Curious about differences between state & private at primary age: if your kids are in reception at a private school now, what are they doing?

(103 Posts)
tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 12:44:44

Having a quick look at the coaching thread in this section has made me curious (in a friendly, non-confrontational way!) DD1 is at a state primary. We did look briefly at the private options but not in a really serious way because we were in the catchment for a good state school. I know families who have coached their kids from 2.5 plus but I don't want to probe them too much in RL about the whys and wherefores of how that has worked out because I've noticed that parents (of kids at state and private schools) often get a bit defensive about their choices. Which is understandable I guess. And to be completely transparent, I did post a related thread a couple of years ago (under a different talk name) when we were still deciding but things have moved on a bit since then and now that DD1 is at school I'm interested again, from a slightly different perspective.

So, what I really want to know is what the differences are, particularly in the early years of formal education. DD1 is in her second term of reception, she's reading well (moving up through the levels pretty rapidly), doing basic sums, is curious about the world around her and comes home with surprising facts about what she's learned at school. To me it feels like she's thriving and reaching her potential but when I hear of 3, 4 and 5 year olds being regularly coached to get into x,y,z london school (we're also in London), I do wonder whether 'thriving' is just subjective and whether academically those schools are just in a completely different league. Is it that the kids at pre-preps are reading longer, more complicated books and already learning their times tables? What do kids in reception at pre-preps do? If your DC is 5 and you opted for a private school what do you think they are getting that you wouldn't get at your local primary?

thesecretmusicteacher Fri 01-Mar-13 13:37:28

If you could take our state primary....

- stretch it out over double the plot

- add six extra small teaching/small group rooms

- reduce class sizes from 30 to 20

I think it would be perfect.

The thing that most affects the quality of what we do is room.

Intellectually and academically, I think we are working at a higher and broader level than the local privates - at least that's what a dad who moved his son out of the private to us said. But they have fewer children per room, and more rooms per child.

NaturalBaby Fri 01-Mar-13 12:59:27

YourGorgeous We're going without the nice things (a holiday lasts a week) and putting our dc's education 1st. It's what my parents did for me and I'm happy with the lifestyle we had so am happy to do the same for my dc's. I can see at least 1 dc coasting and doing the minimum to achieve average results, instead he is at one of the best schools in the country with very high expectations.

YourGorgeous Fri 01-Mar-13 12:44:32

So my ds is currently in YR and is the youngest in his school (28th Aug birthday). We considered the local private school but our village primary was supposed to be good, so we put him in there instead. Now, I am not happy with the school in general and he is really behind in class (31 pupils to 1 teacher and 1 TA) and is getting extra help, although I'm not sure how much with only 2 adults to 31 kids! I would love to put him in a private school where he can get more development.

We can certainly afford private school fees now, but then we'd need to follow on with my dd (3 yrs) and the costs rise. I do worry about putting them in and then something happening which means financially we cannot afford it and have to pull them out.

Also currently we can have nice things, go on holidays etc, but if we are paying for education we might have to let a few of the nice things go...then the kids might not get the family experiences like skiing holidays etc.

Does anyone have a view on the financial side?

jenbird Wed 27-Feb-13 19:11:39

Elibean - yes I mean younger ones, ds1 is 7 and dd1 is 5. I would like them to go to the local grammar schools at secondary so they will have extra tuition from yr 4. If they don't get in then so be it, we will have to look at the other options available. They are both bright kids with a wide variety of interests and whilst I want them to have every opportunity I also want these to enrich their lives rather than being a chore. Why is it all so hard???!

Naranji Wed 27-Feb-13 11:13:18

Yes I agree, my year 2 (state primary) dd really enjoys coming home early at 3 and just playing and watching cbeebies. By year 4 it isnt so important you are right.

Elibean Wed 27-Feb-13 11:03:22

ps Y5 is different - from Y3-4 upwards, time with peers is equally important as time with family. But Jenbird was presumably talking about little ones, as per OP.

