Private School for the Totally Uninitiated

(74 Posts)
JoanMalone Sat 18-May-13 13:07:46


This is long so if you can't be bothered reading, please scroll to the bottom. Thank you!

OK, I'm a single parent to a really bright 6 year old boy. A couple of people suggested I tried to get him into a private school on a bursary but I completely dismissed it as it wasn't something that appealed at all.

He's at a lovely state primary school at the moment but I don't think he's sufficiently challenged. I've mentioned this to his class teacher and she agrees he's really clever and gives him extra sheets to work on when he's completed his work, but I have family members who are teachers and have said that it's really hard to serve the needs of 30 children where abilities vary so greatly. It's so hard to talk about without sounding like a tw*t but he is intelligent and that's that. The other thing that concerns me is that whilst we love the area where we live, none of the high schools are good.

One bored night, I went on Google and discovered that my son would be entitled to a full bursary at an extremely posh private school with an excellent reputation, a reasonable distance from our home. I felt uneasy about it but decided there was no harm in going to look around. I have a really open dialogue with my son so I explained to him what it was all about and took him with me - needless to say, he loved it - but that's probably just the novelty of it all.

I must admit it was impressive: especially the extra-curricular activities - my son is very musical and loves drama and there is an incredible amount of provision in those areas, not to mention the outstanding academic achievement of the pupils.

All this would be great - apart from the fact I am basically a massive lefty. I sort of wish I had never googled that day and didn't know the school or its bursaries exist. On the one hand, they do offer bursaries and want to open the school to children who wouldn't usually be able to afford the fees, but on the other, aren't schools like this essentially Tory institutions? I'm also uncomfortable with the fact it's an all boys school, but the local state high school is all boys so he might end up in a girl free school anyway.

Making huge parental decisions is so hard when you're on your own and this one is really getting me. It could literally shape who he becomes - for the better, or for the worse. I've got a few friends who went to private school and say 'don't do it' - but all of them are well-rounded individuals who've done alright for themselves. My son's really down to earth and tolerant and I would love him to always be this way, but I also want him to fulfil his potential and achieve. The pomp and circumstance of the place did terrify me a bit, but I suppose that's me, not him. I'm fully aware he may be one of only a handful of classmates who live in a two bedroomed house, or don't have a car, or can't afford to go on the school treks etc and this is another point to consider. This is really hard as it's all at odds with my politics but he is really bright. Like I said, I almost wish I didn't know about it! Of course, he might not even get in, but at the moment I need to know whether to apply (it's a junior to sixth form school.)

Does anyone have any feedback on children going to private schools on a bursary?

Succubi Sat 18-May-13 13:14:54

My parents couldn't afford to send me. I went to a well known London all girls public school. I was on a full academic scholarship. I am so glad that my parents made me sit the exam. I have hugely fond memories of my school years and I do not think I would be where I am today had I not got in. I would say go for it.

LIZS Sat 18-May-13 13:16:42

There are no guarantees , either that funding will be available form one year to next nor that it is the best education fro your child. Even if on paper you could qualify for the maximum the school may have several equally valid applicants but a finite amount and they often reassess each year. They may also require a long term commitment that your ds would remain there.

Wuldric Sat 18-May-13 13:17:38

I don't know what this thread is about.

Is it about dealing with your political issues over private education?

Or is it about dealing with the issues of social exclusion because you will be one of few not particularly wealthy families?

FWIW I have never voted Tory in my life, but I have sent my DCs to private school. The facilities are amazing. You get what you pay for, which is a fantastic all-round education, where music is cool and everyone plays an instrument, where academic achievement is cool, and where sports are integral.

There is no issue about social exclusion. DS's friends are from a huge variety of backgrounds in terms of ethnicity and wealth. You get the full spectrum. His very best friend lives in a 3-bedroom semi, and is loved and accepted by everyone in the school. Why would he not be?

You worry too much. Just go for it.

scaevola Sat 18-May-13 13:19:17

The first thing you need to realise it that you are never "entitled" to a bursary, even if you meet the conditions under which a full bursary could be awarded. No school in UK can yet offer full "needs blind" admission (even the very, very rich ones) though there are quite a lot who are working very hard towards this.

Have you spoken to the school about admissions? Is there a selection procedure, and what bursaries do they expect to be offering at the time you would want DS to join? Even though they say they can go to 100%, have they actually made any awards of this size recently, or do they split them, offering say 3 children a 1/3 reduction?

eminemmerdale Sat 18-May-13 13:23:38

you may think you would get a full bursary but beware - dd passed an entrance exam to a very lovely prep school this year and was offered a place. Our finances are so dire that we made it clear from the outset that nothing below at least a 90% bursary would enable us to accept it. We filled out the forms, had the meeting, told them every penny we (didn't) have and the best they could ofer was 50%. It was very isappointing and now she is still struggling to get the work she needs in a good, but led by LEA of course, primary. We are traditonally 'lefty' too but wouldhave done aything to have been able to send her there. tell thmbefore anything else that you must have the full bursary.

