did choose the state school route for me. I made lots of close friends at school of both genders which has ultimately been more important to me than academic achievement. And myself and a group of friends were offered places at Oxbridge so it was fine academically too (wasn't an outstanding school on paper but very encouraging of individuals). Obviously I have no experience of private education though.

I could afford private, but have chosen state because we are in Scotland, where all secondary schools are what I think you call "comprehensive" - ie, even if a school has Grammar or Academy in its name, they only take children from their catchment areas and there are no exams to get in.

This means that we don't have the same disparity between good and bad schools that you have in England, and it also means that private schools are few and far between and are usually used by parents who need the wraparound care or whose children would benefit from a smaller class.

The private schools offer, on the whole, the same subjects and exams as state schools, but, granted, they often have more children coming out with five As. But private school background isn't necessary advantageous to get into a Scottish university, where many have quotas of students from a poorer background.

If either of my children were being bullied, I'd have considered a private school. Fortunately neither were. The money that I would have spent on private education has been spent on extra curricular activities, interesting holidays, theatre tickets etc. It will also pay for accommodation at uni.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 30-Dec-12 10:45:29

I don't know much about Maths, but I know a lot about the subjects I do teach (Science), and I know that the difference between an A* and a B is not content, but about approach and critical thinking (and exam preparation and technique to be honest).

I took the OP to mean that Cambridge Maths admissions tutors were looking for "knowledge" above that which is required in an A level.

GrimmaTheNome Sun 30-Dec-12 10:46:53

>Our state school offers "academically selective" education in that it is streamed from yr 7. Teaching in top streams is in advance of NC levels. This is a benefit of true comps.

Its a benefit for most children - however for some streaming (as opposed to setting) is disasterous. I know one boy who went to a highly regarded CofE secondary which streamed - he was really good at English but weak at maths (or maybe vv) so he got put in a low stream. His parents have moved him to a non-selective private (well, there's an entrance test but everyone we know who's taken it passes) where they don't stream but give more individual help.

As ever - depends on exactly what schools are available and exactly what sort of child.

rabbitstew Sun 30-Dec-12 10:48:54

TheJeansHaveShrunk - maybe best not to quote a Cambridge professor talking about maths in a tiny number of private schools if that is not what you actually want to talk about... as going beyond the curriculum and teaching extremely effectively to the test are two completely different things which you seem to be conflating.

kslatts Sun 30-Dec-12 11:11:16

We could afford private school for our DC's but have chosen to send them to state school. The main reasons are similar to the reasons that RubyRooUK was sent to state school:

We want them to have friends from different backgrounds.

We did not want a single sex school.

We think it's important for us to give the children experiences outside of school which will enrich their learning. For example, we took them on holiday to Kenya where they got to see animals in the wild, visit a local village and an orphanage. We would ratehr spend money in this way than on school fees.

TheseJeansHaveShrunk Sun 30-Dec-12 11:14:35

I disagree rabbitstew. Teaching to the test and going beyond the curriculum are naturally 2 sides of the same coin. The first is what has to be done as the bare minimum; the second is what is desirable but can only be done in a class setting if all members of the class have secured the essential knowledge to succeed in the test first. Ergo, in a mixed-ability class the wider teaching is less likely to happen.

The professor's comments were just the context of what set me thinking about this. His comments only applied to maths but the discussion as a whole obviously covers all subjects.

The wider comments made here are really interesting.

sleeplessinsuburbia Sun 30-Dec-12 11:23:57

I could have written rubyroo's post word for word!

ImperialSantaKnickers Sun 30-Dec-12 11:33:42

I like the mixture of backgrounds that ddtwins friends have from attending good comp rather than v. famous public school that's actually nearer (think Duchess of Cambridge). I also like the fact that we can afford tutors for the few odds and ends that are left over, principally art and music.
I also like the fact that our 1st XV routinely beats theirs at rugby!

rabbitstew Sun 30-Dec-12 11:35:00

So, you're talking about selective education, not state versus private?... or do you think private schools can get a wider range of children to the point where they have covered everything they need for the exam and can then go further - ie don't need to be as "selective"?....

rabbitstew Sun 30-Dec-12 11:37:01

Or do you think that any type of selection is really nothing more than selection by family background and that therefore ALL private schools are highly selective in a way that enables them to teach beyond the test?

rabbitstew Sun 30-Dec-12 11:46:26

In my opinion, whether teaching to the test and going beyond the curriculum are two sides of the same coin depends on the tests in question and whether a huge amount of credit is given for going beyond what is expected. You need intelligently marked exams to give credit to intelligent answers and my impression is not one of an exam system which allows much intelligent marking - certainly not given the volume and frequency of exams being taken. So I wouldn't pay for a private education just to bump up my child's exam results, which is what you imply most people you know are doing, despite then going on to talk about going beyond the examination syllabus. If a child capable of getting an A* gets a B, then I don't think they have very effectively been taught to the test.

TheseJeansHaveShrunk Sun 30-Dec-12 11:46:34

Yes, that's right rabbitstew. In my OP I said:

The question is based on the assumptions that the DC in question is/are reasonably bright (so might benefit academically from academically selective education),

Hence I was asking about academically selective private schools, not any private schools.

Not sure why you're being quite so aggressive? If you read my OP you will be able to see the parameters of my question clearly.

rabbitstew Sun 30-Dec-12 11:52:26

Sorry, TheseJeansHaveShrunk, I was just trying to clarify what you meant - at no point did you mention academically selective private schools in your OP, just private schools and the "best" private schools (do you assume best is always selective?). Also, if you re-read your own first paragraph, you don't talk about selective education there at all, you just refer in your second paragraph to children who MIGHT be bright enough to be able to benefit from an academically selective education, but preferably who are not doing so at the moment in the state sector. I think your opening was therefore a little bit vague and unclear....

MrsSalvoMontalbano Sun 30-Dec-12 11:54:57

OP do you live in London? I know many people who could afford indie but use state, just not those in London. Outside London is is possible to have a diverse intake - in London it seems more polarised. My DC were ata state school that was not at all diverse - consisted solely of families that could afford 800k+ houses, and not ethinaclly diverse. They now attend an indie with very poor (bursry) ver rich, lots of middling and very ethnically diverse. As with everything, ymmv.

anonnona Sun 30-Dec-12 11:57:37

One of the things I wonder about is the extent to which a "bright but idle" child might achieve more if in an environment where all the other kids around him are bright and hardworking, i.e. how much does the peer pressure to achieve as opposed to slack off count?

I say that it is down to the temperament of the child. In my example of the cousin who was clever enough for Oxbridge, he was in the "bright but idle" category. He was naturally cleverer than the hardworkers so he sailed through GCSE. The 'achieve or slack off' question didn't arise - he could do it anyway with minimal effort. He never learned to work but it caught up with him and he suffered the consequences at A Level. He floundered for a few years but has come right in the end. If he had worked at school he might have been a highflyer (Oxbridge, magic circle lawyer, financial whizz) but he isn't that sort of personality.

TheseJeansHaveShrunk Sun 30-Dec-12 12:00:23

rabbitstew, sorry if it wasn't clear. I did specify that I was considering non-selective state schools because most people don't have access to grammars, and I thought the reference to academically selective education within the context of "would you pay for private if you could afford to?" qualified the private schools I was talking about.

So, to refine things further, I think the real debate is selective v non-selective, but since selective education in the state sector is very limited, the question that applies to more people is: non-selective state v selective private.

MrsSalvoMontalbano, we live outside London.

anonnona Sun 30-Dec-12 12:11:09

some maths professor from Cambridge ... for maths, even the best state schools generally teach only to the A-level syllabus, whereas the best private schools take their candidates well beyond the syllabus and so the state school applicants are at a huge disadvantage

I disagree. I have a friend whose DD is very bright and got a scholarship. Although the school was generally good it was deficient in the DD's specialism, which was Maths. In fact, it was worse than that. The Maths teachers were intimidted by her ability and actually tried to put her down. However, because she was bright and moivated she got into Oxbridge despite these setbacks. She got her input from places other than school.

However I want to add the caveat that Oxbridge pupils are always a special case and a minority so you can't generalise from them. Your question OP would have more relevance if it wasn't restricted to Oxbridge candidates.

GrumpySod Sun 30-Dec-12 12:18:37

if you think state school is better even though you could afford private education, then why is that?

Not "better". Quite often in life I am satisfied with adequate by the time I consider all the other tradeoffs (many in our case), my kids don't always have to have the very best.

DH & I both attended mediocre state schools & got top results.

mellen Sun 30-Dec-12 12:24:44

I could send my DDs to private school. I don't, firstly because I think that the primary school that they are at is better than our local private school, and secondly because I know that already some universities will ask for higher exam results from certain private schools than from some state secondary schools. I don't want to pay for private secondary school if in the end they might have been better off in a state school, if all I do is raise the bar in terms of the qualifications that they have to achieve.

Elibean Sun 30-Dec-12 12:33:40

We chose state primary for our dds (in London) as, out of four local primaries we looked at (two state, two private) it was the one we liked the best. Mostly because of its ethos, and because of the enthusiasm and love of learning we picked up on our visit. We also loved the Head, who has since changed - but we still love the Head, so all is well!

RubyRoo's parents' reasons make sense to me too.

TheseJeansHaveShrunk Sun 30-Dec-12 12:36:09

The comments of the Cambridge maths professor were context only. I think the issue is relevant to all subjects, not just maths, and all "top" universities, not just Cambridge.

After hearing this interview, I looked at the Sutton Trust tables and some other research showing that regardless of universities' policies to widen access, it is still a fact that the majority of students at the best UK universities are for private schools. That depressed me, particularly given that I thought the universities set slightly lower offers for state school applicants than private school applicants to allow for the difference in opportunity.

happygardening Sun 30-Dec-12 12:37:40

We pay for 1 DS and send the other to a top performing comp. I am absolutely convinced that the one at the comp would not achieved any more in the independent sector or done anymore because of the person he is. I am also convinced that the one in the independent school (full boarding) may have achieved the same exam results in the comp perhaps not the same university as we've one (maybe even two) eyes on the Ivy League and his school sends a sizable number every year thats our personal choice but he would not have the same opportunities both intellectual and non intellectual outside and beyond the curriculum in any state school. For him as a personality this is essential

Arisbottle Sun 30-Dec-12 12:41:07

Out children are all at state schools and we could have afforded fees, especially if I had stayed in my previous career. We have also been offered the money for school fees.
Not in order of importance :
1) we believe in state education and don't agree with private education
2) we want our children at the local school ( this has not worked out for one who had to go to the grammar)
3) most of our children would be happier in a mixed sex environment
4) the local comprehensives are good and when it did not work out for ds there was the second best option of a grammar
5) DH and I got into Oxbridge from fairly crap to middling state schools, so if our children are of that calibre they can manage it from an outstanding state school in an age when the colleges are more open to state school applicants ,
6) DH and I do not need a private school to fill in the gaps of our parenting, we are very hands on and very supportive of our children's schooling and able to make a difference . Again both DH and I managed to get to a good university without such help so our children can do so without any boost from a private education - if it is a boost .
7 ) our children have a privileged upbringing as it is and we have to work hard to keep them grounded , I want then to attend a school with a cross section of people .
8) I would rather spend the money on things that make their childhood memorable . We have horses, the children sail, we travel etc.

fainche Sun 30-Dec-12 12:54:53

I have friend who is a graduate of St Paul's Girls and Oxford. She and her husband can easily afford private schools but have enrolled their children in a state school in the expectation that there will a state school bias for Oxbridge applicants when the children reach University age. If there are any gaps in the children's education, I don't doubt that she'll fill them herself and/or hire a tutor. She and her DH are both very hands on parents.

sleeplessinsuburbia Sun 30-Dec-12 13:10:42

Arisbottle you sound like a great mum.

creamteas Sun 30-Dec-12 13:13:13

I could afford private but would never consider it for similar reasons to those outlined above, including:

Ideological objection
Knowledge that educational outcome is predominantly related to parent's social class and secondly child's ability. School doesn't make a lot of difference
Passionate about schools being part of the community and therefore only considered catchment area schools (this criteria is above distance in our LEA)
Belief that education is about social as well as subject issues so wanted my DC to met people both like and unlike them in all sorts of ways.

Arisbottle Sun 30-Dec-12 14:15:14

Thankyou sleepless grin

Easy to make yourself look good on an anonymous forum . In reality I am often knackered and usually grumpy but my intentions are good .

TheseJeansHaveShrunk Sun 30-Dec-12 15:41:33

Arisbottle, I can totally see your point of view. My DCs are in the state sector and their friends come from a range of backgrounds. However, rather than give them a real sense of people coming from all backgrounds, so far they just don't really seem to distinguish between themselves and other people at all. Maybe that will change at secondary as they become more interested in "stuff" - mobile phones, iPads etc. Out of interest, do you work, or are you a SAHM?

A major benefit - aside from exam results - in some private schools seems to be that the school "does" everything (for a price) for the parents, which for working parents I suppose is easier. I work full time and my kids don't get to do much after-school stuff simply because there's no one to ferry them around.

Arisbottle Sun 30-Dec-12 15:53:13

I work, although I teach which means I can ferry them about if I need to , particularly as two children are at the school in which I teach, it will soon be three children. So some evenings I drop a child at an activity and then return to work until it is time to pick them up. I can also take my marking with me, so I can take them to an activity and work while they " play"

We also have a home help who drops the children at activities and the mother of our stepson also helps us ferry the children about. At least one child is doing an activity every day of the week.

My children are aware of the differences, although not my youngest who has only just recently started primary school. They have friends who live in council flats, friends who live in more average houses , friends like us who have larger houses and then friends who have swimming pools and huge houses and a drive full of cars. They can also tell when they discuss holidays after the summer.

CarlingBlackMabel Sun 30-Dec-12 16:04:51

MrsSalvo - We are in London. My children are in a state comp, an excellent school which is extremely diverse in every way, including socio-economic. In fact we have a good choice of 2 such schools from our address. Friends just over the borough border have the same experience, with 2 other schoosl. I know there are difficult areas re schooling and it's tough if you are in one, but the 'London Schools - Here Be Dragons' reputation is a bit over hyped IME.

wheresthegin Sun 30-Dec-12 16:10:03

I think it's all about what's on offer in your locality.

Elibean Sun 30-Dec-12 16:36:20

I know this isn't why you started the thread, OP, and I'm sorry for the mini-hijack, but I have to say....its lovely not to feel like the odd one out for a change smile

stayinginstate Sun 30-Dec-12 17:28:27

We can easily afford private and are close to some of the best private day schools in the country but are not even considering them despite having a child who would stand a good chance of getting a place. We also have one of the best comprehensive schools in the country on our doorstep. It is heavily streamed from day 1 so I am happy that they will be taught with other children of similar ability, the curriculum is broad, almost all of the sixth form continue to Russell Group universities and for the last 5 years they have sent no less than 15 children a year to oxbridge. The facilities are fantastic, the children who showed us around were enthusiastic ans clearly love school telling us it is a place where it is cool to do well. I sat behind 2 sixth formers on the bus a few weeks ago discussing the merits of applying to Oxford over Cambridge and which other medical schools they are applying for and it really reinforced my view that it is a school with high expectations of their pupils. My DC have many friends with siblings there who are doing very well and who I would be delighted for my DC to have as role model. I simply do not see the need to pay £15k per child per year for them to get a virtually identical outcome.

wheresthegin Sun 30-Dec-12 17:45:58

stayingstate - where where oh where do you live????? House prices must be sky high????

jessjessjess Sun 30-Dec-12 18:02:14

We are lefties who don't like the idea of going private and wouldn't even if we could afford it. Many private schools are too focused on league tables and results, and put too much pressure on pupils. I left a private school (I had a scholarship) after 3 years as I hated it and lots of my friends told me how lucky I was to be allowed to leave.

Personally I would prefer my children to mix with people from a wider range of backgrounds. When I think of my friends, the ones from private schools haven't done substantially better in terms of university entrance, income, professional success, any of it. I have friends from my state school who got into Oxbridge and friends from my private school who do poorly-paid jobs they dislike.

