Those of you who have chosen private school for primary years and onwards...

(52 Posts)
hogspudding Wed 12-Dec-12 12:17:02

particularly those who have perhaps made a lot of sacrifices to find the fees each term....

I'm really interested in your thoughts on how it is going for you? I know private vs. state has been discussed many a time on here, but i would appreciate some kind and honest information. Obviously it goes without saying that all schools and all children are different and my main concern is that we find the best school that suits DD for September next year.

Locally, there are 3 schools we really like. Two are lovely village state primaries and one is a small independent school which is also good. We liked all of them when looking round, though the specific facilities and ethos of the independent school fitted in very much with our own ideas and thoughts about education.

We only have one child and no more are planned. For us, although we could manage the fees (and extra expenses which I know creep up on you) for one child at the independent school, it would be by cutting back. i.e holidays would have to be scaled right down, we have a modest house and we probably wouldn't be able to move for the foreseeable future, less ability to save for the future. If we had more than one child it would not be possible, but that's not in the plan.

So I suppose i'm just interested in the experience of others- for those who found a particular independent school that they loved, and chose to send your child there with sacrifices, did it work out? Do you feel it has been worth it? Have there been any problems with your child maybe not being from a particularly wealthy family/social aspects? Do you see it as an investment for their future?

I do feel very, very lucky that whichever school we pick I shall be happy, just wondering and worrying about it all. Sorry for all the questions.

dixiechick1975 Wed 12-Dec-12 12:53:08

My DD is in private yr 2. The only private school in our small northern town.

Honestly is she had a place at a lovely village state school with great academics then I wouldn't be paying.

These threads always end up pear shaped as whenever posters mention what they see as positives of their child's private school lots of posters chip in and say their state school offers that and more.

All you can do is compare the state school your child has a realistic chance of being allocated v the private one.

eg Class size, facilities, before/aftercare, holidays - some private have longer, holiday care, leavers destinations, curriculum - music, language etc.

If there are any school fairs/concerts coming up maybe go along. You will see other parents and get a feel for the schools.

Butkin Wed 12-Dec-12 13:21:14

I feel DD has benefited from smaller class sizes (than at our state options) and plenty of competitive sport which she loves.

Quite a few children joined her school from the state sector at age 8 and they were of very similar academic ability so don't think they missed out there at all. However some of them, particularly the boys, found the stricter regime tough for a while (but soon got used to it) whilst many were astonished by the sporting options compared to their previous schools.

Lonecatwithkitten Wed 12-Dec-12 13:33:22

There is huge variation from area to area. In my area very few state options offer before and after school care and some are actually obstructive to after school care picking up. This was a big issue as a full time worker.
Again in my area there are very few clubs in the state schools and my DD is a joiner she attend 8 clubs at her school a week - all her own choice.
DD's school goes to 18 and this has benefitted a particular group in her year(4) who are very strong in Maths and a senior school teacher is going to teach them Maths.
I am a single mum working full time running a busy business the school I choose was the one that fitted our lives best.

Chandon Wed 12-Dec-12 16:53:33

We tried the local state school, Ofsted " good" for. 3 years and must say that thoigh it is a nice school, we really felt they let DS1, who has mild SEn down. they also let down Ds2 who is ambitious by nature, and found the work too easy.

In the private school we chose, DS1 gets more support for SEN, his teachers somehow seem to care a lot more, and still have high expectations of him ( in the local state school he was pretty much written off after bad SATs and I was told that in every class, someone has to be bottom of the group, and that this was DS) I felt I had nothing to lose by moving him!

After a year and a term, I can say the improvement for Ds1 has been really amazing, they seem to expect more of him, and he rises to the challenge.

And for DS2 it has been great too, he likes to get extra challenges when he finishes his work, which he enjoys.

The kids say they like the sports and music.

At times I feel it is a bit lala-land, when literally ALL kids appear to go skiing twice every year, and people keep asking why we don't. But I can cope wity that, and so can the kids. TBH, most parents seem quite "normal" and not minted or anything.

