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

(1000 Posts)
happygardening Sun 06-Jan-13 13:22:36

Thought I repost the OP although the debate has moved on a little smile .
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>.

happygardening Sun 06-Jan-13 13:51:28

"It is complicated, but much is due to their 'habitus' (the way of being in the world) so the way that they conduct themselves in the interviews (not their intellectual ability) is different to that of the interviewer. This difference marks them as not really a 'fit' for Oxbridge."
An interesting point creamteas . This is my experience of grammar schools and may have a bearing on their "habitus"
A few years ago I was employed to sit with a yr10/11 child in every lesson for a couple of months (covering mat leave) at a well regarded grammar school. I hesitate to use the word "top" but it was certainly very well regarded by the mainly middle class parents living in a country positively groaning in grammar schools who sent their children there and Ive just checked the results are pretty impressive putting it up there amongst other well regarded grammars.
I sat in every lesson bar PE my overall impression most parents will be pleased to hear is that the children were generally well behaved and interested the was an obvious culture of its fine to to be academic and aim for top grades and the teachers were mainly committed and enthusiastic about their subjects. But what struck me was the lack of debate/discussion. The children were asked questions and and by and large most participated in this but there appeared to very little debate in any subjects and teachers went unchallenged. In my subject the teacher at one time was clearly making an out of date statement (not a criticism Ive know university lectures do the same thing) and anyone who reads a broad sheet should would have know this but not one child even queried this.
In contrast my DS at his prep aged 7 was was the captain of a team asked to support the notion "This house believes that fireworks should be banned" (which he didn't but still they won the debate) and this was not an isolated event the children all through their prep years were encouraged to debate in this way and also question the teachers; my children have been bored rigid with my degree subject but this did mean that they frequently "corrected' the teacher of the subject! Now at senior school debating/discussing is a regular occurrence and positively encouraged in and out of lessons and particularly in the daily Div (this is not RS) lesson.
I know Im going to now read a whole raft of snippy comments and this is only my experience but whilst those of you continue to bash independent education and all that it does instead of looking and learning from the good things places like Oxford and Cambridge will continue to take a vast number from a small group of independent schools and the number as these schools stats show will carry on rising yr on yr and some very able state educated children will struggle to have a the required "habitus' and that this means they are not really "fit' for Oxbridge..

rabbitstew Sun 06-Jan-13 14:25:02

Still, all the superior debating practice that David Cameron et al have had doesn't appear to have made them any better at actually running the country, rather than just talking about it. Maybe it's the ability to argue any point, whether or not you believe in it, that's part of the problem?... grin

fivecandles Sun 06-Jan-13 14:27:19

'The fact that these views exists is not the fault of the top five schools who send so many. Maybe the likes of five instead of being quite so chippy about them you need to look at what you as a teacher can do for the children you are involved with. '

I have 2 points to make in response to this:

1.) You have no idea what sort of things I do and have done for the children I have been involved with over my career in general and specifically to help them get into Oxbridge. As it happens, it's a considerable amount and yet you presume to tell me that 'I need to look at what I do'. Why do you think that's acceptable.

2.) Linked to the above, the kneejerk reaction is that the reason that more kids are not getting into Oxbridge is that it must be either their fault or the fault of their teachers or schools.

If you believe this, it is more evidence that you are blatantly disregarding what the evidence including the admissions data produced by these universities themselves, tells us.

It is for all sorts of reasons to do with the institutions themselves, their admissions procedures, their position in society as a whole and social attitudes, prejudices and so on.

It's a bit like saying that by ensuring your own kids have a healthy diet, you are combating the obesity crisis. Well, yes you are but your isolated efforts are hardly going to make a difference to the stats as a whole or to the children of parents who don't or don't know how to care. And before you say it, yes I know that's not an excuse for individuals not to try and they, like me, can and do.

But it is grossly unfair and downright stupid to suggest that individual teachers, working in isolation, have the power and the responsibility to change centuries of social divisions, prejudice and power relations.

The main responsibility for that in terms of Oxbridge admissions has to be Oxbridge and it's not just about tinkering at the edges. It's about getting rid of all the barriers that are well understood to prevent access to working class kids - everything from the antiquated, ridiculous uniforms to the antiquated, ridiculous interviews.

rabbitstew Sun 06-Jan-13 14:30:04

But if an institution is extremely successful as it is, you aren't going to get it to stick its neck out willingly and change itself for you.

fivecandles Sun 06-Jan-13 14:32:55

But, as is evident on this thread, there's a great deal of ambivalence about the whole thing. On the one hand, people say that Oxbridge must make itself more accessible, on the other people say they quite like the things that make it inaccessible (be that subfusc or intereviews or whatever).

