What are the general advantages of private over state primary education? How do we choose?

(132 Posts)
cakesonatrain Thu 07-Aug-14 21:37:58

DS is 3 so school applications are obviously in mine and DH's minds. We are moving house soon, and the new area has excellent state primaries, and grammar schools. We can afford to go private for primary (the school we're considering will cost a smidge less than nursery fees).
Obviously every individual school is different and has different pros and cons. But are there any generally acknowledged benefits of a small private primary?
I think what I want to understand is, what would we actually be buying for our 2 grand a term or whatever it is, over and above/different from what the children would get from the excellent state school?

I know we need to go and visit the schools, but obviously we can't do that right now. What sorts of things should we be looking for/asking about when we do visit?

Can you give us any help in deciding? DH is very pro-private, my position is something like "I'm happy to spend the money if we are really buying an advantage and significantly better experience for our children, but imagine what we could do with that sort of money if we decided not to spend it on school fees"

alwaysdoinglaundry Thu 07-Aug-14 22:50:50

2 grand a term? Where do you live? Certainly in London is more like 3-5 grand a term in reception then goes up from there. Plus factor in fee rises 5-10% per year. Can you afford private all the way through, if not I'd do state primary, tutor then private secondary, you don't want to have to go from private to state.

With private you get smaller class sizes, better facilities, work ethos as all the parents care about their children's education, bad behaviour should be stamped on early. And before I hear howls of protest, of course some state schools will have this too, but not all.

Factor in uniform (I have just spent £150 kitting out my daughter for year 1 at the second hand sale, new would be nearer £500), lunch, school bus if applicable, trips, guilt trips to fundraise for the school.

alwaysdoinglaundry Thu 07-Aug-14 22:53:00

PS if the school is very small and very low fees then consider their long term financial viability and have a look at their accounts on the charities commission website. There are a few horror stories on here about private schools going bust, or google "the mount school mill hill" - didn't technically go bust but got taken over by a bigger school so the "small school" ethos that parents had chosen presumably went, and it went from all girls to co-ed.

kilmuir Thu 07-Aug-14 22:55:58

How do you know all parents have a good work ethos in regard to school? Go for good state primary

cakesonatrain Thu 07-Aug-14 22:57:19

North west.

Why don't we want to go from private to state (outstanding grammar)?

cakesonatrain Thu 07-Aug-14 23:22:01

I know we'd be paying for smaller class sizes, what I'm trying to get at is, what exactly are the benefits to our children of the smaller classes etc?

If there is a tangible benefit to be gained in going private at primary, how much more is it than "better chance of getting into the outstanding grammar schools"? If we go private primary then state grammar, will there still be any lasting advantage in having gone private at primary, when the children are 18?
How much 'better' (quantified how?) might the private primary experience (rather than results) be, if at all?

Or is it all just a big expensive gamble?

cakesonatrain Thu 07-Aug-14 23:24:40

(don't know how much uniform costs, but lunch is included, travel costs would be zero)

Preciousbane Thu 07-Aug-14 23:43:24

All schools feel like a bit of a gamble. Just visit all of the local schools in the vicinity and get a good a feel as possible for them.

What are your long term financial and dc plans because the here and now may not be the future. Expect school fees to rise lots as they get older.

I have a pro private schooling DH, though he wasn't sent to a private primary school he was sent to a private secondary school. I really wasn't that fussed and DS has not been sent to private school.

Neither of us grew up in areas with grammar schools so I have no idea.

Unless your in real special measure territory then I wouldn't worry that much, home environment counts for a lot.

Preciousbane Thu 07-Aug-14 23:49:06

I need to add my friends DS was bullied really badly at his private primary school. Bullying can occur in any school. When it comes to work ethos I disagree that private school parents automatically have a better ethos, the only thing they have is more money.

cakesonatrain Thu 07-Aug-14 23:55:08

We have 2 dc and no intention of having any more. DH's salary will increase by several thousand pounds over the primary school period. I currently work part time but would consider going back to full time once the children are older.

clary Fri 08-Aug-14 00:03:26

Here are some thoughts.

