From Prep school to State Secondary??

(62 Posts)
ProfDumbledore Fri 01-Jan-16 19:41:21

Hello All

I have briefly been through the discussions here but need a bit of guidance. My DD goes to a very good prep school where she joined in year 3 and is extremely happy. Although boy/girl ratio is not equal, she seems happy in the company of boys. She is in year 5 so next year is very important regarding next school. Living in North West London we have a choice of some very good and some excellent but very academic senior private schools. DD is doing well in her studies and plays piano.

Our dilemma is that we have an outstanding senior state school less than one mile from our house which offers an excellent curriculum and the headmaster cares greatly about his school. Going to this school will mean our DD will have a good education and will have friends that live very local to us.

We are not sure whether to continue the private route. Senior school will cost approxim £6k a term in fees plus very expensive school trips etc. Whilst we are not rich, we are comfortable and if DD goes to private senior, it will inevitably affect our lifestyle to some degree.

we are finding it difficult to decide what to do. Many children in the prep schools and primary state schools are being tutored which kind of goes against my belief of putting in private.

What is it like in senior private - say somewhere like St Helens or Northwood College, Habs and an outstanding senior state school? I am talking not only academics but the type of girls/families that go to these schools? Is it all academic? Are there families who care about the other important aspects of life? I'm don't want to upset anyone but I have noticed that many families only care about academics and getting their children into the school of the parents' choice rather than the choice of the child. I could be wrong but I have heard it first hand from many families.

I apologise if this is going over old ground but I desperately need some guidance from your experiences to help me.

We will be going to many of the open days this year to gauge what our DD likes.

Thank you in advance and apologies if I have offended anyone.

Bolognese Fri 01-Jan-16 20:39:59

What a dilemma, cant really help. I looked into private secondary, DC did the entrance exams and was offered a partial scholarship. School seemed great etc.

I talked to a lot of the kids and parents from private education and the reason I decided against it was how do I put it the sense of entitlement everyone had, no experience of how 'normal' people live and struggle. There was something missing that the state sector offered i.e. what real life was and how it affected most people. Its not that it was ignored, more that everyone in private schools thought that was normal. The holidays, the latest smart phone, the expensive cars etc.

I found a state school that produced better results and also a more rounded personality, not just whats considered a wealthy rounded person (very different things). And I had endless money for private tutoring (which so far, I have never needed). Oxbridge here we come ;)

PettsWoodParadise Fri 01-Jan-16 21:34:40

I have a DD in a private prep but have no sense of entitlement we work bloody hard and have sacrificed a lot including renting out rooms in our home. We go without holidays, have a ten year old car and my husband has a mobile from the dark ages. My mobile is proudly out of contract and approaching retirement age. We did this as the all ability school she was at just couldn't cope with her ability and whilst a great local school just wasn't the right fit for her. We are on the cusp of making the same decision about moving on. DD is in Y6 and recently sat grammar tests. We are not looking at the parents but the students and opportunities for DD. We have a great state grammar which she has scored more than enough to get into but it is always struggling for cash, has a class size of 32, in some subjects comes close to failing students as they don't have the right equipment to enable them to get the best grades but they still manage to be in top 50 of schools nationally. Then there is an amazing independent which does the IB, no government interference in the qualification, the curriculum is enormous in comparison to the state grammar and as part of the IB they community service and all the students I've seen realise how fortunate they are and work hard at helping others. I don't think we can afford the Independent for secondary but if money were no object the attraction of not having the government constantly moving goalposts or making it easier/harder/more confusing would be a clincher for us! OP go with what you think is the right fit for your family.

Zodlebud Fri 01-Jan-16 23:10:37

Not all private schools are the same, likewise with state schools. I live in an area where there are two "top 30" in the country girls independents within a sensible distance. I actually much preferred the all girls grammar in the nearest town to both of these schools as the girls just seemed so much more normal, down to earth and grounded, but it still had the academic feel. The facilities were, however, poor in comparison. Tatty buildings, cramped classrooms (30 teenagers in a room looks an awful lot of people!!!) etc and the girls didn't seem half as confident.

