Private - is it worth it?

(78 Posts)
racmun Thu 30-Jan-14 11:21:36

Ds is due to start Reception in September. He attends the preps at a private school and is thriving there eg writing his name, starting to read and most importantly he loves it there.

He's the youngest in the class and doesn't turn 4 until August which is one of the reasons we like the school- they guarantee no more than 18 in the class and have a teacher and full time TA so lots of individual attention.

BUT we live in an area with really good state schools,

A few of my friends keep banging on at me that it's a waste of money to go private and that the state schools are just good.

We have applied and in all reality expect to be offered a place at an ouststanding school albeit one that is bursting at the seams (it takes in double the number it was designed for).

I really like the private school but am now worrying that we will be 'wasting' about £800 a month.

So those of you with children at private prep schools why did you make the choice and would you do it again?

Thank you

Adikia Thu 30-Jan-14 12:24:13

I have DD(5) at private and DS(9) at state.

DS is at a state school because
a) private school wasn't an option when he started reception,
b) that is the best school for him, it's an 'Outstanding' Catholic school and is very focused on sports, very good at emotional support (which DS needs) and fantastic at stretching bright children
and c) he was already settled and at the end of year 4 by the time I could have sent him to private and he wouldn't have coped with changing schools.

DD is at a private prep because
a) we couldn't get her into DS's school (I have shared custody of DS and his other address is a different LA)
b) the local state options weren't good enough, the school we were offered is in special measures and the waiting lists for other schools are ridiculously long and even the best ones in the area aren't great.
c) the prep suits her, it is very academic and very good on the more creative things (music, art, drama and cooking) it also encourages the children to be more independent which DD likes.

If I ever have another child then yes, I would like them to go to the prep, I prefer the small classes and the amount of communication from the teachers in the lower years and I love the extra-curricular stuff they do and how fun they make learning. I would look round the state schools again first though incase any had improved enough to be an option as private doesn't always mean better than state.

Given your DS is already at the prep and you both love it, then I would keep him there if the fees aren't too much of a stretch, unless any of the state schools are really amazing.

Swanbridge Thu 30-Jan-14 12:32:29

Your friends should keep their opinions to themselves as it's your money you're "wasting", not theirs!

I would say that the things you describe are good but don't make me go "wow, you'd never get that in the state sector". But as you say he loves it there.

£800 pm is all very well but before you go turning down a place in an outstanding school (which I assume you are also happy with in reality, you can't just go on Ofsted) are you happy that you will continue to be able to afford private school as the fees increase, and if you have more than one child? If the money does become an issue in the future, how easy would it be to get a place in a very good state school further down the line?

Lonecatwithkitten Thu 30-Jan-14 12:33:14

I work full time and school fees were less than nursery feesshock, so that made the decision easier.
Wrap around care at local state schools very patchy, private prep 8am to 6pm, yes there are longer holidays, but it is much easier to find care for whole days than pieces of days.
The school had the ethos I was looking for and languages started very early and were a wide variety. Science, Maths, Languages, Music, DT and sport are all taught by specialist teachers. Competitive sport starts in year 2.
Finally I have a DD and passionately believe in all girls education.

Retropear Thu 30-Jan-14 12:41:42

Private schools vary as do state.

With state you have Ofsted to keep you informed re standards,with private poor value for money may well be swept under the carpet.

My friend is on her second private.The first very swanky popular school was shocking and she was mighty unimpressed at seeing my kids at a Satisfactory state sweeping ahead.Thankfully we are both ex teachers so could see through the swanky building and uniform.

She's on her second,much better,but my 3 are still ahead.Her DS is uber bright btw.

I have been shocked to be honest.My dc's school pisses me off royally but it is improving,it's got Ofsted crawling over it and I'm not being fleeced of the best part of £4k a year.

Unless it was an extremely good school with outrageously good results and facilities I wouldn't even consider private,not even for tiny classes.

allyfe Thu 30-Jan-14 12:47:13

I would say that the answer to that question is going to be sometimes yes, sometimes no. Private is never ALWAYS better than state. In some instances, state will be better, in others private will be better, and others still, it won't make a difference. It is going to depend on the schools, the child, and how the schools fit the child.

So, honestly, it is an impossible question to answer and you need to decide what YOU think is best for your daughter.

homebythesea Thu 30-Jan-14 12:49:33

I would say that on balance an outstanding State primary will give you the opportunity to save for Private Secondary where i feel the real value lies. Also do not underestimate the benefit of having truly local friends which will be the case if you go the State route. We have been Private from Nursery and if I had my time again I would not have done this - friends are scattered far and wide which makes the social programme v onerous for Mum Cabs

Timetoask Thu 30-Jan-14 13:10:38

For the child it is always easier to move from a state school to a private school than the other way around.