The thing about private primary versus secondary is that many/most primaries are pretty good (certainly all the primaries I have knowledge of) whereas the situation is much more variable in secondaries (for all kinds of reasons). So a lot of people go for good state primary then switch to private for secondary, which in any case is arguably more important (GCSEs) - tho of course a good grounding in primary is vital.

Sounds like this may not apply to you, assuming yr DC get into the state grammar. Is it a super selective or what?

Re class sizes - smaller (up to a point - 12 is a minimum IMO) is better because yr DC will get more time from the teacher. Simple as that. Also it is a lot easier to keep control in a class of, for example, 12 than 32 (speaking from experience here).

My yr 11 group that has just left was 15 students, so in a double lesson I could give each one 5 mins of my time 1-1, so valuable. That's just impossible with 30 in a class.

cakesonatrain Fri 08-Aug-14 00:08:02

I don't know what "super selective" means!

I've wondered a lot if private primary makes much difference long-term.

clary Fri 08-Aug-14 01:11:06

Super selective is a grammar that really just takes the very toppest achievers. I am not an expert but say, top 5%?

Some grammar schools take a lot more eg 20%. Just saying that to get into a super selective your DC need to be pretty clever. If they are then that's fine but if not (and it's hard to tell at 3yo) what are the other options? You might find you need to think about private secondary (and then you may wish you had saved your cash at primary level).

MMmomKK Fri 08-Aug-14 02:28:48

General advantages are just that - "general". And until you see the schools yourself, they won't convince you either way.

No one can say if spending on private primary makes a difference at GCCE. Not that it's a gamble, but more that like any decisions it is just that, a decision that we all make based on some information, opinions and feelings.

Also, like the others said before - not all private schools are the same. Or state ones, either.

If grammar for secondary is what you hope for - just make sure you understand the best way to get there. If private has the best record of getting kids into the grammar, it is a strong argument.

Some people choose to save on primary and spend extra money on tutoring to get into grammars. Financially it makes sense, but it is tough on kids who have to play catch up with the private school kids. And they have to do a lot of extra work at home.

Good luck

cakesonatrain Fri 08-Aug-14 05:54:44

Thank you all for your thoughts so far.

I know that general advantages are not always relevant, but in the absence of anything else, I'd like to understand what they might be. Is there some "education theory" that suggests what the advantages of private primary education is?

A whole primary school's worth of private fees is bloody steep if it's just a leg-up into the grammar.

And as you say, Clary, DS is only (just) 3 (and DD is 17mo)! We can't know now if grammar is even likely to be appropriate (although if genes are relevant, the top 5% is probably realistic).

I'm not asking "which school should we choose?", rather "what are the probable advantages/disadvantages of the route we're considering?". As most parents of young children, I guess, I've got no experience of primary education since I was 11, over 20 years ago, and no experience of the private sector, and it seems to be hard to find out what we would be buying with our many thousands of pounds!

Iggly Fri 08-Aug-14 06:08:13

There isn't much because there isn't much of a difference. My understanding is at primary school the biggest difference is made by parents. So stay part time and help them with reading, writing etc. At secondary the biggest difference is peers - so you need a school which is very good.

Panicmode1 Fri 08-Aug-14 06:33:39

We are in a grammar school area; both DH and myself were privately educated all the way through but we have 4 DCs close together and I gave up work to be a SAHP, so our thoughts of privately educating our children disappeared with my salary! We are lucky that we are sending our children to an excellent state primary, where they are flying, are challenged, and although they are in a class of 30, they are streamed and set differentiated work. Several of my friends with children in the private preps locally spend significantly less time driving their children to extra curricular activities than I do, because they happen on site, and we are having to tutor because the state schools cannot prep for 11+, and their children have significantly more homework. They seem to be under more pressure because most of the preps around us have to maintain their "100% into grammars" headlines....