I honestly don't think though that a clever child would do better at the fee paying schools than the grammar and I couldn't justify the expense.

That said, we have fallen in love with a wonderful secondary independent school which gets great results for the students it takes (it's often a backup for girls who fail the 11+), and places as much emphasis on what you do outside the classroom as in it. It just felt so much more like the sort of place my daughter would feel at home. Your gut reaction says a lot about which is the right school.

One final word, two of the five independents we visited felt rather like places where money was no object and the girls seemed to not bat an eyelid when discussing the number of trips they had been on etc. The other three felt so much more down to earth and a lot more about the girl than the size of her parents bank account. Visit all the ones you are interested in and you'll know deep down where your daughter would fit in and be happy.

BoboChic Fri 01-Jan-16 23:25:52

Teaching DC that life is a struggle doesn't make them more rounded. It just teaches them to struggle, often quite needlessly.

DeckthehallswithaglassofBolly Sat 02-Jan-16 08:33:21

Our DD 2 went to a private prep where the first half of Yr6 was preparation for the Common Entrance exam. We had the options of private from Yr7 or an OFSTED outstanding state comp.
In the end - we thought that the state comp was a better fit for DD, despite her first choice being the private secondary.
She is extremely happy at the comp.

During our deliberations we thought about the possibility of State from 11- 13 then doing the 13 plus if the comp didn't work out - is this an option for you? Also don't kid yourself regarding outstanding comp/state schools depending on the 'catchment' a lot of tutoring may be taking place (under the radar, as it were).

Where we live it is much more difficult to get into the outstanding comps, unless you are within catchment, than the private schools - which affected our decision making.

The 'downside' to the comp is that all of the trips are oversubscribed, so ballots take place for trips. Not everyone that auditions gets a part in the concert/play/musical. But saving £6k per term could pay for a lot of tutoring and extra curricular activities.

SheGotAllDaMoves Sat 02-Jan-16 08:55:59

Academic excellence is a given at certain private schools. DC will be challenged and be expected to rise to that challenge.

However, there is a lot of other stuff going on; sport, music, drama, art etc etc. There will also be an active social life.

The parent body will be a mix, as anywhere, in terms of personality and values held. Yes, they will mostly be high achieving (with regards to their own academic and work careers) but not all.

LillianGish Sat 02-Jan-16 09:00:12

Not everyone that auditions gets a part in the concert/play/musical - and nor should they. Otherwise why bother having auditions? For me that sentence says everything about the sense of entitlement you might get as a result of going to a certain type of school.

ReallyTired Sat 02-Jan-16 09:39:00

"The 'downside' to the comp is that all of the trips are oversubscribed, so ballots take place for trips. Not everyone that auditions gets a part in the concert/play/musical. But saving £6k per term could pay for a lot of tutoring and extra curricular activities."

Most state schools have music and drama opportunities for all levels of ablity. Often there are house drama or sport or music competitions. A child might not get to take part in the main production, but there are other opportunities. In a state school there must be some day trips open to all. Otherwise the school would be failing the pupil premium kids who can't afford the skiing trip.

ASingleJourney Sat 02-Jan-16 12:50:46

I think that, ultimately, it will come down to your particular situation, priorities and values (we faced the dilemma of private vs state last year).

I have been following discussions on MN (and 11 Plus forum) for a year now and one idea regularly floated is that a bright child will do well no matter which school he/she attends. I don't think that is universally true - it may be the case for some DC but not for others for such reasons as a DC needing more direction/nudging (not all bright children are self-motivated), a DC benefiting from being with similarly-minded peers (academically-speaking), a DC requiring more attentive pastoral care, etc.