Still, I would say try the local state primary if you like it, you can always switch if it does not work out.

IndigoBelle Wed 12-Dec-12 16:58:45

I would be looking at it from the other angle.

Sending DC to this private school will cost X a year (£6,000? £10,000)

What would you/DC need to get from this school for X to be worth spending?

You're going to send her there for Y years (7? 13?). So private education will cost X * Y ( £42,000? £130,000?).

What would you/ DC need to get from this school for X * Y to be worth spending?

Would more sports / better grades / ??? be worth X * Y to you?

RiversideMum Wed 12-Dec-12 18:48:16

You need to take a very practical financial approach. What if you are made redundant? What if you have long term illness? What if your relationship breaks down? If any of those things happens, would it mean you would have to change your child's school? What impact would that have on your child? These things have all happened to people I know in the past few years and none of them had a sufficient financial buffer to keep their DCs in private education. They then had to take the state schools where there were spaces left ...

SunflowersSmile Wed 12-Dec-12 19:14:15

IndigoBelle makes a very good point- is it really worth it?
Do a spreadsheet of pros and cons and add financial value to each.
Also as Riversidemum says- can you afford it if things go wrong?
If in doubt go state- a lot of us happily do!!

hogspudding Wed 12-Dec-12 20:54:08

Very very good points. Will be chewing over all of these! I think we are erring towards the two state primaries practically speaking, it would free up money to save or use for extra curricular stuff if dd wanted. We did love the learning ethos in the independent school, but class sizes are tiny and I am not sure how I feel about that either. Fairly small classes I think are great, too small and they may be very restrictive socially.

CURIOUSMIND Wed 12-Dec-12 21:19:39

My children are in a local average state primary school.They both learn instruments.I found in the music ,drama festival, or competition, majority children are from private schools. In the latest competitions, my Ds1 won both final, but his achievement won't have a chance to be mentioned at school( don't know why ).However I found lists of familiar names got congratulations sorts of things on their private school website: Jane was doing exceptionally well, got second place, well done!
You see the difference?

Laura0806 Wed 12-Dec-12 22:47:08

Im am in the process of moving my daughter from private into state at year 2. This is because i truly believe that she is not getting an all round education. It is a small class 13) all girls and it is a very sheltered, unrealistic, over the top environment where the children are treated like princesses by the parents ( not true of all privates I know). Our local state school is good ( not outstanding) but has a reputation for being caring and friendly and my insticnt is that it will provide her with a better start in life. My advice is to try state first, you can always move (harder to move from independent to state in our area as competition for places). I wish I had , would have saved us thousands!

Mutteroo Thu 13-Dec-12 01:47:58

DD had a place at a good infant school but for some reason (I'll blame DH) she went for a scholarship to a very small private school in her reception year. She won the scholarship but we turned it down as thankfully DH realised she was getting a superior education at the state primary. Her a infant class sizes were tiny for a state school (20-24) and the private school had a class size of 8. Our concerns were what if DD fell out with the 2 other girls in the class? Would she feel isolated? Also it felt like a hothouse kind of environment which we knew would make her feel uncomfortable. We eventually moved DD in year 9 when things were not working out in her secondary school. For DCs primary years, they were able to learn instruments, do extracurricular activities & go on residential school trips. Could we afford to do that & pay for primary education? Hell no!

Weigh up those pros & cons - The only real answer here. one thing though, we found some parents in both sectors of education rather snobby & had feelings of superiority. On the whole they were a great bunch and we had no issues with the social side of things. Do what is right for you and your child. If the sacrifice is too great then it really isn't worth it. Good luck OP.

orangeberries Thu 13-Dec-12 09:02:51

We considered private for our children at many stages of their education and nearly signed on the dotted line a couple of times.

For us the difference was a bit like buying a package holiday or "DIY" holiday with a lot more incognito and hiccups along the way. If we'd gone for the privates our life would have been a lot easier; less chasing after levels, absent teachers, ups and downs, lack of homework, no extracurricular so lots of carting around after school.

