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?

CMOTDibbler Tue 12-Feb-13 12:56:02

My ds is in y2 in a prep/preprep school (not London), and for us the difference was the huge amount of outdoor time, and the specialist PE, language, and music teaching from reception upwards. So not so much the core subjects (although I think ds's teachers seem to be able to be very flexible in their approach, and for maths, ds is in a group of 5 with a teacher, literacy 6 I think), but all the extra things that enrich his life and learning

Pufflemum Tue 12-Feb-13 12:57:59

My Dc are at private and my youngest in reception. Tbh up until the age of 7 I don't think there is a huge difference in what they learn in either sector. They're all being taught how to read, count, explore etc. They do however have a specialist language teacher, art teacher and sports coaches from day 1. They also do a lot more sport, dance and drama than friends children in state.

Although have to caveat that I am not in London and have heard nothing of tutoring at such a young age in our area.

mrsshackleton Tue 12-Feb-13 12:59:21

The classes are usually much smaller.

But ime the main differences aren't in reception but start becoming apparent in y1, which is why I moved one dc to a private school at the start of y3.

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 13:00:17

CMOT thanks v much. 5 in a maths group is amazing! Re the extra curricular stuff, I suppose having a school run that is just a 5 min walk around the corner makes it easier to fit that stuff in around outside school but if that weren't the case I could definitely see the appeal

HormonalHousewife Tue 12-Feb-13 13:00:56

My son is doing much the same as your DD so I wouldnt compare worry.

BoneChina Tue 12-Feb-13 13:01:08

The classes are much smaller.
Emphasis on reading with - a new book everyday - and reading with the teacher every day too.

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 13:01:57

thanks puffle & mrs.

Puffle - it does start crazily young around here because there's such competition for the private school places

Mrs - and what do you think those differences are from Y1 upwards?

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 13:03:48

Hormonal I know I shouldn't grin but it's really hard when I see lots of parents stressing about it around me not to be caught up in it

BoneChina right, we get three books a week but they def don't get one to one every day

NaturalBaby Tue 12-Feb-13 13:09:41

Ds is in R in a private school - he was reading by Christmas and has just started doing spelling type exercises where I read a word and he writes it down. 22 in a class, P.E twice a week...
I'm not really sure there's a huge difference at this age but not sure he would be reading and writing so well in a state school by now. I know it gets a lot tougher in Y1 and the school feeds into a senior school that is in the top 50 in the country (top 10 at one point) so our main reason for sending him is that he will be educated to a high enough level to go through to senior level without a huge amount of extra tuition.

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 13:12:14

thanks natural

Primrose123 Tue 12-Feb-13 13:18:19

My DCs aren't in reception, but went to a state primary, and then a local private secondary school (and we are nowhere near London so I don't know if our private school is like the ones in London or not!).

The state primary they went to was a good school in a nice area, not an affluent area, but a nice place to live. The school was quite small, about 20-30 pupils per academic year. They enjoyed school, but were not overworked and had time for Brownies, ballet, swimming, piano lessons, and friends over to play.

Both my DCs now go to a local private secondary school. We were worried when they started that they would be academically behind the children who went to the prep school, but this wasn't the case at all. They are both doing well and are towards the top end of the class.

We didn't want them to travel a long distance to school while they were in primary school, and now feel that the primary gave them an excellent start.

I would say if you are worrying that your child will be behind if she goes to a private secondary school, then don't. My children are fine. They always did well at primary, and we had the option of tutoring if they needed more help.

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 13:25:59

primrose thanks, that's interesting. I genuinely have no idea what we'll do when it comes to secondary, though there is a good chance it will be private. The main thing for now is that DD is a bright, interested child who (at the moment!) enjoys learning, and I want to be sure she has the conditions to thrive. On the whole I feel she does but I suppose I don't really know what the alternative is, hence the thread).

mrsshackleton Tue 12-Feb-13 13:33:06

The main difference ime is that the state school says your child is doing brilliantly whatever the reality, the private school tells it like it is. Unless you REALLY have your eye on the ball in a state school I think it's easy for a child to flounder and their weaker areas not be picked up on. OP if your child is doing brilliantly, then nothing to worry about.

There are also downsides to private.

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 13:40:49

mrs thanks. 'brilliantly' would be stretching it grin But I don't have any particular concerns, I just wanted to make sure I knew the implications of the choice we've made and I think the responses have helped with that. FWIW, agree with your point about a tendency towards overwhelming positivity in all circumstances in some state schools – that does irk me a bit

I suspect the difference in work isn't that great in YR, I think the differences emerge further up the school. DS1 is now Yr5 and has had specialist subject teachers in maths, science, French, music and sport for a couple of years. He now has specialist geography, RE and history & English teachers too.

