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Private education - a waste of money, for arseholes?

(209 Posts)
Pooella Wed 10-Oct-12 03:40:36

There's a certain irony in this title in that my DCs are both privately educated (both primary age)

And I apologise also for what must be the umpteenth rehash of the 'private vs. state' debate.

That said, what do you think?

I was thinking this having taken my DD to a playground near a state primary school. More community because the children tend to be local.

OTOH I shuddered a little when a couple of 'rough' kids came into the playground (about 9 or 10, swearing, etc.)

Though diverse ethnically the social profile of parents at private is very homogenous - if you're not a middle class, skiing at Christmas, type, you don't fit in.

We are quite well-off, about £150k/year net, but even so I'm conscious that senior education for 2 DCs is about a quarter-of-a-million. It is a little hard to see the value in that you can buy a whole set of after-school activities for about £1k/year (music, ballet, drama, sports, whatever you want), and then for bright children GCSEs and A Levels are not much of a challenge. (I went to a comprehensive school (albeit a rather leafy one) and got As and A*s in everything and then Cambridge, so hard to see what benefit I would have received from private.)

Outcomes so far from private? Posh accent, good behaviour, good levels of academic progress. But, we don't 'fit' in to the prep school parental mould, so not much social interaction for the DCs outside school (compounded with the greater distances to school), which is a shame.

My old school (now) gets about 80% A*-C, so it's not exactly Stabton Comprehensive, but I'm not sure if the 50-60%-A*-C-type places are necessarily mediocre (as in, if you've got the option to pay for it, as we do, then you'd be mad not to), or what.

There are some independent schools known for being for the 'nice but dim', but they still seem to get 80%+ on their GCSEs, and assuming the intake at these places is not up to the standard of the average comprehensive (which seems likely, unless you believe that being able to afford school fees means your kids are brainy), then they are presumably delivering better outcomes. But whether that is because the parents are more motivated, or because the school is better is not clear? Perhaps the expectations on the lower sets in comprehensives are not high enough? Or are they just too many kids/parents there that don't give a shit?

So is it in fact the nice-but-dim kids that get the value from private, where they will be coached to an inch of their lives to get them up to GCSE/A Level standard, whereas the brainy ones would get their A*s (almost) anywhere and might as well just go to the local comp and save £100k, and there will be plenty of motivated top set kids there to mingle with.

Portofino Thu 11-Oct-12 11:32:25

Why would they move abroad? There are no private schools in Belgium in the sense they exist in the UK. The Royal Family send their kids to State Schools.

rabbitstew Thu 11-Oct-12 11:33:16

Not bitter at all, Brycie. You can't be bitter about something that hasn't happened, can you???? grin I think you mean cynical.

Bonsoir Thu 11-Oct-12 11:33:45

I know an awful lot of people in Belgium, Portofino (a large percentage of my secondary school friends went to university there, and made their lives there) and they all seem to pay an absolute fortune in school fees.

oohlaalaa Thu 11-Oct-12 11:34:29

I was educated privately. I loved my state primary, but was bullied at my primary school, and hated it.

My cousins were state educated, their parents always made sure they had lots of hobbies outside of school, extra tuition in certain subjects (chemistry A level), and they did attend a good state school. One of my cousins is a vet, and the other a dentist. They were bright anyway, but I don't think they'd have done any better than all their A stars, and straight A's at A level, at a private school.

My husband went to the local state school, and we both plan to state educate our children. Although we're not in the position to afford private school.

rabbitstew Thu 11-Oct-12 11:34:50

If I didn't have private schools available to me, I wouldn't use them... I think most people are like that...

Portofino Thu 11-Oct-12 11:34:54

A race to the bottom? Someone else mentioned earlier 'the lowest common denominator". Is that not just saying that YOUR kids are better than others, or that poor kids are less able and not entitled to the same opportunities in life?

rabbitstew Thu 11-Oct-12 11:36:51

(Not that I am actually using private education at the moment, but one day I might do, if the alternatives are dire!).

Portofino Thu 11-Oct-12 11:37:30

Bonsoir - are you referring to the likes of BSB? Which costs 25k a year and is not all highly regarded. We did a boot fair there once and not one of the pupils could calculate the change for a coffee correctly. Nice facilities, though and a friend of mine does very well out of maths tutoring due to the poor standard of teaching.

oohlaalaa Thu 11-Oct-12 11:37:37

Sorry that should read bullied at my private secondary school! I never fitted in.

Brycie Thu 11-Oct-12 11:39:24

Portofino; - yy and a good argument for why improvement by osmosis wouldn't happen.

Bonsoir Thu 11-Oct-12 11:39:53

I don't know anyone at BSB (the people I know are not British) but there seem to be rather a lot of very expensive schools (and spoiled children!).