JoanMalone Sat 18-May-13 13:37:23

Thanks all for your helpful replies.

@Wuldric - I guess this post is about me genuinely not having a clue about the culture of independent schools and wanting to find out more, so thanks for your comments - I probably do worry too much!

Re: fees - they do offer a lot of boys full bursaries and are particularly proud of this. It's done on a published sliding scale, according to your earnings, so if mine ever went up(ha ha), I might have to pay a proportion. They are definitely looking for long term commitment and for pupils who will stay there until they're 18. I've had a lengthy conversation with them about bursaries and been assured that I'd be entitled to a full one based on their means-tested system, but I will double-check with them again. The selection is according to an assessment.

@Eminemmerdale, I am sorry to hear your daughter missed out after passing the exam - that seems so unfair, especially after you'd made your circumstances clear. This one publishes a sliding scale and tells you what proportion of fees you have to pay, according to your household income. Presumably they all have different ways of doing it?

Thanks again everyone, all your posts are helping me to make my decision.

Wuldric Sat 18-May-13 13:40:07

yy on the admissions stuff

You need to be clear on the name of the game. There is huge competition, with a limited number of bursaries available. If the bursary is available because of limited means (as opposed to scholarships, which can be purely nominal but in any event do not entitle you to full fees) then there will usually only be a small number, and there will be competition.

JoanMalone Sat 18-May-13 13:44:21

Thanks, sounds like I need to really grill them on this. Competition is seriously stiff, even without the bursary aspect. Thank you.

Farewelltoarms Sat 18-May-13 13:57:40

I do slightly bristle at the idea that clever kids can never be catered for in a state primary. There are off-the-scale bright ones at my kids' school (and obviously I think mine are geniuses. Strangely unrecognised geniuses). I know private schools get disproportionate amounts of Oxbridge places (less disproportionate when you factor in the proportion of sixth formers they educate, plus all those they've creamed off in bursaries), but the majority of them come from state schools nonetheless.
A good state school can be far better at differentiating. Our local private just moved bright kids up a year, which to me sounds like an admission of failure.

eminemmerdale Sat 18-May-13 14:08:12

I think that they can be fine at state schools and ours is a very good one, it's just that because obviously they have to work at a certain level, when the ones who can easily go above that level have completed it, it seems that the teachers don't really know what to do. DD is taken out for 'special' maths and literacy sessions and she does lots of independant learnng at home. I commented because I was very disappointed that we went through an awful lot with high hopes and were a bit misled sad

Wuldric Sat 18-May-13 14:12:51

No, you are incorrect Farewell. Academic private schools (there are non-academic private schools as well which are different) take the children on vastly ahead of state provision. The difference is around two years at age 11. They cover more ground, in more depth. They can do this by restricting their intake to the academically able.

So for example, there were three children who were accepted into DD's school (due to movers) in years 4 and 5. Those children spent the rest of their primary education in special classes to help them catch up.

JoanMalone Sat 18-May-13 14:29:53

Farewelltoarms - I have always been of the same opinion of you, which is why I wish I had never found out about this school with its amazing music and sports and activities.

JoanMalone Sat 18-May-13 14:31:22

Ah, I see Wuldric - that makes sense. I would like to see mine being more challenged than he is now. He says the work is too easy and does his homework very quickly. Mostly, I just want him to be happy. It's so hard when you don't know what will make your child so!

JoanMalone Sat 18-May-13 14:32:37

eminemmerdale - I'm glad you gave them feedback - it sounds really unfair.

AmItheBadOne Sat 18-May-13 14:48:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Farewelltoarms Sat 18-May-13 15:26:03

But there are loads of kids at state school who are two years ahead too. My not v exceptional son for starters. Yes the average will be lower, but at the top end it is possible (not always I'm sure) to differentiate. If it weren't why do the majority of Oxbridge places go to state school kids?
I was a mildly amused to see how much further ahead my daughters (and one an academic year younger) in reading than my friend's son in one of the most academically selective preps in London...

ofstedconfused Sat 18-May-13 15:36:43

Wulric, you need to understand that there are some excellent state primaries out there (many in fact) which challenge able students at least as much as many of the better private schools. Not only this but they offer them a rounded social education too, ensuring that their EQ is in line with their IQ.

OP - if it were me I would stick with state. As soon as you enter the private sector you are placing yourself in the position of always needing finance, irrespective of bursary, you will, of course, need to purchase uniform and pay any aditional costs (music fees, trips etc.) which you will be under considerable pressure to meet. I think it is rare that you truly get what you pay for.

AlienAttack Sat 18-May-13 16:01:17

Agree with farewell that loads of kids are 2 years ahead by aged 11 at state schools. Check out all the MN threads about their children getting all level 5s in their year 6 SATS - that is 2 years ahead of national expectations. And, depending on the school, area, intake etc, a school could see some 50% of children achieve this.
I think this line about private schools getting children 2 years ahead is disingenuous at best and positively fraudulent at worst. It preys on parents' fears that their bright child can't be catered for at state school.

