Join us at Workfest for expert advice on kickstarting your career ×

What is so good about public schools??

(18 Posts)
Azrael Wed 24-Jul-13 23:24:50

Actually, it's not that we can afford a public school for DS1. We can't. And we don't want to either.

What got me thinking is this: my sister-in-law was recently offered the fee to send both her kids to a public primary school (by husband's family, loaded).

She happens to live next to an Ofsted Outsanding primary, with 95% Key Stage 2 Achievement.

She sounds like she will accept the offer, although she'll 'owe' her husband's family and I know she'll hate that.

What in a public school is so much better than a state school?

Is getting an upper class accent so important, so crucial for doing well later on? Or is it all about meeting the right parents (ie upper middle rather than lower middle?)

I'm Swiss, my husband was educated in New Zealand, all this stuff escapes us. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Runningchick123 Thu 25-Jul-13 07:02:19

When you talk about public schools are you putting all the independent schools in that bracket or is this a true elite school known as a public school?
If this is a smaller prep school that you are referring to then it might be the small class sizes that have attracted your sister in law or the ethos of the school or the achievements of the pupils.
95% key stage 2 achievement and an outstanding ofsted doesn't tell the full story about a school; they are just statistics and take no account for how a school performs on a daily basis (when the ofsted inspectors are not present) or how many children might be having additional tuition outside Of school or how many children have SEN in the cohort.
There are good and bad independent schools in the same way that there are good and bad state schools. Your sister in law is obviously looking at what she feels will provide the best school environment for her children, make them happy and help them achieve the most.
State schools generally try and get the children to a level 4 and anything above that is seen as a bonus, whereas prep schools have to get the children to at least the equivalent of a level 5 (although they don't generally do SATS) in order to get the children through exams for selective senior schools (which is one of the main aims of a prep school).
So your SIL is probably looking at: small class sizes, better facilities, specialist subject teachers, emphasis on reaching a higher level, better extra curricular opportunities and considering whether those things are worth the sacrifice of feeling indebted to her family.

Jinsei Thu 25-Jul-13 07:12:50

State schools generally try and get the children to a level 4 and anything above that is seen as a bonus

Sorry, but this just isn't true!

Labro Thu 25-Jul-13 07:12:52

As with everything, it depends on the individual children and the individual school. As often said on here there are good and bad private schools just as there are good and bad state schools.
From personal experience of both, ds went to state year R -year 4 whilst 'outstanding' class sizes were 34, four classes in each year on average and he
was regularly told he was a square peg in a round hole as by year 4 he was roughly 2 years above his peers academically (so the teaching was excellent) bullying was horrendous in playground and not dealt with at all.
Moved him to private after being offered full bursary, not something I had ever really considered before.
Class sizes of 17, specialist teachers rather than 1 teacher trying to teach everything, more time for other subjects (art, design tech, IT etc all have specialist facilities) science labs etc and opportunities to learn things that are outside the national curriculum and some state schools don't have access to the funding for.
These things can also be found in the state system, would advise her to look carefully and go for the best fit rather than whether its private or state.

Runningchick123 Thu 25-Jul-13 08:06:16

jinsei yes it is a generalisation that state schools concentrate on getting the children to level 4, but sadly that has been my experience of two state primary schools. The teachers in those two schools were obsessed with looking good on the national league tables and therefore determined to get as many children to level 4 as possible, at the detriment of stretching those who have already got to level 4.
I do appreciate that some schools are much better and will stretch each child as much as they can, but research continually shows that in mixed ability classes of 30 the brightest children are the ones who get the least teacher input and the ones who aren't stretched to their full potential.
so based on my experiences of only two schools and the broad range of research that has been conducted on the matter I am of the mind that some state schools are only concerned about children achieving level 4.

lljkk Thu 25-Jul-13 08:33:29

The league tables now include information about how many children get to Level 5, this is in the performance tables for all to see. Also (read MN) lots of schools publish info in their own school newsletters about how many children got level 6s or level 3s+ (KS1). This gets around among parents and influences what they say to Ofsted in inspection reports and ensures high intake (so more money to school). So basically, if ever there was a problem of just aiming for 4s, it's gone now because Ofsted is taking a much more nuanced view of what performance means. They also, to Ofsted, have to show improvement from entry and from y2 to y6 in line with national trends and other targets, too. It's all rather complicated.

As for OP's public vs. state question, It's cultural. I don't get it either (another foreigner). Just look at MN threads about private school expectations. The default knee-jerk English prejudice is that private must always be better in every respect. I say different, but then I sent my son to a private that massively underperformed (academically) compared to local state schools.

DD is my most academic kid; We looked at an elite girl's private school for her. She loved it. 8 hours on school premises, 2+ hours of commuting, 1 hour of homework. I shrieked "No!" to all that. Other parents would think it was fantastic, a reliable culture of high expectations, and an opportunity not to be missed.

Periwinkle007 Thu 25-Jul-13 08:48:05

I went to an all girls selective school from 5-18. I really liked it and I did well.

would I have done as well in a state school, quite possibly but probably not due to confidence issues and the fact state schools were so much bigger.

Whether private or state is better depends on the school and the child.

on the whole you would expect a private school to have better facilities and smaller classes. if it is a selective school then yes I would expect them to achieve much better results and they are more likely to push pupils.