Some of the reasons I chose the school
1) Small classes - both of mine are summer born so I thought they would cope better in a small class ( 15 children to 1 teacher and 1 TA)

2) Prep for Senior School entry

3) Much better music and sport provision than the state offering in our area. (We are in London and our local schools didn't have much outside space at all)

LittleChickenLicken Tue 12-Feb-13 14:05:24

In literacy and numeracy I think my DD1 is doing much the same as yours, although she is getting a new book every day and 1:1 reading every day. She is getting specialist science and music teaching, though. This isn't a massively academic pre-prep (it's not selective at all) although it does well at 7+ and 8+. We sent DS there largely for personality reasons because we thought he'd benefit from smaller class sizes, and DD1 has followed him partly because we just really like the school and partly because the only local state school we'd stand any chance of getting into (the other nearby schools being faith schools) has been dropping quite quickly on almost all measures over the last few years.

Orangesarenottheonlyfruit Tue 12-Feb-13 14:13:17

Mostly what other posters have said;
1. DD in a class of 16, with one teacher, two TAs and four GAP year students that help out.
2. New book everyday, reading with teacher everyday.
3. DD seems quite bright so they are focussing on stretching her, such as extra spelling, reading writing etc.
4. Separate teachers for sport, IT, Art and just starting French.
5. Free before and after school care.
6. Organic hot meals, cooked on site, really great food.

It may not be all that much more than a good primary but our choice was quite stark. A really not very good primary or fabulous prep (and no holidays for us, ever!)

stealthsquiggle Tue 12-Feb-13 14:17:54

Similarly to Puffle - my DC are in an independent prep/pre-prep, but not in London, it's not academically selective (although you wouldn't think so from the results) and I do think it's a different world.

In my world, I don't think there is any difference in what they learn up until (say) Y3 - and even then only because smaller class sizes and more resources (TAs) mean that teachers have more chance to differentiate (don't eat me - I know this happens in state schools, but any teacher, no matter how brilliant, can do less of it with a class of 30 than they can with a class of 12). My DD is Y1 now and was doing pretty much what the OP describes in YR, but with 2 teachers and 2 full time TA's for a year group of 22.

The other difference at this level is facilities - because of the prep school facilities DD can do lots of sport (no matter what the weather), music, drama, forest school....

The thought of these super selective schools makes me so glad we don't live in London (sorry OP)

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Tue 12-Feb-13 14:25:46

we are just moving in september from state t private, DS2 is in Yr 1 currently.
he has done very well in state system, is a fluent reader, joined up handwriting beautiful and can do his 2 5 10 3 4 and 6 times tables. he is 6.

However, when we went to look at the private options, they were learning spanish with a specialist languages teacher, pe with a pe teacher, and computer lessons in a room with a computer for each child to design his or her own christmas cards. (not very technical but just not possible in his current school)

it was a no brainer.

With DS1 aged 8 the difference was much more obvious!

MrsMelons Tue 12-Feb-13 14:29:33

DS2 has only been in private school since September (YR). I agree with some of the others - languages, music, they go out every week, lots of PE (including proper sports and every day from age 7). There are only 14 in his class with a teacher and a TA.

Its not academically selective but they do seem to get the best out of the children. All the YR children were reading by Christmas. They don't get a new book every day unless they have finished it and he is not ahead particularly, fairly average IMO but it does seem they get a lot more attention in a positive way.

Although when DS1 started state school when he was in YR he was in a class of 17 so was pretty lucky too and has done very well there.

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Tue 12-Feb-13 14:31:55

forgot to mention class sizes, DS1 is going from 32 into 15 and DS2 is going from 30 into 14

NTitled Tue 12-Feb-13 14:34:11

Mine are no longer in Reception, but have been in the private system from the start. The big advantage to my mind was that they were in small classes, and everything they did was tailored towards them as individuals (one of mine was reading chapter books fluently when he started in Reception; the school devised a reading scheme specifically for him, rather than waiting for everyone else to catch up etc). One of my others wasn't reading until Year One; again, the school went at her pace the whole time. Dropping her off even now is like leaving her with extended family...

ChiefOwl Tue 12-Feb-13 14:37:51

Not in London....I don't know there's much difference workwise in R really, but

Small class sizes
1-2-1 Reading with teacher or TA every day til end of yr 2, new books every day
Specialist teachers - i.t, music, p.e, French, drama, art, history, geog, maths, English, science, r.e (lots of these from R)
P.E every day (inc swimming once a week) as they get older hockey, netball, football, rugby, cricket, gymnastics, cross country

NcNcNcNc Tue 12-Feb-13 14:44:15

Answering the question asked re the differences we see, obviously there are good and bad to both private and state so these comments contain no judgement on which is 'best' at all.

very small classes - dd's was 12 but is now 16.

She's being learning Spanish and French from reception. They have their own pool so swimming every week and galas with other schools (apologies if this is common in State too, I've spoken about it with one state school parent and her dc don't go swimming until Yr4)

A friend who has seen dd's maths homework(yr 3) says it is miles ahead of his dc at State same age - fractions, percentages, quite complicated stuff - and 'tricksy' questions

Lots of homework - 20 spellings a week (things like 'ecstatically'), French, Spanish, Science, Maths each week plus a 'project' such as build your own aquarium (with fimo/paint/shoebox etc) and write about all the creatures in it.