Wuldric Sat 18-May-13 16:12:37

With respect, you do not understand the environment. All level 5 at SAT is a given at academic preps. That's the baseline. Not that most actually do SATs because they are a distraction.

They cover more material. That is why tutoring has become endemic in certain geographies, because the state schools simply do not cover the material. So even with 11+ examinations (for publicly funded state schools) require extensive tutoring just to cover the ground that state primaries have not covered - to level the playing field, if you will.

Wuldric Sat 18-May-13 16:20:12

And talking of disingenuous, which we were, this point needs addressing

why do the majority of Oxbridge places go to state school kids?

Approximately 94% of school children are state educated. Some figures vary down down to 93%. Go and check the proportion of private school educated children at Oxbridge. Then come back and agree with me that private schools do confer an advantage. That advantage continues through life. People with a private school education earn so much more, through their lives.

I know it's not fair. I really do know that it's not fair. But to pretend that it isn't so is disingenuous.

ipadquietly Sat 18-May-13 16:22:24

That is rubbish about the 11+. The well-off pay for 11+ tutoring in order to raise little Johnny's chance of getting into grammar school. It is nothing to do with the school curriculum.

A cohort at level 5 will compare with state grammars and the top sets at comprehensive schools. There are, surprisingly, children all over England working at those levels!

Wuldric Sat 18-May-13 16:25:27

Oh FGS - they have to tutor because there are maths tests which cover maths that state primaries have not taught. Nothing to do with little johnny. Please deal with this factually.

I have no interest in persuading the OP to do something that will undoubtedly be onerous for her.

KatyDid02 Sat 18-May-13 16:27:56

I work in the state sector, in the class I work in we have one third of the children working about two years ahead of their age when it comes to reading and comprehension. It's not unheard of, far from it.

Farewelltoarms Sat 18-May-13 16:34:29

And all the children at private schools round here are tutored too for 11+ exams...
At a
At A level it's more like 20% of kids educated privately. This includes some exceptional schools (your westminster and spg) who boost the Oxbridge numbers hugely. It also includes some v clever kids creamed off via scholarships from the state system. Yes private confers advantage, but I'm not sure that merely doubling your chances of a top univ place is quite as advantageous as many paying in would expect.
Really not getting into private v state thing, just wanting to offer a corrective to the idea that there are no clever kids flourishing at state schools.

ipadquietly Sat 18-May-13 16:34:45

Believe me, wuldric, with the 6 level 6s in maths and English in our current cohort (and target of 35% level 5 combined maths/English), our children were more than ready for sitting the 11+ having been taught 'adequately' throughout their primary years.

It is a fact that the 11+ has become a competition. Parents who don't tutor feel that they have failed their children.

You have been listening to too much tittle tattle.

Wuldric Sat 18-May-13 16:35:10

You simply do not get where the baseline is.

At the age of 10, DD had a reading age of 15.3. She was just an ordinarily bright child surrounded by books. By your metrics that would put her 5 years ahead. That's nonsense. She didn't make the scholarship grade to the academic preps. DS did, but then again, he is brighter.

I am not talking about being two years ahead in terms of reading ages or SATs. I am talking about being two years ahead in terms of the stuff they are being taught. Do you see what I mean?

This is a primary example of it being a whole different ball game. It is unfair, horribly unfair, but this is the way it is.

scaevola Sat 18-May-13 16:36:35

The 7% figure in the private sector is across all age groups. It's far fewer at prep age and about 20% in 6th form. So the read across to Oxbridge isn't straightforward, especially as there are a few highly selective schools which send large numbers. And of course the number from grammar schools is disproportionately high.

It seems that it is selection plus a very academic approach theough the secondary years that are important for being selected for the academic style of Oxbridge.

JoanMalone Sat 18-May-13 16:36:53

I think my heart really is still in him having a state education.

AlienAttack Sat 18-May-13 16:38:01

With respect wuldric I do "understand the environment". Why would I not? From which part of my post have you inferred a lack of current knowledge or experience of private school? A sloppy assumption which does nothing to support your case. My point was factual, you can see from published stats that many state schools have children operating 2 years above expectations.

ipadquietly Sat 18-May-13 16:38:10

At the age of 7, a quarter of my class have a reading age of 10:6 (the limit of the test). What are you trying to prove?

If I am aiming for some of my 7 year olds to be writing at level 3 (that is, like a 9 year-old), I have to teach them how to write like a 9 year old. They don't do it through osmosis!

So no, I don't see what you mean.

AlienAttack Sat 18-May-13 17:23:01

I've calmed down a bit now and have no desire to get into an argument with a single poster . I get very irritated by the "2 years ahead" claim which many private schools trot out but which many other private schools would never think of claiming, given they are confident in their "offer" and therefore have no need to denigrate the state alternative. And I say this as someone with a very close association with an academically selective private school (although I have no desire to say in what capacity I am associated).
I think the question the OP needs to answer for herself is not whether private school offers "more", it is whether is that "more" is worth the financial commitment etc versus what is available through state education. And that is a diferent decision for each parent, given that their child's needs are different, their finances are different and their state options are different.

