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Is primary in the independent sector a better educational experience?

(25 Posts)
Rarily Wed 20-Jul-11 11:05:12

I'm trying to get a feel for the differences between private and state education. I'd be grateful for any experiences shared about the advantages or not, of sending a child to an independent school at year 7 (or 9) or just waiting until secondary. We are well off enough to consider doing this as we have only one child - two children would be an impossibility, so it will involve sacrifice. I love the local primary as its a good school and we're making local links which I think is important. The independent schools are in town a good half hour drive away and more in term time. I want us to keep and develop our local links and friendships for our daughter. I worry that by the time she hits secondary education she'll not want to take the opportunity of an independent education if she's very settled. Any experiences would be gratefully received - I've found so much stuff on mumsnet since joining!

cazzybabs Wed 20-Jul-11 11:09:10

It depends upon the state school and the private school. Where we are you could find a private school to match your views on the type of education you wish your child to have - traditional/slightly off the wall (steinerish)/picking the good bits of state. The private school I work at offers better opportunities in terms of drama/music and especially sport ...

RabbitTeeth Wed 20-Jul-11 11:09:39

We have done state primary, and private secondary. worked well. Also have done state right through with another child. Both worked out well.

If your child is happy in the education she is having, then don't change it. I have learned it is not so much about the school but the happiness of the child which would bring success. You can put a child right through private education and they may not be suited to it and can suffer. Likewise with the state system. Be led by your child on this one.

crazycarol Wed 20-Jul-11 11:33:50

We did state primary and now private secondary. Finances wouldn't allow us to consider private any sooner. However the local secondary is so awful there was no way we would send dd there and fortunatly she got into a good private school. If we had a good state school option I may not have bothered, however I feel that education is very important and the state system fails some kids. At my niece's (state) school the whole class failed their art exam, pretty useless if you are planning on art college! It has got to be the right school for your child, don't let the private/state issue cloud your judgement. There are good and bad schools in both sectors.

cubscout Wed 20-Jul-11 12:23:52

Depends on the school and depends on the child. In my area, ds's (state) primary is (IMO) miles better than any of the independents, patricularly in terms of preparing children for secondary education wherever they go (e.g. being able to be independent learners, emotional maturity as well as academically). At secondary transfer everyone will be moving schools and splitting up, so moving to a new school is part of the transition process, so I would think it unlikely that moving to an independent secondary will be any different than moving to a state secondary (unless I suppose you are rural and everyone goes up to the same school).

If your child is happy why not leave it until secondary transfer to decide?

Pagwatch Wed 20-Jul-11 12:26:10

It depends entirely on the school in question and the child in question.

Rarily Wed 20-Jul-11 12:30:56

Yes my child is happy and doing well cubscout, and yes we're in a village where everyone goes to the local secondary which is a good school. she's happy, and I am starting to realise that at primary stage, given she's happy, she's learning, it would not be a good thing to change. Its difficult distinguishing between my own aspirations (on both sides) and what is really good for her I suppose.

NerfHerder Wed 20-Jul-11 12:42:09

It is entirely down to the quality of schools available and the needs and personality of your child(ren). It's not really a matter of fee-paying vs state, it's about the best fit for your child, and which school nurtures them most.

AMumInScotland Wed 20-Jul-11 13:02:59

If the local secondary is a good school in general, and seems like it would suit her in particular, then I think you have to ask yourself what the supposed "opportunity" of independent school would be giving her over and above that. And if she is happy and doing well, then I think you have to take her preferences into account - if she feels settled and wants to go to the local school (and its not a bad school that you feel you have to veto as a responsible parent) then I think that will be "better" for her than being pushed to change when she doesn't have any wish to.

SpottyFrock Wed 20-Jul-11 16:00:59

It really is down to what is available in your area. Until last year we lived in a part of Cheshire packed to the brim with both high achieving state schools and excellent independents. Catchments were tight and I just did not like our local exam factory primary at all. By contrast, the independent I sent them to was fantastic; truly amazing.

However, we've since moved to Sussex and the local primary knocked spots off the nearest independent which we found bland and uninspiring. So they're at the state school.

Thousands of children each year make the move from state primary to independent secondary without any problem. It will not be the case at all that your DC will find that transition strange or difficult.

If she's happy where she is and you have no concerns then I'd say leave her and review the situation again when she's in Y5 after visiting all the options. smile

Rarily Wed 20-Jul-11 21:10:48

Thanks for the responses - very helpful

JackyJax Sun 07-Aug-11 12:43:14

Hi SpottyFrock
(Sorry Rarily for hijacking thread)
We're considering moving to Sussex from Australia (we're English) and children would be 5 and 7. Can I ask you which school in Sussex you are at? We are concerned about getting the children into a good school but not sure what that means other than the Offsted report and exam results. Thanks so much, Jacky

orienteerer Sun 07-Aug-11 21:15:26

Article re the original post.

