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AIBU? Private school related

(79 Posts)
differentkindofpenguin Fri 31-Oct-14 10:29:48

hi all, typing on my phone so excuse any typos!

I have just been landed with a dilemma. We are a family on a moderate income- one of us is a nurse, other is admin assistant on just above min wage. Our eldest is due to start school next year, so I'm in the process of looking at local schools. There are plenty, and seem quite nice.

Now MIL came over yesterday and said she would pay for him to go to a local prep school if we wanted it. They paid for their other grandkids. Her worry is that as DS is pretty bright he won't get "pushed" enough in a state school. I have to agree this worries me too.

Now we are very, very grateful for the offer, but it got me thinking. It would be a brilliant opportunity for him, smaller class sizes sound great. Distance is a consideration, I don't drive and its gonna be two buses for me to get there :s. However DH will mostly be dropping off.

This is another thing- DH thinks I'm being daft and worrying for nothing. Private schooling is usually ( not always I know) associated with a certain social class and income. While we are financially stable, we do live on a shoestring budget. Shop at lidl, no holidays ( unless MIL sends us), no frills. I'm worried DS will be treated differently due to this. I have visions of him coming home and asking for things all his friends have that we can't afford. Or being ashamed to invite his friends to our house as its small and in a less salubrious area. Or being upset as his friends have been on lovely holidays and we can't even afford a week in a static caravan in Wales. I dread the thought of having to " keep up with the joneses" for the foreseeable future... DH thinks I'm overthinking it, and it won't be like that at all. I really hope not but can't help thinking about it.

Fully prepared to be told IABU. Sorry if this is a bit garbled, have 2 small kids jumping all over me!

WyldChyld Fri 31-Oct-14 10:33:52

Hi OP - I was privately educated (from secondary level - to be honest, there's not much difference up to there and we performed as well as students from private junior level). We lived very similarly to you; there wasn't much snobbery to be honest as money didn't really factor in the minds of the students - it was assumed that people had it so it was never discussed or commented on if you didn't, same with house sizes. It was always set out to us by DM and DDad that this was an investment, we couldn't have the stupidly expensive stuff some of my classmates had so it was never an issue.

WooWooOwl Fri 31-Oct-14 10:36:39

Private schools vary a huge amount, so no one can answer you accurately unless they are parents at the school you are thinking of using.

Some may well be full of rich parents that jet all over the world on every school holiday, others will be full of parents like you that are being helped significantly by grandparents or who are sacrificing family holidays and all luxuries to be able to afford the school.

TailorMouse Fri 31-Oct-14 10:37:00

In my experience - families will go without to send children to good private schools if that is the best option so chances are you won't be the only family less affluent.
The opportunities provided are incredible, but it is a consideration that obviously some other children will have things your DS won't - will your MIL be happy to take on additional costs of trips (some are compulsory), kit, uniform etc as it can all add up to a fair chunk on top of fees....?

exexpat Fri 31-Oct-14 10:38:53

This question has been asked many, many times on MN. I think it depends what kind of school it is - some prep schools have much richer (or at least more ostentatiously wealthy/conspicuously consuming) parents than others.

In my own experience, with two DCs at different private city day schools, there is a huge variation in income levels and it is only an issue if you make a big thing of it. In DD's class (yr 7) there are girls with ponies and swimming pools in the garden who holiday in the Maldives, and whose parents drive Porsches and so on. But one of her new best friends lives on a council estate and her dad is a small building contractor; another friend's family runs a small Chinese takeaway and never goes on holiday anywhere; another is the daughter of a student single parent. Even many of the more apparently prosperous middle class families are actually spending most of their spare income on school fees and drive old cars, take camping holidays in the UK etc. It really doesn't have to be an issue at many private schools. You need to get a feel for the atmosphere at the one(s) you are considering.

LadySybilLikesCake Fri 31-Oct-14 10:42:00

It depends on the school. Some have down to earth parents, some don't. Ds's prep was a real mix, but there I only met two snooty 'I'm not speaking to you because your house is small' (and one's children was the spawn of Satan). A lot of parents who send their children to private schools work all hours, don't go on holidays etc, there were more like this then the snotty ones so you would fit in.

Taz1212 Fri 31-Oct-14 10:45:09

DS is at a private day school. There are lots of children from families with pots of money and there are lots of children from families without pots of money. It doesn't appear to be an issue.

LIZS Fri 31-Oct-14 10:45:37

If your income is modest don't commit to it. Fees go up well above the level of inflation each year and costs will only mount. Would gps cover it all (which isn't as uncommon as you might think) indefinitely and what about dc2 ? That would be more of a worry than how your home life might seem to others. You do need to be able to drop/pick up as the social side and your presence is important. How would you collect from playdates for example which could be as far in the opposite direction ? Are the school even taking enrolments for next year now, most round here will have closed their waiting lists although there may be movement once state allocations are known in April.

