Decadence in London fee paying secondary schools

(57 Posts)

Is there a culture of decadence across the independent sector secondaries?

grovel Tue 16-Oct-12 09:21:28

You are going to have to define decadence in this context. Decadent teachers, parents, children?

Parents and children. (I dont know about the teachers)

We really want the best education for our son, but I am concerned that just like in any secondary school there is "the wrong crowd", but because the life style of "the wrong crowd" is so extremely affluent, it will be deemed very tempting by a young boy who is not used to this sort of thing. I fear that rather than being inspired by academic excellent and hard work, he is going to be "star struck" and inspired by coke heads and children who have no aspiration of actually working, other than on a catwalk or a stage, at best, party at most. I fear my son would definitely think this was "the right crowd" and be in awe. Not that I think they would fall over him to be friends. grin

senua Tue 16-Oct-12 10:10:22

I was a bit hmm about this as I thought it was intended to be the start of an anti-private bunfight but you might have redeemed yourself ... grin

He will be star struck for years 7, 8 and 9 no matter which school you send him to. You will be sick to your stomach that he is in with the wrong crowd. Then magically, in year 10, your original DS will re-surface. Whatever good grounding you gave him as a parent will re-appear and you will discover that, actually, he has got a nice little group of friends round him.

Repeat the MN mantra after me: all shall be well.

I think in the very selective highly academic schools there probably isn't much scope for swanning around being ultra cool etc. because you are expected to produce the results. If you look at the leavers destinations for some of these schools you have to assume that the children are aspiring to a bit more than a life as a PR / Party organiser.

I think you will have an element of that behaviour in all schools (private and state) and so to suggest there won't be any in fee paying schools would be daft. However, I think children face non-aspirational pressures from certain peer groups in all schools and I am not sure it is driven by money.

Many of the parents who send their children to fee paying schools are working parents themselves stereotypically lawyers (like me), bankers, people who run their own businesses etc so most of the children will come from homes where the parents work to pay fees and they would expect their children to get jobs. There will be some schools which are populated by "made in Chelsea" types but most of them won't be.

It is the "made in Chelsea" types I would worry about, not children of laywers, doctors, script writers, etc. grin

But because we are not really that affluent, just "normal" people, I think it would be harder for my son to make a realistic judgement of "the wrong crowd" in an independent, as I fear that he would see them through rose tinted wealth glasses, whereas he can more relate to "the bad crowd" at a non-fee paying school. Does that even make sense?

Senua I think you are right, I will have these worries whatever school he goes to! But he would not be in awe of the hard kid on the block, whereas he would be in awe at sons and daughters of politicians, rock phenomenons and models.

Bonsoir Tue 16-Oct-12 10:24:55

Different schools attract different sorts of families (different segments of society). You need to look beyond exam results and league tables.

propatria Tue 16-Oct-12 10:26:32

Remember one persons "decadent" school is another persons" informal",it depends on the school,the more selective the less likely you are to encounter these people but they will be at every school to some extent,you just need to have faith in your grounding and stay away from Bedaleswink

EdithWeston Tue 16-Oct-12 10:26:54

Whatever school choose, state or private, one of the biggest influences on your DC will be their peer group and it is something you can do nothing whatsoever about (there may be drug users, for example, in any school; and what you currently expect him to find alluring may change)

So it does come down to what grounding he has, how you continue to parent through the teen years, and what pastoral care there is in the school.

Sonnet Tue 16-Oct-12 10:30:29

QS - I understand your concerns and think they are legitimate ones. Bonsoir's opinion I share.

Bonsoir Tue 16-Oct-12 10:31:09

We moved DSS1 and DSS2 from the state school in Neuilly-sur-Seine to a private Catholic school in the 7ème. We definitely gained on the decadence front - the current school is better academically, has richer families but is a hell of a lot less decadent than the state school.

drjohnsonscat Tue 16-Oct-12 10:37:40

I know exactly what you are getting at Quint. I went to a fee paying school in London for a short time and it was actually quite serious but I know some are not. Some seem to be breeding grounds for spoilt kids getting eating disorders and wanting to be cool. I think this is about day schools too - not boarding schools (not that I would send my child to boarding school but I think they are more regimented so less scope for hanging out outside the local club trying to be cool). I don't have an answer but I know what you are getting at.

TimeChild Tue 16-Oct-12 10:39:21

One swallow doesn't make a summer but a dd of a good friend of mine went to a fee-paying girls school in London and met a son of a rock star at a party. I think there are social cliques where teenagers of similar backgrounds hang out, though my friend certainly falls in the lawyers, doctors brigade and not Chelsea.

