Private vs state

(23 Posts)
geo1000 Wed 13-Feb-13 10:17:54

I'm cautious about even introducing this topic as I know people can have very strong feelings about it - but heck, here goes! Two years after I first thought about it, I'm still struggling with the question of whether to send our son to private school or state. Perhaps some advice from other mums would help. So, a brief background. Both my husband and I come from what you would call working class backgrounds, and while I value the education that I received, it was in a poor area and there were low expectations. Many of my relatives (as unquestionably gorgeous and lovely as they are) work in casual labour/no contract factory jobs with little financial security and limited opportunities. (Most of them would be the first to say 'private education'!) My son's school have assessed him as G&T in core subjects. However, they also mention (and I've noticed myself) that like many children he's desperate to fit in with the 'cool' boys at school. To this end he already won't work as hard as he can, and often doesn't like to stand out too much for doing well with his work. I know from my childhood what happened to many academically able children (particularly boys) in a poor state school. I know that private education comes with no guarantees of opportunity or outcome. In a couple of years he'll be going to secondary and the fourth state school (and last) in our area has just been threatened with/gone into special measures. There are a number of good private schools in the area (no doubt a knock-on link). We won't qualify for a bursary at private school but paying for it will be arduous, e.g. for cars we'll be running old bangers, 1 week holiday a year in a caravan if we're lucky etc etc.

So, it seems there are three options; take our chances at state, move near to an outstanding state school and hope it stays that way, bankrupt ourselves and go private.

geo1000 Wed 13-Feb-13 10:21:54

By the way, I am not being snooty about old bangers or caravans. Believe me, as someone who has spent a large part of her life driving cars like my 15 year old Nissan Sunny and having holidays in the rain in old, drafty unheated caravans, I claim the right to NOT choose them willingly! smile

smee Wed 13-Feb-13 10:30:25

geo, there's another thread on the go, which has all sorts of comments on state v private. Might be worth you having a read through, as though it's about reception, there are a lot of thoughts on differences between the two.

It's here.

Could you save now to cover some of the costs of private secondary and support your son with some tutoring for the entrance at 11? Quite often the private schools have a different exam for state school entrants at 11 as they won't have learnt latin etc.

I do think the atmosphere of the school matters, my sons are in an all boys prep school and compete with each other to get good marks. Additionally, things like being in choir and orchestra are valued as well as being in the sports teams.

I think your two best options are probably save for 11+ entry to the local private schools or move near a good state school, if you think your son is likely to feel peer pressure not to perform.

gabsid Wed 13-Feb-13 11:03:38

We moved when DS was 2 1/2 to an area with good schools. I used to work in a secondary school who had been on special measures and where students had few ambitions (one 16 year old once said to me that after school he will go home and stay there - sadly he was serious).

Unfortunately, hard work is often seen as 'uncool', even in good schools. My nice went to a very good state school in a wealthy area and she didn't want to be seen working, she did behind closed doors though. She is 18 now, didn't get into the uni she wanted because she was too busy partying and working during her A level years. I think she learned from that and she will get where she wants to be in the end.

DS is in Y3 now and doing well is still a good thing, but he is young.

Personally I just can't see that private education is value for money in terms of what you ge in comparisson to a good state school. I have friends who sent their bright girls private, they had the option to send them to a good state school but chose private - their kids would do well anywhere, just now they have to count the pennies more.

Is there a state grammar school near you, if not, I would move.

geo1000 Wed 13-Feb-13 11:29:56

Thanks gabsid and chazs. Not coming from an educational background I'm on a steep learning curve. Does anyone know a good website with a summary of the state/private system? I'm confused, and Wikipedia and Google aren't helping. Are there benefits to waiting for the 11+? I overheard a parent saying putting them in at Year 4 is best if you're going to do it, as they will then be prepped for the tests for entry into the secondary which come early in Year 6. State grammars, are they still fee paying? (So much to learn about this...)

gabsid Wed 13-Feb-13 11:48:48

There are a few grammar schools around still, they are not fee paying but selective.

I also worked in a girls grammar school and doing well was everything! I felt sorry for some of the girls though because it was clear that they had been tutored and found it very hard to keep up. I think those children would have been happier in a good comprehensive school.

wheresthebeach Wed 13-Feb-13 13:42:40

Hi - If I'm reading you right you're worried about influences as well as standard of education. If money would be very tight I'd move to get him into a good state comp where kids are encouraged to work. There will be bad influences in any school and I wonder if being surrounded by kids who are going on fancy holiday's, have all the recent gadgets, big houses etc is a good thing (we're having similar conversations).

geo1000
If you are thinking of particular private schools then I would check if they set a different exam for state school entrants at 11, if they do then you could tutor for that instead of paying for a prep school. If the financial outlay is going to be a strain then I would look at the most cost effective options.

As I understand it Secondary Schooling in the UK is a choice between

State (Non Grammar School)
Comprehensives - controlled by LEA, takes all children within an area

Academy - funded directly by Central Government, is its own Admissions Authority but must stay within Schools Admissions code. Not allowed to be academically selective unless it was a selective school prior to getting academy status but may select 10% of its pupils by other aptitudes e.g. music

Free Schools - independent State funded school in theory set up by a local community to fulfil a need

State (Grammar School)
Grammar Schools - select by academic ability either a very small % of children(super selectives) or a higher % e.g. 25% of all children in an area. No new grammar schools are allowed although they can open annexes as is happening in Kent. Some areas like Kent, Bucks, Birmingham have a lot of grammars other areas have none.