NcNcNcNc Tue 12-Feb-13 14:46:07

Is it unusual to have special teachers for Spanish/French/History etc then in State? confused I didn't mention that in my answer because I thought it was standard.

CinnabarRed Tue 12-Feb-13 14:47:30

DD seems quite bright so they are focussing on stretching her

Conversely, my DS1 is lovely (of course! grin) but is really struggling with reading. After less than 1 term his difficulties were identified and his teacher started him on extra phonics.

According to MIL (who was herself a deputy head in the state sector for years) his issues with reading may not have been identified as quickly at a school with fewer resources.

Ladymuck Tue 12-Feb-13 14:57:55

Until recently even private schools were tied to the EYFS framework for reception and were inspected by Ofsted. I think that certainly the inspection framework has changed recently, but as private schools could claim the Early Years funding for reception children up to the term they turned 5, they had to toe the line with the required syllabus. You shouldn't therefore see a HUGE range of difference in reception (as private schools tend to want outstanding ofsteds, and therefore have to "tick the boxes" in the same way as state schools), but you may well find a much more significant range of difference in Year 1 onwards, when private schools can ignore the National Curriculum.

ReallyTired Tue 12-Feb-13 15:09:11

I think that this thread is a little daft as children vary so much in ablity. State schools have to cater for the children who speak in grunts, have an IQ of 80 and have disinterested parents. The type of parent who doesn't give a sh!t about education won't send their child private.

In a state school class the top group may well be working several years ahead of the bottom group. The brightest state school children often work at a comparable levels in numeracy and literacy to bright children in the private sector. Parents can pay for outside tutition in music or sport. I agree that foreign languages are completely lacking in state primaries.

Private schools vary considerably with standard of teaching and resources. Not all private schools are good or even that well resourced. State schools do have enough computers for each child. Often state schools have better technology than many private schools.

stealthsquiggle Tue 12-Feb-13 15:12:20

These threads make me laugh. With DS this sort of thing had me convinced that even though he was doing well in his year group, he must be miles behind other independent schools as they all seemed to be doing so much more - but when we considered a change of school at Y4 he was offered a scholarship - so clearly not so far behind (round here, at least). DC's school really don't play this game - for example, there are no specialist teachers other than for music, drama and PE until Y3 (all subject specialists from Y4 onwards) and they don't start languages until Y3 either (TBH I wish they would but if there is no member of staff passionate about doing it then there is not much point).

Cinnabar has an excellent point though - I have seen difficulties picked up and dealt with in YR/Y1 which I am told by friends would not even have been 'assessed' until Y3 in the state system. Of course the flip side of that is that some super-selective schools may look to "encourage" the DC out of the school at that point sad, and a lot of independent schools will expect parents to pay for private OT's and the like if needed.

DizzyHoneyBee Tue 12-Feb-13 15:13:37

Bonechina, my DS gets a new reading book every day and so did my DD (different schools, different areas) and they were both listened to every day.

1charlie1 Tue 12-Feb-13 15:41:48

From a teacher's perspective (and married to a teacher), I have to agree with ReallyTired. And just to add that at a prep school, within a year level the top group may well be working years ahead of the bottom group. I was chatting to a prep teacher friend the other day about Year 8 at her school- she said there is as much as three years between the highest and lowest sets.

DH is in his first year teaching at a private secondary. He is shocked at how weak and poorly taught some of his year 7s are. All are prep school educated. These students are averagely bright, and should be much, much further ahead than they are. Their levels have been manipulated by spoon-feeding/ 'teaching to the exam' methods of teaching, and subsequently they are significantly behind where they should be - and his measuring sticks are the hundreds of Year 7s he has taught in the State system.

The difference for these children, however, is that they are now in a private secondary where their weaknesses are being comprehensively addressed in tiny classes. Had they been forced to attend his previous comprehensive, his opinion is they wouldn't have had a chance at anything like a C Grade at GCSE, simply because of the general rowdiness and large class sizes.
This doesn't change the fact that they (and their parents) have been failed by their (expensive) primary schooling. All (prep) schools are not equal!

smee Tue 12-Feb-13 15:57:56

1charlie, I'd guess there's that gap in a lot state schools too. I know in my son's class some are working a couple of years above year expected levels whilst others are a year below.

I agree though, it does v.much depend on the school. Purely anecdotal this, but a friend was teaching in a private school, so has her daughter in the prep school for reception and year 1. She left the school, so transferred her DD to a state primary for year 2 and was horrified to find she's been assessed as at least a year behind. The new school are having to give her extra help to catch up. This was highly respected private contrasting with so called inner city, deprived primary. Said friend thinks the teaching in the state school is far more imaginative than the teaching she saw in private too, all of which has amazed her.