I would start with your outstanding state school. Save the £800 every month for a year and see how it goes. If you feel you would like to move to private later on then have at least one (preferably two) years of fees saved up in advance.

allyfe Thu 30-Jan-14 13:16:05

Just to add, I had a friend whose were in the area for a very well respected ('good' ofsted) state school, but they chose to send their DC to a very academic private school. They moved closer to the school, but still had a 20 minute drive each way (longer in school-run traffic). They are now considering moving their DC to a mediocre private school at the end of their road almost because they don't want to have to deal with the school run.

tigerrsc Thu 30-Jan-14 13:22:23

I have a DS in a private school.

He had difficulties hearing and withdrew from other children at the point we had to decide state vs private. Our local state school, although an OFSTED Good, refused to follow his IEP from a speech therapist saying that he wasn't bad enough to be statemented and so she wouldn't get any extra money. Hence became an easy decision for us.

In retrospect for my DS it was totally the right thing for him. He needed the small class sizes as this allowed the teacher to give him more individual attention at a time when he was very withdrawn (quiet boy sitting in the corner). This wouldn't have happened in state with a teacher's attention divided by having a class of 30.

It has allowed him to catch up and stay at an appropriate level rather than falling behind.

We also appreciated the ease of access to the teaching staff, the way they reacted quickly to any assessments given, the wrap around care (7.45am through to 6pm if you need it) and the much wider curriculum and access to clubs.

Even though my DD does not having the same hearing issues, we decided to send her private too and she is very happy. She loves the small class sizes and the friendliness and approachability of everyone there.

Teddybear4 Thu 30-Jan-14 13:24:35

We started DS in reception at an outstanding primary. He was doing ok but was becoming bored (he is very bright) and this was impacting on his behaviour at school (he's also very spirited).

We've moved him to a private school where his days are jam packed and, mostly, they work at a level about a year ahead of the state school he was in. He's in a much smaller class and the children are much more closely aligned in terms of ability. The after school clubs are varied and interesting. It has not been a fix all and he still has his more spirited moments but I genuinely can see a difference in his ability and behaviour.

DD has just started in the pre-school room and in three weeks has learnt a number of phonic sounds, how to write her name and has done some amazing creative work. I don't think she is as naturally bright as DS so the private schooling will help bring her along so she has the same opportunities as him.

It's worth saying we are in an area where state grammars are excellent but entrance is fiercely competitive. We're hoping that by spending a little more now and getting them into the grammars, we might save later on - private secondaries are upwards of £20k p.a. as opposed to £10k p.a. for prep.

MillyMollyMama Thu 30-Jan-14 13:49:03

Lots of people chose private for many good reasons stated above but do not think that it is a given that children in a private school work at 'a year above' or that you are guaranteed any success in getting into a grammar school. I have seen the wailing of parents when years of private education has not obtained the grammar school place and we are in a county wide grammar school area. Lots of state educated children are well educated too and work several years 'above' the expected levels. A year above is not that wonderful. Small classes can be a big bonus with a good teacher but a useless teacher will still be useless. There are plenty of great teachers in the state sector.

I think it really depends where you and your children fit in. I would not spend money at some of the independent prep schools around here. They are small, poor at sport and have pretty poor facilities. Many state schools are better. However several of the independent schools are outstanding but they send pupils to the top selective public schools at 13 so their parental body is different and they aim at CE. Their pupils get scholarships to them. You pay top dollar to go to these schools and their extra curricular activities, sport, music, drama and art facilities are first class. It would not be wasting money to go to one of these schools.

Secondary private education is as much about networking as anything else. Many schools are full of people who have never been near a state school. Making a choice is therefore all about best fit for you and for your child. Also how much money you have, especially if plan A at secondary level does not work out and you need to pay fees all the way up to 18. Then university.......

CaterpillarCara Fri 31-Jan-14 08:19:38

Depends on the schools, depends on the child.

If this school suits your child and you can afford it, then why worry what your friends say?

CaterpillarCara Fri 31-Jan-14 08:24:14

I should say that my children's (state) school respects IEPs, has care available from 7:30 am - 6 pm, has many children working "a year ahead" (or more than that, a year is surely not that much), bright children are stretched and extended like pieces of elastic, they have a packed and varied curriculum with specialist art, music and sport provision.