Portofino Thu 11-Oct-12 11:40:15

See the argument seems to be that State Schools are crap - so I can choose to go Private - why should MY child suffer? Instead of saying "Why are schools so poor - what are WE going to do about?" We are just heading for generation after generation of old boys networks and haves and have nots.

Portofino Thu 11-Oct-12 11:41:07

I said the "likes of" Bonsoir.

rabbitstew Thu 11-Oct-12 11:47:21

Well, in my experience, some schools are allowed to be poor, or allowed to be good but not exeptional because parents don't do anything about trying to improve them, except to remove their children from them. Most people think they can't actually do anything to help, they are just helpless consumers.

How many state schools actually find parents and members of the local community clamouring to become governors and then really taking that position seriously, rather than complaining that the school never does anything to fit around working parents and they can't even get to their own kids' parents' evenings, let alone commit to anything else? Around here, most people just seem to think they don't have the time and they may well be right... Who does have the time, energy and fight in them to get a whole community together to make things better when politicians can't even achieve that?

rabbitstew Thu 11-Oct-12 11:48:30

Are we going to have to leave it all to special interest bodies who do what they want without any accountability?

Portofino Thu 11-Oct-12 11:51:40

That is my point. If everyone HAD to use them - people WOULD be asking questions, kicking arse etc. You or I may not have the money, time or influence, but other parents will.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 11-Oct-12 11:55:27

Why's that article indicative of a race to the bottom?

Farewelltoarms Thu 11-Oct-12 12:00:39

Indeed to all those saying politicians and those with power/money might behave differently if their children went to state schools. Cameron said yesterday (I paraphrase) 'I won't apologise for my education. I went to a brilliant school and I want all children to have the opportunity to go to a similarly brilliant school.' Yes, that's why you'll be making government spend per pupil £30k pa then is it Dave?

Brycie Thu 11-Oct-12 12:15:32

Independent schools are generally about 15k pa. Boarding would make it 30.

I don't think so Porto, look at BSB.

SkippyYourFriendEverTrue Thu 11-Oct-12 12:25:27

That article is dreadful Portofino.

Points I picked up:

* you can save £100k by not going private - fair enough
* if you go private the other kids will be motivated, mentored and monitored, whereas if you go state some of the kids will be left to their own devices. Apparently this is a point in favour of state schools?
* apparently if you go to state school you learn to wait your turn, because the class sizes are so large
* it's better if Muslims are at your school (state) then if you merely learn about Islam in RS (private)
* private education teaches you to hate poor people (my rejoinder here would perhaps be that you'd hate them very much more if they were disrupting your maths lesson in person)
* if you go to state school you will learn to swear in patois
* it's bad for the country

And basically yes 'private education is a waste of money for aresholes'

The entire article is predicated on the 'London is the UK' assumption of many meeja types. The fact is that outside of a few cities the UK is quite homogenous. You won't rub shoulders with Afghans at a comprehensive in Glasgow, Jamicans in Padstow, or meet many Muslims in Sevenoaks.

So all the supposed multicultural advantages are missing for most parents and only really available (assuming they are advantages) for the super-rich who can afford to live in London.

So all you are left with out of that article is that private schools cost more than state schools.

Well thanks for that, I really need a journalist to tell me that.


How many parents who currently use private schools would be clamouring to improve state schools in general. They might move near the already good state schools driving up prices in the area and reducing the social mix of those schools even further. They might put time, effort and money into their child's school to improve it.

Would this really benefit a school in Tower Hamlets, or the deprived parts of Liverpool or Bradford? My family live in the S Wales valleys very very few children go to private school there. Removing private schools would make very little difference because there won't be a cohort of MC parents suddenly coming into the state school system.

I think you need to separate the idea of what people do for their own children within a flawed system and getting people to understand that it is a social good for us all that all children are well educated. The problem is far deeper than private education and I think an over emphasis on the impact of private education means that other issues such as a negative attitude to education as a whole amongst some young people are not addessed. After all "go to school, get qualifications and get a good job" rings a bit hollow if you live in an unemployment blackspot.


Just to add - muslims go to private schools too
My sons are muslim and they go to a prep school shock

SkippyYourFriendEverTrue Thu 11-Oct-12 12:30:52

There's a Muslim boy in my son's class at prep school. There were two, in fact, but the other went back to his home country.

I think outside of London private schools will tend to be much more diverse than state schools in terms of racial and national background, since they take many expats, but socially they are more homogenous.

YouMayLogOut Thu 11-Oct-12 12:34:33

I'm not bothered about the social class side of private education. However until there are grammars available everywhere then it's the only way to find an academically selective school in most areas. (No, I can't afford private anyway).

Portofino Thu 11-Oct-12 12:36:10

The system is flawed because the people who have the power to fix it have the choice to opt out - meaning it will never be the number one priority. In my eyes education should be everything! The UK is failing children badly. They are spending so much time and money on statistics and testing that should be spent on facilities and equipment and training.

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