The upsides for us were the closeness to school, the savings which allowed us to do more as a family and also the real choice of activities (ie being able to choose the best available in the area rather than what's offered by the school).

For secondary I will most definitely be going private as it's been a bit of a rollercoaster and I would like an easier ride. Also I think it will be harder to spur and motivate teenagers to the same degree.

If we had a grammar school or a fantastic I nearby I would consider it, but as we don't I think it will be state primary and private secondary for us. Good luck with your decision!!!

We tried two 'outstanding' village primary schools for dd2 before going private.
It is worth every penny as she is a transformed child who loves school now.
She has mild SEN too and was very badly bullied in the other schools.

The school she is in now has shown such kindness to her and understanding, they also keep a very close eye on all the social interactions.
It is an academic prep school but they care about all of the children's little quirks.

I had the opposite experience to some people, the village school parents were very wealthy in general and much more cliquey. I found the prep school parents more 'normal' and accepting of dd.

It obviously depends where you live and I think our local schools are quite unusual in that respect.

Dd's class has 18 pupils, I wouldn't want fewer because of the friendship issues.

HelpOneAnother Thu 13-Dec-12 09:39:41

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WineOhWhy Thu 13-Dec-12 09:45:48

My DDs go to private prep. We were lucky to be in a position to be able to afford it without it having too big a lifestyle impact, so were able to take money out the equation and ask ourselves what was the best school for them.

If it had been more of a sacrifice financially (but doable), i think we would still have gone for it (or moved) because it was so much better than the other options available to us. If we lived in another area with excellent state schools nearby, then I think the cost would have been much more of a deciding factor. I dont think anyone else can answer this for you because it is so fact specific.

HelpOneAnother Thu 13-Dec-12 09:46:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MRSJWRTWR Thu 13-Dec-12 10:11:00

We moved DS2 from state to private in September. DS2 was experiencing quite a few difficulties at his big state primary and alot of this has been resolved by smaller class sizes and more individual attention. We also liked the variety of after school clubs and sport on offer. As a working parent, the wrap round care that is available from 8am-6pm included in the fees was also an attraction.

I miss not being involved with a local school which is part of our community but I feel it was the right move for DS2. DS1 managed really well at the big state primary and easily got into the private secondary school (attached to DS2's prep school) and this is what we had planned with DS2, but different schools suit different children.

I suppose we could have looked at some of the small village primary schools in the area but to be honest the logistics of attending one of these probably wouldnt have worked.

Luckily, the fees do not have too big an impact on our lifestyle at the moment but we did have to think long and hard (and put plans in place) with regard to the financial committment for the next 10-12 years.

Chigley1 Thu 13-Dec-12 10:12:29

Both mine started school at an independent, it caters for nursery to 16. We happily live very, very frugally indeed in order to pay fees. We live in an area where there are many failing schools (primary and secondary) and the best are all packed to the rafters and we are well outside catchment for most of them. My children are unaware (so far) that we pay for their schooling.

There are a few very affluent families, but in several years I've yet to come across anyone 'flashy' IYSWIM. The vast majority are very down to earth, and make at least some sacrifices to pay fees.

I am a teacher and chose it for these reasons. Class sizes are small (ish) and the emphasis is very much on the 'whole' child rather than pure academic ability. Being happy at school is absolutely the most important thing to everyone. All the teachers know all the children's names. Older children are encouraged to work with younger and it is very much a family atmosphere. There are relatively few who transfer to grammar at 11, even though that is an option. There is very little 'testing' that the children are aware of, although the assessment process is very sound. In short, it is run exactly the way I feel every school should be. Some are like this, of course, but many are not.

We used to live in a area with very good state schools, and I doubt I would have chosen private in those circumstances. It's just THIS particular school I love, not necessarily independents in general. They are not all the same. One of my children in particular would be very unhappy in a high pressure 'prep for exams' type of school.