KatyDid02 Sat 18-May-13 17:35:18

I think it depends on the state school to be honest, for example my DC is at a state primary and has been learning about World War 2 for the past three weeks. He knows who all the countries were, who the allies were, when they joined the war and why and lots of detail about it all - the types of planes, what weapons they had etc etc, plus lots about evacuation, the air raids and rationing. He has learnt all of that at school, we've not done any extra at home. A friend's son (two years older) is in year 5 at a different state school, they learnt about WW2 as a one week topic when he was my DCs age and nothing else either then or since.

handcream Sat 18-May-13 17:38:10

There are plenty of lefties who claim to believe in state education for all - until it comes to their children (!!) so I wouldnt let that worry you too much...

However, as another said, I would be very careful about saying you are 'entitled' to a place. They might well publish a chart of who pays what dependant on income but YOU have to get a place before you start looking at that.

Dont worry about keeping up with all the others if you go for private. The boys wont care who you are, they just want to know that your DS is a good egg and up for a game of football and such like.

Also please be careful about saying they offer a lot of boys 'full busaries. Private schools are businesses - what is a lot 50%, 10%, 5%, lots of 50% off the fees.

The key I suspect will be him sitting the entrance test and getting the results.

Wuldric Sat 18-May-13 17:42:06

I'd like to correct the idea that private schools are businesses.

The vast majority are not-for-profit organisations, who aim to improve educational standards. There are a few (a very few) who operate as businesses with the objective of making money. I doubt the OP is aiming for one of those.

Elibean Sat 18-May-13 17:44:08

Joan, what a tough decision. I can imagine having very similar dilemmas in your shoes.

Just wanted to say, might it be worth doing the assessment and seeing if he gets a place? And if so, and he goes to this school but isn't happy, you could always pull him out again in the future?

But I suppose what I would do first is ask the school if I could talk to the parents of other full bursary pupils....maybe gain some first hand experience stories...?

Wishing you luck making the decision. Either way, your ds is lucky to have you thinking so hard over it smile

handcream Sat 18-May-13 17:57:53

Wuldric - yes, I sort of agree, they do have charitable status, however they can pick and choose who they want. I do see lots of threads with people saying they cant afford private but were looking at a full busary. Well - someone has to pay their fees otherwise the school would be full of non paying (or paying very little) pupils.

I think this 'well so and so is 2 year ahead etc etc is a little misleading tbh'. I have two sons and 10 yrs experience of the private system including pre-prep, prep and senior boarding (at a very well known school).

What private has given my sons who are not wildly academic is this:

1. Small classes. Lots of attention. Reports every term. Issues brought to us immediately through the tutor who stays with your child throughout their time at the school

2. A huge range of sports with acres and acres of school playing fields for all types of sports

3. Teachers who are not constantly dealing with 'disipline issues'. Parents are paying shed loads of money. I wouldnt put up with my DS's mucking around in school (and neither would the school!)

4. Very bright boys in each class - often on busaries but who knows who is getting what who bring the standards up

5. Any behaviour problems are dealt with very quickly in my experience.

6. The view that they aim high. DS1 is doing GCSE's. He is aiming for A and A* in all subjects. He has a late August birthday. Do I think it he will get them - no - but he will have a dam good try!

7. 98% of pupils going to university. Something my rubbish Sec modern school didnt even consider for any of their pupils.

Did I look at the state options - of course I did. And I didnt like what I saw...

handcream Sat 18-May-13 18:01:17

The only boy I really know who was definitely on a full busary at DS1's prep school had been picked from a state school in Slough at 9 due to his brilliance and then earmarked for a Eton Kings Scholarship.

He got it - but had some issues around making friends and socialising. I understand he was so academically inclined and his parents so keen to make the most of the opportunity that they forgot to allow him some down time.

cooper44 Sat 18-May-13 18:03:01

hi Joan - just wanted to offer my perspective. My mum who was a lone parent in the late 70s/80s fought tooth and nail to send me to private school - I think she somehow paid for primary (it was a very small local school though) and then I got an assisted place for secondary. I think perhaps assisted places don't exist anymore and I think it was a big Thatcher initiative in the 80s. Anyway there is no way I would ever be where I am now had I not had the opportunity to go there. I doubt I will be able to send my children private although as soon as I have stopped paying half my monthly income to childcare, I will definitely be saving in the hope that I can for secondary. If I was given the opportunity of help with sending them I would take it if I liked the school and thought that the teaching there was better than the state alternative. No question.

It's not really a black and white argument is it as there are plenty of great state schools so it's not clear cut. And it depends hugely on your son too. Different people thrive in different environments.
But I know for a fact that the experiences I had at my school were excellent - I was pushed (lazy student!) when perhaps I wouldn't have been in my local state schools which were not great at all.