Elibean Wed 27-Feb-13 11:02:18

jenbird - my personal opinion is that, at such a young age, there isn't much difference (that matters to me). It DOES depend on the individual school, though.

If my local village primary was lovely, instilled good social values and a love of learning (as our local state primary does), I would go for it above and beyond private at this age, tbh. I think, if possible, time at home (as opposed to playing at school) with family and siblings has quite an impact, developmentally, and I value it.

And you can always change later if things aren't working.

Naranji Wed 27-Feb-13 10:32:30

to be honest, the two of mine at private school DONT play much. They get home late if they have away matches (last night year 5 dd got home at 7 after a swimming gala), they still have homework, so last night it was supper, homework and bed with a quick tuck in and a hot water bottle. No telly, no play. BUT they seem to play all day with their friends at school and to her, being in a swimming gala IS play, she enjoys it and there's no pressure on her as she's not one of the strongest swimmers.

Naranji Wed 27-Feb-13 10:29:18

I am not sure whether it matters - and children who stay at our local village primary occasionally go to the private school in year 7 and do well (although it has to be said they are NEVER in the A teams for sport if that is important to you), but it is LOVELY to see a child in year 3 coping with all the extra stuff and thriving on it. They never DON'T cope with it IMO. Just shows what they COULD be doing at state primary. But whether it is worth the financial sacrifice only each parent can decide.

GlobalGill Wed 27-Feb-13 01:15:41

Jenbird I think many of us feel like you. The answer may be to pick one academically enriching thing to do and see that your child sees it through, whether that's an instrument or a language etc. Also personally I think getting rid of the TV for the best part etc works well if you want them to do well academically. Anecdotal but those I know that have banned computer gaming and TV in the week have children who do very well at school. Having quite managed it myself...

GlobalGill Wed 27-Feb-13 01:12:14

Naranji I can't help thinking that those high expectations will set children up for the future. It is going to be so much more competitive learning self discipline and focus is also very important & all you describe will help with that.

A friend of mine that's an academic and doing research on the brain currently says we should try to get our children to learn as much as possible as early as possible. As she told me recently: If we remember that at the biological level, brain cells which are not used in forming useful connections get pruned away and die, we will not feel apologetic about trying to teach our kids as much as they can 'absorb'. There really is no limit for the human intellectual capacity. Of course, we mustn't neglect their emotional and physical development along the way. Will we ever get it 'right'? I doubt it, for mothers are usually full of self-doubt. We can only do what we think is best, at a given time, under a given set of circumstances.

letseatgrandma Tue 26-Feb-13 22:55:25

Yup, it is crap. I can also assure you that it is in one of the top 2%

Can I ask how you know this? Is there a list somewhere?

jenbird Tue 26-Feb-13 22:38:49

Can I ask an honest question? Does it all really matter at such a young age? I was privately educated and would like to send my dc's but with 4 of them we would need a lottery win. Two of my dc's are currently at a v small village primary.
I find myself very conflicted over the whole thing. I want my kids to do well but I also want them to enjoy their childhood. As parents we try to provide the extra curricular activities they definitely don't get at a state school I.e sport, drama etc but I don't want to make up the academic deficit as there isn't enough time in the day and I want them to play too.

catzcream Tue 26-Feb-13 20:13:41

Yup, it is crap. I can also assure you that it is in one of the top 2%, Has been there for the last three years that i can see. We may have just been unlucky with the teacher, in this year but that is the reality of what is happening.

Also having a lot of friends who are teachers and who work in education, the focus is not always on getting the kids who are doing ok to do better, the main focus is getting the kids who are going to fail sats to a level where they can pass (there has been an increase in the school in recent years on the proportion of children where English is not the first language). If they fail, the school falls down the league tables. We have a quiet, non disruptive, fairly smart kid....and in a class size of 30, he has and will continue to disappear. I am not saying this is a reflection of state education, but is simply a case of what is happening in our school. And with our sons personality, is not working.

DS2 on the other hand would have been fine, he is no shrinking violet!