1charlie1 Tue 12-Feb-13 16:57:19

Absolutely, smee, my comment about differing levels within a single year group was just to add to ReallyTired's point about this being the case in state schools. I would imagine that this is the case in many schools.
I also want to add - there was a comment upthread about private schools 'telling it like it is' to parents. I really don't agree with this. For example, I think the preps that DH's students have come from have seriously misled parents as to their childrens' abilities and achievements, and left it up to the secondary schools to pick up the pieces. DH has had some uncomfortable meetings with quite devastated parents, and has had to explain what has gone wrong. (He teaches bottom set.) A small number of his students have been previously assessed for SEN at their preps' insistence (more ££ for expensive Ed Psych reports etc), when in fact these children had just been subjected to very poor teaching.

smee Tue 12-Feb-13 17:00:12

shock, that's awful charlie, though does sound very similar to my friend's experience. She's so, so pleased she moved her DD.

ChiefOwl Tue 12-Feb-13 17:17:05

NcNcNcNc - In all the state primaries I saw, no one had specialist teachers for French, music, history etc - but that may have been our area.

I woud think it is standard in all secondaries.

smee Tue 12-Feb-13 17:50:37

We have specialised Spanish, music, sport, dance coaches. Two class entry inner city state primary. smile

SocietyClowns Tue 12-Feb-13 18:12:14

Most of the differences for us are mentioned above but one that hasn't been mentioned is the excellent wrap around care. We have no family and without it I could not hold down a job in our area. Our school offers breakfast club from 7.45 and after school care/clubs until 6.
And OP, this IS our local school 5 minutes walk away grin

tiredaftertwo Tue 12-Feb-13 18:23:09

All prep schools are definitely not equal, nor are all state primaries.

My children are now at a selective private secondary in London. They were at an inner city state primary. They had specialist sports coaching, lots of trips into London to do cool stuff, good art, some patchy teaching, good bits and bad, most mostly pretty creative. They both got into selective independents with no trouble with a bit of tutoring (filling the odd gap in maths, exam technique).

They have friends who went to prep schools where the teachers seemed to be working in the 1950s, with a terribly dull curriculum, house spent on coaches doing the same trip every year, stupidly long spelling lists, and oh my goodness the exam materials they supplied were so out of date and dull. You could do better in five minutes on the internet. And teachers who yelled at them. I had to bite my lip. I know another prep child whose dyslexia was not diagnosed or even discussed till he was 12, by which time he was convinced he was stupid.

All anecdotes, you just cannot generalise.

Karoleann Tue 12-Feb-13 19:00:58

My DS2 is currently in reception at a private pre-prep, DS1 attended a local "outstanding" state primary school for reception 2 years ago.

So far they have gone at the same pace for phonics and slightly slower for maths. But, their all round education is more better, they have swimming, PE (with a proper PE teacher), their topic work is much more interesting and full. For example they have had the topic of chinese new year this week a chinese dance company came in to school for assembly and they have done some lovely artwork.

The pastoral system is much better, they have much more individual attention, DS1 read with the teacher every 2-3 weeks, DS2 reads most days.

Clawdy Tue 12-Feb-13 19:44:21

Surprised by the post saying if you are at a state primary,you will be told your child is doing well regardless,but you will be told the true picture in a prep school. I think the opposite is true,as many prep schools are desperate to keep their numbers high. My friend's mother teaches in a small prep school,and was told in no uncertain terms not to put negative comments on a school report because "they are not going to pay to be told their child isn't doing well...."

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 21:05:47

Sorry, been away from desk for hours (extra curricular music, spot the pushy mum wink) you're all brilliant for posting, I really appreciate the considered feedback.

wraparound care is a good one that a few people have picked up. DDs school has a breakfast club and after school club so that is covered, which is a huge bonus, but I know that can be quite patchy in local primaries.

Of the other things people have mentioned, the bits that stand out are as being differences are: one-to-one reading, which I think doesn't happen that often at DD's school and specialist language provision (they get Spanish in Y3 and, oddly, latin for two or three years but no French). Art facilities are great, PE no great shakes. Music isn't bad but we do that externally.

I think whoever said there's no way to compare has a point, standards are so variable across state and primary and every child is different – but it's still really interesting to hear about personal experiences.

Clawdy & others, re the accurate feedback thing, I've been thinking about that again and actually my issue with state schools in this respect is that sometimes the teachers have seemed too easily pleased i.e. provided the child's reading/writing etc is within the target parameters for their year group, they are considered to be doing really well, regardless of whether that represents much progress for them. And there can be such a heavy emphasis on positivity about all that the child does that the praise becomes meaningless. That opinion is partly based on the experiences of others, but I do remember being a bit hmm once or twice towards the end of nursery class when praise kept being heaped on DD for writing the odd letter/knowing a few numbers when she'd be writing her name etc since the beginning of the year. I ignored it at the time because I figured at 3/4 it didn't matter too much, but if that were to happen in later years it would, for me, be a bit of a concern. Admittedly without experience of private, I don't know if the same happens there.

timmytoes Tue 12-Feb-13 21:18:01

In our non selective pre prep in reception DS shook the headmistresses hand every morning, learnt to look her in the eye and say "Good Morning". Every term the entire class had to stand on the school stage in front of their parents and say some lines learnt by heart as part of their form assembly. He read to an adult every day at school, had specialist French teachers, PE and music teachers. The entire class could read by the half term of the first term, by the end of the year they could all write in basic sentences. The entire class was expected to be able to sit still and concentrate for reasonable amounts of time while older boys played musical instruments etc. The differences between curriculum in reception and that of the local very highly rated state primaries are probably negligible but with regard to the above I'm not so sure.

