Dilemma - In private due to lack of state school place, but option of state comes up now!

(33 Posts)
angel1976 Fri 28-Sep-12 19:42:57

Argh! Some of you might remember me, but most probably not as not an unusual story... We moved to an area of London last July mostly due to DS1 starting primary school this year and we chose the area because of its numerous 'good' primary schools in the area, the year before last, we would have gotten in at least 2 of the local schools but thanks to baby boom, we got allocated none of the 5 local primaries in the area, and got sent to one almost 2 miles away. After a lot of panic and soul searching (and going to look at the school), we made the decision to put DS1 in a small prep school 3 miles away. He started 4 weeks ago, loved it and we have no complaints about the school. In the meantime, I've been calling up the local council about our position on the wait list for local state schools, we were anything from 7th to 30-something. There was also a small C of E school 5-10 minutes walk away, because it's C of E (we don't go to church) and small (only one form of entry) and rated outstanding, we didn't expect to get in there. We were 6th on their wait list, stayed there the whole summer and just when school started, we were 3rd.

Today, I got a phone call completely out of the blue from the headmaster of the C of E school, 'informally' offering us a place! shock Essentially, a mum has just informed him she will be taking her DC out of reception to home-school, she has yet to inform the local council but that would be her next step. The headteacher thought time was imperative and called us to let us know so we could arrange to meet him and see the school before a place is offered formally. I was in shock! In all reality, I expected we would be offered a place in one of the local schools but not before Christmas. DH is away on a work so but I've managed quick chat with him to tell him we now have an appointment to see the HT and see the school on Tuesday morning.

I know we have to wait till we meet the HT and see the school before we make the decision. But it's going to be difficult isn't it? We went to the school's summer fete to have a nose and DH remarked what a nice little school it felt like. We don't know anyone having kids in there being new to the area but all the 3rd hand reviews and experiences of the school have been very positive. But it's never going to compare to the prep school DS1 goes to, for one, he is in a class of 14 (as opposed to 30 in the state primary) and in their 4th week, they are already 'reading' some key words. On the other hand, it would be nice not to have to drive 15 minutes every morning to school, leaving even earlier as there could be traffic. The state primary is a 5-10 minute walk away. DS1 is very confident and has adjusted really well from his preschool to this prep school, so there is nothing to make me think he won't do it in the new school. Financially, it would be SO liberating not to think of having 2 set of private school fees to pay for the next 7 years (have DS2 who is 2 years younger so he will get a sibling place in the local state primary sparing us all the anguish we went through this year), we got a huge mortgage to pay for our current home and I think 1 set of fees is ok but 2 will be a stretch. My head is spinning going through all the for and against arguments. Just want to get it out and see if anyone has been in our position and moved their DC from private to state so early on and what happens? Thanks!

CalmingMiranda Fri 28-Sep-12 19:54:09

It's a no brainer, really, isn't it?

In terms of comparison with the class size, there may be 30 in the class, but there will also probably be one and maybe 2 TAs, so the adult: child ratio is high.
Parents like small classes, but in fact research suggets that it doesn't improve the quality of learning if the class is taught well. State schools usually have a range of groups, a special space for children needing support, different activities on differnt tables (with TA input) for those who are more able, etc.

Reading 'key words' may have no long term impact if they learn properly thorugh phonics. And if you are reading at home with your children they will pick up word recognition anyway.

Several children in our primary move within the first few weeks of term as places in more favoured schools become available, and they seem to thrive very well.

Madsometimes Fri 28-Sep-12 20:00:06

Private schools normally require a terms notice, so expect to pay the fees in full up until Easter. However, much as this outlay will make you wince, I would still go for the state primary, and save your money in case you get a nightmare secondary allocation.

dixiechick1975 Fri 28-Sep-12 20:14:55

If you like the school when you see it then i'd move DS. Walkable and free are big pluses grin

Do double check the sibling rules - are they definitely priority over church going.

Agree you will have to pay the fees for your notice period - if the prep is oversubscribed though may be worth seeing if they will take slightly less.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Fri 28-Sep-12 20:18:15

My reception starter has been reading and it is his 3rd week.