I would only consider private education if there was some special need for it. I do not believe it is "better". I don't like the idea that kids from wealthier families need to be kept away from riffraff like DH, whose mum is a cleaner, is the first in his family to go to uni and got all As at A level, to pick one example of someone for whom private education was never an option. I don't know what's more unfair, the ability to opt out of the state system or the idea that kids who can't are somehow not fit to mix with little Tarquin and Saskia.

wheresthegin Sun 30-Dec-12 18:18:50

I would only consider private education if there was some special need for it. I do not believe it is "better". I don't like the idea that kids from wealthier families need to be kept away from riffraff like DH, whose mum is a cleaner, is the first in his family to go to uni and got all As at A level, to pick one example of someone for whom private education was never an option. I don't know what's more unfair, the ability to opt out of the state system or the idea that kids who can't are somehow not fit to mix with little Tarquin and Saskia.


marialuisa Sun 30-Dec-12 18:22:44

I am puzzled by the parents of posters like Ruby, whose parents have clearly thought out objections to private schools but still enter them for the entrance tests. Why would you bother, especially as you have to pay to take the tests?

circular Sun 30-Dec-12 18:22:58

Two DD's, both in state schools, one at averagish comp (yr11) and one at good local primary (yr5).
Nothing against private schools, believe there are good and bad in both private and state, and would consider whatever best meets the needs of each DD at the time.
DD1 did 7+ and was at a private selective (in top 200) age 7 to 18 school. On paper should have worked as bright, inquisitive girl, loves to join in everything. But although working well enough to stay at the school, was constantly told she was underacheiving for her ability. Maybe she is that 'bright but lazy' child, but pushing her constantly was not helping and she was unhappy there. So she moved to a comp at start of year 7. Not all been plain sailing as she started 2 years ahead, so coasted for a while. But much happier now, on track to get A/B in all academic GCSE's - still doesn't have the drive to give that extra effort for any A*'s, but that's just her. Fortunately, the same stubborn streak that resents being pushed has been to her advantage by not allowing herself to be held back or intimidated by any that don't want to work.
Toyed with possibliity of returning to private for 6th form, but concluded this would give her a disadvantage.

DD2 has been at her state primary since reception. A really friendly community school, lucky enough to have mainly been in a class of 22. Very different child to DD1, loves literacy and creative writing and excels in both. Lots of local friends too. She hopes to go to the same comp as DD - even though most of her friends are likely to choose the alternative. Have offered her private for secondary, but she does not see the point of 'only mixing with the clever kids'. Luckiy, she is also not easily led. The main negative at the primary school is the lack of extra CA - yet to find something that interests her there.

So basically, 2 above average DD's doing reasonably well, in reasonable (not great) state schools. Neither likely to make Oxbridge, but would like to think they could both go for RG or 1994 group Unis if they chose. And whilst I don't think either would currently be doing better in the private sector, would not rule it out if the state provision our area was worse.

MirandaWest Sun 30-Dec-12 18:27:58

Am commitinh the crimes of not reading whole thread or actually answering the question but my parents were maths teachers at a state school and regularly got students into Cambridge to study maths. They were both very capable of teaching what was needed for STEP papers though which is possibly what the person on the radio meant? It can be done at state schools anyway smile

jessjessjess Sun 30-Dec-12 18:33:32

wheresthegin - I don't like the idea that richer kids should only go to school with each other.

mummyonvalium Sun 30-Dec-12 18:48:03

My DS is due to start school in September next year.

Private schools do seem to do better at the top end - all you have to do is look at the league tables. Whether the children are better off for it or have a more rounded view of life I am not sure. Private school used to be something that normal people could achieve by working hard but nowadays it seems to be only the pampered privileged that attend. I don't want my children to be surrounded by people who are only like them and have lots of money. Not sure it makes them a nicer person. Life is not purely about academic achievement.

RubyrooUK Sun 30-Dec-12 19:14:26

Marialuisa - my parents didn't enter me for the entrance exams. My primary school did as part of a day where we all learned about the secondary schools on offer. Kids were sitting a test and because I was a prime nerd, I wanted to do it too.

The private school came back with an offer for me to go there, my parents said no thanks.

RubyrooUK Sun 30-Dec-12 19:15:48

Oh and at the time, you didn't have to pay to take the exams in our area. Might be very different now though.

wheresthegin Sun 30-Dec-12 19:20:41

jess - Do you really think thats what people who choose private education think?? (Like it or not) That their children need to be kept away from the Riff-raff??? Come on. I find that a bit offensive tbh.

EvilTwins Sun 30-Dec-12 19:27:26

My DTDs go to our local state primary. We could afford private, and live in a town with excellent private schools. My reasons for going with the state option are similar to others':
1. I don't agree with private education, and also teach in the state sector so would feel hypocritical sending my own DC to an independent school.
2. DH and I enjoy doing the "extras" with our children ourselves, and the money we don't spend on school fees allows us to have weekends away, to go on holiday, to take them to the theatre etc etc
3. A friend whose DD goes to one of our local preps does similar extra curricular activities to our DTDs, but she does them all at school. I like the fact that my girls have a different group of friends at drama club, at gymnastics and at swimming club.

As a teacher, I see the difference that parental involvement and parental interest makes to a child. I think that is far more important than the type of school a child goes to. When mine reach Yr 5 or 6, we will be looking at the state secondaries in our area and I am confident we'll find the right school for them.

wheresthegin Sun 30-Dec-12 19:40:16

At our local primary, 3 out of the 6 teachers there sent their kids private!!! (must have wealthy partners!). 2 teachers actually live in the village and removed their kids from their own school!!!!!!

CarlingBlackLabel Sun 30-Dec-12 19:44:27

Do you really think thats what people who choose private education think?? (Like it or not) That their children need to be kept away from the Riff-raff???

Actually it is very easy to get that impression from reading MN. So many posts worrying about schools which have top ofsted ranking and great results but nevertheless the euphemistic concerns about the ratio of children with EAL, or children on FSM, or it's in a 'rough area', and these are given as reasons for choosing private. And this is in the context of a high performing school.

None of my friends with children at independent school seem to behave or think like this, but it is noticeable on MN.

CarlingBlackLabel Sun 30-Dec-12 19:46:52

WheresTheGin: Whereas one Head of Department at my DC comp has 3 children at the school. Maybe the teachers you speak of should look to thier own practice or do some whistleblowing!

wheresthegin Sun 30-Dec-12 19:59:21

I know - it's awful. The school needs a huge shake up if you ask me. We started there and left too!! But it gets good ofsted rating, so it must be a good school!!!

rabbitstew Sun 30-Dec-12 20:44:48

Now, whether a school with a "Good" OFSTED rating "must" be a good school is a whole other thread...

wheresthegin Sun 30-Dec-12 20:48:21

LOL!!! I dare you........!

TheElfOnThePanopticon Sun 30-Dec-12 22:03:39

We could afford to educate our children privately if we wanted to, but it would be a lot of money for us to spend - there are probably plenty of children who go to indie schools whose family income is similar to ours, but who feel the sacrifices are worth it.

But if someone were to givee three hundred thousand pounds to spend on my children, I could spend some of it on things like music/sport/drama/languages, tutoring in areas of weakness or particular talent, trips to Pompeii or Peru and still have plenty left over to help them through university and setting up a home or career.

The most important factor for me, though, is that when I think of the people I know who have happy homes, with jobs they enjoy and are good at but which they can leave behind at the end of the working day, those people almost all have the same pattern of education - they went to good state comprehensive schools and had parents who supported them and encouraged them in their ambitions. That's what I want for my children more than an Oxbridge degree or friends in high places.

pointedlynoresolutions Sun 30-Dec-12 22:15:11

As a teacher, I see the difference that parental involvement and parental interest makes to a child. I think that is far more important than the type of school a child goes to.


I am also a leftie who is ideologically opposed to private education. I'm from Holland where there are virtually no private schools at all, so there's a cultural factor there too.

I'm also confident in our ability as parents to provide our DDs with the enrichment that will stand them in good stead later on. Our local secondary is good, they don't set until Yr8 but their class grouping (8 classes to a year group) are broadly by ability and that seems to work for DD1.

DD2 is at one of our two primaries, both pretty similar in OFSTEDs (good).

Both are doing more and harder stuff than I was at their ages.

Not that we could afford private, we can't, but even if we won the Lottery we wouldn't.

AfterEightMintyy Sun 30-Dec-12 22:21:37

Just ideological objections - that is enough for me.

NamingOfParts Sun 30-Dec-12 23:05:42

For reasons - mine are exactly the same as EvilTwins

As DD1 has now done GCSEs and has achieved straight A*s/As from her decidedly mediocre (in and out of special measures) comp one of the big problems I see is that these schools dont know what to do with the talented students.

It isnt enough to simply applaud from the sidelines. Talent needs to be nurtured. DD was fed up with being used to fill the gap between disinterested teachers and disinterested students.

I still believe in state education but if DS is treated as badly as DD1 then I may well have to be muzzled for parents evenings.

difficultpickle Mon 31-Dec-12 08:24:27

My db had strong ideological objections and sent his dcs to two mediocre comps (single sex ones). He admitted recently that he'd wished he'd considered other options. I was expecting him to be very critical of my choices and was surprised and saddened by what he said (both of us were state grammar educated).

mnistooaddictive Mon 31-Dec-12 08:41:06

What I read here shows a complete misunderstanding of statistics and how education works.
I have taught at a couple of comprehensives where the top 5% of students were truly outstanding academically and got amazing exam results and Oxbridge places and all the other measures people think of as meaning a good education. However as a comprehensive school the results overall for the school will be representative of this and not 80% a*-A. The education these students receive is excellent but the school written off because other students are not so academic.
You can't judge the results your child would get from the percentage 5a*-c because all this tells you is the academic potential of the students on average.

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 08:52:54

Absolutely mnistoo plus education outcomes are correlated with the social class so if you really want to know who 'successful' a school is you need to also factor in this.

So the results of private schools which be reason of their fees will always have virtually 100% middle-class parents (either because they can pay or because they managed to get scholarships) are not due to better teaching or facilities but the cultural capital that the children have already acquired.

mumzy Mon 31-Dec-12 08:53:14

I think in the last 20 years the Alevel syllabus has been simplified and the more difficult parts of A levels in all subjects are now not taught as standard in state schools. Logically this had to be so in order to make them accessible to the 40% of the population that now take A level exams (remember A levels were only taken by the top 10% of the population up to the late 80's).
The most selective state Grammar schools still make some provision to go above and beyond the national curriculum but this can be a bit hit and miss depending on the motivation of the school/teacher. The most academically selective independent schools are paid by parents to go above and beyond the gcse and A level curriculum as this is what the selective universities want.
The fact that the Russell group universities have to give remedial courses to first year undergraduates show that some have not been taught enough content at Alevels to access degree courses. 30 years ago this was unheard of.

DontmindifIdo Mon 31-Dec-12 08:53:19

Remember as well, not everyone has good private day schools locally, I wouldn't have an objection to using private day schools, I do have a problem with boarding (particularly from a young age). Personally, I don't think we'll use private even though we could (at a stretch) afford it, because we have 2 outstanding primary schools in walking distance from our house and we also live in an area with grammers, and my view is if DS can't pass the 11+ he's not going to pass entrance exams for the good private schools round here. (But you did say you were only interested in areas without selective educaiton, so I d'nt think we fit)

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 08:56:59

"whereas the best private schools take their maths/further maths A-level candidates well beyond the syllabus and so the state school applicants are at a huge disadvantage - they simply don't have the starting level of knowledge required for the course."

Private schooling can procure this sort of advantage but there are all sorts of other ways in which pupils gain knowledge beyond the content of the A level curriculum and are therefore at an advantage to others when applying for competitive university courses. I was one of those pupils - I went to school abroad and had far better developed foreign language skills than my contemporaries on my MFL degree. TBH, I wasn't the one who benefited - my fellow students benefited from the handful of other students who "led the way" and were at the top of the cohort.

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 08:59:53

What mnistooaddictive said. Also, just as a point of information- comprehensive school is not synonymous with mixed ability teaching.

Oh, and if Cambridge entrance really asks for more than a state school candidate can offer, shouldn't someone be looking at those entry requirements?

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:01:03

"The most important factor for me, though, is that when I think of the people I know who have happy homes, with jobs they enjoy and are good at but which they can leave behind at the end of the working day, those people almost all have the same pattern of education - they went to good state comprehensive schools."

And do you think that that life pattern has a future to it?

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:02:15

seeker - "Oh, and if Cambridge entrance really asks for more than a state school candidate can offer, shouldn't someone be looking at those entry requirements?"

Why do you think should Cambridge university be a follow-on course to the NC, GCSE and A-levels?

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 09:07:33

"whereas the best private schools take their maths/further maths A-level candidates well beyond the syllabus and so the state school applicants are at a huge disadvantage - they simply don't have the starting level of knowledge required for the course

As a university lecturer I would say that if this is happening anywhere, it is a failure of the university itself. A degree course is not in some bubble removed from schools, it is to take DC from level 3 to level 6 (eg A level or honours degree). No one would say it is a failure of sixth forms than there is a big jump between GCSE and A level!

Yes there have been changes in what students know when they arrive. In my area (social science) it is notable that freshers have less skills in analysis now than they did (no notable difference between state and private in this). But it is my job to instill those skills, not just comment on the loss!!!

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 09:10:43

"Why do you think should Cambridge university be a follow-on course to the NC, GCSE and A-levels? "

I don't. But I don't think it should be a private club for the privileged classes either!

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:11:50

Why not? Do you think all universities should offer the same courses at the same level?

mumzy Mon 31-Dec-12 09:12:24

Cambridge as with our Russell group universities have to compete with the best in the world for funding and that means recruiting the best brains. I'm not being rude but they're not there to make up for the deficiencies in our school system. Our current state education and exam system is a shambles and this has been the result of excessive interference by successive political parties for their own ends. When I compare it with the asian countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore we should be very afraid.

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:14:22

I'm not being rude but they're not there to make up for the deficiencies in our school system.

Absolutely, and if anything saves the British education sector it will be those universities who compete ferociously in the global market for brains and cash.

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 09:17:14

I think you mean compete ferociously for educated brains and cash.

Theas18 Mon 31-Dec-12 09:17:15

Are you asking selective vs private really?

Hereabouts the Grammars are superselective. On the whole it seems that the very brightest go to grammars and the next band who can pay but didn't get into grammar, on the whole fill the private schools. Of course that's a broad generalisation, but I only know 1 who turned down a grammar place to go private out of the 3 grammar intakes I was involve in. That includes 2 of mine that had some sort of financial award for the private schools, and a mate of DS who had a large award and still the choice was for Grammar. All the kids i know who sat both tests got places at both.

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 09:18:17

Mumzy All the Russel Group unis (inc Oxford and Cambridge) take taxpayers money to provide degree level education to UK students. Their income from overseas students and research is not affected at all by how they select UK undergraduates.

The continuing prejudice of Oxbridge against state school kids (and that is what it is) has nothing whatsoever to do with recruiting the 'best brains' or protecting their income. It has everything to do with the demands of middle-class people to keep the imagined advantage to themselves

mumzy Mon 31-Dec-12 09:18:48

I thinks some subjects such as social sciences which may not be themselves A level subjects this is a valid point Creamteas but for subjects such as maths and the physical sciences, first year students should beable to access the first year course without having to be taught content which would have been covered in Alevels 30 years ago. It seems university degrees still start at the same level whereas A levels have been watered down to make them more accessible.

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:19:01

No, I don't. Why feel the need to qualify?

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 09:20:17

Isn't it the case that some universities see themselves as important educational establishments and some as research and innovation centres with a somewhat irksome sideline in education, if the result can be the production of generous and grateful donors and more talented innovators and researchers?

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:21:02

"All the Russel Group unis (inc Oxford and Cambridge) take taxpayers money to provide degree level education to UK students."

In the past, that was true. But the model for UK higher education is to make it student-funded and to provide degree level education to whomever the universities choose (along the US model).

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 09:22:49

The need to qualify, Bonsoir, is because if the A-level system is not educating our brains sufficiently, it doesn't mean we don't have brains worth educating - hence looking overseas is just looking for people with better qualifications, not better brains.

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:24:55

No, looking overseas is not looking for people who are "better educated". It is about looking for students who are clever and have a different perspective to bring to the table. The best universities want students (UG and PG) from different horizons to come together. It is, in my happy experience, a very powerful thing to bring students from all over the world and many backgrounds together in one place.

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 09:25:35

* It seems university degrees still start at the same level whereas A levels have been watered down to make them more accessible*

All degree courses should start at the point of education where the intake is. This is not watering down it is a basic premise of teaching and learning.

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 09:25:44

I remember many years ago talking to a nun about the process of selecting the pope. "He's chosen by the Holy Spirit" she said. Long pause "it is interesting how often the Holy Spirit chooses a rich Italian"

In the same vein, it is interesting how often the "best brains" seem to be in the heads of rich people who go to Eton!

mumzy Mon 31-Dec-12 09:25:56

Having met lots of oxbridge academics the majority are left wing leaning and actively want state school pupils however what they can't get over is admitting students who don't have the breadth of knowledge or ability to think independently and argue their case eloquently (things which our current education & exam system stupifies). I'm in no doubt lots of state educated dc can do well at the best most selective universities my argument is the current system is not educating our most able to their full potential.

