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Can anyone answer a few questions about private schooling please?

(95 Posts)
IcouldstillbeJoseph Thu 28-Mar-13 07:17:05

Is it better to school privately from the word go, or if there are decent primary school places available - do those early years make much difference? The school I'm considering is from 4-16 which really appeals to me for DC, seems to me they'd be more settled etc.

How much should I calculate on spending over and above basic fees? I can work out the food and uniform but what else is there to consider?

Pyrrah Mon 01-Apr-13 16:42:27

Depends on what is available in your area.

Go and look round as many of the local state primaries as possible - we looked at 5. There are no indies in our local area so that wasn't an option.

After the first 4 I decided I needed to completely readjust my expectations of what was on offer in the State system (3/4 were OFSTED outstanding). Then I visited school no.5 and it was exactly what I was looking for. We're too far outside their 'last distance accepted' to get a place in the initial allocations I think, but I'm going to hope for a waiting list place to come up even if it takes a couple of years.

I went to a high-pressure academic prep myself and so have a good idea what is needed to have a good chance at the super-selectives we eventually hope to send DD to.

If you understand how the selective process works and are prepared to put in the extra effort and work needed then I would spend the extra on school fees for secondary.

I would never pay for any old private school just because it was private - unless I was in the situation of having a very unhappy child and that being the only possible alternative.

FWIW, none of my siblings or I ever went on the skiing trips etc - neither did the vast majority of the other students. I think a lot of 'new to private education' parents feel that they have to keep up appearances and kill themselves paying for a gazillion extras that they don't need to.

For me, education is one thing that can never be taken away from someone and so I hope to give DD the best I can. That doesn't mean the most expensive - just one where she is happy and fulfilling her potential.

If you don't like what you are getting - state or private - you can vote with your feet and move to another school.

purples Mon 01-Apr-13 14:18:10

One thing I would add, is that if you do opt for the state option (which I did), you may want to consider 1 hour a week private tuition on a one-to-one or group basis when they reach Year 4 or 5. Most state primary schools do not teach verbal reasoning or nonverbal reasoning skills which is important for many 11 plus or scholarship/entrance exams. The content of secondary school 11 plus/entrance exams vary, so make sure you choose an appropriate tutor. I choose my daughters tutor from several recommendation from parents at her state primary who had been successful in previous years. The cost of tuition is a fraction of the cost of private primary fees. Although private primary schools are more likely to cover verbal reasoning/ non verbal reasoning, surprisingly most parents I know who have had children in private school have also gone down the route of private tuition as well!

Schmedz Mon 01-Apr-13 11:50:28

We have paid for private education for both our girls since Reception. We would dearly love to have a viable state alternative, but we don't, so we pay.
Although the classes are somewhat smaller than in the state system, it is the range of clubs and activities available that really make the difference (and also the fact that the intake is selective so the average ability of the class is higher...iron sharpens iron and all that!). They both love school and are extremely happy, so we are happy with our decision (hard to say if it would be the same in the state system as we have never tried it!)
When it comes to the senior school, there are a number of students arriving from state schools, so I think with the ability, and good teaching/tutoring they have received, they are on par with the privately educated children academically.
If you have a good state school for primary I would go for it! Unless you have a top option for Secondary, that is when I would go private for sure.

Xenia Mon 01-Apr-13 11:21:44

On going through 4 - 18 years in same school for our girls it didn't really have any bad impact because at 11+ you tend to move for girls into a totally new school albeit the senior part of the juniors with loads of new children from state primaries so it never really felt boring or wrong and same school for too long. I certainly agree that if you had to pick when to pay fees the later the more impact - if you look at some successful women who say went to Westminster for the sixth form only etc i am sure those sixth form years have the biggest impact as your expectations and peer group are formed then and career choices although if you can afford it it pay throughout as we did.

rabbitstew Mon 01-Apr-13 09:44:47

I agree with happygardening on that - there is no right answer. For the same child, even, there may be no "right" answer, because there are so many things to take into account, you are unlikely to find the perfect solution. Something always has to give.

happygardening Mon 01-Apr-13 08:23:33

Assuming you have sufficient finances to pay, as already said it does depend hugely on your area, your child for example the super bright IQ's 150+ are poorly catered for in much of the non selective state sector and what you want and believe education is for. Many want different things there is no right answer.

WynkenBlynkenandNod Mon 01-Apr-13 07:03:56

I think it depends hugely on the area you are in. There aren't very many independent schools for 13+ in my area as we have 4 Grammars in a relatively small radius and the preps are very often used as feeders for these. The overwhelming majority of people opt for state and I know people who have started children privately but pulled them out as they didn't feel they were getting anything for their money.

We also have the three tier system so in year 5 state they move to upper school where they have far more specialist teachers and lots of extra curricular activities I went to a Grammar and am not keen on mine going through the ones here, though DS says he wants to do the test. I think they get a high standard of education in most of the Uppers which perform very well considering the highest Achievers usually get creamed off. There's lot of extra curricular trips and activities.