StarlingMurmuration Fri 31-Oct-14 10:46:38

I went to a private secondary school on a scholarship, and I did notice the differences between my family's lifestyle and that of a lot of my schoolmates. There were a lot of scholarship kids there too, though, so I wasn't the only one whose parents bought from the second hand uniform sale etc, or didn't go on foreign holidays. I must confess, I was embarrassed by it when I was lower down the school... I was especially embarrassed to take people home because my house wasn't nearly as nice as many of my friends. But I got over it by year 10 or so... It was also frustrating when better off friends couldn't understand the concept of "can't afford it" - I remember trying to explain why I wasn't getting driving lessons on my 17th birthday to a mate who had been given a car on her birthday, and it was like trying to explain something using a foreign language. So that's the downside.

On the other hand, they really did push me and now I have a PhD, and I am completely certain I would not have that if I'd gone to a school where I was allowed to doss around. At primary school, I would finish the day's work in a couple of hours and I was so far ahead of the other children that I was often just told to go into the library and read a book, or even given modelling clay and told to occupy myself. My parents found it very frustrating, which is why they sent me to private school after primary school.

I don't know if a much younger child would notice it more or less, I'm afraid. And I don't know that reading novels or playing with clay in the afternoons because I'd finished all the set work was actually bad for me at that age either. It did make me very solitary, and quite lonely though.

Notbythehaironmychinnychinchin Fri 31-Oct-14 10:46:58

It's a very kind offer but I would be more concerned about any strings being attached. How much oversight/input will MIL want in the schooling? Could it be something used to keep you in your place? If you're satisfied with any conditions - unspoken or not - then don't let the other stuff stop you. Many people pay for private school by sacrificing holidays/cars etc so while there will be dome obviously very wealthy families, there'll be others just like yours.

Bowlersarm Fri 31-Oct-14 10:47:33

This topic does pop up with regularity, so try a search for other threads OP.

But in our experience, the families at our DSes private schools vary enormously from living in very modest houses, or flats, and throwing every spare penny into the school fees, to the families who live in very grand houses with holiday homes and Lamborghinis. Most people are somewhere in between. Most people don't give a toss about a child's background situation.
My DSes are at home equally when they stay with their friends in the Manor House or the 3 bed semi. It really doesn't matter to them. Their mates are their mates regardless of where they live. It may matter to your DS but it shouldn't.

That's our experience over four different schools; it may vary school to school though.

I would just make sure your mil can commit to paying for the full time at prep school, and ideally senior school, rather than you worrying about pulling him out at any stage. And yes, the school trips, uniform, extras can be very expensive.

KnackeredMuchly Fri 31-Oct-14 10:48:53

Really does depend on the school. Go and see the school, talk to the children, find out about school trips and uniforms.

Maybe 90% of the year groups do school holidays that are very expensive and trips throughout the year. They might be normally paying for music and drama classes. Uniforms might be very expensive if they only allow logo-d jumpers and coats etc.

lunar1 Fri 31-Oct-14 10:49:40

There is a massive mix at our school, there are a couple of people with bizarre attitudes and whose children brag about possessions and holidays but there are in the minority. I don't think it is any worse than in state school from talking to my friends.

We are probably on the lower income end of the children in my boys prep, nobody cares. We don't have a car and we go on modest holidays every other year.

I would jump at the chance your ds is being given if I were you.

FreudiansSlipper Fri 31-Oct-14 10:51:10

I have met quite a few of these families who go without yet they still manage to live in large houses and have mc trappings just a few less, its competitive among some but its a very mc attitude to be property rich, send your ds's to private school but be cash poor do drive round in old car, no obviously new designer clothes (very few seem to be shopping in primark though)

you will encounter snobbery and competitiveness as this is part of our culture but it is stepped up often in private school, the very fact that they exist is because many believe money will separate those that are from a better section of society and some desperately want to be part of that. He may have friends that come round and make innocent comments in turn this may have an impact of your children and yourself it may not. it is difficult at times when children have playdates and it hits home how different your life is but you have to not dwell on it

and there will be a few parents who are not in a good financial position and have similar circumstances as yourself you will soon work them out smile

Biscuitsneeded Fri 31-Oct-14 10:53:30

I think you need to visit and suss out what kind of children go the the school(s) you are considering. I consider myself middle-class, middle income (I am a teacher and DP is an engineer), and our kids go to state school and yet have kids in their class who go on skiing holidays, have mothers who don't work and have personal trainers, cleaners etc. I happen to teach in a private school. There are some children there who have expensive holidays and ponies, but the vast majority don't. Some are being funded by grandparents, lots are second generation Britons whose parents value education above holidays etc. I don't actually find any of the children I teach very different from my own children and the very entitled ones are rare. But my school isn't a particularly posh one. It is small and nurturing. That said, I have been for interviews in more prestigious schools and although the children were perfectly polite there was a much more tangible sense of wealth and its trappings. So I don't think there is a short answer to your question - you need to get a feel for the school and its intake. Short term, I'd be tempted to go with your local, free option and see how your DS gets on. You can always transfer to private at a later stage if MIL's offer still stands.

StarlingMurmuration Fri 31-Oct-14 10:53:59

Wow, that was all about me.... Sorry OP. I would think he'd be fine at primary school unless it's a very bad one, and instead ask them to consider helping out when he's ready for secondary school if they still want to/can afford it.