I don't think - other than education - I have ever benefitted from any kind of old boy's network in my career, I've done everything for myself and worked my butt off to own my own home and climb the career ladder etc. I just don't think (and I know it's impossible to know) that I would have achieved as much had my mum not made those decisions back then. For me it's a no-brainer. But then I don't have your Left principles so easy for me to say.

Farewelltoarms Sat 18-May-13 19:14:33

Hello Joan, I feel bad that I contributed to this thread going into a rather boring oft-done private v state. I think you've got specific issues. I cannot imagine how difficult is to make decisions in the echo chamber of doing it alone. I am constantly looking to my husband for reassurance which he mostly gives (albeit sometimes in a patronising, humour-her type way).
I know a couple of single parents who have sent their children to private schools, in part because they are single parents. They were both very concerned that their children not be disadvantaged in any way. One said to me, 'I wouldn't want my child not to go to private just because I don't have a partner'. The fact that partnered up me sends my children to state didn't seem to register.
Anyway, neither of them seem particularly happy with their decision. One has had to move her child into a state school (now thriving) because she run out of money, the other has sold her house etc. I know without doubt that both are doing their very best for their children, but I wonder whether their sense of wanting to do the best is heightened because they're on their own.
I think their children are very blessed, not because they go/went to private school, but because they've got such brilliant, caring mothers.
I don't think you want him to go to the private school. Perhaps push for more extension work and maybe get a tutor later to try for a selective secondary? Or just because he might enjoy having some more challenging work and some one-on-one from a (good) tutor.

eminemmerdale Sat 18-May-13 19:22:32

I wanted dd to go for a few reasons: a) my nephew went (on an assisted places scheme) and loved it. b) the opportunities (learning french from year 3, violin tuition - free- from year 3, amazing sports facilities c) small and seemingly very pastorally caring d) she has a hearing impairment and smaller classes would have been wonderful and e) her state school year 1 teacher pointed out very early on that she is remarkably clever and suggested we give it a go. I am not so worried now about her primary as it is one of those schools which does attract professional and 'clever' parents (for example, 16 of her current year group are being taken out to go to different private schools in the area - not good for the school but shows that parents have aspirations); but I am concerned about secondary. Two out of 7 schools in the city have been 'outstanding' lately, one is a church school, and one isn't in the catchment, so I am concerned that she will fall apart when it comes to that time. Still, we will have to see. I am still cross that we went through so much to fall at the last hurdle.

lljkk Sat 18-May-13 19:41:59

wish I had never found out about this school with its amazing music and sports and activities.

How much are these, are they all free? Or are there extras? The clubs I know about at local prep are extra ££. Along with lunches costing extra. Plus would you be able to connect to the other parents, or feel like fish out of water? Because most the parents will be loaded & have certain expectations & outlooks attached to that.

Would the bursary be dependent on academic achievement, would the pressure be on you both to always keep his work up at a certain high standard?

I do slightly bristle at the idea that clever kids can never be catered for in a state primary.

Yeah that gets me too. It makes me wonder how dim DC must be compared to some MNers children!
Although I think posters here are, instead, discussing difference between "the very best" vs. "the merely adequate." Most of my life is about merely adequate, I don't quite understand how people function if "the very best" is the only option they can stomach.

sanam2010 Sat 18-May-13 19:48:10

Joan, I think any parent has a responsibility to make sure their child is well educated, motivated and happy. I really think you will regret it if you deny him this opportunity for political reasons. I for sure would not ever forgive my mum if I knew she had denied me such an opportunity for political reasons. As for becoming a Tory - he might become a Tory either way, these things are down to destiny. I'm sure he won't forget where he's from. But especially if he is very bright, don't let him linger in an average or below average school when he could be enjoying a high quality education somewhere else.

mrsshackleton Sat 18-May-13 21:06:11

Agree with sanam.

I went to a pretty mediocre state school, I was bored and miserable. My parents moved me to a private school and my life was transformed. I was surrounded by peers at the same level as me and the difference just in day-today interactions with other children who liked reading, enjoyed talking about history etc was huge.

I went to Oxford and have had a pretty fabulous career. I'm fairly sure I would have got in the state route anyway but it would have been a far less enjoyable and stimularing journey. I think some state primaries can cater fine for clever children, but the OP's said it - her son is insufficiently challenged, so in this particular case it's clearly not working.

And btw, OP, I am not a Tory and nor are most of my privately educated friends. As for politics, I'd like grammar schools to be reintroduced but as there's no chance of that, selective private schools are unfortunately, the best solution for many clever children.

ipadquietly Sat 18-May-13 23:49:31

I'm sorry, but you guys are making state educated children sound like they're brain dead. It's a bit insulting really.

Wuldric Sat 18-May-13 23:52:18

I don't think that is the case. I do not believe that state educated children are brain dead. And in fact no-one on this thread has said any such thing.