State versus Private is not a helpful way to look at it. WHICH state and WHICH private.

marmitecat Fri 31-Jan-14 08:47:09

My children have always been in classes of less than 20. Both dcs are accelerated in maths and work with older year groups. There's a real push to instil a love of reading. There's a strong Christian ethos and the children who leave in y6 are confident and articulate and very successful in terms of getting into selective secondary schools. There's onsite after school care until 5 every day.

I'd be mad to pay for private in this situation.

ChocolateWombat Fri 31-Jan-14 08:54:10

I think some of it depends on your financial position too. You may conclude that the private is a little but better than the state. If £800 (and later well over £1000 a month as fees rise as they move up through the school and with I've inflation added on) is a drop in the ocean for you and won't affect your lifestyle, then you can pay for that little bit better,n without any concerns. If that money will have a big effect on your lifestyle, then the little bit better is suddenly very expensive, in terms of the real cost. In a sense the real cost is actually the impact of not having that money on your family, not the money itself iykwim. Of course the bigger the gap between the state and private (if you are actually able to identify that, which is extremely difficult) then the more 'worth' it in terms of benefit compared to cost. Cost Benefit analysis eh! Trouble is you have imperfect information about both the costs, and particularly the benefits.
Good luck with your decision.

pinkdelight Fri 31-Jan-14 09:34:32

As long as there will be a place available at the private school, which it sounds like there would be, then I agree with timetoask that you may as well save the money and give the state school a go first. That's what we did and it was a tough decision that I agonised over because when they're so little it's extra tempting to keep them in that lovely smaller class, but really KS1 is so much about learning through play that on reflection it wouldn't have been worth it for us to be paying all that money when the state school is good anyway. We're keeping an eye on it and if there are problems down the line, we'll switch to the private school but in the meantime we have no regrets.

wordfactory Fri 31-Jan-14 09:40:54

Depends on how much cash you have.

Will £800 make a huge difference to your life one way or another?

If it will make a huge difference and your family will be sacrificing, then perhaps wait until year 3?

Good preps really come into their own in the later primary years when they can offer specialist subject teaching, meaningful MFL, proper setting, labs, art studios etc. etc etc.

Retropear Fri 31-Jan-14 10:09:19

The vast maj of state schools will have kids working way ahead and being stretched accordingly.

Art studios and facilities personally mean diddly squat to me.Good,creative,up to state teachers who can effortlessly teach and engage any size class whilst pushing all abilities under strong management would be my priority.

Retropear Fri 31-Jan-14 10:09:48

Date not state

Tractorandtree Fri 31-Jan-14 10:35:25

Ds1 is in reception at a private school, we also had a choice of good state schools, our closest is rated outstanding however I didn't like it (very small outside space, cramped classrooms, doubling in size in next year, headteacher's view was that parents were lucky to get a place and it was below her to actually talk to them hmm, poor discipline, high proportion of EFL pupils) I felt he, as a sensitive shy bright boy, would get lost in a large class there.

His private school is brilliant, he absolutely loves it, there are 18 in his class, his teacher is fantastic and he's learning loads but more importantly IMO at this stage he is loving school. He does swimming every week, does loads of music and games, they have a woodland classroom for outside learning. What I like is that the school & his teacher are v approachable and responsive - eg I send an email and get a helpful response later the same day, I put a note in his reading record as I felt he needed moving up a level and his teacher later that day came to speak to me in the playground to discuss it and said she'd assessed him that day etc. Parents are encouraged to be involved and to engage with the teachers - I felt at the state schools I looked at that parents were tolerated but definitely not encouraged to be involved. That might suit some parents but I am one of THOSE parents like to be involved. I also like the fact that he is surrounded by children whose parents (although from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures) have similar ideals to me about education and the way in which they are raising their children. The easy wraparound care is brilliant for a working parent and the supportive nurturing environment is great.

However that is my experience of this particular school and other private schools I looked at I don't think would have suited ds1 (or me) as well and I may then have had a different view.

Worriedthistimearound Fri 31-Jan-14 10:57:47

Surely it depends what you mean by worth it?
I opted for independent because I wanted to avoid the catchment outstanding primary. I am not interested in sats or even Alevels for that matter so the fact that my very bright older two would probably have done brilliantly academically at the state school made not a jot of difference to me. In fact it's the very thing I want to avoid. IMO and ime very high achieving state schools are very pushy academically with very bright kids. My DS2 in particular is very bright. I want a school that will encourage him to sew as much as to study physics. I just don't think state schools do this with very able students because they need to be seen to get such high academic results. So for me opting out is the only option and definitely worth it.

wordfactory Fri 31-Jan-14 11:27:19

I think the greatest value of independent education is choice.

