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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.

happygardening Thu 01-Nov-12 21:10:54

Sorry managed to post the above comment in the wrong thread should have been in "Super child - Part 1 (related to 11 plus)" the responses are absolutely fantastic; I laughed so much that I cried and couldn't read the bloody screen!

happygardening Thu 01-Nov-12 21:05:23

Only one person on MN writes this kind of bizare guff with any degree of seriousness jabedor his recent name change ronaldo

morethanpotatoprints Fri 12-Oct-12 18:14:59

Sorry OP miss read your post, Friday afternoonitis.
However, I still say go for what suits your dc not which appears to offer more.

My eldest ds ended up in the worst secondary school you could ever imagine. Barbed wire, roughest estate in the NW, drugs, knives and resident police presence.
The environment was hostile and teachers were incompetent.
A super head transformed it so much it became a beacon of success and local model for other schools. He finally got the best education he could have wished for and fully reached his potential. He achieved 10 GCSE's all grade C, which was far better than anyone could have imagined for him grin

morethanpotatoprints Fri 12-Oct-12 17:59:32

OP, fwiw, if you don't feel you fit in, you should leave.
I say this not out of my own experience but what dh told me of his former work.
He witnessed the effect on the dcs who invariably suffer as they become more engrossed in the school.
When our 2 older dcs were school age we were offered discounted fees/ reductions for this and that, etc. It wouldn't have cost us much.
We refused and I am so glad we did now.
Its not about which school is better, how they are taught, etc.
If you don't fit in your dc wont either.
It was a very good school in a fantastic beautiful location and the education would have been second to none.
My dcs friends would have been Princes, dcs of Multi Millionnairres, Owners of our countries most well established companies.
Talk about fish out of water.

rabbitstew Fri 12-Oct-12 17:55:28

I don't think big schools necessarily mean people getting lost in the system, though, CokeFan - even that is a generalisation. Sometimes there is an economy of scale with big schools: they get the same funding per pupil, but can therefore be more creative with the money and thus provide, if well run, better support for individuals.

CokeFan Fri 12-Oct-12 17:49:10

If I ruled the world I'd set a maximum size for schools of 700 so that pupils didn't get "lost" in the system. Schools could share sports facilities or whatever if necessary.

I don't think that closing private schools would help the state sector at all. There's nothing that the parents of privately educated children could do that the current state pupils' parents aren't doing already and those with the most money/time/motivation would make sure they moved house to get into the "best" schools and tutoring to make sure they stayed in the top sets with the other motivated pupils, pushing those with fewer resources out.

Fair enough.

I think the key thing is to find the right school for your child. If the state option is the better option at the moment than the only private school in your area then you would be mad to pay for the private option at this stage (there is plenty of time to spend your money in the future). If its a 13+ prep and you are looking at Common Entrance for Senior school then yr7-8 that are the most critical although some Senior Schools do pre-test and/or interview in Yr6.

Its not just about learning styles but also facilities for me. We are in central London and the primary schools have very little outside space whereas my sons' prep has playing fields. They have an active orchestra, ensembles and choirs at a time when state school music is facing cuts. I know that in some parts of the country the difference between some of the private schools and some of the state schools is not very noticeable.

captainbarnacle Fri 12-Oct-12 17:17:34

Abra1d - yes, I can see us doing that. Chazs - no, of course am not going to judge based on just one private school! But as that is geographically the only possible private choice for us, then it was important. And it was my first dip in the water to see what it is like. I thought I would be more impressed!

Yes, I dislike innovation for innovation's sake. I dislike the prescriptive National Curriculum and the hoop jumping. I like small classes. I like independent learning. I like a wide choice of extra curricular stuff. I don't need wrap around care at the moment.

Anyway, it seems that through OH's sheer bloody hard work, we have options. Lots of options. Very lucky for us. I'm going to keep in touch with the prep school I saw today and see how it develops in the next two years, and see if it is going to meet DS needs.

I just thought that the prep school system would be more.... Inspiring. But then I saw it not through the eyes of a parent, but through the eyes of a teacher (though only 7yrs experience) and I could see gaps between state school and prep school provision, and on some things the state schools I know were out on top.

morethanpotatoprints Fri 12-Oct-12 17:06:51

I think there are good and bad schools in both sectors. Perhaps the private sector offers more innovation in terms of the delivery of the subject matter.
I do think that the OP is wrong in the assumption that the after school activities mentioned would only cost £1k.
This might be possible if all of these were offered and to a good enough standard, by state provision. However, privately you'd be looking at at least double this/ maybe 3x as much.
I think the only way you can truely have innovative, imaginative and non nc topics is to find your own resources and teach them yourself. Otherwise your dc are confined to the system and teaching methods of the school, private or state.

Abra1d Fri 12-Oct-12 16:55:44

captain barnacle i agree. We kept our two in the vilage state primary until they were ten for this reason. The reception-year two classes in particular were excellent and my two could not have done better. I also liked the social and ability mix. By ten, my two were getting restless and that is when we moved them both.

mumzy Fri 12-Oct-12 16:54:55

I went to view some inner city state secondaries last week with my ds2, what struck me was how much they had copied from the independent schools since I went here with ds2 2 years ago. From the moment I step through the door there was a slick marketing campaign, nice refreshments, goody bag, the beribboned flannel blazers, the multitude of clubs, the prefect system, the house system, head boy and girl, increase in competitive sports, the Oxbridge grooming classes.