Or else, they completely deny there's a problem and say that it's perfectly possible to get in if you're clever enough or motivated enough ignoring the fact, that statistically you also need to be white and have come from a private school or at least a grammar school

happygardening Sun 06-Jan-13 14:37:54

five you mentioned (I thought ) that you work in an independent school and you also mentioned teaching it would not be ridiculous to assume that your not a ambulance driver or a fireman but some kind of teacher.
'I need to look at what I do'.
I dont think I was making that comment specifically at you.
I as Ive stated on the previous thread am not "blatantly disregarding what the evidence including the admissions data produced by these universities themselves, tells us." I very much accept this data.
" Linked to the above, the kneejerk reaction is that the reason that more kids are not getting into Oxbridge is that it must be either their fault or the fault of their teachers or schools."
Ok why are they not getting into Oxbridge if the schools and teachers are completely blameless?

fivecandles Sun 06-Jan-13 14:38:03

'you aren't going to get it to stick its neck out willingly and change itself for you'

Exactly, Oxbridge are very good at saying all the right things and ticking all the right boxes and I'm sure there are people who are part of the system who do genuinely and passionately want it to become more accessible but, then there's the subfusc and the interviews and all the rest of it.

And there's also the fact (which is not the fault of Oxbridge) that the inequalities are already entrenched not just by age 16 but by the age of 4!!

fivecandles Sun 06-Jan-13 14:45:55

'Ok why are they not getting into Oxbridge if the schools and teachers are completely blameless '

I thought this is what we have, or some of us have, been addressing at length.

By and large the areas that get most kids into Oxbridge are the wealthiest. Surrey gets loads in, poor areas in the north don't. Private schools get loads in, and four private schools (Eton, Westminster, St Paul's girls and boys) more than any others, and state comprehensives don't.

There is a pattern there isn't there? It makes me sad and frustrated that individual teachers and schools are thought to have the power and responsibility to single-handedly change social structures that have been in place for centuries.

fivecandles Sun 06-Jan-13 14:48:58

'But if an institution is extremely successful as it is, you aren't going to get it to stick its neck out willingly and change itself for you. '

Also, its success comes from its exclusivity and it also really helps your funding and perpetuates your success if your students bring shed loads of money with them.

Which is sort of why asking how we can get a couple more working class kids assimilated by these elite institutions isn't really the right question anyway.

fivecandles Sun 06-Jan-13 14:50:52

It's interesting that if you look at stats for health and mortality rates you see the same sort of patterns (health and mortality rates are better in wealthy areas) but nobody blames doctors for this and nobody assumes doctors have the power or responsibility to change these patterns either (even though I'm sure they should and do do their best).

grovel Sun 06-Jan-13 14:51:07

fivecandles, I agree there is a problem. Not sure I agree that the fault lies squarely with Oxbridge.

What follows is an anecdote. I have no way of knowing whether it is a one-off.

We have a gardener (3 hours a week). His son was at a Comprehensive locally which had never sent a student to Oxbridge. He is a very bright mathematician. Oxford's outreach programme found him. He got offered a place and was thrilled. He very nearly passed up on it after his extended family gave him grief about "becoming too posh for them" and "thinking himself too good for Reading" (the closest university to his home). Happily his father persuaded him to go - but it was a close-run thing.

happygardening Sun 06-Jan-13 14:55:41

So five what your saying is that these five schools are so successful becasue they have wealthy parents and that teachers are completely blameless.
Interestingly because that is my experience of teachers in the sate sector they are completely blameless for any deficiencies in your child's education. I think I might change my occupation because I and my colleagues are accountable for everything we do and if anything goes wrong the culture now is that it is automatically assumed that its our fault until proven otherwise.
With this attitude in the state sector its not surprising so many turn to the independent sector and why those with money and power send their children to the top five because certainly in those I think you'll find the culture to be slightly different. These teacher seem to be more accountable for their actions and don't endlessly shift the blame onto the child or their parents. .

happygardening Sun 06-Jan-13 14:58:47

"blames doctors"
Sorry to shatter your dreams there is an ever increasing blame culture in the NHS doctors once immune from it are now also being increasingly scrutinised and being held accountable for their actions at all levels. Your right they cant affect every aspect of health but now all have targets they are expected to meet.

fivecandles Sun 06-Jan-13 15:01:54

I'm sure it's not a one off and there are many thousands such stories. Some people will think that Oxbridge is too posh for them (not helped by the subfusc and the fact that 30% of Eton goes there etc etc), some people will thing that they won't fit in (and by the way they might be right about that), some people will make what might be a very difficult decision that they can't afford to move away from home (I've taught many students who for cultural and/or financial reasons would not even consider a university which would entail a move from the family home) or that the courses at Oxbridge are not appropriate for them.

As I've said, I think altogether too much time and importance is attached to 2 universities which will only ever serve a minority of our young people and will always be exclusive and elitist. Personally, I think we should be putting our time, energies and money into improving education, life chances and society in general for kids in general and disadvantaged kids in particular. It's far too late to start doing a little bit of outreach at 16 because by then the kids with Oxbridge potential are almost certainly going to be the ones who are privileged anyway or who have done amazingly well in spite of difficult circumstances.

fivecandles Sun 06-Jan-13 15:03:36

'teachers are completely blameless. '

I find the vocabulary of 'blame and blamelessness' incredibly unhelpful and even hostile to start with.