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 09:30:26

"All the Russel Group unis (inc Oxford and Cambridge) take taxpayers money to provide degree level education to UK students." In the past, that was true. But the model for UK higher education is to make it student-funded and to provide degree level education to whomever the universities choose (along the US model)

The balance has shifted, but universities (except the rare private ones such as Buckingham) still get lots of millions of state money for teaching. All lab subjects are still funded partially by the state, and as far as I know, this is continuing (otherwise the fees will go up a lot more!)

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 09:30:49

I think, somehow, that looking overseas is done for more than one reason - money, variety and potential to name but three, not necessarily required together where politically expedient to keep them separate. And sorry, but "clever" in university terms is assessed primarily by exam results and by other means afterwards, so education is vital to getting into university...

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:31:02

creamteas - that is very odd opinion. University in the UK has never been about being "the next year in the programme" after A-levels.

mumzy Mon 31-Dec-12 09:32:13

I think Creamteas that Cambridge or universities of a similar lilk won't do the government's bidding and dumb down their entrance requirements further in order to take in more state educated dcs. What they will do if pushed enough is become private universities and become even more exclusive sad A university like that would be fine without public funding like the Ivy league

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:32:41

It is a given that education is vital to getting to university, hence no need to qualify.

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 09:34:47

Mumzy but this is the problem. They allegedly interview for potential, but actually pick students mainly on the basis of their schools.

Oh and in all my time as an academic I have never met a real 'leftie' academic at Oxbridge. I know this is what some of them claim, but it is not what they are. They make the right noises, but the actions speak loader than words.

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 09:36:40

It is not a given if you don't mention it - either you accept people with potential and give them remedial classes to catch up or you don't. Generally, according to the arguments on this thread, universities do not feel they should be forced to give remedial classes to bright students who have been let down by the education system, they would rather go for students who have already achieved the desired standard, since there are plenty of those to choose from.

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:36:43

If pupils from certain schools are disproportionately represented in the intake of the UK's best universities, does that represent prejudice and discrimination or just the fact that some schools do a hell of a better job than others?

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:38:28

I personally don't think universities should be giving remedial classes to anyone. Basic education needs to be achieved before university, while children are at home. The costs involved in filling in gaps at university are mind-boggling.

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 09:38:32

You're going back to EDUCATION again, Bonsoir, despite claiming not to need to mention it... confused

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 09:39:11

In other words, Bonsoir, universities are looking for educated brains...

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 09:40:35

with the noble exception of overseas students, who are just there for the variety?... grin

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:45:15

How many times do I need to repeat it, rabbitstew? It is a given that universities recruit people who are already well-educated. It is ludicrous to make that qualification. Unless you think that education to the age of 18 has a purpose other than education? hmm

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 09:49:12

"If pupils from certain schools are disproportionately represented in the intake of the UK's best universities, does that represent prejudice and discrimination or just the fact that some schools do a hell of a better job than others?"

Well, you seem to be assuming the latter, and completely discounting the former. Personally, I think that both apply. But that the "better job" that some schools do is often teaching how to be the person that passes the prejudicial and discriminatory selection process..........

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:51:27

seeker - knowing how to get past the goal posts is an exceedingly valuable life lesson. We do children no favours by pretending that every life stage is a 100% fool proof fair and reasonable assessment of their innate qualities (as if we were able to measure them...).

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 09:57:30

Bonsoir but when the goalposts are designed that only part of the population could ever pass, that is discrimination.....

It amazes me everyday that people who would not dream of colluding with racism or sexism still support privilege of the basis of social class. My refusal to do this is part (returning to the thread) of my ideological objections to private schools

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 09:57:55

But Bonsoir, I think it is ludicrous, when education is at the heart of it all, to pretend that this means it can go without mention. Since the whole problem with universities, state schools and A-levels at the moment focuses on what makes someone well educated and prepared for university, you HAVE to refer specifically to education. We do not have IQ tests for university entrance in this country, we have exam results and interviews and possibly further entrance exams - we therefore do not recruit the best brains, we recruit the best educated brains.

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 09:58:32

"Bonsoir but when the goalposts are designed that only part of the population could ever pass, that is discrimination...*

No, it is not discrimination to allow competition and have winners.

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 10:00:27

rabbitstew - I think you being very petty in order to prove a pointless argument.

When we are talking about education (it is the umbrella topic), there is no need to qualify everything with the bleeding term over and over again...

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 10:04:31

Bonsoir removing prejudice is not anti-competitive. It just means that entry is open to all....

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 10:04:47

Bonsoir, you are being very petty pretending university recruitment is all about your brain and not about your education. Of course you need to qualify what you mean by recruiting the "best brains," since the whole bl**dy argument with respect to getting more state school students into university is about whether someone still has the potential to excel if given the opportunity at age 18 to catch up when compared to someone who has had years of having their brain coached in a particular way. You clearly don't believe it is worth the effort. It is not petty to point that out.

MordionAgenos Mon 31-Dec-12 10:05:27

I wonder how many of the people commenting on this thread have ever gone through the Cambridge selection process for any subject, let alone for maths. grin

You did an exam. If your answers were interesting enough (Cambridge maths - there weren't exCtly 'right' answers to many of the questions) they called you for interview. I know that for things like history and English they asked all sorts and this might have been discriminatory (although I knew plenty of state school historians. I didn't know anyone doing English though, posh or state). But for maths, the interview was just like a tutorial. I was taught something completely new to me which I hadn't seen/covered before (it wasn't on the further maths syllabus). It was something from the first year tripos. Then, we did a variety of problems, based on what I had just been taught. It was basically a tutorial. It wasn't discriminatory at all. There was another interview which was more of a cosy fireside chat which I suppose could have had the potential to be discriminatory but I spent the whole hour talking about dr who and a bit about music and I really don't think you needed to have gone to posh school in the mid 80s to know about either of those two topics.

Cambridge is the best university in the world for maths. To expect it to dumb down the maths tripos because GCSE and A level maths have been ruthlessly refocussed to be accessible to people who can't really do maths is neither realistic nor sensible.

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 10:06:41

Nobody should be given the opportunity to catch up at 18. To suggest that our economy can afford such a luxury is the path to self-destruction.

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 10:10:33

But you have to say that in black and white, Bonsoir, don't you? Because that is what everyone is arguing about. It is therefore not petty to bang on about education.... grin

DontmindifIdo Mon 31-Dec-12 10:16:03

Creamteas - the problem isn't the private schools "winning" it's the state schools "failing" - why is it that the additional knowledge and background that private school student have is seen as unfair that the private schools taught them, not that it's unfair that the state ones didn't?

Is it money? I can see why additional financial resources would make a massive difference in sports and music, but why is it making a massive difference in subjects like maths? Is it a case that students get more time with teachers and smaller classes so the teachers can give more one-to-one attention? Is it that private schools don't just focus on the DCs leaving their school having passed their A levels, but having the skills and knowledge to do the next stage (uni)? Is it that the teachers in private schools are significantly better and is it not achievable in the state sector if that was made the aim?

Perhaps rather than thinking it's unfair that private schools do certain things better, focus on why state schools are fucking the exact same thing up? Why are state schools not managing this too? (And don't tell me it's quality of students, I refuse to accept that the top sets in Maths at most state schools at 16 couldn't pass the enterance exams for the majority of private schools when they were 10/11).

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 10:18:04

Bonsoir that is rubbish. Every year I accept a number of students on our degrees that, for one reason or another, do not have A levels or equivalent education but have potential to achieve.

During the first year they have to work harder and may take more staff time in terms of guidance (no extra classes are put on for them). By the end of the first year, there is usually no difference between them and the people coming in with good A levels. I also have students coming in with good A levels who can't cope and also need that support.

And guess what, doing that is my job it is what the UK tax payer is playing for (oh and I am still a successful researcher as well, just in case you had any doubt).

DontmindifIdo Mon 31-Dec-12 10:18:30

But also rabbitstew - why should state students need to catch up at 18? They have been in teh state sector having a stupid amount of money spent by the state on their education since they were at the latest, 5. Why in all those years should they still then get to University having not been taught enough? Private schools manage it over the same time frame, why can't the state sector? It's shocking that noone thinks it's very very wrong that private school education is better on subjects like maths that don't need expensive equipment/playing fields etc.

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 10:24:56

Don't mind it is not the money it is the cultural capital relating to education (as in everything you know, not just school), what is recognised as distinction and taste.

The middle-classes have the ability to define their 'taste' as superior and organise society on that basis. Think only Fools and Horses or other class based comedies. It doesn't matter how much money Del-boy has, he can never pass as middle-class because he doesn't understand the social rules....

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 10:26:54

Actually I have never seem any real evidence that maths is superior at private schools (only ever claims on mumsnet)

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 10:31:52

Maths is NOT superior at most private schools. When my db moved from the private sector to the state sector, what was noticeable was how behind he was in maths, but how far ahead in languages.

noddyholder Mon 31-Dec-12 10:34:12

I was privately educated as was dp until he was 14 we would never go there with ds. I wanted normality and equality for him and thatswhat he has had. It creates division education should never be about wealth.

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 10:35:06

Some of you might find this interesting:

Cultural Capital

MordionAgenos Mon 31-Dec-12 10:38:03

@cream I don't think it is, in general. There are a handful of top top private schools - St Paul's, say, not Eton (at least, not historically, don't know about right now) - which do perform majestically well in maths. Look at the school profile of the people who get to the final rounds of the Olympiads, for example. But even allowing for that there have always been many stonkingly good mathmos coming from state schools. Not least because sometimes the really top mathmos don't fit the profile the posh schools are looking for.

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 10:39:24

I have a well-thumbed copy of La Distinction in my bookcase right behind me, creamteas. If you think that Bourdieu's ideas provide useful insights for how to manage further education, I invite you to look closely at the French education system.

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 10:40:26

""Bonsoir but when the goalposts are designed that only part of the population could ever pass, that is discrimination...*

No, it is not discrimination to allow competition and have winners."

It is discrimination to have a competition that only a small %of the competitors have any possibility of winning........

ubik Mon 31-Dec-12 10:42:58

"even the best state schools generally teach only to the A-level syllabus, whereas the best private schools take their maths/further maths A-level candidates well beyond the syllabus and so the state school applicants are at a huge disadvantage - they simply don't have the starting level of knowledge required for the course"

This seems bizarre - surely then Oxford needs to ensure its course starts where A level maths stops? It's not difficult to do that, surely, Otherwise of course state school pupils are going to lose out and Oxford is going to lose students with the greatest academic potential in favour of pupils whose parents can afford for them to be hothoused.

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 10:44:14

Mordion are these successful private school the same ones who have maths based selections tests and offer scholarships relating to maths abilities....

If they have selected for maths, it is not surprising that they do better...

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 10:46:49

Not sure what your point is Bonsoir, the book describes the problems of the French education system, and as far as I know, no one has ever tried to rectify it!

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 10:48:05

The best UK universities, in order to remain the best, have to teach at a level whereby they will produce graduates of equivalent skill and ability to those of the top universities in the world.

I repeat: an undergraduate first year is not "the year that follow A-levels in the programme".

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 10:48:30

ubik you are missing the point smile

The parents who can afford to hothouse their kids want to preserve Oxford just for them.......

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 10:49:52

creamteas - no, the book, which was published over three decades ago, has informed reforms in French education of the past decades and there has been an inexorable dumbing down as a result.

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 10:51:40

The best UK universities, in order to remain the best, have to teach at a level whereby they will produce graduates of equivalent skill and ability to those of the top universities in the world

Something we agree on smile But I believe that you can produce top graduates from different starting places, providing they have the ability to learn.

Laura0806 Mon 31-Dec-12 10:51:51

This is an interesting thread. We have recently taken dd1 out of a private girls school into state because I didn't like the ethos of the school, the attitiude of the other parents and the 'preciousness'. However, I know its not the same at all independent schools and I know there can be some huge benefits. I want my dc's to be able to be part of a community and to meet people from a diverse range of social backgrounds as indeed my family are made up from! However, someone asked me recently why that mattered in terms of getting on in life and it probably doesn't but it makes for a better rounded and more balanced human being in my opinion so thats one reasonwe are doing state but I wouldnt rule out private later on, it just depends on the child /the school and how you see them developing in my opinion

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Mon 31-Dec-12 10:52:13

have skimmed thread and know it has moved on somewhat, but I do have a further sub-question.

if the only state options you had were the lower end of good but mostly poor or if the local state school was not giving YOUR child what they needed to achieve their potential would your ideology come before the needs of your child?

MordionAgenos Mon 31-Dec-12 10:53:19

@seeker there is nothing wrong with discriminating on brains which is what Cambridge (and Oxford I suppose) has always done. It is completely correct to say that only a small % of the population have a chance of getting a place at Cambridge to read maths. But that % is not determined by class, wealth, cultural capital or type of school attended. If you're really really good at maths you've got a chance of getting in. You might, of course, not apply. But that's not Cambridge's fault. If you do apply, as I did, it doesn't matter if you live in a council flat, as I did. All that matters is if you can do the maths. Cambridge and Oxford do a massive amount of outreach to state schools. The problem doesn't lie with them. It lies with those schools which don't encourage their pupils to aim high.

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Mon 31-Dec-12 10:53:32

I realise that that sounds flaming... I don't mean it to, I am just in a position where my desires for my child to go to the local school is detrimental to the child. ARRGGHHH

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 10:54:58

Bonsoir so if you have removed the class barriers in education how to you explain the differences between les grandes écoles and other French universities....

MordionAgenos Mon 31-Dec-12 10:55:48

I know I keep banging on about maths but apart from the fact that obviously I have first hand knowledge of the Cambridge admission process for that, and not for anything else - it just seems bizarre to me that maths has been chosen as the battleground for this thread when actually, I'd say maths is far more accessible to all, despite the eviscerated GCSE and A level syllabi, than some other subjects which do require lashings of cultura capital to access in the appropriate way and at the necessary depth.......

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 11:00:09

If you're really really good at maths you've got a chance of getting in

Everyone who is interviewed to read Maths at Oxbridge is really good, your chance of getting an offer depends on how well they think you 'fit' with what they are looking for, which is not not solely about your Maths ability.....

MordionAgenos Mon 31-Dec-12 11:00:26

@cream yes they are, and that's why. But as I said - there are a tiny number of these. And they still have requirements relating to eg ability to get decent marks across the range of GCSEs which can be a problem for some (I know a young man who went to St Paul's and was off the scale for maths but only scraped in because his written English was, not to put too fine a point on it, poor. By most standards, not just st Paul's standards). There is nothing intrinsically surprising about the fact that there are a very small number of posh schools that a shit hot at maths. To extrapolate that across the entire population of posh schools and then conclude that this means all posh schools are good at maths demonstrates a lack of understanding of, appropriately, maths. grin

DontmindifIdo Mon 31-Dec-12 11:00:58

Ubik - why should universities lower their standards because state schools have? That's the problem the Cambridge professor was talking about. It's not fair to tell top unis to just waste the first term getting pupils to a level they would have arrived at 20 years ago.

A lot of people pay not for buying privilage sake, but for buying what they think of as a better education, it's not right that we aren't giving all state pupils the best possible education from the state. OK, the state will never be able to compete on sports and music equipment, but on academic subjects with students of similar intellegence level, state schools should be turning out pupils at the same grades with the same level of knowledge.

Most small private day schools would go to the wall if faced with that.

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 11:01:02

creamteas - there are many fewer barriers to entry to grandes écoles than in the past, due to admissions sur titres. However, that sadly fails to compensate for the dramatic decline in the standards of schooling in France. Pupils who make it to grandes écoles will almost universally have had their education "topped up" by their parents (either directly or by paying) to an extent that a British parent can barely contemplate. Why? Because "cultural capital" has been deemed the enemy in pre-18 education and anything that smacks of a "cultural capital" advantage banished from the curriculum. Did you know, for example, that the study of literature in primary school is not allowed? It could discriminate against pupils from non-reading homes...

MordionAgenos Mon 31-Dec-12 11:03:35

@cream that's just not true. As far as cambridge goes. It might I suppose be true for Oxford and this might explain why that Uni is consistently less good than not just Cambridge but also imperial, Warwick etc for maths. Have you ever been interviewed for a place to read maths at cambridge? And got in? I have. And I did. And I described the process above. I wouldn't go so far as to say every single mathmo was an oddball but most of us were. The idea of any of us 'fitting in' anywhere is quite funny, to be honest.