We will almost certainly go private at secondary, but I think a good state primary is a good choice because it frees up money to be used for other things, and then the later years will hopefully not be such a pinch.

angel1976 Fri 28-Sep-12 20:25:42

Thanks all, it all makes a lot of sense. Yes, am well aware that we are due to pay the next term's fees too but honestly, £5k (including this term's fee) is NOTHING compared to the £112k that we would have laid out for 2 in private... dixie Am not sure that it's siblings over church-going but will check so thanks. Fingers crossed for Tuesday but I thought it was decent of the HT to call us himself instead of leaving one of his staff to break the news and he does seem fairly clued up to ask about what provisions we currently make for DS1 etc and says he is fairly confident we will not be disappointed by the school!

sanam2010 Fri 28-Sep-12 20:41:39

Hi, just one thing I would want to find out, I find it interesting a mum is deciding to home school her kid who just started there. Can you find out from the head what exactly happened? I am no saying sth must be wrong with the school, but it's not a very common occurence, esp at outstanding schools and a couple of weeks into the school year, so I think it's worth checking.

Other than that, as others have said, if you really like the school go for it, it sounds like it will be a huge financial relief. You could always think of switching him at 7+ and at least you have saved around £50k :-).

angel1976 Fri 28-Sep-12 20:53:44

sanam Yes, I thought that too. A bit weird that the kid is in school two weeks and the mum already wants to take him/her out. I also know of parents who had kids in there who had issues that weren't dealt with properly and they took their kids out BUT that was many years ago and HT has changed since. All recent reviews are positive. I guess that's half the problem of free state schooling, people can wait till whenever they wanted to change their mind. We wouldn't be in such a quandary if all those who have given up their spaces did it in plenty of time before school started!

dixiechick1975 Fri 28-Sep-12 21:01:04

I wouldn't read too much into a child leaving. You have no idea what the background story is eg mum may have wanted to homeschool but pressured by Dad into giving school a go..who knows.

My DD is at private..if there was an outstanding school with a place 5 mins away I know my money would be being spent on other things instead and i'd be making sure I did everything to ensure DC2 got in aswell.

Hope everything works out.

angel1976 Fri 28-Sep-12 21:15:34

dixie Thank you. It's hard, DS1 is very happy where he is but there's no saying he will not be in the state school. Also, he will then have local playdates and friends etc. But I don't have a crystal ball and I don't know the future!

expansivegirth Sat 29-Sep-12 01:32:24

It is fantastic being able to walk to school. Frees up time in the morning and the evening which means less tired kids. Lots of local friends. My kids really feel that they belong around here as they know so many other children when we are about Save your money for later.... And if the school turns out to be rubbish you can always go private again. ...

SavoyCabbage Sat 29-Sep-12 02:49:40

Move him. I took my dd out of school after a term and she took it totally in her stride. I think she just thought she had finished doing that and now was doing this instead if you see what I mean. Like doing a term of karate lessons and then dropping it and doing horse riding.

CoxlessFour Sat 29-Sep-12 03:17:32

Our DS was at a Catholic Primary School for 2 years (nursery, reception). One of my colleagues rather smugly told me we wouldn't get in because we weren't Catholic and how lucky she was to be a governor blah blah blah. But we did get in.

The most recent Ofsted report shows all was 'Outstanding', at that time it was 'Good' across the board.

They told us everything was fine with DS.

We moved him to a Prep School for Y1, and they were shocked at his low level of attainment, asked if he had been educated in a foreign country, etc. They arranged for testing, which revealed autism, and also he made substantial progress in year 1, and was fairly soon achieving highly, reading beyond the level of friends with a son of the same age (and clearly bright) at one of these super-oversubscribed London schools where you have to polish the priest's rosary beads from birth to get in.

Having gone from state to private, in retrospect the state primary seems AWFUL, there was no parental expectation and the issues with our son obvious to his new Y1 teacher were overlooked in 2 years at state (and I'm aware from my DD's class at the prep school that they have identified similar issues in Nursery, so it's not really a case that it's too soon to say), leaving us well behind in trying to address them.

Perhaps for a more normal child the differences between state and private would not be so stark, but for ours, it was huge.

CoxlessFour Sat 29-Sep-12 03:21:25

Just FWIW btw re teaching assistants, they have teacher + teaching assistant for class of 16 at DS's school.

Elibean Sat 29-Sep-12 10:22:36

Coxless, with all due respect, that may be the difference between two individual schools - not the difference between State and Private.

I have seen examples the exact reverse of your ds's situation.

teacherwith2kids Sat 29-Sep-12 11:11:46

To support Elibean's point, i once took a child from the local private school into a Year 2 class. Her parents had been told that her progress there was 'great', that she was 'in line or a bit above' her peer group etc, that her transfer to a state primary would 'hold her back because of the lower standards in state'.

To be blunt, she couldn't read or write AT ALL. No SEN, no learning issues once she was being properly taught, just that they didn't seem to have taught her anything. Could copy key words in beautiful handwriting, though...