We chose to go private (I started with a preference for state) after a lot of debate and reflection (including on financial considerations). While we will never know whether DD would have been equally happy and successful at the grammar school to which she was admitted, we take comfort in DD telling us that she could not be happier in terms of intellectual stimulation and she trying different activities and sports (the latter without feeling any pressure to be top). At the same time, we are on the lookout for the risk of a growing sense of entitlement in DD (it is something that worries us more than a little), discussing our values on material possessions (some of her classmates have the latest gadgets, she doesn't), etc. With the passage of time (although just one term), we are feeling more assured (which hopefully won't change) that we made the right decision for our DD.

CluelessClaudia Sat 02-Jan-16 13:18:08

The biggest difference is that in state comps - even those rated outstanding, with the very best results - there is some appalling behaviour and low level disruption which is simply not tolerated at private schools.

fidel1ne Sat 02-Jan-16 13:24:05

I have a DD in a private prep but have no sense of entitlement we work bloody hard and have sacrificed a lot including renting out rooms in our home. We go without holidays, have a ten year old car and my husband has a mobile from the dark ages. My mobile is proudly out of contract and approaching retirement age.

You're going for the whole bingo card there Petts grin

Lurkedforever1 Sat 02-Jan-16 13:29:37

I don't think there is a right or wrong way. Depends entirely on the schools and the child, the only way to know is to look at them both properly and see which is the best fit for her.

Bigbiscuits Sat 02-Jan-16 13:37:07

How rude to describe someone's life as a bingo card.

fidel1ne Sat 02-Jan-16 13:44:13

Oh do get a grip.

Bolognese Sat 02-Jan-16 14:37:22

There is some appalling behaviour and low level disruption which is simply not tolerated at private schools Please, it is that sort of belief that shows how insular private schools are. State schools do not 'tolerate' bad behaviour, they DEAL with it. Private schools have entrance criteria that enables them to discriminate against disruptive pupils ever getting in and if some slip the net they just ask them to leave, something state schools can not do.

Good pupils in state schools do well despite any disruptive behaviour, they learn how to deal with it which is probably why they are more likely to do better at university than closeted private school pupils.

SheGotAllDaMoves Sat 02-Jan-16 14:54:58

I visit lots and lots of state schools as part of the widening access scheme forOxbridge.

I would say that the absolute definite number one complaint by high ability pupils is constant low level disruption. No question.

CluelessClaudia Sat 02-Jan-16 16:32:46

State schools do not have the means, ultimately, to deal with much of the low level disruption because their range of sanctions is so limited. Schools are under pressure to reduce exclusions so they have to be saved for something serious.

I agree with your last sentence Bolognese.

But in relation to the OP, I think behaviour/disruption is what anyone going from private to state is likely to find the biggest eye-opener.

bojorojo Sat 02-Jan-16 18:35:31

I think what other parents are like in a school is somewhat immaterial. Where I live the state schools have plenty of Range Rovers lined up collecting children and the streets are lined with new cars belonging to the 6th formers. However I think you should judge a school on what you actually want it to deliver. Around here the trips are balloted, but in the private schools this would be unusual. A hockey trip might cost £3000 in the private school though. We have found Art and Music far better at private schools but, this does reflect the talents of the young people that go there. The classes may be smaller in a private school but there can be disruptive pupils and, unfortunately, teachers who do not know what to do about it. Often strategies are under-developed.

Therefore look at the curriculum, the extra-curricular activities, the music, sport and art if your DD is interested and, above all, go on a working day, not just an open day. I have come across some horrible children in state and private schools - money, or lack of it, has little to do with well behaved pleasant children. However, many children in private schools have parents who are committed to education and will be very supportive of the school they are paying for. It is also about where your DD will feel comfortable and whether she wants to stay with friends. Where do other children go from the prep school?

Also, never forget that fantastic Headteachrs can leave so everything you saw and wanted inY7 may have gone by Y13! I would look more on ethos, an exciting curriculum, behaviour and gut reaction. Which do you like the most?

perrymason Sat 02-Jan-16 18:59:25

Asingle I could have written your post, almost word for word, except it's my DS. He is bright but easily led and distracted and, as friends have found who have recently started our local state option, the low level disruption which existed in his state primary and def exists in some states, really affected his concentration and ability to listen. Much smaller class sizes mean that simply does not happen. Do not agree at all that it is down to selectivity of pupils, our school deals with everyone on an individual basis. So far it is def right decision for us too but I also know some children from his old school who are doing brilliantly at the state and will probably continue to do so. All are girls but that could be a coincidence.