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 11:04:24

I agree, Mordion. Maths is a slightly odd one to battle over. Classics, on the other hand...

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 11:05:07

I know it will never happen, but I would love to run a trial on Oxbridge places. So one half recruits normally and the other half has to take the best pupils in proportion to school type (eg private/state grammar/comp) to measure outomes

(Dons a hard hat and waits for the screams of unfairness, from those who think places should be reserved for the privileged clever rather than just the clever)

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 11:07:20

Places should be reserved for the most developed individuals - not for the clever, nor for the privileged (both of which are advantages of birth, not work).

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 11:08:11

Mordion I know several state school pupils who were turned down for Maths at Cambridge, but went on to to PhDs (one at Oxford) and lecture in Maths.

'Fitting in' doesn't mean you can't be an oddball, you just have to be the right sort of oddball

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 11:10:23

Lots and lots of private schools pupils are also turned down by Oxford and Cambridge...

MordionAgenos Mon 31-Dec-12 11:12:02

The whole point about the Cambridge process is that they seek to weed out the plodders. They don't want the people who work really hard to get good results and would get average or poor results if they hadn't worked hard. They want the people who are naturally clever and going to get good results at school whether they are quiet diligent types or wastrels. And then they make them work. That's the model. It always has been. Since it works marvelously well I don't see why they should have to change it (even though I doubt any of my kids will go there, and not just because they don't want to, either)

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 11:14:44

Lots and lots of private schools pupils are also turned down by Oxford and Cambridge

Yes but they still disproportionally get places. The numbers vary but about 7-9% of kids in the UK that are privately educated, they get about 40-50% of the places.....

GrimmaTheNome Mon 31-Dec-12 11:15:22

>Dons a hard hat and waits for the screams of unfairness, from those who think places should be reserved for the privileged clever rather than just the clever

I don't think I've ever heard anyone espouse that view. confused

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 11:15:39

You can't develop yourself in a vacuum - the advantages of birth and privilege are hugely advantageous in helping you to develop to your full potential when it comes to getting into middle class universities.

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 11:16:02

Private school pupils also apply disproportionately.

100% of lottery ticket winners bought a ticket...

MordionAgenos Mon 31-Dec-12 11:17:25

@cream well, Oxford. grin You do realise that the state school pupils you knew probably just weren't good enough? There aren't very many places. An awful lot of people don't get in. An awful lot of posh school people don't get in, especially for maths. It's all about the maths, nothing else. Not getting in to Cambridge doesn't mean you won't end up as a maths lecturer somewhere else (or indeed, at Cambridge). It just means on the day you weren't as good as someone else. You might have got in had you been a year older, or younger. But maths is the most pure admission process there is, probably. Because your interview is basically doing some maths.

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 11:18:55

Indeed, rabbitstew. Which is why we should be investing massively in encouraging development from 0-18 across the population, not denying developmental opportunities (and their subsequent advantages) to those who do, for whatever reason, have access to them.

Avuncular Mon 31-Dec-12 11:29:34

Can't resist. I went to Cambridge in 1969 from a (more or less) State school in Scotland (direct grant in Edinburgh at that stage). I was 'Dux' in Physics and the school projected me towards Cambridge - the school always managed a small Cambridge contingent each year. I had Scottish 'Highers' (which got counted as 'A' levels at matriculation.

I did the Entrance exams for Natural Sciences but these were not good. However they thought my 'Maths for Natural Sciences' paper was pretty good, and I think my English paper also impressed. This was, I believe, the very first year in which Cambridge would accept a second 'modern language' in place of Latin. The interviewing Tutor (Trinity, where HRH was already resident) seemed to be interested more in breadth and general interest in life than academic ability. I was accepted to do maths, got a 3rd in my first year, floundered early in my second year (real Maths doesn't actually use ordinary numbers, I discovered) and failed that but was able to progress to a third year having been helped by a perceptive Supervisor into Part II (General) Civil Engineering.

On graduation, the 'prestige' civil engineering firms were not enthusiastic so my bread and butter became the sewage wing of the water industry where I thrived, and probably earned more in the early years than bridge designers (too clever for me) or dam builders (too snooty in those days).

The maths and mathematical thinking I HAD acquired often made me the 'one-eyed man in the land of the blind', and if I ever needed help, I had met at uni some men (and women) who really could do the job for me if necessary.

Academically I'd probably have done much better at some other uni but I wouldn't have given up the Cambridge atmosphere for anything. It has given me a partial insight into how the 'Establishment' works.

Off the theme slightly - we could not afford to send our children to private school though we did briefly consider (Christian) Faith schools. We decided to leave them in the State system (Commonweal School then Sixth Form College in Swindon) which - I suppose - was a partial blessing to the staff there because our family seems to have a natural inherited 'brightness' and it gave the teachers more of a 'critical mass' of top students to nurture.

Also, managing to provide them a life-long two-parent reasonably balanced family life may have eased some of the stresses which can distract many youngsters today.

Two of our sons went to Cambridge. Both have changed courses (do you really know what you want to do when you get to uni - or even as you leave?). One is now doing well as a Head of Department in a (sorry !) Grammar school, and the other is now being encouraged to realise his full potential by University and College staff who have also helped him 'pastorally' as needs arose.

I suppose my main point is - if they've got the ability, they'll get to Oxbridge, and it is good to have 'elite' establishments which set and work to the highest standards. But privilege carries responsibility, which in our personal case then consists of trying to put back into society at least as much as it has given us.

Secondary education needs to give 'breadth'. That has given me resilience and flexibility to cope with and even enjoy life's buffetings and opportunities.

Income? Well I 'retired early' because no-one really seemed to want the services of a Risk Analyst (which is where I ended up) beyond the age of 55.

I'm now collecting 'pin money' as a practical risk manager/instructor (AKA DSA Driving Instructor) and still enjoying myself.

When we get to 65 our joint income will hopefully rise to about the national average income for the remainder of our (still productive) lives. We'll never be bored - because we were 'educated' not just trained.

Happy New Year (when it comes!)

ubik Mon 31-Dec-12 11:34:06

The professor wasn't talking about standards, he was talking about syllabus - surely the A level syllabus needs to be adjusted so that state schools meet the requirements of Oxford. If it always requires extra teaching/coaching to go beyond then state schools will always be on the back foot.

circular Mon 31-Dec-12 11:35:28

They want the people who are naturally clever and going to get good results at school whether they are quiet diligent types or wastrels

How do they tell this? If it's from school references, I cannot imagine any state schools admitting that a pupil with excellent results did not work hard.

And then they make them work


rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 11:42:12

University moderations and rustication?

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 11:43:21

And humiliation in tutorials?

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 11:51:48

I did find that having to produce an essay every week for an expert in their field and having to discuss it with him or her and one other student was an excellent way of focusing my mind and getting me to put in a bit of effort! That was law, not maths, though.

anonnona Mon 31-Dec-12 11:59:06

Yes but they still disproportionally get places. The numbers vary but about 7-9% of kids in the UK that are privately educated, they get about 40-50% of the places.....

As I sad earlier, Oxbridge students are such a small minority that you can't really do proper statistical analysis on them.
Oxbridge take the best of the best of the best. The sort of pupils who get snapped up by private schools on scholarships. Is it really that astonishing that many Oxbridge students are scholars from private schools? Private schools aren't daft - they take the best talent and then pass it off as their own.

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 12:10:08

Whether they always get it right or not, I do think Oxford and Cambridge want to attract the most gifted in their particular field - even if they are deeply odd individuals. They don't just train up establishment figures...

NamingOfParts Mon 31-Dec-12 12:18:11

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood, good question.

Our local state options tend towards mediocre to crap. We could possibly afford private school for all 3 but that would mean no extras in our lives - no holidays, one car, smaller house with shared bedrooms.

And what exactly do you get back?

DD1 has produced straight A*/As at GCSE. How much better would she have done if she had gone private?

She is now at a much better school for A levels (catchment doesnt apply at 6th form). She has had to work hard to catch up the gaps left by teaching to the test but I dont think having to do the extra work has harmed her.

DS is not academic. What would a heavily academic education do for him? I am not sure that being pushed very hard would really help him.

11112222 Mon 31-Dec-12 12:24:27

Interesting thread and some good arguments.
I can't comment on Oxbridge, but reading this has made me think about my higher ed.
I was state educated in a v rough comp during the teachers strikes in the 80's and I spent most of my time being scared by the other kids. The other local comp used to 'raid' our school (during lessons) at least every year. 1st and 2nd years escorted to the tennis courts at play time to protect them from the older pupils. A failing school basically.
However, secretly, I played music, and ended up at a world renown top uk music college. I auditioned, played well and got in. Once there, I was not even aware of who was privately educated or not.

I have always presumed Oxbridge was a similar application process. If you're good enough, then you're in. Surely they want the best to protect their reputations. If the best come from Private schools, then the state system must be lacking something - find out what and do it.

By the way - my dc started off at state primary, but we've moved them to private now as our local schools don't have much creative arts on offer. I want my dc to have what I didn't.

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 12:44:40

Trouble is, everyone's posts are based on assumptions
The assumptions that Oxbridge is best, that comprehensives do mixed ability teaching, that private schools are best for maths, that an A* from a state school is not as good as an A* from a private school, that oxbridge is looking for the best brains and nothing else, that state schools don't ever prepare kids for oxbridge entrance.........

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 12:57:47

seeker - what a very odd (and inaccurate) reading of this thread. What you say may be true of some threads, but not of this one.

11112222 Mon 31-Dec-12 13:00:45

Yes seeker - all schools are different in the quality they offer, and all dc are different in their abilities.
I would certainly not be put off applying for Oxbridge if I had a super bright dc in state education.
Maybe some people are intimidated by the big name colleges? No need to be.

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 13:21:21

Really, bonsoir? Several of those assumptions are yours!

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 13:22:11

I have made no such assumption. You are possibly projecting your obsessions on everyone, as you are wont to do!

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 13:25:10


A touch of pots and kettles, I suspect.

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 13:27:42

I said possibly, seeker.

gelo Mon 31-Dec-12 14:06:50

On discrimination at interview to Oxford - it's been found that privately educated students are disadvantaged when taking prior academic attainment into account and even more so when taking cultural capital into account as well. The private applicants are on average better qualified and more culturally aware than the state ones which is why their apparent success rate is slightly (barely statistically significantly) higher, but there is a bias towards state applicants in the selection process. This can be justified in that state applicants tend to achieve a little better with the same prior attainment at Oxford (though not at Cambridge).

MordionAgenos Mon 31-Dec-12 14:52:37

@circular Through the format of the interview (this only applies to maths obv ). They make you do maths you haven't covered before to see if your brain can work the way they want you to. So it doesn't matter if you were diligent or on the lash at school - your school results get you to the interview but its what you do in the interview that gets you an offer.

They make you work by pushing you hard. I guess the top top minds still don't have to work hard even then but most do.

gelo Mon 31-Dec-12 14:58:56

Mordion, it's a bit of a tome, but this thesis (on the social mechanisms in student selection and attainment at the University of Oxford), suggests that selectors are sometimes wary of those who look as though they may be wastrels (or good JCR types even).

MordionAgenos Mon 31-Dec-12 15:03:42

@gelo I really don't know anything about Oxford. Personal experience at Cambridge indicates that while they might not actively want wastrels (quelle surprise) they'd rather a wastrel than a plodder. That might just be maths but I did know two definite former wastrels while there, and rather more than two active wastrels .

mumzy Mon 31-Dec-12 15:11:34

The thing about maths is its probably the subject which a very able pupil could teach themselves. I know this as thats precisely what dh did. He went to a poor inner city school had a succession of supply teachers. Fed up of this he skipped the lessons and taught himself A level maths, further maths, satistics and physics. He gained A grades in all of them in one sitting in 1987. Never thought about applying for Oxbridge as his school or parents had any experience of doing this.

Journey Mon 31-Dec-12 15:12:27

A private education doesn't guarantee anything. My relatives and siblings who went to a comprehensive are the ones with PhDs, are lawyers, psychologists etc. The ones who went private are working in shops or unemployed. When such a stark contrast is on your own doorstep it does hit home a bit that private schooling isn't a guarantee of success.

I still do think a private education can be beneficial though but university education is more important to me than private schooling. I'd much rather spend the money on getting my dcs though uni.

teacherwith2kids Mon 31-Dec-12 15:16:07

To answer the OP (been away, been ill, can't quite face the rest of the thread):

We could just about afford private education, and were both privately educated ourselves, but choose state education for our children. We also fit your assumptions (though I would qualify the 'university' one to say 'we hope that our children will access high quality training or further education for the career / life destination they choose' - as e.g. more accountancy firms trial a 'degree equivalent apprenticeship' route, and as DD is notably strong in a non-academic area that she may choose as a career, a "generally regarded as good" university may not actually provide the best possible training)

In our case, the main driver is an informed judgement about the local schools open to our children (boarding is not an option). We happen to live in a town where the state options (even the 'comprehensive / secondary modern' ones) are better that the private options within reasonable distance except for 1 girls' secondary - and our oldest child is a DS.

Subsidiary drivers include the value (temperamentally, to us) of financial security (which we would lose, as private school fees would be a very significant stretch for us), and also the fact that we have great 'out of school' access to extremely good instruction in sport, music, dance etc etc by virtue of where we live, and this negates some of the perceived value (to us) of what a private school might deliver over and above a state school.

gelo Mon 31-Dec-12 15:17:23

@mordion, quite a few wastrels at Oxford - they're obviously not that good at selecting them out. That's why I was rather surprised when I read the report & they were describing some candidates as 'risky'. I'd always assumed they didn't care, but in fact they do. (It may have only been the 'maybes' that this applied to rather than the definite accepts).

timidviper Mon 31-Dec-12 15:24:00

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood We also had that dilemna. State schools in our previous area were not good so we put our DCs in private school as both were academic and we felt they needed more than the state could give. When we moved here we asked for information from all the schools, the private ones responded quickly, the state ones did not, despite repeated requests.

Both came out with good results and went on to good universities but I suspect the major thing independent school gave them was a bit more confidence and "polish" than some of their friends at state school.

rabbitstew Mon 31-Dec-12 15:24:09

I don't think Oxford and Cambridge attract more wastrels than any other UK university...

iyatoda Mon 31-Dec-12 15:33:10


Threads like this always attract people who know two groups of people, the first group of people all went to a mediocre state school and have come out at the other end to be hugely successful, whilst the second group went to expensive private schools and are now loafers, bin men, stacking shelves at the local supermarket, 30 and still sponging of parents .... basically your worst nightmare about how you want your child to end up.

Personally anonnona makes a lot of sense. what makes a child a successful adult depends on a lot of factors - personality, education, peer group, parenting, environment etc

Good luck with your decision.

TheseJeansHaveShrunk Mon 31-Dec-12 16:03:05

Thanks iyatoda. Actually it's not really a decision for me. I went to private school myself and would pay for it if I could for my DCs, but realistically I could only afford to pay for one of them, not both, and I don't think that would be fair.

Even if I was prepared to do it, I would be stuck which one to choose: the extremely bright younger DC who is totally self-motivated, on the gifted and talented register for everything, and bored witless at our "Outstanding" state primary, or the older "bright but idle" child who can achieve well above the rest of the class but only with constant cajoling.

So, would the younger one benefit more from the more academic environment of a selective independent school? Or would that child end up with brilliant results anywhere? Likewise with the older one, would being in an environment where the peer group achieves more overal be likely to get him to pull his socks up, or is he essentially a bit uninterested so there's no point paying for private education for him?

All hypothetical as they'll both be going to the local comp anyway. But I do wonder what would be best if I had a real choice to make.

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 16:05:46

Such threads also attract a lot of people who have no first hand experience of whichever sector is under discussion. Many obviously who do, obviously, before people show me their credentials!

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 16:12:32

Don't stand for bright children being bored at school- sit on the Head's doorstep til something happens!

teacherwith2kids Mon 31-Dec-12 16:26:11

Agree with seeker.

Both my children are bright. DS was slightly luckier in his teachers than DD through primary school, and when DD complained of being bored, I did not assume 'oh, it's because it is a state school and she's bright' because I knew that the school had dealt brilliantly with DS (marginally the brighter of the two, though with a 'spikier' profile).

So I contacted the head, and things were sorted quickly (that teacher has now left the school).

State schools can deal very, very well with exceptionally bright children - not all do, and even the best school may lapse with respect to a particular child - so don't accept it, and get something done.