LovetheHarp Mon 08-Aug-11 12:05:00

If you have the time and money to invest in your child's cultural experiences you can make up quite a lot of the differences between your average state/private at primary level though.

You can take children to visit museums, experience different cultures, teach them a foreign language, get them tutoring in a musical instrument or send them to a local music centre or dance school or sports club after school.

It is a greater commitment as a parent in terms of time but less in financial terms - but I think the net result is very close, or so I would like to believe!!

forehead Mon 08-Aug-11 12:37:01

I agree with Lovethe harp...You can get the same experiences, if you put in the effort. My dc's attened a state school, which provides musical instrument tuition for £60 A YEAR. However, i pay for French lessons , ballet lessons etc for my dc's. I also work with them at home and as a result they are doing well at school. If i was paying for private schooling i would expect the fees to cover
these areas and more

teacherwith2kids Mon 08-Aug-11 14:06:03

I also agree with LovetheHarp.

My brother in law and sister in law send their children to private primary, we send ours to state primary. However, our children have always attended masses of out of school clubs and activities - music, dance, theatre, football, cricket, swimming, the 'guiding / scouting' family of clubs, tag rugby etc - and we have also done lots of 'directly and indirectly educational' things with them at home and taken them to museums, places of historical interest, plays, sporting events and so on.

On the other hand, in-laws expect these things to be done in school and so do not do any of them outside school. The home help (first language not English) does hear them read after school, but that is all.

I would say that overall, my children are better educated under this system, but that if we did nothing with them outside school they would be slightly less so than their cousins, not in the academic learning sense but particularly in sports.

teacherwith2kids Mon 08-Aug-11 14:19:26

I also meant to say that in the 'broader' educational sense that will be useful to them in their future lives, my children are FAR better educated than their cousins.

They have friends from all kinds of backgrounds and abilities. They have learned to 'get along' with people who are very different from themselves, and to use great tact and empathy in understanding the viewpoints and possible barriers experienced by others. They have local friendships and activities and have developed remarkable independence in negotiating playdates and getting themselves to and from activities...

Cousins, on the other hand, clearly spend all their time in the company of other princely little lordlings, are deeply materialistic, cannot understand that others do not have all the things they take for granted, expect to be driven everywhere and have anything on a plate, and are scornful of anyone who has any kind of special need or disability (their school excludes children with SEN through an active selection / removal process).

Obviously, not all children who attend private primary schools will turn out like this, and their home environment is an important factor in shaping them this way. I just thought that the 'educational experience' should probably be addressed in its broadest sense, not the purely 'academic' one.

stealthsquiggle Mon 08-Aug-11 14:19:35

In the situation you describe, I would be very hestitant to move before secondary - as others have said, if you have the time and energy to do lots of extra-curricular stuff it will more than make up for any lack (of resource, rather than skill or energy) at school - and the friendships you and she are making are really important, too. The time spent commuting to independent school could be better spent doing other stuff.

As for achievement - a good friend who is the head of an independent school says that he sees very little difference between state- and privately- educated bright 11yos - after that, in his (not unbiased, clearly) opinion the gulf starts to open up.

stealthsquiggle Mon 08-Aug-11 14:21:29

(I should probably add for context that my DC are at an independent primary school, but that one of the factors in making that decision was that it is, in fact, marginally closer to home than the local state primary)

stealthsquiggle Mon 08-Aug-11 14:25:31

..and I cringe at teacherwith2kids' description. DC's school is non-selective (except on ability to pay, and even that is slightly mitigated by bursaries) and has a wide range of abilities including a fair amount of SN. I hope my DC are not "princely little lordlings" - they are certainly less materialistic and have less "stuff" then plenty of other DC their age, irrespective of school [fingers crossed].

teacherwith2kids Mon 08-Aug-11 14:30:10

Don't worry, stealth, I'm sure that they are absolutely lovely - as with all these things, it will depend on the precise school, and the precise family circumstances (I was a scholarship child at a private school from 11 and I was deeply unmaterialistic and had absolutely NO stuff as we couldn't have afforded it!)