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 21:23:21

Thanks, timmy

The languages thing. I didn't learn start learning any second languages at primary school, and I suppose part of me wonders if it's that important to be learning a second and third language when you're still trying to master reading and writing your first. I have a degree in modern languages btw, so it's not that I don't consider them important, I've just always felt it's more relevant at secondary level.

Virgil Tue 12-Feb-13 21:26:39

DCs are at a selective primary and DS2 is five. He reads very well. He is on stage 10, he has one to one reading every day, book changed as soon as he has read it. 10 in a class with a teacher and two TAs. Joined up writing. A different sport every day with specialist sports teachers. Swimming every week, music every week with specialist music teachers, French and Spanish with specialist teachers, IT with specialist teacher. It's a boys school which is very geared towards boys, lots of activity and active learning, lots of outside time, lots of boy focussed topics.

Very difficult to say whether he'd be at the same point if he was in a state school but all of the above certainly hasn't hurt.

Virgil Tue 12-Feb-13 21:29:52

Oh sorry, whilst Ds2 is five he is in year 1

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 21:30:58

Wow - that does sound pretty amazing, Virgil.

I didn't realise joined up writing was still taught though - I was taught at primary school myself but had dropped it by about 16. You rarely see joined up writing in adults these days, do you?

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 21:32:30

Seem to have lost the ability to write properly (see last post) so clocking off for the night but thanks again for the feedback folks. Will check back in again tomorrow to see if anyone has anything else to add but has all been really useful

Virgil Tue 12-Feb-13 21:35:15

Really? Doesn't everyone do joined up writing? It takes forever to print.

But yes they only spent a very short time doing printed letters and moved very quickly onto joined up cursive writing. We had whiteboards sent home after about four weeks of reception for them to practice on.

NTitled Tue 12-Feb-13 21:40:43

Virgil, it's interesting to hear you mention boys' schools. My DD is at a girls' school, and has done everything you list - but also benefits in a very different way from being single sex, in that the girls are active and play 'boy' games in a way that they don't/can't in a mixed school (I have another child at a mixed independent school, and the girls stand on the sidelines while the boys occupy much of the physical space). At my DD's school, the girls can take as much space as they like, literally and metaphorically.

Virgil Tue 12-Feb-13 21:44:23

To add to that point, the Dss school used to be mixed until a few years ago. The teachers say that the boys are far more sensitive and considerate than they observed when the school was mixed. They also say the boys are doing far better from an academic perspective without the girls there. They are all ultra competitive with each other which spurs them on but are not hindered by feeling like the girls are always outperforming them.

NTitled Tue 12-Feb-13 21:47:20

I am completely sold on single sex schools. My others will be going to them for secondary...

LePetitPrince Tue 12-Feb-13 22:38:34

I've had experience of both sectors at this age. Differences in prep school reception:
- daily reading with teacher
- book home every night, either to read together or a reader
- lots of focus on phonics including phonemes
- small classes (18-ish)
- lots of extra-curricular work like art workshops for Chinese New Year etc
- bi-weekly European language class.

kilmuir Tue 12-Feb-13 23:19:47

Cursive writing from reception
reads every day to an adult
book changed as soon as read
great wrap around care
16 pupils intake for reception
Not convinced need for a specialist pe teacher when only 4/5 years old or need to learn Latin!
Local rural primary

montmartre Wed 13-Feb-13 00:57:58

My children's school cover what is essentially the NC Reception year work in the nursery year, i.e. start a year early- suits some, not others, but the school is selective. Specialist music teacher, French teacher (mother tongue) from nursery class, PE/games 4 times a week, new reading book every day from nursery-Y2 (don't know about juniors/prep as my dc are in infants/pre-prep), small class sizes, genuine actual playing fields.

Lots of things are same as the maintained sector though- smartboards in every classroom, access to outdoors at all times, a teacher and a TA to all infant classes, learning to read via phonics etc.

Many state schools near us don't have breakfast clubs and/or after school care, or the wait is 2-3 years. The school my children attend has before/after school care, and holiday care too - kind of essential considering how long independent school holidays are! The nice thing is, that the holiday car is staffed by all the usual school/after-school staff, so the children all know them well (and vice versa!).

WhichIsBest Wed 13-Feb-13 09:08:59

I have recent experience of two different outstanding state primary receptions.

One spent half the day outside, in all weather, split into ability sets from the start for maths, writing, and reading/phonics, taught using script.

The other taught two modern foreign languages from the start, had a specialist PE teacher, taught in cursive.

