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Please help me to choose a school - state v private I'm afraid

(131 Posts)
clevername678 Mon 11-Feb-13 08:59:22

I know it's been done to death and I've read loads of old threads, but am still struggling to make a decision and now only have one week before accepting a place at the independent school and paying a hefty deposit.

DS has been offered a place at our local independent school - it seems to be well regarded (top 50) and is academically selective. It has great facilities, great results, lots of extra curricular stuff etc but he would have a longish commute (car journey to neighbouring village where he can catch the school bus, an hour door to door).

This would be an easier decision if our catchment state school wasn't also very well regarded - Ofsted outstanding, top 250, also great facilities, and obviously free.

The reason we looked at the indie is because DD1 and DD2 are at the state school and, despite the pr, there are lots of things that we aren't happy about - having said that, they're both doing well.

We could afford the fees easily, and would not have to sacrifice holidays or anything like that, but obviously don't want to waste money - I have no doubt at all that the indie is better than the state option, but remain unconvinced that it is better enough iyswim.

I'm going round in circles and would welcome any views.

Farewelltoarms Mon 11-Feb-13 09:18:32

Your boy is awake for what - 12 hours a day. He's at school for six and a half, eating breakfast, supper, bath, etc for at least one and a half. So of his actual free time, you're proposing that he spends half of it travelling each day.
Take it from someone who did this, albeit at secondary, there's no school worth that.

seeker Mon 11-Feb-13 09:20:23

What are the things you aren't happy about in the state school?

HSMMaCM Mon 11-Feb-13 09:26:14

Can't he do the extra curricular stuff when at the state school? ie extra classes.

What will his siblings think if their school is not good enough for him?

Long school journeys really are horrible (from experience).

clevername678 Mon 11-Feb-13 09:27:27

seeker, most of the issues stem from the fact that the school doesn't set for any subject. DDs are in Y11 and Y9 respectively, in mixed ability classes for everything except maths. The pace is quite slow in some subjects, and there seems to be quite a lot of disruption from a minority of children, and some teasing and low level bullying of those children that are keen.

senua Mon 11-Feb-13 09:31:04

Just to de-rail slighty: what is DD1 (Year 11) doing next year? Staying there or moving elsewhere?

clevername678 Mon 11-Feb-13 09:32:40


DDs quite happy, they were given the option of switching to an indie and decided against it, although I am not convinced that the argument 'you're paying £x for his education' won't come up every time they want something!

Extra curricular at the state school is rubbish, but I could arrange things myself of course. The problem is that, ime, teens are more likely to get involved if their friends are getting involved.

clevername678 Mon 11-Feb-13 09:34:09

senua, dd1 will be staying there - she was given the option of switching but decided to stay.

Flisspaps Mon 11-Feb-13 09:35:08

There is teasing and low-level bullying in every school, state or private.

I'd send him to the state school; quite simply because if it was good enough for the DDs, it's good enough for DS. If the state school isn't good enough for DS, then it should never have been good enough for the DDs.

If the girls are doing well, then the fact that classes aren't setted is irrelevant really. If they weren't, then I'd understand it being a problem.

Use the money to spend on things that will benefit all three children, more extra curricular activities etc.

wordfactory Mon 11-Feb-13 09:36:26

OP, you're not happy with the state provision (for me the setting or lack of would be a huge issue) and can afford something you're pretty certain would be better...

What is there to think about?

senua Mon 11-Feb-13 09:39:43

The extra-curricular at the Independent: is that logistically possibe? A lot of distance students often have to choose between after-school EC and catching the one-and-only bus (unless you fancy being a taxi service).

camgirl Mon 11-Feb-13 09:45:51

We do this for pre prep. DS uses the time on the bus for socialising, reading or just unwinding. There is a TA on the bus so they discuss what they see, sing songs etc too. There are a couple of others from his form and it's also been nice for him to meet children across the years on the minibus. He'll move closer for prep, but to be honest by then it would be easier anyway as he'll be more sensible about looking after his things and not loosing them all the time I hope! It's been absolutely completely worth it for us (top 10 academically selective indie versus OK/good state primary.)

Farewelltoarms Mon 11-Feb-13 10:06:17

Sorry I thought this was primary so he will be awake a few more hours in the day!
Still I hated that journey to school. The bus was exceptionally cold though. When I weekly boarded in sixth form I felt like I'd been given the gift of time.