TheseJeansHaveShrunk Mon 31-Dec-12 16:49:40

I've been in and out of school re my younger child for years. She is now in year 4 and works with the year 6s for most subjects. The school says that is all it can do to meet her need for additional challenge. They can only be expected to teach to the KS2 curriculum not beyond etc etc.

I pay for her to have extra tuition in the subjects she is most able in. Her maths tutor has her doing year 8/9 stuff.

I don't think the school isn't meeting her needs because it's a state school. I just think their view is that they will do as much as they can within what they are already doing anyway (albeit for the older kids) but they won't put themselves out further than that. So as DD gets into year 5 and 6, if she's bored now she'll be practically asleep by then. She always gets top marks in everything, without even trying. I worry what will happen when she eventually encounters something she can't do standing on her head, and I think the school should be preparing her for that. There's only so much you can do with extra-curricular tuition.

teacherwith2kids Mon 31-Dec-12 17:07:38

"I just think their view is that they will do as much as they can within what they are already doing anyway (albeit for the older kids) but they won't put themselves out further than that."

Which is a c* view, and one that is inexcusable from any school, state or private.

Last year, I had a child in my class who was working at c. Year 6 level in Maths (in early Year 3). My school does not go up to Year 6 - and it is (rightly) expected that that child should make at least as much progress as anyone else in the class (note PROGRESS, not reaching the same absolute level), in fact more because he was so able (his target was to make a full NC level of progress in Maths during the year). So I taught him the Year 6 / Level 5 curriculum, while equally ensuring that the child working at year 1 level made good progress. That's what the job of the teacher is.

Any other schools available locally? You may find, in fact, that schools used to dealing with very varied intakes may be better (even if their Ofsted 'headline' level is lower), because they are so used to differentiating work at the individual child level.

iyatoda Mon 31-Dec-12 17:52:18

If you are a stay at home mum like seeker or a teacher like teacherwith2kids then by all means camp outside your head teachers door until they cave in and model school to your liking, otherwise you either do it yourself, employ a tutor, move to a better state school or dig deep and pay for a private school.

wordfactory Mon 31-Dec-12 17:54:20

I know a fair few folk who could afford independent education but don't use it, but when I say afford, they certainly don't have the cash swishing IYSWIM.

So private ed would have to be very very valuable to them, for the trade off.

The rich folk I know, virtually all send their DC private. It's not a massive thing to them, so as long as they're getting someghting for their money, they're not too worried.

I am far too mean and far too demanding. I pay school fees but I require a fuck of a lot for my wonga!!!! Both my DC attend schools that provide an educational experience I could not even vaguely aproximate however many tutors I threw at it, or however many hours I sat with my DC.

iyatoda Mon 31-Dec-12 17:56:21

I am neither a SAHM or a teacher. I can't do it myself as no time (work full time), same reason with employing a tutor - no time to fit them in, better state school is bursting (34 in class - Y3). I can dig deep and I did.

No regrets and no apologises whatsoever.

teacherwith2kids Mon 31-Dec-12 18:07:22


Just a query - why is it that you feel that I am in a better position to camp outside the HT office than any other parent who works full time?

As I assume more FT working parents do, I leave the house at c. 7.15 am, and return home between 5.30 and 7, depending on the evening (I appreciate that many working parents get home later than I do - I chooose to do my next couple of hours at home rather than stay at school until 9) - certainly much later than the HT is prepared to meet me. I did the conversation by e-mail and telephone, both tools that I believe that other working parents have available.

MordionAgenos Mon 31-Dec-12 18:08:44

Seeker -since the discussion is private or state I think that the only way we could be populated by people with no experience of what is under discussion would be homeschoolers. Or the home schooled. And as far as I'm aware there is only one of those in this thread. grin

iyatoda Mon 31-Dec-12 18:14:40

Well teacher, you are a state school teacher so you understand the ins and out of how the system runs/should run and most teachers don't have a long commute <knows she is going to get roasted for saying this>. I really don't believe that all primary school teachers leave at 5pm to 7pm. In my experience by 4pm car park is almost empty and by 4:30pm only car left is that of caretaker and nursery staffs.

I did try to get extra work for my DS1 when he was at his state school but after 1 week it was sort of forgotten.

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 18:15:32

wordfactory - one of my uncles (who certainly does have cash swishing around lucky beggar) sent his elder son to a (day) grammar school, and his three subsequent children to private boarding school (two sons to a second tier co-ed, daughter to a top tier single sex). His elder son could easily have got into a top tier private school but wanted to go to the grammar (after private prep). State school was an active preference for the most academic child in that family.

That was in Kent, however.

teacherwith2kids Mon 31-Dec-12 18:15:54

"Both my DC attend schools that provide an educational experience I could not even vaguely aproximate however many tutors I threw at it, or however many hours I sat with my DC."

Wordfactory, that is why this debate is only meaningful at an individual family level. I do not have any private schools that would even vaguely meet your description available to me within non-boarding distance - and the choice between a mediocre private school and a great state school is obviously differently-weighted from the choice between a great private school and a mediocre state school....

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 18:39:40

Mordion- what I was trying to say was that most state school parents have little personal experience of private schools and vice versa. And very few in either sector have personal experience of the Oxbridge selection process.

EspressoMonkey Mon 31-Dec-12 18:47:49

Private school. My parents could afford to send us private but didn't as a private education didn't fit with my Fathers's political beliefs. My sibings did ok at state school, i didn't. I did well enough in class to get by, not so bad i needed extra help and not good enough to warrant the teacher's attention.

I averaged a 15/20 for essays in history. I wrote an entire essay on the
Magna Carta and called it the Magnet Curtain, because i couldn't read the teacher's blackboard handwriting and the silly cow didn't read my essay. She gave me a 15/20 as per usual, for a essay on the Magnet Curtain. The error was only realised at the end of term when my Mother helped me revise and read my essay. She complained to the Head that the teacher was evidentally marking essays without reading them but he did nothing.

Another teacher taught us the wrong syllabus so the top GCSE mark in our class was a C, attained by students normally averaging A*. I failed that GCSE. We complained and nothing was done.

I made it to University and did well. I had a great career and made a name for myself. And then it somehow got back to my secondary school and i, XXX, was a former pupil of the school. They wrote to my agent and asked that i visit them and give a speech. I declined due to a heavy work schedule. I felt i owed them nothing. I educated myself post school and my very good University educated me too.

I will be sending my children to a good private school, i am not going to chance giving them the crap education i had for the sake of my political beliefs. Two faced perhaps but that is your answer!

11112222 Mon 31-Dec-12 18:48:14

My dc have attended both state and private schools. It still depends on the particular schools in question though. I doubt very much that anyone else will find themselves in the same situation as my dc.

As to the OP - we started of in the state, as it seemed the obvious choice to use the local village school. It never really occurred to us to pay extra for an education. However - I never dreamed how lacking in experiences a school could be. My primary school experience was not like the one on offer to my dc so we moved to a school (private) that could offer more. We originally chose state as we thought it would offer an adequate education.

wordfactory Mon 31-Dec-12 18:52:36

Seeker I think it's completely erroneous to assume most parents who send their DC private have no experience of state. That may have been true in the seventies. I know you're a bit ancient wink...but these days many parents use a mixture, swapping between sectors. The majority use state primaries, then move at 11 or 16. Many more have mixed siblings. And the vast vast majority of us will have extended families in state schools currently.

I know it suits your narrative to say we know nothing of comprehensives and are even frightened of it...but the stats just don't support that!

wordfactory Mon 31-Dec-12 19:00:16

bonsoir I'm absolutely certain there are some very rivch folk who use state. I just don't know them grin.

I also don't know the schools in Kent.

What I do know, though, is that private education here in the UK is frighteningly expensive. Good day schools are around £6k per term with bus fare etc.

This added to house prices make for slim pickings.

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 19:27:57

Wordfactory- I think you might have missed me saying that the lack of direct experience is on both sides- I was 't saying that it was coming from private school parents. Mind you, then along comes expressomonkey.......

NamingOfParts Mon 31-Dec-12 19:28:57

teacher - our choices are mediocre private or mediocre state

The longer I spend mired in education (3 DCs) the more I wonder what the point of paying so much to go private is.

DD1's GCSEs were more than satisfactory. Would it have been good value to pay X thousands per year to turn a few more of the As into A*s? I'm not sure really.

Would I be doing my non-academic DS any favours by sending him somewhere where he would struggle?

So where does that value added really count? IMO it is only at post GCSE that paying the extra truly makes sense. At this stage you know what to spend your money on - an excellent vocational course, A levels, IB?

wordfactory Mon 31-Dec-12 19:34:13

seeker I think it's statistically far more common to have state school parents with no experience of private school, either for any of their DC or any DC in their circle.

That must be the case for the majority of people outside of MN, I think.

However, statistically most private school parents will have experience of state school in some shape or form.

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 19:44:04

I agree word factory. Mind you Ii do 't actually count one's own childhood experience- that wouldn't be fair to either sector

I do wordfactory, I have the full house I think. One in private, one in top superselective grammar and one in secondary modern.
I still get referred to as 'private school parent' on threads though.

I agree with bonsoir about kent, she is correct in that in some areas ( notably West) there are a huge number of wealthy parents who opt for grammar over private secondary school. Entries for the Judd school, Skinners and Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar are at nearly 50% from prep schools.

teacherwith2kids Mon 31-Dec-12 19:45:39

Naming, I wonder whether, in fact, the time when we will be glad that we have some money to put towards DCs' education will come at university age, as I would not want them to limit their choices about what and where to study based on the size of the debt that they were racking up...

(My siblings and I all studied highly academic subjects at prestigious universities ... and then went off to 'save the world' in ill-paid creative / public service jobs, careers which have gone on to nourish both heart and head. We might have made more 'cynical' choices had our university studies been funded in a different way - I am of the grants generation - and I would be sad if my children are forced down that route through money issues)

gelo Mon 31-Dec-12 19:46:26

There can't be many privately educated children who have no state educated friends or relations I would think. And a huge number of private users do use the state system for part of their education - I think if you count all children who have been privately educated for some of their education it's about 20%, far more than the 7% that are privately educated at any given time.

So a lot of people do have experience of both. What you can't ever tell though is how any child might have performed if they'd had a different education.

wordfactory Mon 31-Dec-12 19:48:43

I think that's a fair point teacher.

I certainly wouldn't spend cash on school fees if it left us short for tertiary education. Nor would anyone I know!

That said, loads of kids out there whose parents can't afford school fees or help with university. Most, I'd suspect.

anothercuppaplease Mon 31-Dec-12 19:55:26

It's a good question. I am not from the UK and don't like the idea of fee paying schools, and what it comes with, I have many friends who send their children to local fee paying schools and they are always talking about it it's getting on my nerves. They compare where my children are in terms of learning to where their children are, and clearly are expecting a lot more from teachers/schools than I am. Seriously irritating. However we do a lot of work with our kids at home, they speak two languages, are very good at maths (DH is a maths teacher) and I suppose we keep the money for investment and to pay for university. One of our children is G&T but I wouldn't consider sending him to private school now, maybe for secondary school I don't know. We can afford it, but it never seriously came up. They both go to a very good local school, we are happy with the teaching, progress, racial mix, etc. But at the end of the day for me it comes down to not knowing much about the private sector, not having an interest in it. Fear of the unknown? Maybe.

teacherwith2kids Mon 31-Dec-12 19:55:51


Absolutely agree with your last statement. However, I am in the group of parents identified by the OP - those who could (at a significant stretch) afford private school fees but who choose to send children to state.

I realise that this is a luxurious state of affairs, but was musing following Naming's post whether there is any stage of education (for our family, living where we do) where I believe the 'value added might really count'.

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 19:56:44

I find it soul destroying that my children will not have the freedom of choice in their further education that I did. And that FHE will in feasibly return to being the preserve of the rich.

seeker Mon 31-Dec-12 19:57:53


NamingOfParts Mon 31-Dec-12 21:29:12

I too am of the grants generation. I am actually more optimistic about the latest approach to student finance than I was of the previous system. The numbers are large but as I am looking at the options with DD1 my attitude is that it is simply a graduate tax. There is no point in saving thruppence on the loan by attending a course that isnt right.

What I do think is wrong with the current system is the usual problem with the squeezed middle who are expected to pay heavily for their adult children to attend university.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 31-Dec-12 21:31:37

>What I do know, though, is that private education here in the UK is frighteningly expensive. Good day schools are around £6k per term with bus fare etc.

>This added to house prices make for slim pickings.

Its less grim up north. Benighted by excess of faith schools hereabouts but that's another story.

Elibean Mon 31-Dec-12 22:14:59

I do know a few pretty rich (not very, as in money means nothing, but pretty as in wouldn't really miss school feel money) people who send their kids to state schools. Not sure what difference that makes, but I do.

herecomestherainbloodyyetagain Mon 31-Dec-12 22:59:03

I think those who say they could afford private but at a stretch don't really 'qualify' for the OP's question. You'd have to be able to afford private without any trade offs or other sacrifices for this choice to be non-financial.

One reason I'd probably go private is to be a paying customer and therefore have a school that would hopefully be more willing to pay attention to what parents want and any issues.

LaVolcan Mon 31-Dec-12 23:32:18

I know one couple who were in the position of being able to afford private comfortably. The husband went to a private school, the wife to a not particularly good state school, (not sure whether it was grammar or sec mod), but they chose to send their children to the local comprehensive and were very satisfied with it. They were running their own business and had plans to introduce the children into it. Oxbridge/Russell group didn't figure highly in their estimation as to offering a good preparation for the business. It was a good comprehensive and I suspect that they thought the Dad's private school was only so-so, which probably influenced their choice.

mumzy Tue 01-Jan-13 09:39:12

What I do get from these threads is how varied schools are both in the state and private sector and you'd be daft to make your choice just on that basis. We chose private secondary for ds1 because our local schools weren't great and we didn't want to move house.

Bonsoir Tue 01-Jan-13 10:30:28

Certainly, if I look at my own wider family and acquaintances in the UK, those who live in Kent are all well acquainted with both the state and private sector and actively consider and use both when choosing schools for their DCs. Those that live elsewhere mostly only consider private (especially when they have had their fingers burned once by putting a first child in their local primary and having to extract him/her in extremis...).

Mominatrix Tue 01-Jan-13 10:40:44

Absolutely, mumzy. I always find it strange to read threads about Private Schools, State Schools (in all permutations), as if all private schools are the same. Additionally, the needs are each child are the same, and lucky is the parent who has some choice is where to send that child. By choice, I certainly don't mean private v state, but school v school.

I am lucky to live in an area of London with 9 primary schools within a 15 minute walk distance. That number more than doubles if I include a very short car journey. These range from outstanding state (3-4), non-selective private, French conventionee, French homologuee, Swedish, superselective private, special measures state, and everything in between. I am also lucky to not have to worry about school fees and also to not have any baggage attached to going to any sort of school bar religious or cult (the Steiners) so can look at schools based on what they offer my child.

I have chosen private for the same reason wordfactory has, the schools which my children go to offer things beyond my capacity to fill in gaps. In the case of my elder son, his school (the prep school to one of the schools mentioned above) offers things which less than a handful of other schools could give him in the country. The younger one is getting a bilingual education - also something I could not get in the state sector.

seeker Tue 01-Jan-13 10:43:59

"What I do get from these threads is how varied schools are both in the state and private sector and you'd be daft to make your choice just on that basis"
What I get from this thread is that in this, as in most things, the rich and/or privileged have vastly more choice than the poor and/or disadvantaged. And that is something we should be ashamed of as a nation.

Mominatrix Tue 01-Jan-13 10:48:12

Seeker, your generalised rant against the rich and/or privileged is not correct. It should instate be rich, privileged, or with clued-up parents. Being a clued-up parent is not limited to any socio-ecconic class, at least in my world.

Mominatrix Tue 01-Jan-13 10:48:50

should read socio-economic

Mominatrix Tue 01-Jan-13 10:49:15

and instead ( am a rubbish typist!)

Corygal Tue 01-Jan-13 10:55:36

OP - one of my mates got the best Maths degree in his year at Oxbridge. (came from Watford Grammar, a state school).

He said categorically that the universities are battling to keep their degree levels up against the double whammy of plummeting A Level standards and fewer people doing maths A Level in the first place. So first year students attend catchup courses - at many univs, not just Oxbridge.

Private schools don't pay much attention to GCSE and ALs any more, because universities and international education don't. So they run a curriculum aimed at these universities, in UK and abroad, and one that matches international education standards to boot.

