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If you can afford private education but remain in the state sector...

(1000 Posts)
TheseJeansHaveShrunk Sun 30-Dec-12 08:59:01

It's going to be hard to avoid this becoming another state v private thread, but what I'm interested in is a slightly different take on that debate. It's not "which is better?" but "if you think state school is better even though you could afford private education, then why is that?"

The question is based on the assumptions that the DC in question is/are reasonably bright (so might benefit academically from academically selective education), that the state school is non-selective (as most people don't have access to grammar schools), and that you hope for your DC to go to a good university (to make the £££££ fees worthwhile!)

I've been mulling this over ever since I heard some maths professor from Cambridge talking on the radio about the age-old private v state inequality of Oxbridge admissions. He was all for improving access for state school applicants but said that the simple fact was that for maths, even the best state schools generally teach only to the A-level syllabus, whereas the best private schools take their maths/further maths A-level candidates well beyond the syllabus and so the state school applicants are at a huge disadvantage - they simply don't have the starting level of knowledge required for the course.

This made me wonder: with this sort of unequal playing field, if you have the choice of private education, what reasons might you have not to take it?

Would be interested to hear from those who've made this choice - how it's working out, or if your DC have finished school now, how did it work out? Did they go to good universities/get good jobs, etc? On the other side of things, if you paid for private schooling but now regret it, why?

My DC go to a state school by the way.

<Dons hard hat>.

marialuisa Sun 30-Dec-12 18:22:44

I am puzzled by the parents of posters like Ruby, whose parents have clearly thought out objections to private schools but still enter them for the entrance tests. Why would you bother, especially as you have to pay to take the tests?

circular Sun 30-Dec-12 18:22:58

Two DD's, both in state schools, one at averagish comp (yr11) and one at good local primary (yr5).
Nothing against private schools, believe there are good and bad in both private and state, and would consider whatever best meets the needs of each DD at the time.
DD1 did 7+ and was at a private selective (in top 200) age 7 to 18 school. On paper should have worked as bright, inquisitive girl, loves to join in everything. But although working well enough to stay at the school, was constantly told she was underacheiving for her ability. Maybe she is that 'bright but lazy' child, but pushing her constantly was not helping and she was unhappy there. So she moved to a comp at start of year 7. Not all been plain sailing as she started 2 years ahead, so coasted for a while. But much happier now, on track to get A/B in all academic GCSE's - still doesn't have the drive to give that extra effort for any A*'s, but that's just her. Fortunately, the same stubborn streak that resents being pushed has been to her advantage by not allowing herself to be held back or intimidated by any that don't want to work.
Toyed with possibliity of returning to private for 6th form, but concluded this would give her a disadvantage.

DD2 has been at her state primary since reception. A really friendly community school, lucky enough to have mainly been in a class of 22. Very different child to DD1, loves literacy and creative writing and excels in both. Lots of local friends too. She hopes to go to the same comp as DD - even though most of her friends are likely to choose the alternative. Have offered her private for secondary, but she does not see the point of 'only mixing with the clever kids'. Luckiy, she is also not easily led. The main negative at the primary school is the lack of extra CA - yet to find something that interests her there.

So basically, 2 above average DD's doing reasonably well, in reasonable (not great) state schools. Neither likely to make Oxbridge, but would like to think they could both go for RG or 1994 group Unis if they chose. And whilst I don't think either would currently be doing better in the private sector, would not rule it out if the state provision our area was worse.

MirandaWest Sun 30-Dec-12 18:27:58

Am commitinh the crimes of not reading whole thread or actually answering the question but my parents were maths teachers at a state school and regularly got students into Cambridge to study maths. They were both very capable of teaching what was needed for STEP papers though which is possibly what the person on the radio meant? It can be done at state schools anyway smile

jessjessjess Sun 30-Dec-12 18:33:32

wheresthegin - I don't like the idea that richer kids should only go to school with each other.

mummyonvalium Sun 30-Dec-12 18:48:03

My DS is due to start school in September next year.

Private schools do seem to do better at the top end - all you have to do is look at the league tables. Whether the children are better off for it or have a more rounded view of life I am not sure. Private school used to be something that normal people could achieve by working hard but nowadays it seems to be only the pampered privileged that attend. I don't want my children to be surrounded by people who are only like them and have lots of money. Not sure it makes them a nicer person. Life is not purely about academic achievement.