For a couple of years my friend used to regale me with the antics of her dd. Her boyfriend - dad is rock star, godmother a supermodel, the boy himself a teen model for Gaultier and the like hmm - used to taker her to parties where Kate Moss was a fellow reveller. All this when she was under 18. Looking back my friend was star struck, but equally couldn't do much to control her dd other than stay up late and text continually.

This girl is now at a provincial Russell group uni and has settled down. She came out ok but certainly wouldn't want my dd's to do what she did.

I think its not just the school, but the social groups that hang off these schools. It also helped that my friend's dd was VERY pretty.

ScaredySquirrel Tue 16-Oct-12 10:43:14

my son is at a central london independent school. There is a lot of wealth there, and he was impressed by it originally. But he is sensible enough to know that that isn't the norm, and some of the excesses are, well excessive.

He did start saying at one stage that we are poor (which we are compared to those people), but he realises that we are very lucky really. I think by that age, they have the maturity to cope with the excesses.

My daughter is at a N London state school, and there are very wealthy people there too. The only difference there is that there are very poor people as well. I think living in London, children see wealth at both ends of the spectrum, and that's what worries me about the independent schools. Not the excessively wealthy people, but the fact that there isn't a mix, and the children are often living in a bit of a bubble, where they think its the norm to have a bedroom to yourself, live in a house rather than a flat, holiday abroad several times a year and have a second home in Suffolk.

TimeChild Tue 16-Oct-12 10:47:10

Think you've got it there, Squirrel about getting a social mix in the school. Most areas of London the affluent really rub shoulders with the poor. It's essential that the children keep a sense of proportion and a sense of how society works.

Seeline Tue 16-Oct-12 10:49:50

Don't forget that many fee paying schools offer generous bursaries and/or scholarships so not everyone need be rolling in money. I agree with what others have said - every school is different. You need to spend time in them and get a feel for the place and people. See what proportion of students come from state schools rather than preps. Those that have tough entrance exams will have kids wanting to learn rather than swanning around like models and the like.

Farewelltoarms Tue 16-Oct-12 10:52:23

I think this is a legitimate worry. A friend of mine is moving her kids out of a top London prep because of the way that his fellow pupils spoke to their Phillipina maids and how they all had their own i-pads. Materialism isn't restricted to private schools, but in some there can be a toxic mix of parental wealth and lack of involvement.
Every private school I know of in London has famous parents and so the celebrity culture is a reality rather than an abstract. Which may not necessarily be a bad thing, but you have to guard against your child thinking any of it is normal.

Brycie Tue 16-Oct-12 10:54:10

Not at ours, there's a culture of crappy old cars, crappy holidays in wet French caravan parks, dreams of conservatories and basically sacrifice for the children's future.

Brycie Tue 16-Oct-12 10:56:44

I suppose we do have celebrities and the children of some of the most phenomenally rich people in Britain grin but they don't inform the culture of the school, that's dictated by the school. It's fair, compassionate, pastoral, holistic and rounded.

ScaredySquirrel Tue 16-Oct-12 11:00:37

Is that in London Brycie? because I haven't seen any less well-off people in any of the Prep or independent schools I've come across. I am a solicitor and so is my husband, and we can't afford to send our children to fee paying schools (grandparents pay in our case for ds1) - i haven't come across a generous bursary. In the private schools of N London and the school my ds1 now goes to, there isn't a mix at all.

Brycie Tue 16-Oct-12 11:03:00

Yes, that's London. Bursary and scholarship children and many parents like us who scrape by, I mean, never mind dreaming of conservatories, I dream of a decent haircut!

drjohnsonscat Tue 16-Oct-12 11:09:05

I get the impression that this has worsened too. My now very privileged and elite private school was actually a bit mixed. Not very but a bit.

I came from a single parent family and mum was a nurse so I had a bursary. My BF's dad was a builder but she was an only child so they managed to scrape by. My other friend's parents were both teachers. We all lived in very modest homes in distant suburbs. I don't know that you find many families like that routinely in these schools now. I was the only one to have a bursary so I can only conclude that fees have gone up since those days and are now out of reach. Plus I think a lot of ordinary families have been priced out of London anyway because of house prices...

Brycie Tue 16-Oct-12 11:12:14

I can imagine in prep schools you wouldn't see the less well off. A lot of less well off will think they can make up the difference at primary age themselves, by tutoring, but at secondary if there isn't a decent school nearby an enthusiastic parent simply can't make up the difference.

EdithWeston Tue 16-Oct-12 11:16:32

There are fewer bursaries at prep level than at secondary. Also, the giving of a bursary is in confidence, so if the parents choose not to make it public then you wouldn't know. Just as you don't necessarily know whose fees are paid by employer, GPs or inheritance.

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