The state system lags, not just because of lower results, but because the qualifications they teach for are no longer respected.

happygardening Tue 01-Jan-13 11:03:03

seeker happy new year and too everyone else as well. Just to pick up on a point you made earlier
"Don't stand for bright children being bored at school- sit on the Head's doorstep til something happens" we for our DS have sat on the doorstep of heads in both the state sector and private sector with absolutely no success. We are highly articulate and determined parents in one state primary told "they didn't have the time money or motivation' to help" and at another the counties most sought after primary we were told only the independent sector could meet my DS's needs! IME at prep level (admittedly small non selective but intake above average intelligence) they too are equally as crap at educating the super bright. I now realise that only those geared up for the super bright can educate them effectively. We have also very recently sat on the heads doorstep and the chair of the governors and the LEA's doorstep for my other DS a bright but significantly under performing dyslexic DS and have met with a wall of non co-operation. We both work full time and are exhausted and bored with the endless struggle. You will be pleased to know that I doubt it would have been any better in the independent sector.
So yes you are right there are good state schools and bad one crap independent schools mediocre one and good ones and then there are a relative handful who are if they work for your DC are in a separate league of their own.
You are also right that the poor and disadvantaged are the ones who suffer not because the independent sector exists but becasue the state sector is not as good as it should be.

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 11:19:33

This is a really interesting thread. I have taught in several state schools - two of which were classed as 'outstanding' and now teach in a top indie. Frankly the difference is huge and I did not expect it to be a massive as it actually is - in fact I was a bit 'anti' private ed before I worked there. Not any longer.

The quality of teaching is superior and the breadth of the whole educational experience is breathtaking. We are told that our pupils must be pushed well beyond the confines of the exam board specifications which is a joy to do as they are so keen to learn. There is a culture of high achievement which, even in some outstanding state schools is missing. Academic standards are far, far higher than any school I have worked in in the state system.

State schools are struggling after so many years of being a political football and it is to our shame as a nation that they are in such a poor state. Schools that practise streaming rather than setting are doing damage to pupils of all ability - setting is the only sensible way to address the individual needs of pupils. Yes I understand that some pupils in state schools are put on the gifted and talented register but what some parents do not understand that there is no national standard for this - it is done within every school and is relative to the ability level within that school. Hence, the school that I worked at which was in SM had a g&t register with pupils on it who would not have made the g&t register in the outstanding school I worked at and those pupils would in no way be seen as g&t in the school I work at now.

I speak as one who supports state education but until it is sorted out then I feel it is a dangerous choice for some pupils and parents.

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 11:23:18

Just to add that I KNOW that there are poor indies and good state schools but market forces dictate that poor indies cannot limp on where this is not necessarily true of state schools. I agree with the poster above who state that only schools geared up for the super bright can teach them effectively.

rabbitstew Tue 01-Jan-13 11:32:46

Although all is not lost for society, because of the people in history who have come up with phenomenal ideas and theories, very few of them credited their excellent school career for their genius... I'm not sure any school caters well for the highly unusual mind, albeit some jump on those who have a highly developed core set of skills that are easy to work with.

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 11:34:41

I am unsure what you mean by schools which 'jump on' pupils in this way.

rabbitstew Tue 01-Jan-13 11:38:31

Would you rather I said "welcome them with open arms," then?

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 11:42:33

No I was merely asking you to clarify. You sound rather cynical.

rabbitstew Tue 01-Jan-13 11:42:47

Of course there are schools which welcome the extremely bright, eager and articulate with open arms.

rabbitstew Tue 01-Jan-13 11:45:45

No, not cynical, just pointing out a fact. The easy to teach are not the only ones worth teaching, nor are they the only ones with interesting things to contribute to society. However, it is easiest to see what they are likely to contribute to society and therefore feel that any effort put into them is likely to bring a reward.

Bunbaker Tue 01-Jan-13 11:49:04

Interestingly we were talking about this last night with some friends who send their children to the local state primary school, but to a private high school.

The state primary is one of the best in the country - in the top 50 and there is absolutely no point in paying for private primary education. Sadly the high schools round here aren't that great.

11112222 Tue 01-Jan-13 11:53:21

I like what mominatrix said about clued up parents. There is a way to access private education if you push hard enough for it. If you can show that your child will benefit from their school. It's by no means easy though.

Bonsoir Tue 01-Jan-13 12:01:35

"What I get from this thread is that in this, as in most things, the rich and/or privileged have vastly more choice than the poor and/or disadvantaged. And that is something we should be ashamed of as a nation."

That's life, seeker. Get over it.

happygardening Tue 01-Jan-13 12:04:28

bunbaker what many don't appreciate is what provisions are provided in top prep schools compared to top state primaries. My DS's has specialist teachers from year 3 in all subjects, properly equipped science labs for science, MFL taught 4-5 lessons a week language labs music departments staffed by music teachers a geography dept streaming from yr 3 for mainstream subjects and yr 4 for all others tiny classes for MFLs (8-10). The rationale for this isn't just when you pay pushing £7000 a term you expect this but also most will sit CE at 13 and this is necessary to achieve a "good mark". I've read quite a few times that children leave prep at 13 two years ahead of their counterparts in the state sector (IM not commenting on the need or not for this) and that CE is pretty close to GCSE but this achieved due the way these schools are organised from such an early age. However outstanding a primary is it can never compete with this.

weegiemum Tue 01-Jan-13 12:10:10

My children go to a bilingual school where they learn (they're p5, p6 and s1) through the medium of Gaelic. Despite the fact that dh and I are monolingual, all our children are bilingual. I couldn't buy that. It's not available in the private sector, my children are educated in the state sector because it's the best way to give them all they need!

Bonsoir Tue 01-Jan-13 12:11:46

I agree that specialist teachers and small classes make a massive difference to what small children achieve.

Living in France, I don't have the option of small classes at school. However, there is thriving shadow education sector and some of the (100% private and unsubsidised) "extra curricular" provision in Paris is of extraordinarily good quality. I am stunned by the art and music provision here, for example. But it is very hard work taking children around to different classes - a one-stop-shop prep school à l'anglaise is so much more efficient.

Avuncular Tue 01-Jan-13 12:13:53

until state education is sorted out ....

Has anyone in this thread been a school governor - not as a teacher but as a parent, community, or business member (or maybe as a church nominee, as I was in a CofE primary)

Bonsoir Tue 01-Jan-13 12:19:34

State education is largely informed by socialist principles, whereas private education is informed by capitalist principles. Therein lies the difference in quality.

happygardening Tue 01-Jan-13 12:23:43

I was a school governor in the same primary that told me that they hadn't the time motivation or money to help my exceedingly bright DS a complete waste of time. All were either nice upper middle class villagers with no kids at the school ditto with kids at the school and good for nothing lazy teachers primarily concerned about non contact time and being asked to do thier own photocoping (God forbid) who felt they were doing a fantastic job and blamed the children/parents when it didn't go their way and when before I joined the school went into special measure on the weather on the day!

wordfactory Tue 01-Jan-13 12:32:56

I think you are correct happy. I chose my DCs prep school by happy accident but can now see with hinfsight that the small classes, proper setting and specialist teachers from year 3 have had an enormous impact. There is no way I could have tried to replicate that experience using a state school and top up.

PenelopePipPop Tue 01-Jan-13 12:33:24

There is a big problem with the example you give isn't there - the professor was only talking about his subject, maths, which is always an outlier because students taking it have highly specific abstract reasoning skills which they tend to develop early and lose quickly without reinforcement. For similar reasons many universities discourage maths applicants from taking gap years.

Still I have to say the example you give surprises me. My DH came joint top first in maths from Cambridge about 15 years ago and we are friends with many other wranglers from his year and they are all state educated. I am sure there were some privately educated ones, but they were not obviously over-represented. Sounds like things have changed a lot.

I'm a law academic at a RG uni and my experience is the opposite of the Cambridge maths professor's. Our state educated students consistently out-perform the privately educated students despite having the same grades at admission to an astonishing extent. On average a student entering with A*AA at our law school from a private education behind them can expect to leave with a degree that is a whole class lower than a student with equivalent grades from the state sector. Obvious why, state sector students trying to attain A*AA grades have to demonstrate more aptitude for independent study, problem solving, and taking responsibility for their own learning than their privately educated peers and these are all skills which undergrad law rewards.

Which suggests to me that a lot will depend on the subject your DC plans to study at uni. A maths genius may well benefit from private ed (depending on the school of course) whilst someone planning to do a social science which A Level study cannot really prepare them for would be better off at a decent FE college. But since you cannot know at 5, 8, 11, 13 or possibly even 16 which choice your child will make it is a poor basis on which to make a decision. Much better to look at what will make your child happy now.

TwistedReach Tue 01-Jan-13 12:38:19

This debate never fails to get to me. I chose state for many reasons. High up there is a social conscience.
Ds is doing very well in his 'satisfactory' local comp. One that other mumsnetters have described as very rough- but of course that is from their perspective of having opted out of the state system without ever really giving it a chance. In his year (11) there are children who have tragically ended up in the criminal justice system, children who sadly were already very troubled in primary school. However, there are also children like ds who are lucky enough to be doing very well and many in between. Ds is not scared and never has been- he has friends and sees that there are kids who unfortunately have not had the opportunities that he has had. Kids not monsters. That's real life, we live in London and I want no part of widening the segregation that is so divisive here.

Kendodd Tue 01-Jan-13 12:53:24

We have four private secondary schools locally, quite good ones, two good comp state, one state grammar, and a few mediocre state schools. In terms of GCSE and A level results the two good state schools have results very similar to the private schools, I don't know the results for the other state schools (apart from the grammar) but I think they are very average. The state SG wipes the floor with all of them with results far ahead of all of them all, even at GCSE level that pupils take a year early. It is very hard to get into though and takes only the top 4% of puplis. All of the people I know with children at the private school would have sent them to the SG if they could have passed the entrance exam.

So the best school local to me is a state school, and they managed to send two children to the Olympics! They do start from a very high base though and it is very pressured I hear.

Mine are all in early primary.

NamingOfParts Tue 01-Jan-13 13:18:51

I was a community governor in a primary school. I found it hugely frustrating. My responsibility was finance and the deceit and incompetence which seemed to be custom and practice by the local authority would have driven a saint to drink.

Does specialist teaching in all subjects really matter at primary?

IMO the important thing at primary is not to destroy enthusiasm. Some subjects benefit from specialist teaching - MFL & sports spring to mind where there is a specific skill. However do primary school pupils need science, geography etc to be taught to a standard beyond that an enthusiastic primary teacher can achieve?

wordfactory Tue 01-Jan-13 13:36:37

Penelope - it doesn't suprise me in the least that state schooled students outperform private schooled students - they tend to be far less anbitious in where they attend and thus the lower tier RG unis have some very very capable students who could have aimed much higher. The converse is true of priavte schooled students.

Bonsoir Tue 01-Jan-13 13:43:13

"However do primary school pupils need science, geography etc to be taught to a standard beyond that an enthusiastic primary teacher can achieve?"

I am absolutely sure that specialist teachers do impart more skills than generalists. Enthusiasm for history or science is lovely, but most primary teachers won't have more than a GCSE history or science. Unless they are devoted amateurs, their knowledge will be pretty sketchy.

PenelopePipPop Tue 01-Jan-13 13:43:42

Wordfactory without wanting to give away where I work it definitely could not be described as lower-tier! I think if you look for law schools requiring students to have A*AA grades you'll find we're a pretty select group.

And our findings are consistent with those found at various Oxbridge colleges too. When I worked at King's College Cambridge we had similar findings although the statistical disparity was more marked.

As I say this is for one subject. It absolutely should not guide your choice of school for your child. But nor should your choice of school be prejudiced by the assumption that they will leave university with a better degree.

wordfactory Tue 01-Jan-13 13:44:57

Naming- I believe that maths past 7 or 8 should not be taught by someone with no aptitude for it whatsoever and teachers do only need a C. Some older tachers won't have any qualifications in science. I also believe art, drama, sport, MFL, Latin all benefit from someone who knows and loves their subject. Asking one person to do everythuing is just daft. We accept this at 11 of course.

Bonsoir Tue 01-Jan-13 13:51:04

A frightening anecdote that demonstrates that mere enthusiasm does not equate to knowledge: the headmistress of my DD's French-English bilingual school recently gave a talk to the parents of the children in the year above my DD. The talk was about this year's school trip, a week in England, which all 125 children in that year go on, with their English teachers (and the teachers in their vast majority are British and they use English teaching materials). The headmistress is French and has spent her entire career at the school, where 75% of the pupils are plurilingual/cultural. The school trip to England in Y5 is an annual event that has been taking place for many years.

Nevertheless, in her speech, the headmistress told parents that they should equip their children with pocket money of 30 shillings for their trip to England (an embarrassed English teacher quickly corrected her to pounds, but not before the huge clanger had been heard by every parent!).

anitasmall Tue 01-Jan-13 13:53:54

Hi TheseJeans,
If your child is talented or getting things faster than the others than she will do well both in state or private school.

There are still reasons to send your child to a local state school:
There is a lot more of them, so you can find a good one,
Closer distance, half an hours extra sleep in the morning can make a difference,
Some private schools have (even) more school holidays so you get less tuition at the end,
NEITHER the state schools NOR the private schools are fully selective (or grammars and secondary grammars) so there will always be pupils that are keeping the others back,
State initiatives to favor state schools students at university places,
Having extras while at school. ( At primary schools you can apply for 1 to 1 music instrument tuition. These lessons take place at any not used room while the rest of the class has Maths, English... Your child won't be behind if he doesn't attend all the Maths lessons at state schools...)

wordfactory Tue 01-Jan-13 13:56:39

Penelope - you are right about Oxbridge. I teach there part time and it is very obvious that the state school students have virtually all come from a handful of GS schools and top comps. They really are super brigght and motivated. There seems to be this urban myth that only the genius need apply. Far too many state schoolers talk themselves out of it. I also teach at a much less well regarded university and many of the students there have seriously undersold themselves imvho.

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 14:02:58

rabbitstew I am not sure how much you know about teaching but just because a pupil is bright or has an aptitude for a subject does not make them 'easy' to teach. Actually they are more of a challenge in many ways.

I agree with others who feel that primary teachers are asked to teach too broad a curriculum and that no-one can teach so many subjects properly. Many primary teachers feel this themselves. Although I know that many primary schools are very good, prep school pupils come to us with a better work ethic and far more in depth knowledge of subjects because they have been taught by specialists. You can be an enthusiastic specialist - they are not mutually exclusive!

A similar pattern in my area to that others have noted - good primary provision but state secondaries rather lacking which is why many parents go private where we currently live.

CheerfulYank Tue 01-Jan-13 14:06:52

We might be able to afford private school by the skin of our teeth, but there isn't one close by.

Our elementary school is very good, but I don't think the middle high/school is. I come into contact with a lot of teens and I'm astounded at the gaps in their knowledge.

Dh and I are discussing sending ds to one of the more nearby Catholic schools when he starts full time school next year, but I doubt we will.

seeker Tue 01-Jan-13 14:08:42

"Seeker, your generalised rant against the rich and/or privileged is not correct.'
It wasn't. It was a rant against the system, not the rich and/or privileged.

Bunbaker Tue 01-Jan-13 14:11:10

happygardening You are right. However, DD passed the entrance exam at the age of 10 (summer birthday) for a highly regarded private school, without any tutoring. I let her do a few verbal reasoning and non verbal reasoning papers as practice for exam technique, but she also had to do maths and English papers for which she had had no tutoring or practice.

This was managed from an excellent state primary school. DD isn't gifted, she is naturally bright, but she did have the benefit of an excellent, rounded education at a state primary school.

BikeRunSki Tue 01-Jan-13 14:15:34

I am afraid that I have come to this thread very late, but have come on pass on my experience. My DPs could have afforded private education, but chose not to. My father had been through prep school/ public school (Fettes College) and loathed it, swore he would never send his children away. He was also very well travelled and believed that private education generally produced a certain type of person, who he didn't particularly like. We went to the French Lycée (my mum had been for A levels, on a place reserved for English students. We went at a time where non-Francophone students could go if they had a connection to the school and paid nominal fees as we were not French tax payers). For secondary school we went to Pimlico School, a v big comprehensive. All of my siblings and I (there are 4 of us) got A levels, and three of us did degrees, masters' degrees and I also have a PhD. The fourth child chose not to go to university, although would have been perfectly capable. From the point of view of social awareness and tolerance and understanding of all people, I have always said that my education was the best you could get in London at the time, regardless of cost.