Private school parents rightly get slated for judging all state schools based on experience of one school. I assume you won't be judging all private schools on your experience of one school in the sector either?

I am a private school parent but I am probably not so very polite and lovely (maybe because of my state educationwink) but I do have post grad qualifications as do quite a few of the parents at my sons' prep. Perhaps the school you were looking at isn't totally representative of the sector as a whole?

jabed Fri 12-Oct-12 16:50:16

captain barnacle - I know a number of people ( or maybe one?) have cited wrap around care and after school clubs as a reason for choosing an independent but they are both low on my list. So low I dont even consider them.

jabed Fri 12-Oct-12 16:47:05

Strikes me that the prep school parents didn't want innovation, they want a good solid grounding in the basics and the classics

I think that pretty well sums it up for me. I dont want edutainment. I want my child educated.

I could add in my own feeling that I dont want change and innovation either, I want a level of stability and tradition. I am not against change, I am against change for changes sake.

There are many other things I dislike about state schools so I guess my decision is not for private schools but against state ones. That is the wht abolishing private education nwill not improve state education. If I couldnt pay for a foos school of my choice formy DS I would not be campaigning for a better state system but looking around for another alternative. I am already using HE.

The state system is broken and I suspect now beyond repair. Thats how I feel about it anyway.

captainbarnacle Fri 12-Oct-12 16:36:25

Well, I returned two hours ago from my first, prep school open day. As a state educated child, and preKids a state school educator, it was an eye opener. Especially the scheme led and very unimaginative preprep. In comparison to the state school classrooms I taught in, and that my son is taught in now, the technological facilities were lacking. Strikes me that the prep school parents didn't want innovation, they want a good solid grounding in the basics and the classics.

All I see you are paying for is small classes (half the size of his current primary school) and the right sort of classmates, and some extra curricular stuff. I do appreciate that, and think that sometimes innovation and national curriculum initiatives get in the way of state school teaching. But really, my son's current class teacher is head and shoulders above the preprep woman I saw today. I really must tell her that!

I am so pleased I looked around. I don't think prep is ruled out (OH has his heart set on a public school education for DS) but it will certainly be delayed, probably until yr5. And yes, I met some very polite and lovely parents today, products of public education themselves, who did seem a little dim.

jabed Fri 12-Oct-12 16:35:38

oh jabed do you really think that state school parents (and teachers) dont encourage their children to do their best??

What parents do I cannot say. I do know working in state schools that there is an ethos of under achievement fuelled by "school is not cool"

slipshodsibyl Fri 12-Oct-12 15:29:04

I can imagine you might have some poor NC books. There is a lot of dross published in the UK. I agree Galore Park are very convenient, thorough and easy to work through at home. They are certainly not innovative in English though. And a highly regarded maths specialist (not my subject) whom I asked to use a GP Maths book to do some work with my DC , described it as 'very boring'. I wish I'd asked why now.

rabbitstew Fri 12-Oct-12 15:15:48

... and nor do you need the existence of private schools to make up a new reading scheme or method for learning to spell.

rabbitstew Fri 12-Oct-12 15:15:06

I'm not sure I see Galore Park as innovation???? What's so innovative about it? And the other resources are available and appropriate for use in state schools, anyway, aren't they? State schools aren't obliged to use set textbooks or teaching methods for everything, you know - they have never been obliged to rely on the civil service to make up all their textbooks for them...

Bonsoir Fri 12-Oct-12 15:06:42

If I compare the Galore Park books I have behind me to the books my DD gets from school (both English NC and French NC) they are highly innovative. But you need to work with them for a while to understand why, I think. They are so much better at building deep and secure knowledge than other text books.

slipshodsibyl Fri 12-Oct-12 15:00:25

Bonsoir, Thanks. I wouldn't have thought to call Galore Park, the only ones I am properly familiar with, as innovative though?

I don't really separate innovation into different sectors as I think they overlap, but I still think my comment above stands. I also heard the same comment made once by the Head of a well known girls' school where I was at interview for a HOD job. I was the only state school employee there and was listening to my fellow applicants discuss the terrible things that were said to be going on in the state system. It certainly stopped them.

If that is directed at me as I certainly made a comment about pick the best option it was a comment to an OP whose children are already in private education therefore I know the OP can afford this choice because they already do. Context is everything!

I fully accept that most people (including my own siblings) could not afford private education.

Bonsoir Fri 12-Oct-12 14:45:18

On my bookshelf behind me I have a stack of books by Galore Park, I have masses of Jelly & Bean readers and the Apples & Pears spelling books. But there are loads more!

slipshodsibyl Fri 12-Oct-12 14:44:15

take a look at the text books that are designed outside the scope of the NC.

Do you have any specific titles or publishers in mind?

Bonsoir Fri 12-Oct-12 14:37:45

rabbitstew - I don't agree that people purchase private education because it is more traditional. Quite the contrary: most people purchase private education because they believe, quite rightly, that it is the best way to broaden their children's opportunities for tomorrow's world. If that includes some of the best features of education drawn from the past, so be it.

If you want to understand innovation in private schools, you really need to delve deep (innovation is not something superficial). The easiest way to start your research, apart from visiting schools directly, is to take a look at the text books that are designed outside the scope of the NC.

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