One parent can access sewing, another Latin. One parent can access laid back, another formal.

With state, you get what you get.

Gini99 Fri 31-Jan-14 11:37:49

OF course depends on the school and the value of the money to you. Having said that we've moved state to private in yr 2 and are so pleased we did. A lot of the difference is the particular schools but I do think there are pressures on state at the moment that do cause problems. For us the difference is:

Class size. At state there were 30 (with teacher and TA). there may be states like marmitecat's where they can afford to have 20 in a class but not round here. One we saw had 26 but they said they could no longer afford to keep that number and were under LA pressure to take more. In the private there are 12 (with teacher and TA) but several classes of this size that join together through the day for PE/playtime/drama etc so plenty of people to pay with. The class size means atmosphere is very focused and calm. The teacher can see what each child is doing, respond to them and differentiate. DD is bright and was certainly differentiated for in state. They put her up a class for some lessons but as the youngest in the class anyway that didn't work well. In class, the teacher told me that she gave the brightest kids workbooks to get on with whilst she worked with the middle group and the TA had the strugglers. I can understand why but in the private there is not the same pressure on the teacher so it is not such an issue. E.g. DD is a great reader so was read with twice in a whole term at state. Here she reads with a teacher every day. She didn't need help reading the words but her expression, confidence and comprehension have really been encouraged.

The small class size also seems to help behaviour. Our state school had a wealthy catchment so the intake is probably not too different. There were children with significant behavioural difficulties that were not well managed and constantly disrupted the class. The adult ratios clearly made the management of problems harder. There was also a lot of unpleasant behaviour and minor (and major actually) bullying. That's partly a function of the ethos of the school but the adult ratio seems to help as it is much easier at the private to model good behaviour and have zero tolerance of minor things. Teachers sit with them at lunch and there are more there at playtime so problems are dealt with fast.

Resources - the state had quite a lot of playing space and a forest school and they made good use of that. The private has much more space and also has better facilities for art, drama, woodwork etc. They also have specialist teachers in loads of areas. This means the day is much more varied. There is PE three days a week and then gym another and swimming another. Much more art and DT where they are really learning techniques. Loads more drama and public speaking. All this is really helping confidence and enjoyment of school. There are specialist teachers for all these things and for maths, languages, science and english esp in Key stage 2 where they are set.

Testing - the state system seems to have been put under massive target driven stress and that seems to pressure the teachers in ways that aren't always good for the children. E.g. we were told not to worry about DDs virtually illegible writing as the content of her work would get her 3s in her SATs anyway. I couldn't care less what her SATS were, I cared about what she could do! The private is not immune from the pressure of testing but for us it is about entrance exams and scholarships at yr 6 which involve a wide number of different exams so not so much a 'teach to the test' atmosphere. A friend who was a TA in yr 6 at old school said it was just about SATs in yr 6 and nothing else. Actually the private do give them the SATS papers but don't teach it as they are focused on senior entrance. They (non-selective) get almost all level 5.

Attitude to parents - this is not nec the fault of the Head in the state school but the attitude to parents seemed very much that the parents were potential delinquents who couldn't be trusted to make decisions themselves so were sent patronising letters about holidays, attendance, meal provision etc. There was also little feedback save for the structured parents evenings and reports (which I understand given the numbers). Here we get sent home loads of marked work, the teachers are always available and much more responsive.

Sorry for the hugely mammoth post but I think it is right to say it is largely about the particular schools and recognise that many state schools are wonderful. However, I do think that state schools are under huge pressure at the moment with the negative OFSTED regime, targets, pressure on places, funding cuts etc and that easily has an impact in the ways we've seen. The private sector is, of course, not immune from those problems but a well-run, full private is likely to be at a significant advantage.

Personally I think private primary is a complete waste of money if you have decent primaries (here lots of people do state to at least 7-8 and many more to 11).

In one area they then try for state Grammar in another they are stuck with good comps. or using the money saved to go private.

DDs friend did this, prep school nursery, very nice state primary, private secondary.

In her case I thing private secondary was a waste, she is very clever and would have got her grades at the comp. And had savings for university.

Truly it depends on your finances, if in doubt keep your money for later.

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