RubyrooUK Sun 30-Dec-12 19:14:26

Marialuisa - my parents didn't enter me for the entrance exams. My primary school did as part of a day where we all learned about the secondary schools on offer. Kids were sitting a test and because I was a prime nerd, I wanted to do it too.

The private school came back with an offer for me to go there, my parents said no thanks.

RubyrooUK Sun 30-Dec-12 19:15:48

Oh and at the time, you didn't have to pay to take the exams in our area. Might be very different now though.

wheresthegin Sun 30-Dec-12 19:20:41

jess - Do you really think thats what people who choose private education think?? (Like it or not) That their children need to be kept away from the Riff-raff??? Come on. I find that a bit offensive tbh.

EvilTwins Sun 30-Dec-12 19:27:26

My DTDs go to our local state primary. We could afford private, and live in a town with excellent private schools. My reasons for going with the state option are similar to others':
1. I don't agree with private education, and also teach in the state sector so would feel hypocritical sending my own DC to an independent school.
2. DH and I enjoy doing the "extras" with our children ourselves, and the money we don't spend on school fees allows us to have weekends away, to go on holiday, to take them to the theatre etc etc
3. A friend whose DD goes to one of our local preps does similar extra curricular activities to our DTDs, but she does them all at school. I like the fact that my girls have a different group of friends at drama club, at gymnastics and at swimming club.

As a teacher, I see the difference that parental involvement and parental interest makes to a child. I think that is far more important than the type of school a child goes to. When mine reach Yr 5 or 6, we will be looking at the state secondaries in our area and I am confident we'll find the right school for them.

wheresthegin Sun 30-Dec-12 19:40:16

At our local primary, 3 out of the 6 teachers there sent their kids private!!! (must have wealthy partners!). 2 teachers actually live in the village and removed their kids from their own school!!!!!!

CarlingBlackLabel Sun 30-Dec-12 19:44:27

Do you really think thats what people who choose private education think?? (Like it or not) That their children need to be kept away from the Riff-raff???

Actually it is very easy to get that impression from reading MN. So many posts worrying about schools which have top ofsted ranking and great results but nevertheless the euphemistic concerns about the ratio of children with EAL, or children on FSM, or it's in a 'rough area', and these are given as reasons for choosing private. And this is in the context of a high performing school.

None of my friends with children at independent school seem to behave or think like this, but it is noticeable on MN.

CarlingBlackLabel Sun 30-Dec-12 19:46:52

WheresTheGin: Whereas one Head of Department at my DC comp has 3 children at the school. Maybe the teachers you speak of should look to thier own practice or do some whistleblowing!

wheresthegin Sun 30-Dec-12 19:59:21

I know - it's awful. The school needs a huge shake up if you ask me. We started there and left too!! But it gets good ofsted rating, so it must be a good school!!!

rabbitstew Sun 30-Dec-12 20:44:48

Now, whether a school with a "Good" OFSTED rating "must" be a good school is a whole other thread...

wheresthegin Sun 30-Dec-12 20:48:21

LOL!!! I dare you........!

TheElfOnThePanopticon Sun 30-Dec-12 22:03:39

We could afford to educate our children privately if we wanted to, but it would be a lot of money for us to spend - there are probably plenty of children who go to indie schools whose family income is similar to ours, but who feel the sacrifices are worth it.

But if someone were to givee three hundred thousand pounds to spend on my children, I could spend some of it on things like music/sport/drama/languages, tutoring in areas of weakness or particular talent, trips to Pompeii or Peru and still have plenty left over to help them through university and setting up a home or career.

The most important factor for me, though, is that when I think of the people I know who have happy homes, with jobs they enjoy and are good at but which they can leave behind at the end of the working day, those people almost all have the same pattern of education - they went to good state comprehensive schools and had parents who supported them and encouraged them in their ambitions. That's what I want for my children more than an Oxbridge degree or friends in high places.

pointedlynoresolutions Sun 30-Dec-12 22:15:11

As a teacher, I see the difference that parental involvement and parental interest makes to a child. I think that is far more important than the type of school a child goes to.


I am also a leftie who is ideologically opposed to private education. I'm from Holland where there are virtually no private schools at all, so there's a cultural factor there too.