Muminwestlondon Mon 11-Feb-13 10:09:57

What do your DD's at the school at the moment think? They normally have a better idea of what actually goes on. Do they think he will settle in well, be popular with teachers, be vulnerable to bullying etc?

clevername678 Mon 11-Feb-13 10:11:57

Yes, I have heard that the bus journey is quite sociable, and a good opportunity to do last minute homework. I'm not unduly worried about the journey, although a 10min walk to the state school would obviously be better!

A lot of the extra curricular stuff is done during the day - they have a really long lunch break to allow them to do this - but after school stuff could be accommodated because DH could pick him up on his way home from work sometimes, or I could do the taxiing (the bus takes ages due to picking up, but it would be 40min round trip for me).

Flisspaps - I can't agree with the argument 'if it's good enough for the DDs, it's good enough for DS' because they are all totally different characters - DDs much more resilient and able to rise above the nonsense that would (probably) really upset DS.

rabbitstew Mon 11-Feb-13 10:12:54

Well, nobody likes commuting. I would hate a childhood spent commuting followed by an adulthood commuting. I would only consider it if it were necessary, rather than tempting.

clevername678 Mon 11-Feb-13 10:14:13

muminwestlondon - it was DDs that first got me thinking about the indie for him, saying he would be 'eaten alive' and would have to 'toughen up'.

mummytime Mon 11-Feb-13 10:23:05

I would listen to your DDs. But put some money aside for them for Uni or whatever.

If they say he will be eaten alive I would try the independent. Or you could have a family meeting about the whole thing.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 11-Feb-13 10:25:29

>I can't agree with the argument 'if it's good enough for the DDs, it's good enough for DS' because they are all totally different characters

Yes - e.g. some kids can deal with messing around in class, others can't (either getting upset or messing around themselves.

My DD had the choice of good local comp or the sort of commute you describe to either indie or GS. She chose the latter - the bus is no problem at all - in fact its a major part of her social life (we suspect that indie belted-in coach might be less fun than an ordinary bus). DH once asked her if she wishes she lived nearer school - emphatic no! Her friend who goes to the local school gets home way earlier but then seems to just mooch around... so unless there's something your DS would really be doing with the extra time, other than TV/FB etc, I wouldn't necessarily worry about that aspect.

senua Mon 11-Feb-13 10:36:40

Have you drilled down to the detail of your State school? The Government twigged that some 'good' schools are playing the League Table game by getting everyone to a C Grade, and not putting the effort into the outliers. They now publish data for high/medium/low attainers. Also, what is the value-added like?

wordfactory Mon 11-Feb-13 10:36:54

I really dont think bus journeys are a problem.
Most kids, all around the world, do them to private or state...

Sparkleandshine Mon 11-Feb-13 10:40:30

Just to add a slightly different perspective....

Think very carefully about your DD's, your instinct is that DS should go to the private option.

-->she was given the option of switching but decided to stay

My parents gave me the choice to go state or private and I went state because my friends were there. I would have been far better off in private school, looking back as an adult I would make a different decision for myself. Moving school is hard but may be the best for you to make that decision for them as an adult.

rabbitstew Mon 11-Feb-13 10:46:56

Short bus journey (eg 20-30 mins), no problem. Long journey, more of a problem. Just ask anyone who commutes into London from a long way away when it's snowing/raining/there's work on the line/roadworks/traffic accidents/strikes/on a normal day etc. An hour on a normal day becomes 2 hours or more on a less normal day. HOWEVER, if it's a specific bus just for that school, at least you won't have the problems I used to have with buses not stopping for you, refusing to let you on if you didn't have the right change, moving off before you've sat down when your hands are full of musical instruments, PE bag, school bag, etc, etc... grin and he would be in the bus with other children from the school, so it could be sociable (provided there aren't bullies on the bus...). Presumably, if he doesn't like it, he could transfer back into the state secondary? I know several people near me who started out commuting to school and then decided the gains were not great enough to justify the journey when they could walk to the local school with friends - but then the town I live in is big enough to offer all sorts of extra curricular activities outside of school for local children, which I guess isn't the same if you live in a small village and have to travel out a reasonably long way for everything, anyway.

rabbitstew Mon 11-Feb-13 10:50:18

And of course, these days, you can't learn to smoke on the bus. That used to be a favoured activity of a lot of children on the bus to school... good behaviour and doing a credit to your school certainly weren't favoured activities on bus journeys that I observed.

clevername678 Mon 11-Feb-13 11:16:16

Thanks for the link senua - very interesting in terms of the difference in attainment between the lower, middle and higher attainers.

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