What I have said is that privately educated children have an advantage. That's not controversial, is it?

HKTekGuy Sat 18-May-13 23:53:45

OP - Firstly, ignore all those posters telling you how great their state schools are and how you should therefore stay in the state system. Their anecdotes are only relevent if you are in their catchment. Look at your state options, compare them to your private options and take it from there.

Stepping past the state v private argument, the parents and kids at private schools aren't any different from those you find at state schools. Not unless you believe that there are no bitchy mums at state schools and that kids don't get picked on by their peers.

ipadquietly Sun 19-May-13 00:07:35

You're saying that state school made you 'bored and miserable'. You are saying that state school pupils are 2 years behind their private school peers. You're saying that you would have had a less stimulating journey to your fabulous career. You talk about the transformation of your llife at private school where everyone talked about history and meaningful things.

Well, whoopee doo. 93% of children in the country have to go to state school because their parents don't earn enough to send them to private school. (The continuity of bursaries has been discussed on this thread.) I'm amazed how many children succeed in the face of such adversity.

HKTekGuy Sun 19-May-13 00:17:03

"93% of children in the country have to go to state school because their parents don't earn enough to send them to private school"

Actually that is an incorrect statement. The real figure is much lower. A lot of parents do earn enough but choose not to educate privately, either for political reasons or because their state sch0ol is good enough for them.

Anyway, please continue.

ipadquietly Sun 19-May-13 00:26:42

Then I'm even more amazed that some well-off parents choose to send their children to these dreadful state-run, under-performing institutions.

Heaven forbid.

Jinsei Sun 19-May-13 00:48:25

It's ridiculous to make claims about all state schools being 2 years behind just because some children who switch to private schools have to work hard to catch up. Obviously, those kids have been moved because their parents were unhappy with their previous schools, and so you wouldn't expect those kids to be at a very high level anyway. They are not in any way representative of the state system in general. It's pretty obvious when you think about it that there is no need to move the kids who are already doing well at good state schools - why on earth would you bother?!

A reading age of five years ahead is nothing much to write home about, regardless of the school tbh. Reading ages don't actually mean a lot in any case. As for the other skills being more advanced, I am less than convinced. I have plenty of friends with kids in the private sector, and don't notice any discernible difference on the academic side of things. In fact, from what I've heard, our outstanding state primary is actually better at differentiating work for different abilities than some private schools.

Where I think private schools do have a slight edge is with regard to all the extra-curricular stuff - there is usually a better range and the schools have better facilities. Having said that, if you save money on school fees, you'll have plenty left over to pay for these outside school in any case!

Jinsei Sun 19-May-13 00:52:14

I think the op needs to consider other options too. It isn't just a case of state or private. Could you look at moving him to another state primary instead where his needs will be better catered for?

BadgerB Sun 19-May-13 05:43:26

Same arguments - (1) Private schools confer no advantages, therefore you are wasting your money; and (2) private schools confer massive advantages, therefore they are unfair and we'd be better off without them.
The OP is not talking about private schools in general but one in particular which she and her DS have seen and liked. His current school agrees he is v bright and the indie school seem to think he stands an excellent chance of a bursary.
As for 'political' considerations, of 3 friends who went to private schools with financial help, two are members of the Labour Party and the other one (younger) is apolitical. It won't make your DS into a little Tory, OP! The home has at least as much influence on social attitudes, and good indie schools encourage diversity and acceptance of differences.
At a school with such a generous bursary policy he won't be the only one from a less than wealthy background.

Go for it OP! Your DS is bright enough to understand that it might not be possible, though no fault of his, but it's a good idea to give it a go anyway 'just for fun'.

Jinsei Sun 19-May-13 08:22:08

No, I think there are advantages to private school, but these are more in terms of networking than the actual education that is on offer. It's who you know, not what you know.

BadgerB Sun 19-May-13 12:45:04

Jinsei - just asked one of the 3 friends mentioned in my post above whether he had ever benefited from the 'old school tie' network. He said no - then, "Oh yes. When I went to buy granite for the kitchen worktops the guy running the business recognised me from school and gave us a good discount"
Hardly life-changing!

JoanMalone Sun 19-May-13 12:51:41

Wow, I didn't mean to spark a debate - but I suppose I knew I would with an issue as contentious as this!
@Jinsei - you're right, there are some amazing state primaries, including the one on our doorstep - but it's packed to the rafters and impossible to get in: for this year's nursery intake, applications amounted to almost four times the available places. You know, when my son was a baby, people used to ask me about schools and I'd wonder what all the fuss was about: surely all the schools met certain standards and one was as good as another. I quickly discovered what all the stories about people buying houses / getting their children baptised etc were all about! I almost feel guilty for considering this, because his current school is a lovely, happy place with great children and teachers, but he could be more challenged. I need to think about this some more. @Badgerb, Thanks for your advice and reassurance. I'm told that after school activities are included at the school, but obviously that doesn't count for overseas trips etc.