Whoever said up thread that parents in private school care more about their children's education because they are paying for it are talking nonsense - every single parent I have come across at my children's school cares passionately about their children's education, worries about what Gove's reforms have done to the funding - but perhaps that is because the majority are well educated professionals taking advantage of the excellent state provision on their doorstep.

The things a private school will give you is freedom from the government's incessant tinkering and obsession with testing/levels. Personally, at the moment, I am not wishing I had stayed at work to pay fees; if they don't get into grammar schools (unlikely on current trajectories), then I may think differently!

Timetoask Fri 08-Aug-14 07:05:46

DS goes to a fantastic prep: we came back from abroad,there were no spaces in the good state schools so we were lucky to have a space in his current private.

Things I like are:
Some parents use private because of the longer before and after school clubs allowing parents to work without the worry of child care.
The music clubs and sports are taken very seriously and are part of the curriculum on a daily basis (great for my DS who at 7 is grade 2 violin and is very sporty)
In our particular school I find that all the staff (from headteacher to teaching assistants) have an open approach and I can discuss any worries with them and then see action taken immediately.
The school doesn't have to bend backwards to cope with the constant changes that government dreams of on the day, but yet, they are very proactive in moving forward with the times and I see positive changes all the time
They stream for Maths and English from year 3
The children have an amazing time olsy

cakesonatrain Fri 08-Aug-14 07:10:23

DS is summer-born. Obviously I've read lots of statistics about summer-born children being at a disadvantage to begin with. Would this be reduced in the private environment, do you think?

Timetoask Fri 08-Aug-14 07:17:09

Oops
Time playing outside in all weathers
Every child is given opportunities to speak in public, perform in public, build confidence (great for my DS who is on the quiet side)

Things I don't like:
Too many people with too much money, some of them nice others won't consider talking to you. This has not affected DS who has made nice friends but I don't like it.

The fees have gone up by about 4% every year, on top you have expensive uniform and sports kit, trips, insurance.

It is easier (from an emotional viewpoint) to go from state to private. In your shoes I would go with state, see how it goes. The expense of private is a nightmare.

Hakluyt Fri 08-Aug-14 07:20:25

A fantastic school is a fantastic school and a bad one bad, regardless of sector. Obviously- but some people do seem to forget this.

Very small classes and very small schools are a bad idea, also regardless of sector.

Bullying is an issue in every single school in the country. Immediately reject any school which says they have no bullying at all regardless of sector.

With private schools, the money you pay means that many "extra curricular" activities are included. At state schools, parents have to organise them themselves- which can be a real struggle if both parents WOH.

Hakluyt Fri 08-Aug-14 07:22:36

"Every child is given opportunities to speak in public, perform in public, build confidence (great for my DS who is on the quiet side)"

I think this is pretty universal nowadays. Although now that "speaking and listening" is no longer a part of the GCSE (or equivalent) syllabus it man not be for much longer. Grrrrr.

Anyexcuse Fri 08-Aug-14 07:26:05

Does no one have any negative thoughts on private education? Where I live several 'difficult' (read spoiled brats) left state primary to go private. I think the private school must be top heavy with kids whose parents just throw money at the problem. This is probably not the case with very selective school though those schools produce an entitled group of arrogant youngsters in my book. They think they're better than everyone else and indeed are told they are - you're the top 5%! I suppose some must become quietly confident hearing that but others just think they're going to rule the world. State all the way for me - I will accept that I'm lucky to live in an area with excellent schools ( and not in England).

Hakluyt Fri 08-Aug-14 07:28:06

I am politically and personally opposed to private education.

But that's not what the OP asked.

Hakluyt Fri 08-Aug-14 07:29:12

But not for the reasons you are, anyexcuse!

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