I found it interesting, how different they were. Both provide wraparound care.

Both class size of 25-30. Big schools.

sanam2010 Wed 13-Feb-13 09:22:45

DCs not in school yet but am deciding between state and private pre-prep. Am leaning towards pre-prep but as many have mentioned not because of the academics.

What attracts me about the private school I am looking at:
- they do sport outdoors every day
- they have amazing music and art teachers from top London art/music schools and win a lot of secondary scholarships because of it
- due to class size, better individual care and lesson planning. For example, they told me if my DC is ahead in French let's say, she could skip French some days and do violin lessons during that time - things like that

No-one has mentioned here but for me the food is actually a big issue. It may not be the case at all prep schools but in general the quality of food in the pre-preps in Chelsea etc. will be much higher than at state schools. I was looking at the only community primary we have a chance of getting a place at, and they do juice, toast and jam for breakfast club and get lunch delivered by a council wide caterer - while the prep school has yoghurt and fresh fruit and their own cool onsite.

In our case wrap around care at the state schools is actually much better, all from 7.45 - 6pm while the preps kind of say "it's better for the children to go home at 3, if you work just get a nanny!"

I don't think the posts here about mediocre prep schools (which of course exist) address the OP as she seems to be talking about the very oversubscribed top London preps that feed into Westminster, St Pauls and so on - these are never struggling to fill places and have no problem telling parents that their less academic child will be better off elsewhere.

But it comes down to the state options available, there are many great state primaries in London that I would happily send my children to, but for many of us who aren't RC / CofE and don't live within 0.2m of the top state schools, it's not that easy.

Kendodd Wed 13-Feb-13 09:58:15

Mine are at state school. I have three in YR, Y1 and Y2.

- Small village school about 90 seconds walk away.
- Class sizes of 25 and 26.
- A different reading book home every night.
- Reading with an adult most days but only about once/twice a week with their teacher.
- Y1 and Y2 get homework once a week and a few spellings.
- YR just has a homework book with whatever her library book is printed in it and some information about what they have been doing. She can write/draw/stick whatever she likes in this.
- Each year gets a ten week swimming course but they have to travel half an hour on a coach each way to the swimming pool. Parents have to pay for this.
- Y1 and Y2 have 20 minutes 1 to 1 piano lesson at school once a week. This is a private teacher who visits the school and we have to pay for the lesson. YR could also go but we decided to wait until she's in Y1.
- The school has great outdoor space and makes the most of it doing forest school etc.
- Poor indoor space with no indoor sports hall/large assembly hall, they have one but have to also use it as a classroom.
- No school meals, all packed lunches, they could come home but don't want to.
- Some language provision but no very good IMO.

Overall we're happy enough. The biggest thing for us is that the school is so close, I really didn't want to have to drive them to school. Plus the reception teacher particularly is absolutely brilliant, amazing, we could not have possibility wished for a better teacher. She is also head of early years. She has won national and local teaching awards and I'm sure she'll be headhunted away before to long. The other teachers are good as well.

Wallison Wed 13-Feb-13 10:11:45

Mine is at a state school as well and I'm very happy with it.

- He has been taught cursive writing from the start.
- By Xmas in reception he was reading. He gets reading every night and read to an adult every day at school to begin with although that is less frequent now that he is in Y3.
- They were streamed quite early on and his table is now doing fractions and percentages in maths.
- Specialist teachers for PE (the guy who does this also coaches the local City FC), French and Music.
- School has a supply of musical instruments for free loan and also bursaries for 1-to-1 teaching (he is on one).
- In addition, all of Y3 pupils get free instrumental coaching and play in an ensemble.
- The meals are nutritious with a veggie option each day and unlimited access to a salad bar in addition to the veggies they get with their mains.
- Wrap-around care has recently been extended to 7.45-5.45.
- Free after-school clubs every day, often with more than one running on each day, for things like chess, football, cookery, Spanish, Art etc.

He has progressed loads there and shows no signs of slowing down yet - has already gone up two sub-levels compared to how he did in his SATs last May. And this from a school in the middle of a council estate.

mrsshackleton Wed 13-Feb-13 10:17:48

Back to the state primaries bigging up thing - possibly bad prep schools do the same to keep numbers up, but not the oversubscribed London ones we're talking about.

Ime the (lovely) primary school my dd used to attend had such a wide variety of children that mediocre work from a child who could do a lot more was deemed acceptable. My child was struggling at maths and hadn't mastered basic concepts but because a lot of children in the class were doing even worse, hers was deemed to be "fine." Similarly, because so many children in the class could barely write in y2, her appalling handwriting and spelling was allowed a pass. None of this is allowed in her prep school and she is achieving so much more. I don't think ultra-able, ultra-supported children need private education, but the ones in the middle can really benefit.

I think that what often comes out from these threads is that you have to directly compare the schools available to you. If you have the choice of a satisfactory prep or an outstanding state school then its logical to choose the state school. If, on the other hand, as was my case, you have the choice between a satisfactory state school and an outstanding prep (& can afford the choice) then you choose the prep.

catinhat Wed 13-Feb-13 11:00:08

I was state educated and my children are.