Naranji Tue 26-Feb-13 16:12:03

And if you have a very very able child they will move into older years for some lessons or be stretched within the classroom with different work - the school WANTS them to achieve highly. Likewise if you have a child who struggles with something (my dd2 and spelling) they will bend over backwards to sort it out. That is an advantage of only having 12 in a class.

Naranji Tue 26-Feb-13 16:09:41

sorry that should say year 3

Naranji Tue 26-Feb-13 16:08:44

catzcream that sounds crap - i'd seriously doubt that is one of the best 2% of primaries in the country!

My dd3's state primary is academically about the same as my dd2's private prep until year 3. Then the differences are much more marked.

In Ks1 of our state primary they have a book to read every night and read every day to the TA or the teacher. dd3 is in year 2 and her reading is excellent.

Once the state gets to year 4 although academically (literacy and numeracy) they are roughly the same as the prep, the prep takes a radically different path with differnt teachers and classrooms for geography, history, latin, french, RE, science, English and maths. There is very little 'topic' work - ie they are doing Victorians in history but it is not cross curricular. They are expected to learn and recite poetry, to research a topic and write a report on it every weekend, to take part in many drama displays and musical displays as well as playing sport 4 x a week, once or twice involving coach trips to other schools where they meet other kids and learn how to behave in different situations. Our state primary at year 4 carries on much the same way as it did in ks1, one classroom, one topic, very little breadth.

Elibean Tue 26-Feb-13 14:57:04

The big difference, IME, is time. My girls have had pretty much the same curricular input (and achieved similar levels) as their friends who are at private schools - but not as much individual attention.

No specialist teachers at this age, either, though there are clubs (eg French club, with native speakers, Music with musicians, etc) for that.

There was never any undealt with disruptive behaviour, there was low key homework of the sort the last poster mentions (though show and tell was more varied and less formal), and they were both very happy. I felt the teacher knew them well, in spite of larger numbers in the class.

I am sure the differences are as much between individual schools, as between sectors - please don't go on sectors, go on schools (and children)!

MGMidget Tue 26-Feb-13 13:55:12

Oh, I forgot the Maths bit! DS does adding and subtraction. I don't think he's doing multiplication yet but I've not quizzed him about it!

MGMidget Tue 26-Feb-13 13:38:59

DS is in second term of reception in a selective private school in London. We didn't pay for any private tuition and he didn't go to a posh nursery to prep him so I would guess he was not at the top academically when he started. He was at the local (outstanding) state primary during the pre-school nursery year where the focus was on free play with a little bit of structured activity with a teacher/TA.

In reception, he takes home a new book to read 4 nights a week. They typically have a couple of sentences per page and up to 16 pages long. I'm afraid I don't know what the reading stage is as I haven't asked! He also gets some writing homework, sometimes linked to the book he's taken home to read (i.e. asking him to answer some questions about it, writing a few words to answer each question), sometimes he's asked to do a little diary on the weekend's activities with a few words/sentences and drawings. Sometimes we have to dictate a sentence or two and he has to attempt to write it. At school they have done writing exercises on a class topic, e.g writing a little story each about a favourite animal. The story is typically 2-3 sentences long and looking at the displays from the children they vary in legibility and spelling abilities! At this age they are attempting to write the words phonetically but usually misspelling.

Each child does 'show and tell' once a week and they have a topic per term for show and tell. Its a serious factual topic, not an invitation to bring in their favourite toy. This requires a bit more homework as we need to help DS decide what he's going to talk about and then do a bit of research with him to prepare. I regard this as homework for parents but it does seem to benefit him in developing his general knowledge. From what I can gather children seem to be assessed for this on clarity of speech, ability to remember facts, confidence, demonstration of general knowledge, ability to ask relevant questions (when in the audience) and ability to answer questions relevantly (when the speaker).

They have specialist teachers in French (native language), Art, PE/games, Music, Ballet, Drama, ICT.

Children seem to be divided into groups for most subjects but it is not official 'setting' at this age so kept low key. There seems to be time for extending children to are very able in a subject or extra help where required.