Pooka Sat 29-Sep-12 11:30:39

My two dcs were doing work pitched at their different abilities very quickly at their then satisfactory primary. With dd she was reading key words within the first few weeks. Ds1 started school as a quite confident reader and was free reading by Christmas (tested by school as having reading age of 11 and assessed for comprehension too). At the same time there were and are kids securing their phonics knowledge and making progress at their pace.

What I'm trying to say is that a good school, a state school worth it's salt, will be able to differentiate and ensure progress even with a class of 30. In our eyfs they have 2 reception specialist TAs per class and a teacher, because the school action plan is about improving the achievement and outcomes in early years (which was picked up at last ofsted where school went from satisfactory to good).

Alibabaandthe40nappies Sat 29-Sep-12 12:34:17

Elibean that is very true. I know more than one family who have pulled children out of private primary because they were totally unable to cope with very mild SN - and the local state primary was able to offer 1-1 support where needed. I don't think single instance anecdotes are especially helpful in talking about the differences between state and private, it is more down to the individual schools.

bradbourne Sat 29-Sep-12 16:57:15

Unless the private school is very over-subscribed, I guess it would always be an option for your ds to return there if things don't work out at the local primary? (Not saying they won't, by the way, just that you aren't necessarily burning yoir bridges by changing your son's school).

"Having gone from state to private, in retrospect the state primary seems AWFUL". This is exactly my experience - NT ds has just started a private school after 2 years in "Good" state and the difference between the two is bigger than I had ever imagined. But, again, this is anecdotal evidence based on just two schools and doesn't mean your experince will be the same.

angel1976 Sat 29-Sep-12 18:45:44

Hi all, I appreciate all your thoughts and I know the state vs private argument is a lot more complex than a thread on MN can cover. DH came back from his work thing today and we have been chatting all day about it. I think if we are happy with the HT AFTER meeting him and also seeing the reception class in action, I think we will move him. At the end of the day, we moved to the area so we can become part of the community and hopefully get involved in the local schools etc. That, we will hardly do with DS1 in a prep school 3 miles away and DS2 to follow. Financially, it will be a big relief to us. We are not quite at the level where we will not miss the money that will go on both DSs' education. DH's work is going well and of course there is every chance financially we will get better and could afford their private education easily. But as easily, we could end up being redundant tomorrow! And to be relieved of the stress of driving to and from school every day (on very busy London roads) for the next 9 years will be a HUGE relief. It is not an over-subscribed prep school. In fact, they do 'lose' kids to the more competitive private schools as the years go on. We were just saying that if we do decide to go for the state school, we will put in a formal letter asap outlining our reasons to the HT. And expect to be hit with next term's fees as well. There's no need for it to be nasty. We do have very good reasons to leave.

Also, there are actually quite a few private schools where we are and if it comes down to it, there are actually quite a few options. We chose the prep school where DS1 is not for the academics but because we have friends there who are happy and it provides a very supportive and caring environment for the children, which we felt was important for DS1's age. I appreciate all your thoughts and fingers crossed for Tuesday. smile

Mutteroo Sun 30-Sep-12 01:54:39

Good luck OP & when you make the decision try very hard not to think of the "what ifs?" DD was offered a 50% scholarship to a private school in reception. We kept her at her state school all through primary & eventually moved her in year 9. Think of all the money we saved!

Small classes are not the be all as I went to a CofE school with classes of 36. It was considered one of the best schools in the area & it was senior school which let me down. Ah well.

I hope all goes well with the HT & you feel comfortable with the reception class, teacher & school in general. Your DS sounds like an adaptable little chap who'll fit in to an new school environment no problem & you can enjoy not having the financial stress private education brings. ;)

angel1976 Sun 30-Sep-12 08:37:54

mutteroo thank you for the encouragement. I feel possibly unreasonably emotional about it though I know logically DS1 will not remember any of this in years to come. I wish I had more confidence in my parenting ability and that I could and would feel happy in whatever decision I make. I fear so much I would make the wrong decision! But thank you for your words. It doesn't help I wasn't educated in this country but was state all the way in my country as there really wasn't any choice but my parents put me through a very expensive overseas university education. My DH was partly privately educated but not in London. But I digress... smile

bradbourne Sun 30-Sep-12 20:43:37

Hope it all works out for you. It isn't an easy decision, deciding to change your child's school so I can understand your worry and sense of indecision - it's only natural. But sounds like you have good reasons for your choice and I'm sure it will be for the best.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Sun 30-Sep-12 21:15:35

Angel good luck. If it is the choice that feels right for your family now, then it is the right one smile

angel1976 Sun 30-Sep-12 21:42:50

Thank you all, I will be back to update on Tuesday after meeting with the HT.

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