Hopefully Fri 31-Oct-14 10:54:09

I know my SIL's DS is hyper aware, at age 8, that he is able to have/do less than his peers. I don't know how much it bothers him, but he knows that when they are discussing what they did on the weekend or whatever, he isn't doing exciting things every week or playing the newest computer games.

tywysogesgymraeg Fri 31-Oct-14 10:55:23

I went to a state school. DSis went to a private school. Similar abilities etc etc, but I went to university, she didn't. Make what you will of that!

Does your MIL's offer include any future children you might have? What if have four, or five, or more? (mistakes happen!).

Does her offer include paying for all the extras such as special uniform, school trips, sports equipment, music lessons and everything else that goes along with children at school, but which is more expensive at a private school than at a state one, petrol to get DCs there every day, and to his friends for play dates (they are bound to come from a much larger catchment area than kids at a local state school). The list goes on...

Personally, I would prefer to have the money from MIL, if she's got it spare, and send DCs to a good state school. Either put the money into a savings account for DCs, for uni costs, driving lessons, weddings, help with first house, when they get older, and/or have some paid directly to you to pay for extra-curricular stuff you might not be able to afford when DCs start school.

There's not much difference academically between a good state school and an average private school. I've heard (though not sure I believe), that class size has no effect on children's learning. it's always state school teachers who say this though

CharlesRyder Fri 31-Oct-14 10:56:37

Is it a prep school with all the bells and whistles? Do they have their own pool, science labs, well equipped DT workshop, art studios and music school? Several surfaces to play sports on and lots of teams going out and about? Specialist teaching early on, experienced staff and a genuinely broad curriculum?

If so, I would jump at the chance.

However, if it is just a small set up (like one I used to live near that was just in a big victorian house with only the property's garden as outside space) bear in mind it might actually offer less than a state school. I would not use a prep school for small class sizes alone.

theposterformallyknownas Fri 31-Oct-14 10:57:00

I would look at the relationship your mil has with her other grand children whose fees she pays and see what she is like towards their schooling, how involved etc.
Also, consider if her financial situation should change and she couldn't afford to pay all the fees, you don't say how many other she pays for but even one set are still unmanageable for many people.
I would worry about being able to keep up the fees, but that would be the main concern.
Could you/she afford all the extras, uniforms, trips, extra curricular etc.

NightmareBeware Fri 31-Oct-14 10:57:11

Definitely best to visit and get an idea of the atmosphere as exexpat says. It varies from school to school, but most tend to have a huge mix, and there will be kids from monied homes (complete with live-in housekeepers) sitting next to kids whose parents are really scrimping and working two or three jobs to find the money for the fees.

And (with a couple of bratty exceptions), the children really don't care. When DS1 was at prep school, the most popular child in the class was the child in the tiniest, shabbiest house; his parents couldn't afford to run a car and he never went on holiday. He was the nicest, coolest, kindest child, and he was always in high demand for playdates.

maddy68 Fri 31-Oct-14 10:58:12

I sent mine to a private school and tbh it was the biggest waste of money ever. They would have done just as well in a state school. I wasn't a teacher at the time, and now I am ( in a state school ) we really do push bright kids. Far more actually than private ones
I would send them to the local school where they will be able to play with local kids etc
Just an aside. My daughter is doing her teacher training now and having been to a private school is not going down well on application forms. They wonder if she can cope with city schools. Despite her working in one for the last three years) Hmmm not the advantage I wanted

Biscuitsneeded Fri 31-Oct-14 11:03:47

Bit it's not just about the facilities. Or even the smaller class sizes. I am new to teaching in the private sector, having had something of a chip on my shoulder about it until Mr Gove and his silly obsession with turning children into data sent me running from the state sector. As far as I can see, what you are buying by sending your children private is incredible pastoral care. Every child gets the very best outcome they could possibly achieve because they are loved and cherished and looked after so carefully, and if any child starts to drift or under-achieve steps are taken very quickly. Whether or not that actually prepares them well for life in the long run is a question I am still debating, but there is no doubt in my mind that it's a significant advantage, far and away more important than the fact that they have lovely sports facilities and fabulous musical opportunities.

WienerDiva Fri 31-Oct-14 11:04:57

Hello OP,

YANBU to have these worries, but they aren't necessary.

I'm in the same situation, my dm has offered to pay for my dd to go through private education. I have chosen a school that is focused on nurturing an individuals talent and self esteem (they do achieve pretty good results, not the best bit certainly not bad).

I'd say go for it, I'm fortunate that the school we've chosen had a preschool and I now know that we're aren't the only ones who have relatives paying for their child's education.

If it is something that you feel comfortable with go for it. You won't be the only ones.

CharlesRyder Fri 31-Oct-14 11:05:16

having been to a private school is not going down well on application forms

Really? I am privately educated and went to Oxford. I've done 10years in EBD provision and nobody has ever suggested I might be too posh to cope with challenging behaviour/ catchment! I feel doubtful that it is really standing in your DD's way.

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