SanityClause Sun 19-May-13 12:55:36

To answer only part of your question, I am a huge believer in single sex education. Not because I believe that boys and girls learn differently, or any such twaddle, but because they are treated differently, at school.

My girls at all girls schools don't think of maths or physics as being boy things. All the people in their class who are good at physics are girls.

Equally, boys can be comfortable learning art or drama, without it being a girl thing.

At DS's school, last year, the play was Cinderella (the Roald Dahl version). DS's class were part of the chorus - older boys played the parts. They had to dress up as "disco divas". They really went for it - pink tutus, spangly leggings, blonde wigs, high heeled sandals, tiaras. Would they have got to do that at a co-ed school?

JoanMalone Sun 19-May-13 12:57:11

Thanks also elibean, farewelltoarms, cooper44 and everyone else who offered much needed advice.

Bowlersarm Sun 19-May-13 13:01:34

I would have thought that if you are a 'massive lefty' you would have trouble squaring sending your son to a private school with your conscience.

Mutteroo Sun 19-May-13 13:07:11

Both my children had bursaries & we never felt like the poor relation. I think it depends on the school you choose anyway. My son's original 1st choice school was an old fashioned public school. I felt uncomfortable with this but if DS was happy, that was all that mattered. Eventually he chose an alternate school which wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but suited us as a family. He gained a substantial bursary to board at this school & had no idea who else was on bursaries as it wasn't the done thing to brag about money or lack of money.

I was a chair of governors at my kids primary school & fully supported state education. My 'lefty' philosophies went out the window when DD was being bullied at her outstanding secondary school & we had no other state choices. Your children come first & while I'm not suggesting you follow this private school option through, it's worth considering. I would say we were not treated any differently to full fee paying parents, however that wasn't the case. An example of this was in Year 9, when they had a residential trip that all the pupils go on. We couldn't afford it & so the school paid.

Look at what the school could offer your son & look at the other state options. It may be that he would feel more settled at one school over the other? Don't be swayed by fancy facilities, be swayed by the teaching & pastoral care & never feel guilty about what decision you make.

JoanMalone Sun 19-May-13 13:15:51

Precisely, @Bowlersarm - that's why it's causing me such a struggle. Again, I almost wish I hadn't googled that day and didn't know about it.

JoanMalone Sun 19-May-13 13:17:50

And thanks @Mutteroo - yes decisions are riddled with anxiety and guilt!

cory Sun 19-May-13 13:27:43

Another point to consider is that while an independent school may have more facilities for musical tuition, sports, language tuition etc, school is not the only place in which these needs can be supplied for a gifted child.

My db went to a school where music tuition was pretty uninspiring. But my parents spent the money they might have spent on school fees on having him tutored by an internationally renowned maestro. The tuition was not inferior because it didn't go through school.

Again, dd is heavily into drama: her school may not have particularly wonderful facilities, but there are all sorts of opportunities locally and even more nationally as she matures. Not having to splash out on school fees means I can save up for the National Youth Theatre. Basically, to us not paying school fees means more flexibility in supporting dc's education as and when we see fit, because surplus money is still under our control.

My friend is home schooling her son using a range of facilities from local HE groups to youth theatre and college courses. He is not getting a less in depth education: he is just getting it in different places.

It's what suits the individual family.

HKTekGuy Sun 19-May-13 14:07:22

grin at the networking comment.

Apart from the 'posh' Public schools like Eton, those who go to private schools are an ordinary lot.

BadgerB Sun 19-May-13 16:53:45

I don't envy you your decision OP. If you don't let your DS try you will always feel that maybe you didn't do your best for him. If you do go for it, and he gets it, you will wonder if you have betrayed your principles.

I know what I'd do, but I'm not you.

ICanTotallyDance Sun 19-May-13 20:46:13


A few decades back, my parents were in a similar position to you. None of my aunts or uncles, or indeed my parents, had been privately educated and neither had my cousins or grandfathers (although both grandmothers had gone to private secondary schools, but they were rural girls who needed boarding).

My mother had my education all planned out- all the local state schools, in fact. Then life threw her a curveball. My sister's kindergarten teacher recommended an IQ test, and my sister came up as highly gifted (genius level). My father immediately launched himself into a search through all the local pre-schools in the hopes of finding something a bit more challenging (my sister (2 and a bit years older, so I was around one at this point) was incredibly bored) and then my mother's friend, who lived several suburbs over recommended the pre-school her daughter had just risen to the top of the waiting list for- attached to a highly prestigious girls' school. My parents laughed. My parents scoffed. My parents went to the open evening and enrolled us both on the spot.

In the end, I was extremely happy for it. In the primary section, fees were low enough that we could afford it (just), and in in the upper section I won a scholarship (although when that ran out my parents paid my last three years of fees). School trips etc, didn't really matter in our school. Years 1-9 they were all local and cheap (under 10 pounds) and once a term or so. From Year 10 they became expensive but optional (e.g. Japanese class trip to Japan, French exchange etc) and many girls simply didn't go.