CaHoHoHootz Tue 01-Jan-13 14:16:36

We can afford private school but sent DC's to local comp. We had lived overseas so had previously privately educated our DC's. We liked the local comp because
it is 5 mins walk from our house. (bloody brilliant!)
It is where most of the towns DC's go
It is not pompous, pretentious and elitist
It is large and offers lots of subjects
It doesn't 'spoon feed' our DC's who have learnt they have to sort things out themselves
They have all sorts of friends inc one who is care and ones who are very wealthy.
It includes DC with SEN / disabilities
It is FREE. It will give us a lot of pleasure to give them the money we have 'saved' on their education.

My eldest DC is at Uni studying medicine, middle DC has offers from top Uni's (for maths) and youngest DC is doing well too.

I suspect their grades would have been a bit better at a private school and I would have happily sent them to one if the local school wasn't nice or if one of my DC's had a particular problem.

TBH. I don't have strong feelings one way or another about the whole private school versus state school debate. I think people should just choose what works for them and their family but my main reasons for NOT sending my DC to private school is that it wasn't what was best for my DC and I can't stand the private schools that promote elitism, Snobbery and pompousness.

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 14:18:19

anitasmall just to point out to you that although indies have longer holidays we do much longer days. We start at 8.15am and formal teaching does nor finish until 4pm after which pupils are engaged in extra-curricular activites. I think you will find that the amount of tuition is much the same.

Also the school I teach at is fully selective and no pupil would ever be allowed to 'hold back' another.

As for the state initiatives to favour state school pupils - these are a nonsense as everyone knows.

rabbitstew Tue 01-Jan-13 14:30:43

Specialist teaching from an early age is channelling children's energies into the current thinking, knowledge and structures of the day. I can't help wondering whether it is the way Darwin or Einstein were educated or thought about things - in discrete disciplines? Were they that channelled and directed from the very beginning of their lives?

happygardening Tue 01-Jan-13 14:37:14

One of the biggest change my DS experienced when moving from a quaint middle class village primary to a prep was the way science was taught. 7 yr old using Vincent burners mixing up chemicals making explosions dissecting eyes kidney etc. Its possible the health and safety mob have stopped this now but it was an enourmous contract from growing cress in a polystyrene box! The tab geography teacher regularly took them out of school beaches to look at erosion farms to look at sustainable development shopping centres to analyse shopping patterns and thus people moving and housing/local industry/transport to look at unemployment and it's effect on the population. In contrast the class teacher at his primary couldn't even do basic maths and certainly couldn't answer the questions in a special extended maths text book he was given to do at home, she knew literally nothing about art, one of my DS passions, unlike his art teacher at his prep and his knowledge and passion for 20 th century abstract art. It's often at a young age when we've simply got more time and are not following exam curriculums that these interests can be developed but many children are not getting the chance.

rabbitstew Tue 01-Jan-13 14:40:34

countrykitten - I am perfectly well aware that high intelligence does not equate to easy-to-teach. However, you are the one who keeps commenting on how eager and bright all your students are in the private school in which you teach, so you clearly feel the benefits of intelligent, bright eyed enthusiasm and relatively compliant behaviour... or are you just conveniently not mentioning all the surly students who aggressively question everything you say and how you teach on a daily basis?

rabbitstew Tue 01-Jan-13 14:44:05

I had a teacher who brought in bulls eyes for everyone to dissect in primary school... I also remember doing woodwork with pretty dangerous tools at primary school when I was 9. (It would have been most dangerous for my low-tone, hypermobile, dyspraxic ds1!). I made a little wooden owl. Those were the days of state schools pre-the national curriculum, though, when there was absolutely no predicting what one might be taught.

Avuncular Tue 01-Jan-13 14:46:28

I love private schools.

My son (an indie teacher) donates me all the end-of-term wine bottles from pupils ..............

seeker Tue 01-Jan-13 16:15:09

Avuncular-I think that's just being a teacher.........!

happygardening Tue 01-Jan-13 16:39:41

This is a endless arguement on MN and endless evidence is given by both sides to support their beliefs. Surely the quality of state education needs addressing because if it was really as good as some claim then most middle class parents wouldn't pay for education. The super rich stumping up £33 000 + a year per child will always do this and they will always live in 15 bedroomed houses and have granite swimming pools etc etc but leave them too it and schools like Eton will always be there for these super rich and also offer funding to a small minority who wouldnt normally be able to afford to go but it is a very small minority Forget them its the concerns of your average middle class parents looking for edcellent education in a day setting that need addressing because if they were surely most would cheerfully return to the state sector. I have no idea how this can be done a whole scale change in ethos from teachers would help and just as importantly where the money to do this will come from but until it is many will carry on paying.

MordionAgenos Tue 01-Jan-13 16:48:21

@word is it Oxford you teach at? Or Cambridge? There is no such place as Oxbridge after all. And typically, for cambridge (i have no idea what happens at oxford) you will teach at one or two colleges, if you are teaching tutorials, or you will lecture everyone who takes your course but have little actual one to one interaction with anyone except your tutees. So it's unlikely you have been exposed to more than a very small proportion of the state school students at whichever university it is you teach in. Even then I'd be amazed if they all came from a tiny handful of state schools. But even if they all did (some state schools do, like posh schools, forge links with particular colleges - my school sent 3 people to queens in the years I was there (including my friend) but there were plenty of other state school people at queens who didn't come from my school during that roughly 8 year period).

Hyperbole for effect isn't terribly helpful.

mam29 Tue 01-Jan-13 16:49:38

Interesting debate op.

I agree there are are good /bad state schools and indies.

I imagine those counties within grammer areas use senior private less as see it as comparable in dealing with brighter children.

Where I live secondry education within state is poor and limited so the independent section does very well.

Also theirs paying for state education through postcode catchment so if you paid over odds to live in that street and school seems good and gets ok results then of course you least try your child in state 1st.

Outside of wales/parts scotland there are no biligual state schools which is shame as as being rather rubbish at modern languages myself and world being global I would chose bilingual state school if there was one on offer.

I guess private school are not bound by national currciculum or sats. Many seniors have opted out of gcses and do i gsces or international bac also many offer exteneded hours working parets, better sports -truly competative unlike state sports day where everyones a winner.

The grounds and extra curricular activities at some independants here are lovley.

But its horses for courses depends on child.

I know people who moved private to state.
I know people who moved schools as unhappy. I moved state to state same la but very different schools.

Mostly thought peope, un happy with state opt out state as assume all schools the same they not and head for nearest prep.

Also guess smaller classes make extra school trips more possible.
My dd infants has only ever had 1 school trip a year since starting.

NamingOfParts Tue 01-Jan-13 16:51:31

The further I get from primary the more I start to suspect that what is taught at that stage is actually far less important than how it is taught. I have had experience of the UK system and also a continental system. I dont think that it matters whether you learn to read and write at the age of 5 or the age of 8.

Languages benefit from being introduced early - I remember reading somewhere that if you learn your first second language by the time you are around 6 then your brain remains receptive to new languages.

Maths, sciences etc teaching needs to be good enough for the syllabus being taught. Teachers need to be capable of answering questions around the syllabus. However IMO that is good enough for the vast, vast majority of primary school pupils. Does it matter that a teacher has a C grade GCSE in maths if they are confidant and enthusiastic teaching at the lower level?

In my opinion the important thing is for pupils to not have been turned off school during the primary years. Gaps in knowledge are quickly and easily filled. Gaps in motivation are far harder to resolve.

mam29 Tue 01-Jan-13 17:09:30

Happy gardening they did used to have a scheme to help middle classes get into private school government funded cant remember its name-assisted places grant, it was scrapped in 97 when blair came in s my ex and few of his freinds wet to a independent boy school where they all did well went to top unis his parents paid reduced fees-it wasent a bursary it was paid by the government.

Like you say for rich its not given 2nd thourght.

But squeezed middle classes its huge outlay and even harder if have more than 1child. I have 3 and know could not afford them all and could send 1 at a push but that would seem unfair that they didnent get equal education.

Education is very political.

governers are comprised of few groups

local community

I know a few but question what influence they hold in terms of quality of education .I say that as know a few frustrated governers.

School budegts vary on la and school to school.
My las one of worst funded as classed as semi rural but there are some deprived parts that could do with more funding .

Guardian journos always bang on about state and labour mps many of the went private and send their kids private.Many of them say London have no choice .

I think choice and open markets a goiod thing providing all areas have equal choice which they dont.

happygardening Tue 01-Jan-13 17:09:38

My DS on moving to his Prep was delighted to find the obligatory numerousy and literacy hour no longer existed and it was replaced with history or geography (as he said at the time still writing punctuation sentence contruction reading etc) French or Latin biology or chemistry that maths took place in the afternoon and PE in the morning and afternoon and sport 5 afternoons a week and the maybe English afterwards. School became less of a repetitive drudge.
It become interesting maths moved on if you'd got it on Monday you moved on for the next lesson unlike his primary where he was still doing the same thing on Friday. His view on education changed. Maybe gaps can be made up although all should be properly taught at least 1 MFL reception but a love and passion for life and learning just because its there needs to be kindled when children are young not stifled in an over prescribed dumbed down environment found in many of our primary schools and secondary schools both state and independent.

happygardening Tue 01-Jan-13 17:13:25

mam The solution is not reinstate the subsidised places although of course it would be cheaper but to address the reasons why MC parents send their children to independent day schools.

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 17:33:51

rabbitstew I mentioned that once and do not 'keep on' mentioning it. I suspect that you don't know a great deal about teaching and have an objection to private education on idealogical grounds which is, of course, your choice entirely. As I did say previously, I held similar opinions but 16 years teaching in the state sector knocked my faith in governments and the way that our state schools are kicked about like footballs to score cheap political points changed how I felt.

New Labour (sadly voted in by me and people like me) did a great deal of harm to the concept of achievement and standards fell as GCSE pass rates went up. We are dealing with the consequences of this now as the current government showed by clumsily and unfairly wading in and changing mark bands for GCSE English this year - it needed to be done but not like that.

Elibean Tue 01-Jan-13 17:39:02

Naming, I totally agree about the importance of primary being more about learning to love learning than about the learning itself. And about being part of a community, I think.

I also agree that schools have been kicked around like footballs - to a point - but I still support state schools. The one I have experience of (primary and, to be fair, probably not representative of the majority) deserves all the support it gets and does its best to steer its own course through the storms of changing governments.

I am a parent governor, and yes, we do have some influence and input on all areas - we work as a team with the SLT: they have influence and input on all areas, so do we.

Mominatrix Tue 01-Jan-13 17:43:07

Why do MC parents send their children to independent day schools? First and foremost, they feel they have a say (illusion or not) in their child's education. Parents feel they have some semblance of control over how their child is taught instead of being part of a machine. If a private school does not meet parents' expectations, the parent has a choice to remove said child and enrol him/her in another. If enough parents make a stink, the admin/bean counters must listen and make some changes. Market forces and all...

seeker Tue 01-Jan-13 17:54:10

Loads of middle class parents don't send their children to independent day schools, you know!

I do sometimes get the feeling that mumsnetters think that a much higher %age of children go to private schools than actually do.

rabbitstew Tue 01-Jan-13 17:57:01

countrykitten - I may use private education for my children from the age of 11 onwards. And I know more about education than you appear to think.

teacherwith2kids Tue 01-Jan-13 17:58:11


The reasons why some MC parents send their children to independent day schools, though, are not necessarily education related and can therefore not be addressed through looking at schools alone.

For some, it is about 'peer group' (not academic peer group, but 'social class' peer group). That cannot be addressed through schools alone.

wordfactory Tue 01-Jan-13 17:59:54

Most middle class parents couldn't afford private education even if they wanted it.

seeker Tue 01-Jan-13 18:03:02

Absolutely, wordfactory.

anitasmall Tue 01-Jan-13 18:05:40

In the UK schools are NOT fully selective. In Europe fully selective means that they consider end of the year marks (here you could use SATs tests) if more pupils have the same results, they have to take additional tests. SEN is not considered, neither county, LEA, distance form school...

noddyholder Tue 01-Jan-13 18:06:55

My sons friends are mainly MC aand were all state school educated I think maybe some could have afforded private looking at their lifestyles but to buy a house near this particular school it is probably that which takes all teh £. I only have one ds so could have comfortably afforded it but I wanted the local thing

Mominatrix Tue 01-Jan-13 18:07:06

Yes, but the question is why the ones who do send them do. Just because one can, does not mean that one does, hence the starting of the thread.

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 18:11:38

anitasmall the school I teach at is fully selective.

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 18:12:28

And it's in the UK.

noddyholder Tue 01-Jan-13 18:14:17

Most of them are anti private education. As am I smile

Mominatrix Tue 01-Jan-13 18:17:27

anitasmall, what a strange remark. Are you talking about all schools or state? If all, I can guarantee you that there are many selective private which are selective on your criteria (bar SATs).

seeker Tue 01-Jan-13 18:21:31

Many middle class parents don't use private schools because they are politically and philosophically opposed to them.

wordfactory Tue 01-Jan-13 18:25:03

Noddy- I thought one of the great virtues of state school was the mix of children from all backgrounds. How has your DS ended up mixing mainly with other rich children?

wordfactory Tue 01-Jan-13 18:29:37

All these ideological giants ... Merrily using grammar schools, faith schools and outstanding comps in middle class areas. They must be so proud of their political largesse.

noddyholder Tue 01-Jan-13 18:29:41

He hasn't I am just commenting on the ones that are.They are all different at his particular school. I was referring to those who could afford private.

seeker Tue 01-Jan-13 18:31:35

People get so very cross at the thought of other people having political and philosophical standpoints which are different from theirs. I do wonder why.

noddyholder Tue 01-Jan-13 18:32:07

Why is it merrily using? I chose the school because ds is dyspraxic and he could walk there and back. Plus the teachers are amazing. He has left now and is at college where there is a different mix too.

noddyholder Tue 01-Jan-13 18:33:14

I agree seeker I don't like the whole concept of private education and so I chose a state school because of that Why does it matter what money I have?

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 18:37:34

Wordfactory - precisely the point I think. Put these families in an area with no grammars, just a couple of sink comps and no faith schools and what would they do......go private of course. Or move house to get in the 'right' catchment area - thus using their money to 'buy' the right kind of school. Hypocrisy on this issue is rife and I really wish that people would just be honest and stop kidding themselves and being judgemental those who do go private.

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 18:38:31

I missed out the word 'about'. Apologies.

noddyholder Tue 01-Jan-13 18:40:16

I am not judgemental about those who do if I was I would have to ditch half of my mates! I always have had these vows from when I wasn't in a financial position to ever consider private anyway.By the time my ds was 11 we were in a different financial situation but I still felt the same.

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 18:47:13

noddy I am sorry I did not necessarily mean you - just I get tired of preachy people claiming that they are supporting the state system and that indie schools are to blame for all the world's ills whilst simultaneously discovering that they are actually devout Catholics or that they really NEED to move house as their dc approach 11. It's a bit annoying.

anitasmall Tue 01-Jan-13 18:47:18

I wish there were any schools in the UK like this. I am just interested to know how any primary school (private or state) can tell if my child is more intelligent than any others at Foundation age (4 year old!). Than at any other age if SATs test are always written later than you apply for school places and decisions are made... Than private schools accept anybody that pays (one of my friends daughter was not brilliant at local state school but the private school took her since they can afford to pay for) and bursaries are based on the family's incomes not on abilities... Secondary grammars use verbal reasoning (not written!), certain secondaries (and primaries, too) give preference to pupils from certain schools (based on the "reputation" of the school)...

I think foreigners like me can spot discrepancies more just because we are used to more transparent systems...

rabbitstew Tue 01-Jan-13 18:47:34

But countrykitten - you say no state school can compete with the likes of your selective private school, so are you not being utterly hypocritical to argue that parents choosing "nice" state schools are doing the same thing that parents choosing your private school are doing???? Strikes me they are doing completely different things with their money altogether.

anitasmall Tue 01-Jan-13 18:54:35

People admit that indies have better results and pupils improve better... Most reasons for sending children to state school was distance, money issues, etc. Everybody admits that private schools are very good (even pushy) they just disagree with the idea that "quality education is a privilege".

GrumpySod Tue 01-Jan-13 18:58:43

But you can often move child from one state school to another, around here you can anyway, we don't have problem of too few school places in school sector,or huge disparity between choices.

I had DS in private & moved him into state not least because the state was better (still completely mediocre GCSE rates by MN standards).