Not many disruptive children that I am aware of (but then the school was selective). Where it has happened in DS's class the teachers have tackled it and come up with a solution individual to that child that worked.

My overall impression is that they cover a lot more than the government's early years syllabus. They also seem to have high expectations of the children without being noticably pushy - they set the standards high for the children to aim for if they are capable.

simpson Sun 24-Feb-13 20:43:29

My DC are in our local "satisfactory" school. DS is in yr3 and DD is in reception.

DD gets 121 reading 3 times a week with either her teacher or EYFS Head. She gets 2/3 reading books a week. She is very able in reading (stage 11) and her school recognise this. She has weekly spelling tests and writing tasks etc.

Reception and nursery share a playground (the first year they have done this). I had reservations about DD's reception yr at first as they have taken a bulge class and have 81 kids in one massive classroom (with 3 teachers and 3 TAs).

Literacy is streamed into 3 ability groups but numeracy is taught by their own class teacher. Very happy so far, just hope it continues into yr1!!

catzcream Sun 24-Feb-13 20:16:14

Hi, this is a really interesting thread and I have been reading with interest. DS1 is currently in reception at one of the top 2% of primary schools in the country. It is incredibly over subscribed, as is the case with every primary school in our area. We didn't think we had a chance of getting a space so two years ago, I changed jobs and we put him into the nursery division of a lovely private prep.
When he got a space at this state primary, I jumped at the chance. Halfway through the school year, we are making appointments with headmasters of prep schools to move him back into the private sector. Main reasons?
He isn't happy, he has confessed that he is utterly bored and he has started to dislike going to school. He has always loved going to nursery etc.
The class size is 30 kids and there is virtually no one to one time with the teacher. (There is a TA too)
He hasn't had any of his worksheets/ words sent home for the whole of this term and when I asked about this at parents evening, it is because that relies on the mums who come into help to make sure those are supplied. The teacher didn't even know this wasn't happening.
The reading books sent home are two stages under the stages he is reading at home but the teacher refuses to lift him before her set stage of assessing reading.
They were showing Peppa pig in the classroom when I went to a pickup ( no, I am not anti tv, but Peppa pig, in school? Seriously?)

I met one of the mums from the prep school, class sizes are currently 11 ( max of 15 at this age). With a teacher and teaching assistant. Books are being read daily with the teacher and new books sent home every day. There are two homework packs with worksheets set twice a week and returned fully marked with the teacher sitting down with the children and going through the homework to check back understanding. These worksheets are already starting with questions along non verbal reasoning...

In our case, the day in day out interaction and expectation between state and private are absolutely miles apart. I went to state school and did very well. I so wanted the state school to be good enough. Am incredibly disappointed that it isn't. But I am not prepared to gamble with my kids education on principle. I plan to increase my hours and we will make necessary cutbacks. I plan to move DS back to private as soon as I can.

Sorry, ended up being a bit of a mammoth post.

blueberryupsidedown Fri 15-Feb-13 22:18:55

Yes I have but they say that what he can do at home is not reproduced at school. Which makes me think he's in the wrong school...

Elibean Fri 15-Feb-13 17:27:14

blueberry, you've probably done this already - but just in case, have you talked to his teacher? My friend's ds is also a maths whizz, aged 6 (and in dd2's state school class of 29) and she felt frustrated about his not being stretched - had a word, and now he is being.

blueberryupsidedown Fri 15-Feb-13 17:10:22

And another point, if you child is advanced in an area, I think that a private school is better equiped to deal with it. DS2 is very good at maths, I mean very, very good in a natural kind of way (he does some weird things such as counting in three, backwards, and figure out patterns very easily, if you ask him what's 33 plus 81 he will know the answer in a second. He is 6 years old)... and his school hasn't really spotted it yet. He is shy, introvert, has a speech disorder so it's hard for him to show his skills against another 29 kids. We do lots with him at home to balance it out, but no worksheets (I hate them with a passion) but lots of maths games, board games, playing with cuisenair rods and numicons. the more i think about it, maybe we should find a better school for him!

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