I'm also confident in our ability as parents to provide our DDs with the enrichment that will stand them in good stead later on. Our local secondary is good, they don't set until Yr8 but their class grouping (8 classes to a year group) are broadly by ability and that seems to work for DD1.

DD2 is at one of our two primaries, both pretty similar in OFSTEDs (good).

Both are doing more and harder stuff than I was at their ages.

Not that we could afford private, we can't, but even if we won the Lottery we wouldn't.

AfterEightMintyy Sun 30-Dec-12 22:21:37

Just ideological objections - that is enough for me.

NamingOfParts Sun 30-Dec-12 23:05:42

For reasons - mine are exactly the same as EvilTwins

As DD1 has now done GCSEs and has achieved straight A*s/As from her decidedly mediocre (in and out of special measures) comp one of the big problems I see is that these schools dont know what to do with the talented students.

It isnt enough to simply applaud from the sidelines. Talent needs to be nurtured. DD was fed up with being used to fill the gap between disinterested teachers and disinterested students.

I still believe in state education but if DS is treated as badly as DD1 then I may well have to be muzzled for parents evenings.

difficultpickle Mon 31-Dec-12 08:24:27

My db had strong ideological objections and sent his dcs to two mediocre comps (single sex ones). He admitted recently that he'd wished he'd considered other options. I was expecting him to be very critical of my choices and was surprised and saddened by what he said (both of us were state grammar educated).

mnistooaddictive Mon 31-Dec-12 08:41:06

What I read here shows a complete misunderstanding of statistics and how education works.
I have taught at a couple of comprehensives where the top 5% of students were truly outstanding academically and got amazing exam results and Oxbridge places and all the other measures people think of as meaning a good education. However as a comprehensive school the results overall for the school will be representative of this and not 80% a*-A. The education these students receive is excellent but the school written off because other students are not so academic.
You can't judge the results your child would get from the percentage 5a*-c because all this tells you is the academic potential of the students on average.

creamteas Mon 31-Dec-12 08:52:54

Absolutely mnistoo plus education outcomes are correlated with the social class so if you really want to know who 'successful' a school is you need to also factor in this.

So the results of private schools which be reason of their fees will always have virtually 100% middle-class parents (either because they can pay or because they managed to get scholarships) are not due to better teaching or facilities but the cultural capital that the children have already acquired.

mumzy Mon 31-Dec-12 08:53:14

I think in the last 20 years the Alevel syllabus has been simplified and the more difficult parts of A levels in all subjects are now not taught as standard in state schools. Logically this had to be so in order to make them accessible to the 40% of the population that now take A level exams (remember A levels were only taken by the top 10% of the population up to the late 80's).
The most selective state Grammar schools still make some provision to go above and beyond the national curriculum but this can be a bit hit and miss depending on the motivation of the school/teacher. The most academically selective independent schools are paid by parents to go above and beyond the gcse and A level curriculum as this is what the selective universities want.
The fact that the Russell group universities have to give remedial courses to first year undergraduates show that some have not been taught enough content at Alevels to access degree courses. 30 years ago this was unheard of.

DontmindifIdo Mon 31-Dec-12 08:53:19

Remember as well, not everyone has good private day schools locally, I wouldn't have an objection to using private day schools, I do have a problem with boarding (particularly from a young age). Personally, I don't think we'll use private even though we could (at a stretch) afford it, because we have 2 outstanding primary schools in walking distance from our house and we also live in an area with grammers, and my view is if DS can't pass the 11+ he's not going to pass entrance exams for the good private schools round here. (But you did say you were only interested in areas without selective educaiton, so I d'nt think we fit)

Bonsoir Mon 31-Dec-12 08:56:59

"whereas the best private schools take their maths/further maths A-level candidates well beyond the syllabus and so the state school applicants are at a huge disadvantage - they simply don't have the starting level of knowledge required for the course."

Private schooling can procure this sort of advantage but there are all sorts of other ways in which pupils gain knowledge beyond the content of the A level curriculum and are therefore at an advantage to others when applying for competitive university courses. I was one of those pupils - I went to school abroad and had far better developed foreign language skills than my contemporaries on my MFL degree. TBH, I wasn't the one who benefited - my fellow students benefited from the handful of other students who "led the way" and were at the top of the cohort.

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