I was just making a point about 'education for life' I suppose, rather than the narrow 'academic achievement' perspective that it is easy to focus on when discussing and comparing schools.

stealthsquiggle Mon 08-Aug-11 14:36:19

I don't think I would go as far as "absolutely lovely", teacher wink

I do agree, though - but as earlier posters have said, sometimes the choice is between time and money. If I didn't work, we definitely couldn't afford school fees, but on the other hand I would have time (theoretically) to ferry DC to lots of activities which they currently get to do at school in one way or another. Unfortunately the sum is not quite that simple as there are lots of other things we couldn't afford if I didn't work.

As with all things, it depends on the schools in question and the child in question but I think the geography would settle it for me in the OP's position.

QTPie Mon 08-Aug-11 14:47:48

I think (although DS is 18 months, so am only just beginning to get into all of this... and am reading with interest) that it VERY much depends on the schools in your area and - if you have good ones - how over-subscribed they are.

In my area, even at primary level, there are quite a lot of schools to "choose" from, but getting in seems to be a complete lottery. Friends have a 5 year old son, he got into the 3rd of their three choices and the school is about 30 minutes drive from their home (not far in miles, but difficult in the school rush hours...). That is really not a game that I want to play. The natural "follow-on" school for their son's primary really isn't great either. Although no-one says that he has to go to that follow-on school, where the majority of his friends at primary go may well influence where he goes too...

If you can get into a very good state primary, then it really has to be worth a go (it may very well be better than many independent primary schools....). Check them out and see how they feel to you.


killercat Mon 08-Aug-11 14:48:07

I think it does matter, educationally and in terms of extra-curricular activities. It matters much less than senior. But it still matters to me.

We chose to do both, rather than waiting for senior, even though we live in a small village with an outstanding state primary with small class sizes. And even though the local comprehensive senior school is also outstanding and our babysitter goes there and got 10 A*s at GCSE and says the whole of her set are like her. Even taking that into the mix, I think my DDs do better in the independent sector in this area. There are several option independently, and all of them are good. I chose the one that best suited us as a family.

For me, it's that INDEPENDENCE that's important. I loath the term 'private school'. I'm not paying because it's private (and I'd never use a school that was for profit, only ever a school with a board of governors and run on a not for profit basis). I value that independence away from the state, away from the national curriculum, away from SATS, away from dictates and budgetary decisions that are out of control of the school.

I also think that actually a little bit of it is in the saying you get what you pay for. I think I'm paying double per year than the state would spend on my child if they were educated by them. And as the school we use is not-for-profit, that is actually going on the children and the school. They can pay their teachers more - I am proud of the fact that all the staff are getting a small pay rise this year in contrast to pay freezes in the public sector for example.

Better facilities, the freedom to create their own curriculum, great teachers. Not saying facilities and good teachers that can't happen in a state school, but with half the budget per eight/nine year old, it's not going to be easy. If the government doubled the budgets, it would be an equal choice. Until then, it's not.

For what it's worth, I also love the commute as my child just opens up about all sorts of things on occasion!

And in contrast to the above poster, my DH is a head of an independent senior school, and we've educated independently for junior as his opinion is you can see the difference in an 11 year old. Not that it matters much, but it's still there. But then, it's also flaming obvious if a child at 11 has been so a rubbish independent school. As in the state sector, there are good and bad ones.

I organise activities outside school too. I'd never expect any school to do my job as a parent in also educating my children. It's a shared partnership imo. Both of us and the independent school working towards a shared goal of happy, healthy children who meet their potential in whatever it is they are passionate about.

If we couldn't have afforded both, I'd go for independent senior though above junior.

generalhaig Mon 08-Aug-11 15:18:25

As always it depends on the individual school and the individual child

Dd(8) moved to an independent primary last year for y3 - lots of reasons but the main one were friendships - ALL her local friends moved away leaving her on the periphery of other already established friendship groups and with dc with whom she had very little in common. She was also getting thoroughly bored and disenchanted with school in general - she's very bright ( not a genius but highly intelligent and conscientious) and her year cohort was predominantly low-achieving leaving her out on a limb and hanging around waiting for the others to catch up. The other kids used her as a sort of TA asking her how to spell things and to check their sums etc

She's been at the independent for a year now and is thriving, although it's non-selective the ability in the class is generally higher and the behaviour is a lot better. She has lots of friends , bright and not particularly street-wise girls just like her and has thrown herself into all the activites on offer especially the sport (zilch competitive sport at her previous school)

However her experience of the same primary has been completely different from her elder brother's (he's just finished y6) - he has had a lovely stable group of friends since nursery who all live round the corner from each other and his cohort has been very bright - 40% of his class got all level 5s in the SATS and all his friends bar one are in the grammar stream of our local partially selective school for September. There would have been no point in moving him to private as his experience wouldn't have been any better and may well have been worse

So same family, two different children and two different answers to your question OP

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