Chewbecca Sat 02-Jan-16 19:27:06

DS went from private prep to state grammar last year. He's thriving and I have no regrets, I think academically he'll do better in the grammar as he's competitive with the other boys and the standard is high.

The point I wanted to pick up on is the tours you'll be doing. There's no doubt that the privates (we visited) were far better equipped than his state grammar, the pools, water polo, equestrian facilities, fencing, a huge variety of sports, music, drama facilities. Some of the private schools were incredibly impressive to look round. Ds's school excels in sport and music in fact, but has much more limited facilities, it really struggles for ££ being funded significantly less per pupil than local non-grammars. The private school tour guides were also much more eloquent than at the grammar, the food was far better and there was a lovely 'ceremony' to mealtimes, rather than the scrum at DS's school.

I do think DS would have gained other, softer skills at those beautiful schools that he won't get from the grammar but we're very happy with our choice, he's really happy at 'at home' at his school and has made lovely (local) friends.

And we're going to have some great holidays and have much less pressure to retain our jobs than we would have if we'd taken the private route.

BabyGanoush Sat 02-Jan-16 21:21:14

Deep down you know what you want to do. Where would DD be happiest?

I sent my DC from a prep to a nice comp (nice environment, friendly approachable staff, DC and I really liked the feel of the school).

The downside is that I have to take them to some after school sports myself (though school offers some sport). Also it is harder to combine with work as they are home so early (3:30!)

Most of the prep kids go on to a very academic selective day school (15k a year) but I don't like that school. It's a hothouse stressy environment. Parents rave about it but reading between the lines you pick up on the negative sides of the pushy factor.

There are two nicer private schools but their gcse/a levels are no better than the comps.

I am sure you have done a similar comparison yourself. Visit every school at least twice (once alone and knce with DC) and talk to the HT (ask im pertinent questions ), ask parents and trust your own decision.

SheGotAllDaMoves Sun 03-Jan-16 08:23:44

A friend of DH's emailed last night, asking us what to look for in a secondary school (our DC are in L6 now so they thought we have the benefit if hindsight).

I'll pass some of our thoughts to you OP (feel free to consign to the bin wink).

I'm also assuming your DC is high ability (since you're considering Habs) which makes a difference.

What % of the cohort are the same ability as your DC.
When and how is setting introduced. In which subjects.
How many GCSEs do the school encourage DC to take.
When are they asked to make their option choices.
What help is given by the school vis a vis option choices.
Is triple science offered and to which pupils.
How many MFL are offered.
Is Latin offered.
How is the retention of teachers.
How many temp staff.
What are the GCSE grades like, relative to the ability spread.
Is there a sixth form.
What A levels are offered.
What advice is available regarding university applications.
What are the leavers destinations.
What are the teaching hours offered to A level students.

These are just academic considerations of course. We had a whole heap of other considerations for pastoral/extra curricular (which IMVHO also have a profound impact on academics as well as life in general).

PettsWoodParadise Sun 03-Jan-16 08:33:32

Some great suggestions from shegot . I would however add one difference - look at GCSE and Sixth Form as two separate entities. There is often a lot of movement between schools at sixth form and the reasons are diverse. Some have high entrance criteria and those who don't meet the grade are either not allowed on or even edged out part-way through to keep up their scores. A girls grammar near us for example is amazing until GCSE but students then quite like a change and head to the local boys grammar for a co-ed sixth form.

BoboChic Sun 03-Jan-16 09:13:29

I think that a useful quick and dirty indicator is: do you find the finished product to your liking? Take a good look at school leavers (talk to them, observe them) and ask yourself if that's the sort of DC you want to end up with.

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