Secondary Modern - Where the children who don't pass the Grammar exams go.

State (Boarding)
There are a fair number of state boarding schools where you only pay the boarding fees c£10K pa.

Private
Co-ed - entry tends to be at 11 for both boys and girls

Single sex - Girl's schools start at 11 in general. Many of the boys schools start at 13+. Some boys schools have an 11+ entry for state school pupils, in other cases some boys join a prep school at 11 to prepare for 13+ entry.

BadgerB Wed 13-Feb-13 15:27:32

If fees would reduce your living standards as much as you say you may well be able to get some sort of bursary. Even 20% helps. You don't have to be destitute to get it. It sounds as if your DS would be better in a school where it's cool to clever

MSP1 Wed 13-Feb-13 15:38:29

Might also be worth having a look at the Good Schools Guide (online). Of our 3 DC, DD1 did very well in a school in special measures, DS did not - totally disengaged, DD2 now in private from Yr 9. She is loving it. Yr 9 / 13+ is a very good compromise age to start.

LucyLight Wed 13-Feb-13 16:11:18

I think it just depends what the schools are like in your area, what you children are like and what type of parent you are. We live in a small village and my children have gone to the local school - yr2 & yr6. Oldest child has thrived and looks like little one is starting to as well. Yr6 child has got into a semi selective school for secondary - came 11th out of about 300. We did some practice papers at home and I personally, think a lot of what helped is the confidence she has developed through a very supportive and commited primary (and us of course!) We decided that we wanted them to go to the local primary and make friends in the village.

Talking to my friends who send their children to the local private - they are a bit out of sync with village kids - & there have been mixed reviews on the benefits, just like there is in the state system. The class sizes are smaller - which has its pros and cons - cons being particularly if you child has a falling out with another child when in a small group. My DC went and did some master classes there and it wasn't anything particularly special. Where we live the private schools are the alternative option if you child can't get into the semi selective school. However, we are quite lucky with schools round here - when we round them I thought the local comps were pretty good too - good results but not glossy. (that seems to be the main difference).

Part of the decision making would be to make sure that you could really afford to send your child for the whole of their schooling - including budgeting for trips, uniform, going out etc. The alternative would be to use some of that money for great experiences.

Also, there is no guarantee that you child wouldn't want to be one of the cool kids in the private school - it will just be that being cool there is a lot more expensive. (BTW - I'm not saying that I wouldn't send my child to a private school if I could afford it - just not the one here that is very local - I expect what I am saying is try to find the school that is the right fit for your child and that could be state or private).

racmun Wed 13-Feb-13 16:45:56

Having a similar dilemma. We're not sure if being the poor relation at a school is good for a child's esteem, but it may encourage them to strive for the nice things. Also not everyone will be loaded and there will prob be many parents in your position.

You do get unsavoury characters at every school though some of the biggest drug users I knew as teenager were from a school which charged fees of £24k! A year.

However that all said Education is so important and really can affect your life chances/choices if you can afford private- go for it. A holiday comes and goes and a new car ends up an old banger eventually!

geo1000 Thu 14-Feb-13 11:11:19

Thanks ChazBA for taking the time to put those details down, I've actually taken the liberty of cutting and pasting them into a separate Word doc so I can refer to them while I do some more research. (Yes, I really am that type of person. Pity my poor husband.)

geo1000 Thu 14-Feb-13 11:12:51

Thanks everyone, my first post has already proved that Mumsnet really is as fab as they say. (Which is to say, the 'postees' really are as fab.)

NTitled Thu 14-Feb-13 11:15:06

We are going down the 'old banger' route, though a week in a caravan is beyond our means once we have paid fees. We believe that it is worth it a thousand times over, though. Good luck with your decision.

NTitled Thu 14-Feb-13 11:16:37

(We are by no means the only ones in this position: it's a myth that private schools are filled with mega-wealthy people with huge houses...)

geo1000 Thu 14-Feb-13 11:23:50

Racmun - I think you've summarised my thoughts exactly. Good luck with the dilemma, I'm still not sure, but this post has certainly started the ball rolling.

geo1000 Thu 14-Feb-13 11:26:06

NTitled - I'm convinced there must be thousands of others in exactly the same position at any given time. It's good to come on here and actually speak to some of them.

TotallyBS Thu 14-Feb-13 11:26:20

The younger they sit the exam the better. The older they get the more things will swing in favour of the tutored prep school child.

That aside, many parents put their limited.income towards prep in the hope that it will get their DCs into a selective state school (prep is cheaper than seconday).

Alternatively, save the money for secondary and tutor like hell smile

adeucalione Thu 14-Feb-13 12:13:23

Unless your primary school is failing your child in some way, or the competition for the private secondary schools is incredibly fiercely competitive, I would save your money at this stage - you'll need it later on grin

Blossom8 Fri 15-Feb-13 18:34:27

after lots of umming and ahhing we've decided to go for private at primary stage. We are working class and by no means rich, infact I nearly fell off my chair when I found out how much the uniforms cost!

We have chosen a private catholic school after comparing our local state schoosl, we found the private more academic, challenging, disciplined, caring and an all girls school which I hope will suit our child as she is shy but bright. However, she will be using the state school for holiday clubs during half terms.

Further, our secondary independent schools are competitive and our local grammar school, there are 900 applicants for 120 places so like you we will sacrifice alot so our DD gets the opportunities she deserves.

VincenzaOfSaragossa Fri 15-Feb-13 20:43:17

Congrats on making your decision. I'm sure you won't regret it. It is worth all the sacrifices. smile

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