I think that the differences are class size and specialist teachers and money - but then infant classes in state schools will typically have a teacher and a TA. And for 12k a year you could probably pay for private language and music lessons. (We pay for our dds music tuition on piano and violin).

I think state school pupils are monitored very closely for achievement and progress. Partly because this is what schools are judged against.

I have observed that our local private schools won't let children carry on past the age of 7 if they're not able; they have to back into the state sector (seems a bit harsh at 7!)

Some of our year 6s have specialist maths teaching at a local secondary. (The ones destined for Level 6 in their Sats).

Parents are obsessed by their children being read with each day, but I can't see it's that important; in my dds state school the strugglers are read with every day but my two - who learned to read quickly - weren't. We were meant to read with them every day at home but I sort of lost interest once I realised they could read as well as an adult.

Our two also did cursive (joined-up) from reception.

Our two also swim every week. They actually do far too much sport at school; we live in a sport obsessed town!

When I was at University (Oxford) I couldn't tell the difference between those who had been privately educated or state educated.

catinhat Wed 13-Feb-13 11:02:34

Wallinson - your school sounds like ours - we have lots of one-to-one tuition, reading buddies, free ensemble playing (year 4) and subsidised instrument hire.

We're also an 'estate' school.

Farewelltoarms Wed 13-Feb-13 11:33:54

I'm with you catinhat re. the reading every day thing not being a priority. I'm not sure it's a particularly effective use of a teacher's time especially since it's something we do at home and I enjoy doing. Certainly find it easier to read every day to my three than to earn the 40k that I would need to for them to have this privilege at school...

SocietyClowns Wed 13-Feb-13 12:56:20

Those of you with fantastic state schools on your doorstep, can you tell me where you live please? grin I'd happily relocate to get everything our independent offers, but without paying for it!!

We had to make a tough choice for our summer born, shy, speech delayed, hearing impaired, glue eared dd and when it came down to it there was no choice. The alternative to the independent was a faith school with a reception intake of 37 (!), over half of those Polish speaking, with a TA who was a native Polish speaker, a NQ panicky looking teacher, a slightly deranged appearing HT, and no breakfast or after school care or clubs. The school has recently been reported to be failing badly with significant weaknesses in all areas.

tryhardrep Wed 13-Feb-13 13:07:10

Thanks again, folks. What strikes me from the responses is the huge variety in provision. I think we're more or less happy where we are for now but just need to have a proper look at the alternatives when the 7+ question comes up.

Seriously though: do a lot of adults use cursive writing in real life? I honestly have never joined up my letters since I was a child. I'm a journalist so do almost everything on a keyboard these days, perhaps that explains it?! But actually I can't think of any adults I know who do it either. I had no idea children were still taught it at school.

catinhat interesting point about noticing later in life re private/state education. I also went to Oxford and would agree with you for the most part, only obvious difference in modern languages was that the students who had been to major public schools had a really sound knowledge of grammar, they just didn't seem to have to think about it, it had been drummed in from such a young age.

BuiltForComfort Wed 13-Feb-13 13:19:54

In case helpful, ds is in yr1 of a very large state primary. He gets 2 x PE lessons a week, one outdoors "sports" type activity, the other indoor "gym / dance" focus. Specialist Art teacher, specialist Music teacher, specialist French teacher (all give 1 lesson per week), specialist PE coaches.

Guided reading once a week in a small group of 5 I think. The teachers continually learn and the school invests when necessary in new schemes such as Jolly Phonics or Maths programs after serious research. Lots of technology (Apple mac in each classroom, interactive computer boards (not white boards but massive computer screens that can be written on with special pens or linked to by the teacher's pc), iPads in YR for children to use (one or two, not one each!).

What he doesn't get is more individual attention due to being in a class of 30, nor does he get much more than 5 mins of 1-to-1 reading time a week. No homework until Yr2 but does have a weekly reading book for the guided group, plus free choice of books to bring home each week and a reading diary for me and his teacher to comment in.

I can afford and have time for after school activities - some run by the school, some run at school by outside companies, some organised by me away from school. I also, in theory, have more time to help him with reading, maths etc if I felt inclined though we do lots of other stuff rather than focus on things he's learning in school anyway. I have to pay for uniform, school meals and small contributions to trips out, they seem to do one per term. Given that where I live private primary school would cost upwards of £12,000 a year, I think ds is getting a pretty good deal!

MonkeySea Wed 13-Feb-13 13:24:51

Gilded toilet seats.

And teak desks.


tryhardrep Wed 13-Feb-13 13:52:42

damn, if only I'd known grin

NTitled Wed 13-Feb-13 14:43:11

tryhardrep: I always join up my writing (and always use a fountain pen). I'm a journo too, so like handwriting as a break from keyboarding...

Wallison Wed 13-Feb-13 15:01:19

catinhat, yes, that does sound very similar.