Of course, teachers are not to 'blame' for social divisions and poverty in this country. And there really isn't very much they can do about this either.

fivecandles Sun 06-Jan-13 15:09:35

'because I and my colleagues are accountable for everything we do '

I wonder if you're just looking for a fight for the sake of it happy.

Of course teachers are accoutable for everything we do. We are accountable to our students and must do our best by them from ensuring they get the best possible exam results to making sure their special needs are catered for to getting them into Oxbridge. The vast majority of teachers take their responsibilities very, very seriously.

But we are not miracle workers and we don't have any more responsibility or power to change SOCIAL STRUCTURES and improve child poverty than any other group of people.

I do find it bizarre that people are so ready to have a pop and point the finger at teachers but nowhere really on this thread has anybody thought to take the institutions which really do have the power to effect change - Oxbridge to task.

Did nobody find the stats on the admissions of black people truly shocking??

If that was the police force they would and have been accused of institutionalised racism.

Or is the racial bias at Oxbridge somehow the fault of the teachers of comprehensive schools too?

At what point are you Mumsnetters going to actually suggest that perhaps Oxbridge and the Government might do a little bit more to make themselves more accessible?

It really is bizarre.

fivecandles Sun 06-Jan-13 15:13:05

'there is an ever increasing blame culture in the NHS '

Maybe. But you never get threads about it do you and I've not seen anything in the press or in general conversation about doctors being 'to blame' or having any sort of responsibility for discrepancies between mortality rates and health in different regions.

I'm just saying it's interesting that teachers are seen to have the sorts of responsibility and power for hugely significant social divisions and structures above and beyond any other group of people (even, sometimes including the Government, because they also are quick to blame teachers for failings clearly caused by their own policy).

Mominatrix Sun 06-Jan-13 15:14:09

Fivecandles - the only way you are going cause a more equal distribution is to find a way to improve academic attainment in the lower socio-economic classes is to not at the university entrance end, or even the grammar/comprehensive/high school end, but at the 0-5 year end. Being rich in itself does not necessarily improve chances of entry into a top university, but having involved, responsive, educated parents with very high expectations will. All of this shouting about at the later stages of education belie a sad fact that pound-for-pound, the greatest impact on future outcomes of intervention is at the beginning stages, not the latter. This is an interesting read, and this statement is particularly damning - “We have found overwhelming evidence that children’s life chances are most heavily predicated on their development in the first five years of life”.

fivecandles Sun 06-Jan-13 15:19:19

Totally agree with that Mominatrix, and it's a point I have been trying to make.

There are things that could be done later on though. Getting rid of interviews as almost every other university has done (precisely to avoid class, gender, ethnic bias) would make a significant difference too.

My point about students (often from ethnic minorities) who will not leave the family home is also a very important and neglected point. I'm not saying there's anything that can be done about it but it's hardly the fault of teachers is it?

Bonsoir Sun 06-Jan-13 15:19:30

fivecandles - "Of course, teachers are not to 'blame' for social divisions and poverty in this country. And there really isn't very much they can do about this either."

I agree very much with this and I think it is very wrong when anyone (including teachers) puts the onus for social reengineering on schools and teachers.

However, I also think you are wildly overstating the case for privilege being the only route to privilege. There has been massive introspection and self-examination by élite universities in recent years to widen access and it has not been a dismal, outright failure - on the contrary. But the fact remains that a certain level of general human development (not just pure academic skills) is necessary in order to participate in and be a respected member of élite intellectual groups. It is largely that "general human development" that children from less privileged backgrounds lack. It is not the business of universities to teach those skills in remedial classes.

Yellowtip Sun 06-Jan-13 15:20:00

five 30% of Eton is still only one or two per college per year spread across Cambridge and Oxford. That's not a lot. It's certainly not wall to wall, is it?

You seem unreasonably hung up on subfusc. happy has a DN who goes to formal hall a lot, so wears it a lot (an awful lot smile). It's frequently not worn at all outside of matriculation and exams.

happy that sounds a very dull school indeed. The best grammars won't be like that at all. The whole focus in the best of the grammars is on thinking critically and asking as well as being asked challenging questions, in all subjects and all of the time. And there's no reason why all schools shouldn't ape this mode. It's hard work for the teachers though and especially difficult where the pupils aren't keen on learning and are more focussed on mucking around.

Yellowtip Sun 06-Jan-13 15:23:45

I find it really out of order to impute institutionalised class warfare, sexism and racism to Oxford and Cambridge dons. It's crass, it really is. You undermine everything you say with such ludicrous statements.

Yellowtip Sun 06-Jan-13 15:24:35

model, not mode.

Welovecouscous Sun 06-Jan-13 15:25:33

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