If you LOVE the school significantly more than the state primaries I would do it. If there is little to choose between them, I would hold off. Save the money for private secondary.

This has turned into a bit of an essay! I find I spend a lot of time justifying my choices (to myself and others!) especially as we can only just manage financially.

hogspudding Thu 13-Dec-12 10:28:35

Thank you so much for your replies. It means a lot to me just to hear of others experiences as I am by nature a real worrier and I think dp is fed up of hearing about the various ins and outs of different schools whereas it is constantly on my mind at the moment. I know it is a totally individual choice and based on our individual set of circumstances but just want to get it right.

I struggle socially sometimes in that I don't have a wide circle of friends and also tend to feel that on a group of people I always feel that I am always the uninteresting, frumpy one. I do suffer with shyness. We have a very modest and small house and I suppose that although I am anxious first and foremost to get the right school for dd, I also saw it as an opportunity to make a few more friends, become involved in things etc. what I don't want is find ourselves in a situation where I am anxious about having children back to play because I feel inferior- I am not for one second saying that parents at private school are snobbish and unkind, rather that I might feel uncomfortable in myself and also wouldn't want dd to worry about having mates back. I am probably not explaining myself very well...

But there will be lovely people and not so lovely people at any school so I know deep down I should try not to worry so much about that.

hogspudding Thu 13-Dec-12 10:34:40

Chigley1 how far do you travel to the school? It sounds lovely and very much like the independent school we are considering. It would be a 25 minute drive for us which of course is another consideration.

Chigley1 Thu 13-Dec-12 11:19:47

We are lucky it's pretty close to us, about a 10 minute drive. However there are families who live at least 30 minutes away. The one disadvantage is children tend to be very spread out so not many school friends close by to play with!

I would suggest doing the drive a few times at school run times to see what the traffic is like! My DC school starts earlier and finishes later than many local schools so we avoid the real rush.

wordfactory Thu 13-Dec-12 11:31:32

OP I can give you my own thoughts with the benefit of hindsight (my DC are now in secondary).

It looks as if you've checked both state and priavte to see which will suit your DC but it's hard when they're so little to consider what they'll need when they are no longer so tiny. I know we chose prep school because it was close, co-ed, had loads of outdoor space and we liked the cut of the headmaster's jib grin...hardly deep thinking.

In retrospect the following things were well worth paying for (but are not present in all prep schools and are present in some state schools):

Small class sizes.
FT TAs for each class.
Plenty of sports and time spent out doors.
Early introduction of MFL (not a peri coming in for half an hour a week).
Specialist teaching inroduced in year 3.
Proper setting introduced in year 3.
Competitive sports teams with weekly fixture dates.
Orchestra/choirs/ensembles.
Excellent dedicated facilities for sports/drama/art/DT/science/ICT.

I also appreciated the longer school day and longer school holidays. It suited me and mine.

I also appreciated the regular homework and early introduction of exams.

Things that were rather nice, but were not necessary, included super grounds and building. Home made lunches (no packed lunches allowed). Formal events (prize giving day etc).

Chandon Thu 13-Dec-12 12:03:13

With proper setting, do you mean top sets and bottom sets?

If so, in our private school, the thing I like is that there are only sets for maths, but nothing else. And even the bottom set at maths is a year ahead of state school curriculum.

I LOVE it that there are no sets for English, they have a minumum level all kids, even dyslexic etc, have to work at. This minimum level is quite high. Children with SEN get between 2 and 5 withdrawal lessons to help then with their English. The fact that they have higher expectations of my dyslexic son than the state school had, has meant that somehow, and miraculously he rises to the challenge! Set the bar higher, and they jump higher. And that is what I love about our school.

Guess private schools vary hugely.

It's interesting that a lot of us went private for additional needs. I do think that it's a bit of a fallacy that the state is always better for that. You hear it said so many times.

I appreciate that we are lucky to have that opportunity though and it shouldn't be so unfair.

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