I know lots of folk who serially move their child from one private school to another, end up sampling several as part of their journey. Plenty of slagging off of local prep by parents who have sent their kids there. HT is alleged to be a tyrant. Just a different sort of machine on offer, maybe.

pointedlynoresolutions Tue 01-Jan-13 18:59:54

The thing with selective schools (whether private or not) is that they don't half make life easy for themselves, do they? They don't have to deal with the children with special needs, they don't have to deal with the children who have less than ideal home environments. They can just cream off the children they want and get amazing results. A friend of mine has one son in a selective prep in Cambridge and was worrying about her younger son - if he didn't get L3 at age 7, they would not take him.

I'd like to see a long-running experiment, which can never happen because it would not be ethical in anyway, in which a selective private has to accept a random standard size class full of state school kids for 6 years - no managing out, no selection - and see how well they do with that group. And I'd like to see a state school be given a class of, say, 15 academically bright children with motivated and supported parents, who would be taught in that nice small group throughout, and see how they do.

I don't think I'll be convinced of the inherent and inevitable superiority of private education until I see the outcome of this experiment. Wishful thinking, I know.

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 19:01:15

rabbitstew I am not really sure what your point is here at all. I don't like the hypocrisy that's all.

anitasmall for the third and hopefully final time - the school I teach at is FULLY SELECTIVE. Many UK independent schools are the same. The way this is done where I work is through:

SATs results
Entrance exams
A panel interview
An aptitude day
Bursaries are arranged for the very able if they get through all of the above and parents cannot afford full fees.

Pupils are not accepted on their ability to pay although there are some indies which are not selective and will do this.

I think perhaps that you need to re-educate yourself about the UK system as you are wrong about some things here.

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 19:05:55

pns - I used to think this way too but am not so sure any more. I agree that selective schools have the cream of the crop and absolutely results should be higher because of this but this is what people pay for isn't it? At selective schools you can actually teach full time rather than crowd control for some of the time and teach the rest.

Mominatrix Tue 01-Jan-13 19:07:37

anitasmall, attending private schools does not mean that said child is academically very precocious or able, just means that said child's parents can pay the fees! Most private schools are selective in only the sense that they select out those families who can afford the fees. Do not confuse these schools with the private schools which can select out both those who cannot pay the fees as well as those with children who are academically able to jump the high hurdles.

My DS1 goes to a private school which selects on ability - believe me, I know personally at least one story of a family which attempted to buy itself through the admissions process (offered more than £10 million to its fund) and was turned down. Not all private schools are the same!

Yellowtip Tue 01-Jan-13 19:09:43

wordfactory I'm just wondering what your evidence is for saying that virtually all state school students at Oxford/ Cambridge come from a handful of grammars and top comps. Please could you expand?

anitasmall Tue 01-Jan-13 19:11:54

The other side of the story is that if private school accepts lets say a dyslexic child the parents won't be cheated (friends daughter had full A's, B's, including English and MFL). Many state school just accepts SEN children to get better OFSTED recommendations for catering wide rage of children but they can't really cater them (SEN children are asked to take long brakes when OFSTED comes or the school will support them with an extra TA for that day)...

pointedlynoresolutions Tue 01-Jan-13 19:16:22

But that's the whole point, kitten - my objection to private schools is that they don't have to do the hard parts, and yet they are held up to as so unbelievably wonderful. I think many of the differences in results would melt away if private and selective schools had to deal with the same intake that the state system does.

What I'd really like to see is a system that caters for everyone. I am not actually against selection by ability - but I think selection should be by all types of ability. That would mean building a culture of respect for skilled vocational trades instead of idolising only the academic, and creating vocational schools which would give the UK a generation of skilled and home-grown plumbers, electricians, carpenters, patissiers, chefs, gardeners, childcare workers - the list is endless. I absolutely do not believe that all children are created equal, but I do genuinely believe that everyone has at least one thing that they are good at. We need a school system which identifies those skills and then nurtures them, and does not write off as less worthwhile anyone who is not by inclination academic.

I readily confess that I am a leftie idealist, and I accept your criticism of the hypocrisy of people who find God, or use their wealth to buy into the catchment of a good school. Personally I have the confidence that I can provide enrichment for my DDs well into the A-level curriculum and probably beyond in many subjects so I would not choose that path even if I could - but I'd like to see all children have access to the kind of support that makes the most of their talents.

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 19:17:04

anitasmall you really don't know what you are talking about. Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence levels so it is not surprising that a child can get a raft of excellent results and still be dyslexic. I teach dyslexic pupils as well as those on the autistic spectrum and as I have said to you repeatedly we are a fully selective school.

anitasmall Tue 01-Jan-13 19:17:42

It is very nice to hear that there are private schools like this. Do they support any talented children from poorer background?

Adversecalendar Tue 01-Jan-13 19:19:40

DH can teach to well beyond A level standard mathematics and also physics and chemistry. He has tutored DS at home so we don't see the point of sending DS to private school when he can get one to one tutoring at home. They enjoy learning together as well as football and DS is a clone of his DF.

teacherwith2kids Tue 01-Jan-13 19:23:11

"Many state school just accepts SEN children to get better OFSTED recommendations for catering wide rage of children but they can't really cater them (SEN children are asked to take long brakes when OFSTED comes or the school will support them with an extra TA for that day)... "

Anita, can you give evidence for that view?

Ofsted looks at long-term data for all pupils, and looks at progress of all groups. Though I believe in the past (when long notice was given for Ofsted inspections) there were cases of disruptive (not necessarily SEN) children sent on arranged trips for the day, the data relating to those children would still be examined by the inspector. With modern minimal notice inspections, even such 'rigging of the system' to make e.g. behaviour look better than normal is less and less possible - especially as inspectors will sometimes decide to go on such trips or visit children away on trips / residential visit as part of the inspection.

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 19:23:50

anitasmall have you read ANYTHING that I have posted at all? For goodness sake!

pns - I agree with you and this would be the ideal. How we go about achieving this is a different matter but I would start by dumping Gove out in the cold.

happygardening Tue 01-Jan-13 19:27:57

anitasmall there are definitely some private schools where intellectual ability takes preference over everything elseincluding ability to pay or not. These area rarive handful but they are out there. St Paul's Winchester Eton to name a few are very selective especially the first two and are becoming increasingly generous with their bursaries money and status will not get you in.

Mominatrix Tue 01-Jan-13 19:31:00

anita - yes they do! . My son's school is on a serious campaign to get itself to needs blind status. Outside of that, it holds extra-curricular enrichment classes for bright state school students for at least 3 nights out of 5 (I only know about the 3 nights because I pick my son up late from swim squad 3 nights and see the classes through the window) - these are things which they sponsor in a not-obvious way , so not for show to demonstrate how civic minded they are.

Mominatrix Tue 01-Jan-13 19:31:48

x posted with happygardening (DS's school is one of those she mentions).

teacherwith2kids Tue 01-Jan-13 19:40:25

For a school to truly give inellectual ability preference over everything else, it seems to me that two (no, sorry, 3) things need to happen:

- The school needs to take children based only on their intellectual ability, becoming wholly blind to their ability to pay.
- It should actively seek out such children from wherever they may be, rather than waiting for them to apply, as many of the most able children will be from families who would not consider applying to such a school.
- It should use a test (or preferably, a wide-ranging battery of tests) that is purely of intellectual potential, cannot be tutored for, and is independent of syllabus covered up to the date of selection.

I realise that there are schools who are on the journey to one or more of these three criteria.

(I should state here, by the way, that I do not object to private schools per se. I choose not to use one for my children because the state options available to me are better.)

anitasmall Tue 01-Jan-13 19:45:55

Thank, Happygardening.

Countrykitten, I did. I just don't feel it that way. I am one of those parents that can see the weaknesses of both systems.

creamteas Tue 01-Jan-13 19:55:49

Everybody admits that private schools are very good

Not me! Some private schools are good but others are not (just like state schools). There is was a particularly awful one be me that was going broke but is now, I believe, becoming a free school...

Selective schools do have to 'deal' with children with SN. The super selective near me has an autistic unit incorporated within it.
The prep school that my youngest dd goes to has bent over backwards to work with her and I know it has caused difficulty at times. There are at least six children in her class with additional needs. We tried two state schools prior to this. They got extra funding for her and left her crying in a corner for most of the time.

MordionAgenos Tue 01-Jan-13 20:04:38

@anita The posh schools where I live have significantly less good results than the grammar school.

@pointedly Selective state schools often have pupils with SEN conditions. My own Dd1is one such.

MordionAgenos Tue 01-Jan-13 20:13:19

@anitas,all your posts make you seem incredibly ill informed.

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 20:32:37

All I am saying anitasmall is that I was giving you factual information regarding certain schools and their entry requirements and you were ignoring it preferring your own wrongversion.

countrykitten Tue 01-Jan-13 20:35:29

But it's ok - as it's Christmas I forgive you! smile

wordfactory Tue 01-Jan-13 20:46:19

yellowtip I started working there relatively recently and was almost immediately asked to become involved in the widening access initiative. I suspect because of my background (I am achingly working class and from a school that hasn't sent anyone there since Dick's day).

To be honest, it's no big secret! The universities know they have hell of a lot of a lot of work to do in this area. They're pretty open about it. Meetings take place regularly across colleges and departments to disuss how to move forward.

To be honest, I can't quite believe anyone doesn't accept this is a real problem!!!!

MordionAgenos Tue 01-Jan-13 20:54:02

Of course they want to widen access. But my experience is that your comment that state school people come from only a small handful of schools is completely and utterly wrong. My experience is only of Cambridge though, of course. Not this 'Oxbridge' place (that doesn't exist). And as I said upthread, but you ignored, in a Cambridge context it is highly unlikely you would be having one to one interactions with students from across the whole university because that is not how the tutorial system works. There are clearly not enough state schools sending pupils to Cambridge but equally clearly the ones who do go come from more than a handful of schools (although of course ultimately there are proportionally only a handful of actual places at Cambridge every year, when compared to the total of student places, so it's all relative).

As a student, I was involved in a lot of outreach, because of being a state school person myself. I was aware of more than a handful of state schools sending pupils to my college, let alone the other colleges. I don't think things have consolidated since then.

rabbitstew Tue 01-Jan-13 20:56:01

I would agree that selective schools are seen as havens for some children with SEN, rather than closed doors - as much has already been suggested to me with respect to my ds1. It does depend on the particular needs and the particular compensating abilities, of course.

mam29 Tue 01-Jan-13 21:47:49

country kitten

Wordfactory - precisely the point I think. Put these families in an area with no grammars, just a couple of sink comps and no faith schools and what would they do......go private of course. Or move house to get in the 'right' catchment area - thus using their money to 'buy' the right kind of school. Hypocrisy on this issue is rife and I really wish that people would just be honest and stop kidding themselves and being judgemental those who do go private.

couldent agree more those who do send state and have money and socialist priciples dont make the system any better they just like bleating on about it.

many of them make sure they own in areas with good state schools tiny catchments.
or tehy live in grammer areas
or they find the faith-david camerons go to state coe school.

i suspect many of the above have very narrow social group
thats not even including the ones who close the gap with complimentry tutoring.

Not often i agree with labour mps but jack straws honesty back in october surprised me

Labour grandee Jack Straw has taken aim at the party’s so-called friends on The Guardian, including strident columnist Polly Toynbee, who bang on about the joys of state comprehensives while studiously avoiding the schools for their own children.
‘Let me name names,’ says the former Foreign Secretary.
‘The people running The Guardian almost exclusively make sure they live in grammar school areas, or they send their kids to private schools. I don’t want to be lectured by Polly Toynbee, who sent her kids to Bedales – a very expensive, exclusive school which does a good line in liberal guilt.’ Hear, hear.

wonder where harriets kids go?
balls was privatly educated after his dad campaigned to scrap grammer schools .
Blair was faith and private i belive.
Abbot said she did best thing for child and her wasent a political football.

I get angry about the hypocrisy surrounding schools.
its so sensitive and people make assumptions I know plenty of people who sent private who are not overly rich just 2incomes and think fees maybe slightly cheaper here than south east.

My cousins twins go state village primary near their barn I have no doubt they go secondry independant as nearest and only comp in nearby town was awful unless you were catholic or private you couldent opt out of it was a true comp and crap.

Where I live like most cities the comps are worse than most people imagine. My local comp has 43%gcse pass rate and thats one of better results.

My choice will be luck a lottory I have no idea and fully anticipipate if lucky getting my 3rd choice.Apart from going private or becoming more religious I have no choice.

Im not sure how to solve it as education standards vary in both sectors.

I guess the concept of comp mixed abilities , socially mixed sounds good but dont think it always works.

wordfactory Tue 01-Jan-13 21:48:34

mordion in respect of access widening, things have massively consolidated. The approach is department and university wide. You are out of date.

It's actually been a fab thing to be involved in as it means I have met heaps of folk across the board.

As for which one I'm at. No can do, I'm afraid. T'will out me for sure.

MordionAgenos Tue 01-Jan-13 21:53:14

@word I'm really not. smile You said yourself you've been wherever it is you are for 5 minutes. I'm quite involved on the alumna side, because of my job.

Yellowtip Tue 01-Jan-13 22:00:30

word you're just wrong about the handful thing, sorry. If you want to do a decent job on the widening access team then you need to be a bit better informed and approach things in a rather more nuanced way. Nothing is likely to deter students from under represented constituencies more than these hyperbolic headlines. They'll run a mile.

Yellowtip Tue 01-Jan-13 22:01:40

To be honest word I doubt nailing you mast to either Oxford or Cambridge would out you. They're both pretty big places.

Yellowtip Tue 01-Jan-13 22:02:51

your mast.

wordfactory Wed 02-Jan-13 08:57:20

Yellow and Mordian - with all due respect I have seen the stats, lovingl prepared so even a maths dunce like me can understand them, and the facts are clear; huge swathes of schools, indeed whole areas are woefully under represented and the current widening of access has not made an impact here. As someone in my department said 'more kids from tiffin does not diversity make'. As for my mast, academic or otherwise, I am afraid I am too identifiable because of the day job so shall leave it there. I have been outed before so am nervous, you see.

MordionAgenos Wed 02-Jan-13 10:38:09

@word but whole areas of posh schools are underrepresented too. The fact is, there aren't enough places at either Oxford or Cambridge to make offers in every single school in the country. And geography also plays a part. Oxford is ok (isn't it? i suppose i might be wrong there but im fairly sureits fairly accessible - that old Yes Minister joke....) but Cambridge has historically been a complete bugger to get to, from many parts of the country. And that has historically had an impact on applications. Which obviously then has a knock on effect on admissions.

I am completely not denying there is an applications issue. But,like yellowtip, I see no evidence (from current involvement, as well as past) that the only state school pupils come from a mere handful of schools (or, now you've named one, come from Tiffins). As far as Cambridge goes. I know nothing about Oxford (she does, though). Although I suppose we would need to understand your definition of 'handful'.

MordionAgenos Wed 02-Jan-13 10:39:01

Bloody iPad. Capitalisation all to cock. Sorry.

happygardening Wed 02-Jan-13 10:49:33

There seems to be an obsession with Oxbridge but we live in a globalised world at my DS's approximately 35% go into Oxbridge but increasing numbers are going abroad approximately 9% per year obviously the US currently being the main destination but I understand China and others are being increasingly considered. I suspect many top independent schools are either going down this road or planning too.

Yellowtip Wed 02-Jan-13 10:58:07

Quite understand about not wanting to out yourself word.

You're nevertheless wrong to state that 'virtually all' state school students at Oxford and Cambridge come from a 'handful' of schools. That's wrong, mathematically (since you mentioned the maths).

CRGS, Henrietta Barnett, QEB, the Tiffin schools etc and all the other similar superselective grammars are bound to have a higher represenation than the Kent grammars because of their intake. In the same way that Westminster and SPGS have a higher representation than similar priced independents for the less academically able. There are all the arguments about grammars being basions of social exclusion of course (not my personal experience, but there you go). But focussing access on schools simply because they don't send many to Oxford or Cambridge is a strategy very capable of missing the point.

Anyhow, please be wary in your access work about generalising from the particular of these MN threads. With a number of rareish exceptions these threads don't show the true breadth of the grammar school population. In my experience they distort a good deal. So that would be doing a disservice to clever kids who happen to get to a superselective and who tick all the Oxford and Cambridge accss boxes, bar the one labelled 'under-represented school'.

Yellowtip Wed 02-Jan-13 11:01:10

Cross-posted with Mordion. Again.

noddyholder Wed 02-Jan-13 11:18:11

I have never known such obsession with education amongst my RL friends. We all want our children to reach their potential but MN is beyond pushy and obsessed!