The school was great fun and I would recommend it to most people. IF I were you, I would go for it, because in the end, you can always remove your son and send him to a state school, but you probably can't always move him from state to private. However, I don't have very strong state vs. private convictions and my children will be going to nicest local school I can afford, be it state or private.

If you were that impressed with the school that you're really agonising over it, it's probably worth it. If you think it would suit you son, go ahead. If not, don't!

Not an easy decision but one I hope you'll make and be happy with.

Good luck.

claraschu Sun 19-May-13 21:03:40

Send your son to the best, most interesting school you can. I wouldn't make decisions about a child based on political ideology. Life is a compromise.

There are snobs and Torys at state schools too.

Private schools can be full of boring rich people or they can be diverse, exciting, liberal places. State schools can be wonderful, or they can be full of boring narrow minded rich people or boring narrow minded poor people. Don't make assumptions about any of this.

Of course, you are supporting a system that leads to more inequality if you send your son to a private school, but that is the world we are living in right now unfortunately.

Wuldric Sun 19-May-13 21:30:48

I want to add one thought to the mix

We all worry, as parents, whether or not we are making the right choices for our children. Whether or not the choices we make now are a fork in the road - one leading to prestige, success and a happy and fulfilled life, and the other to lack of fulfillment, under achievement and general uselessness.

You cannot predict the outcome of your decisions. Either could work well or be disastrous. Your child might be brilliant and gifted, get a bursary to the outstanding private school, yet fall in with the wrong crowd, develop a cocaine addiction and worse still (from your perspective) become a Tory. Or you might send him to the state school, where he underachieves, has a rotten career and worse still blames you for his underachievement.

It's better to think that you cannot influence the outcome, because there are too many variables. You have already influenced the person. If his values are sound and he has a good work ethic, he will do well wherever he goes. He is your son. It shouldn't matter where he goes, fundamentally. He will be fine.

mrsshackleton Mon 20-May-13 09:47:33

I'd add another thought

The school is aware of inequality. It is addressing this issue by offering bursaries and scholarships. It is committed to improving its social mix. Of course, you can argue it's a drop in the ocean, tokenism etc but isn't it better that schools like this are trying hard to widen their intake than doing nothing at all?

wordfactory Mon 20-May-13 10:07:08

OP, I feel for you.

I always assumed my DC would go to state school until someone suggested I look at my nearest school, which happened to be private. Fell for it. Hook. Line. And bloody sinker.

So that's where they went. I couldn't have not sent them there once I'd seen the place grin.'s what I'd be considering if I were you.

Does the prep offer rigorous and flexible setting? IMVHO this is much superior to differentiation within a class.
Does the prep offer early access to subject specialist teaching?
Does the prep offer access to decent MFL teaching?

HabbaDabba Mon 20-May-13 10:28:47

Same story here wordfactory.

Teacher friend told us that DS wasn't going to get pushed at the local comp and that he was good enough to get a scholarship. So we went to a few open days at nearby Indies. At the 2nd one, even before we got out of the car, DS said "mum, I want to come here". DS is quite sporty and once he saw the running track, the tennis courts and rugby pitches as we drove in ....

There was no going back after that. And since DS was going private it didn't seem fair to DD not to go private with her even though we were happy with her allocated state school.

And all because a friend said 'go for the open day and have a look. It's not as if it commits you to anything" smile

VenusUprising Mon 20-May-13 10:41:55

I have a bright kid.
She's in a fee paying school, and even then she's not stretched.
I dread to think what she'd be up to in the local state school, with the massive classes, majority non English speakers, sink estate catchments and over stretched teachers.

OP I think you need to let your own opinions and worries go, and do what's best for your bright kid.

You don't buy him too-small shoes do you?
So let his intellect be your guide, and don't stuff him into a too-small box where he will be bored and unchallenged.

Your opinions about your politics today aren't relevant to your bright boy and his future shock grin
Opinions change and intellect can be wasted.

Farewelltoarms Mon 20-May-13 10:58:03

Hmm I'm not sure VenusUprising's comments about sink estates are necessarily going to encourage the OP to throw her lot in with private-school parents...
Another thought OP, 6 is very very young. There's a good section in Nurture Shock about how impossible it to really judge intelligence until 7 at the very earliest.

Timetoask Mon 20-May-13 13:46:23

OP, are you still reading? My ds is in a prep school.
We kind of fell into it (moved from abroad, no good school available for him, so decided to put him in the prep until a good state school became available.
Once you are in that environment, it feels like you are hooked for life and leaving it feels like you are letting your child down.

I can tell you, that there in our case there is definitely a (large) percentage of parents that will not look at you unless you have the right blood colour. There are also a number of average families who are friendly and nice.

I would stick with the state primary, do your best to stretch your son's education. He is bright, he will do well regardless, emotional and social development is just as important (if not more). Feeling like you are the poor relation is not ideal.

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