It's all down to luck of the draw and timing I think. Ten years ago, nobody would have wanted to send their kids to his school because it was failing. But then it got put into special measures and the Head they put in was at the council all the time for grants for this that and the other. It got money thrown at it and started getting Outstanding from Ofsted. So we are just very very lucky that we live close by (it is our closest school) and also that we were looking for him to go to school at the time he did.

itstrainingmen Wed 13-Feb-13 16:56:12

So hard to generalise. Our state primary has a specialist language teacher for juniors and a good range of clubs.

No sports matches but some specialist coaching. Music lessons in school but no orchestra.

The differences in levels of children are so individual. Several friends with dc in pre-preps used to assume their dc would be way ahead of mine but from what they said about reading levels it was the opposite and our top group is working at a good level in theory when the teacher can differentiate (not always easy in a class of 30).

The differences seem to be that if I have a problem, it's a struggle to see the teacher as she is stressed and busy, whereas in a class of say 15 or 18, they seem less so and as you're paying, they're more accountable to you. There also seem to be more very disruptive kids at our primary -suspect they'd be managed out at private schools. Dc have sort of benefited from learning to deal with this/ all sorts of kids but it probably has disrupted learning.

We also find that there is much more faffing about doing nothing at the start and end of each term (not just a day settling back in and a day at the end of term doing fun stuff) and a lot of missed core subjects. I get the impression that happens less at local preps.

catinhat Thu 14-Feb-13 16:12:11


Our school still not out of the woods yet; last Ofsted only SATISFACTORY.

But, it's been great for our dds and it's lovely not having the pressures of wealthy classmates. (We live in an exceptionally leafy village only a miles from the estate school with rock stars and IT millionaires for neighbours, so we need some variety!)

Unfortunately, school intake getting wealthier each year and far more birthday parties to take the girls to. We want our weekends back.

(Hasten to add, our house one of the smaller ones!)

take3 Thu 14-Feb-13 18:46:26

We all know that many good state school are better than some poor private schools... but if you are doing a general comparison, I would say that

1. Private school teachers have more time to focus on the individual child.
2. Private school teachers tend to pick up on minor problems and deal with them better (I mean... a child holding a pencil incorrectly or perhaps not forming letters correctly etc).
3. Private schools tend to tell you exactly how your child is doing and give it straight - in many, not all, but many state schools, it is easy to just be positive as this keeps the parents happy.
4. In most private schools, children will get reading sooner... in our local school the children to do start reading scheme books until year 1, which suits some but not others.
5. Better resources and more specialist teaching eg PE and music.

blueberryupsidedown Thu 14-Feb-13 19:21:40

My kids go to a state (faith) school, small (one intake) but 30 pupils per class and one or two TAs in KS1.
- Lots of focus on social skills and learning through play in Rec and year 1
- PE facilities poor, and not enough outdoor space or time
- Could read fluently by Christmas in year 1
- homework few and not very exciting
- Some music teaching but not that much
- poor language facilities
- changes books whenever he finishes one, which is probably twice a week
- Paired reading with child from year 6 every week, and with teacher once a week ish (sometimes every couple of weeks)
- Now in year 2 has only just started doing joined up writing
- has only done the Two times table.

The school is OK but not super academic, I am a bit dissapointed with the results, but he is happy there and it's well balanced. We do lots of extra work with the kids at home, and we probably could afford private school if I was to go back to work full time. But when we applied for schools I was unemployed and my husband had only just started teaching (he retrained) so salaries were too low we couldn't afford it.

What I miss the most are good sport facilities. It's not good enough at our school, and so so much better at the local fee paying schools. Plus all the other benefits like good after school care, etc. And better teaching, more adapted to inidividual needs.

MrsMelons Fri 15-Feb-13 14:52:12

take3 I had never really thought about your 2nd point but my 4 year old who is in his 2nd term at (private) school is very good at maths and will do whole maths sheets with perfect answers but will write every number back to front (there is a possibility he could be dyslexic but obviously too young to tell yet)

From my experience with state schools many (even good ones) would have focused on the fact that he was able to do the maths and put the rest down to his young age and may not have worried about it so early but DSs school are working with him on it (and with us) so he can get it right. They are not critical of him at all but I do think its great that they are not just leaving it.

Elibean Fri 15-Feb-13 15:02:08

OP, just to pick up on one thing you mentioned...I do think 'thriving' is subjective, I really do. I would trust yourself and your sense of what 'thriving' means to you!

Personally, a thriving 5 year old, to me, means something different than it does to some of my neighbours. It's also easy to have a more relaxed perspective about those neighbours, and their priorities, now my children are a little older smile

Elibean Fri 15-Feb-13 15:02:44

And I'm not anti-private education at all, btw - if my dds weren't thriving, IMO, at state primary I would move them.

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!

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 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...

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.

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!!

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.

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!

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)!

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.

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

sorry that should say year 3

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.

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!

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.

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?

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.

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...

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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???!

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?

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.

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.

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