If I could afford for my children to go to a private school I would probably pay, primarily because of smaller class sizes and smaller school overall so a smaller community BUT I would be wary of things like whether there are enough children of their sex in the class to give them a sufficient friend base as they grow up (obviously they can play with both sexes but children do need to have access to other children of the same sex I think for friendships). I would LIKE my children to be at a private selective school like the one I was at but I think much of that is because I had a very happy time at primary school and it is what I know.

Runningchick123 Thu 25-Jul-13 08:49:21

How many of those getting level 4a / 5c would get into a selective academic senior school? Not many I would reckon bless they had received additional not outside of the state school.
I do want to be convinced that the majority of state schools get pupils to reach their potential but I remain to be convinced as the tests taken in state schools do not encourage a broad curriculum to be studied and most state schools do not have specialist subject teachers.
I do accept that there are good and bad schools in both the state and independent sector (and stated that in my first post), I was merely pointing out that mixed ability classes of 30 can be detrimental to the education of the brightest pupils (as research shows repeatedly) and that league tables and ofsted reports don't provide the full picture.
Frankly I would prefer SATS to be scrapped in favour of something that encourages a broader curriculum to be delivered with less emphasis on children being trained to pass a very specific test.

Jinsei Thu 25-Jul-13 08:49:50

Fair enough running, but why not say some state schools...my own experience of state education hasn't been as you describe at all.

Runningchick123 Thu 25-Jul-13 09:07:03

Yes it should have said some, however in a later post I did state that my opinion was based on MY experience of two state schools and research that has been carried out.
In my first post I also acknowledged that some independent schools were bad and some were good; the same as state schools. I pointed out that league tables and ofsted are not always reliable as these were the factors mentioned by the OP regarding his sister in laws choices.
I think if people have access to genuinely good state schools then they should utilise them, however, too many people are not fortunate enough to have access to good state schools and where I live the are several schools who have infant classes of 20, but then combine those classes in the juniors so have ks2 classes of 40 with one teacher.
I wouldn't want my child in a class of 40 with only one teacher.
obviously our experiences of the education system has led us to have different opinions. Life would be very dull if we all shared the same views and opinions.

tumbletumble Thu 25-Jul-13 09:20:22

I am speaking as someone who attended a state primary (a rough inner London one) and an independent fee paying secondary (on a scholarship) and whose DC now attend a state primary (a nice village one with an outstanding Ofsted report).

In my opinion the best overall school is a very good state school - because you get a wider social view as well as a good education. But the worst state schools are worse than the worst private schools.

So I would not make the same decision as your SIL.

LIZS Thu 25-Jul-13 09:30:11

No SATS or constraints of NC, smaller classes , specialist facilities and teachers, wrap around care, selective of pupils range of extracurricular activities - some of which are also present in some state schools. I would add that it can be very variable in the private system though . There is one private near us struggling for survival as it has relatively low fees but also minimal facilities onsite and mixed age classes . Basically set up in the same way as free schools might be now but about 20 years ago when LA closed a small village school and parents/teachers bought it . It is easy to be seduced but some just want eh kudos of being in the independent sector.

trice Thu 25-Jul-13 09:40:30

My dcs go to a lovely independent prep school. There are more adults in the adult teacher ratio so they get a lot of attention. The school trips are numerous and exciting, the sports facilities are good (swimming twice a week, AstroTurf hockey pitch, climbing wall, lots of fixtures). The food is lovely, all children have school dinners and eat together. They do science in a science lab and have an amazing library. They do spectacular drama productions, the music department is excellent. You can go on holiday in term time whenever you like. High expectations, very little disruptive behaviour, very good with bullying, teach very good manners and confidence building is a priority.

Negatives - it costs a fortune (paid by mil thankfully as we are poor as church mice), it is horribly sexist and rather old fashioned. Quite a lot of activities are done for the brochure and not for educational purposes, which makes me cross.

Not all independent schools are equally good, all children from all backgrounds should be able to access equally good education. I am very happy that my dcs are having an absolutely idyllic time at school. I hated school myself and was mercilessly bullied, ignored and traumatised. Some of my friends resent me for paying for my children's education as they think I am buying privilege, but I am just trying to do my best for them.

mrsshackleton Thu 25-Jul-13 10:08:56

Public schools are the most exclusive boarding schools and very different from private schools in many respects.

From my own experience and that of my children, all been in both systems, private schools generally do offer better educations, but they're a luxury and if you can't afford them, a good state school will do the job and you can iron out creases yourself.

mrsshackleton Thu 25-Jul-13 10:11:39

Oh, btw, private schools to most parents are nothing to do with social exclusivity and having the right accent, they're about higher educational standards and (often) an academically exclusive atmosphere if the school is selective.

burberryqueen Thu 25-Jul-13 10:15:40

'public schools' are like Eton Harrow Winchester Charterhouse etc not your average private prep.

tricot39 Thu 25-Jul-13 19:24:56

I would probably choose the state primary if there was a good state comp secondary option nearby. However if the secondary options looked dubious i would accept the pil offer of school fees. If we didnt need the school fees i would ask the pil to put them into a find for the kids future uni/house needs.

Azrael Thu 25-Jul-13 22:42:03

Wow, what a wealth of information. I wasn't around when you all answered so haven't written much, but DP and I have been avidly reading all your comments and feel much more informed. I've also realised there are a tonne of threads about public schools. Sounds like it's a hot topic! Thank god for MN.

Thank you all!

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now