But that is just here, you need to get a feel for what's happening in your area. Personally I wouldn't want my children to go right through the same school. DD has gone to a different upper school from her friends as she wanted a fresh start after a miserable time with her peers in Middle school. She's changed so much that everyone keeps commenting she's like a new child plus her grades have soared. DS is in year 4 and will be going up in September (hopefully different Middle school to his sister ) and is definitely ready to make new friends so the change works well for us.

Talk to lots of people in your area to get a feel for what goes on. Schools often move in cycles and reputations from a few years back linger when in fact things change. What suits one child won't suit another. Look round with an open mind and change your thinking as appropriate as your child gets older and their personality develop.

IcouldstillbeJoseph Mon 01-Apr-13 03:16:34

So interesting, thank you all

Mutteroo Sun 31-Mar-13 16:12:06

My DC have had a mix of state & indie & not only this, but we've experienced good & bad teaching in both. It's not as simple as thinking private may be better because pick the wrong school & you could seriously damage your children's education & emotional well being. Been there, done it, now writing the book!

If you're near a good state primary & your child is bright, there's little need in considering an independent school at this stage. That is unless the independent school offers something you feel your child needs? Also if your child needs a nudge, is easily distracted & would benefit from smaller classes, then go the private route, but choose wisely.

CardinalRichelieu Sun 31-Mar-13 15:06:13

I also think that if you have to choose at what point to send kids private later is better. I was state-educated (decent school though) until 16, then did my A levels at independent school. Went to rg uni then oxbridge for masters, now training to be a commercial solicitor. I have lots of friends both state and privately educated, and while I wouldn't say it makes NO difference, I think the most important thing is parental attitude. Plenty of my state school friends make more than privately educated friends, but that is largely down to their choice of profession (oxbridge classics lecturers make less than IT consultants, it would seem).

Basically, what I'm saying is don't stress about not being able to send kids private all the way through or even at all. Parental attention and attitude is the most important factor.

purples Sun 31-Mar-13 14:56:32

Forgot to add that at my state primary that there is additional support for children who are struggling, as the school offers booster classes for maths, english, grammar, spelling etc in the form of early morning sessions, so all children can reach their full potential.

purples Sun 31-Mar-13 14:51:07

My 2 children had steamed maths and english at a state primary, initially streams were in the same class with the same teacher and differing homework. However at year 5 and 6, the years are mixed together for maths and english and then split into 3 steamed classes, each in a separate class room with separate teachers. The morning sessions are streamed and children return to their usual mixed ability class in the afternoon. Within each class, there is further steaming, so each child is working at the appropriate level. The top children in the top set are also given additional support to stretch them and these children frequently reach level 6, (well above the national average of level 4). There are exceptional state schools out there, but they do tend to be very oversubscribed, I was lucky enough to get my children into one. As a back up I would apply for a private school.

Elibean Sun 31-Mar-13 14:40:57

grin I was thoroughly disrupted in my private secondary all girls' school - mostly by my best friend, who did not like or 'get' maths!

Hamishbear Sun 31-Mar-13 14:40:28

We have a similar system Hardboiled and whilst I think it works for most I think there can be casualties at the margins.

6/7 years old is very young - I feel - to separate into ability groups inevitably working at different speeds and following different trajectories in time.

Teachers tell me they usually know (whilst children are very young) who are the ones who have the innate ability with Maths etc are as they have intuitive number sense. These children don't need to be shown, they pick up the concepts and can give answers to sums instantly.

I think there needs to be real fluidity between the groups (if you have a system like this) but as the years roll on this does not seem to be the case and an achievement gap can open up. It's often very difficult to move up as the top set will be working at a much faster pace for one thing. They also don't like to move children down so space in the groups can become an issue.

Was interested to learn recently that Prep schools have the scholarship class - often very few in it. These get lots of extra resources directed at them. The decision as to whom is suitable is often made quite early on. (Am not sure how I would feel if I was paying steep fees and may child getting an inferior teaching experience/a higher teacher:pupil ratio etc)?

Perhaps it is true that some are just quicker and will always have more innate ability so this sort of system is fair? Not sure.

hardboiled Sun 31-Mar-13 14:15:09

Quiet not quite..gosh

hardboiled Sun 31-Mar-13 14:14:17

sorry typing on phone...More or less not lest

hardboiled Sun 31-Mar-13 14:13:09

Hello happy, yes they do. For Maths and English which is almost the whole morning more or lest. The morning starts with quite reading then the sets go to separate classrooms. They also have separate homework.

boomting Sun 31-Mar-13 13:38:06

Personally I think that so long as you can get your kids into a decent state primary, then the most bang for your buck comes at secondary level, particularly the sixth form. Looking back at the people I went to school with (I went to a state primary and private secondary) then the later the private education then the more successful the outcome, on average. Those who left the private for sixth form definitely seem to have had worse outcomes than those who remained private for sixth form.

HOWEVER this was in an area where the secondaries were atrocious - it may be different in your area.

happygardening Sun 31-Mar-13 13:24:36

hardboiled out of curiosity do the top/middle/bottom set have separate lessons/teachers?

hardboiled Sun 31-Mar-13 11:15:31

Xenia, our primary streams as of yr 2. There are currently three sets in yr 6 for maths and English. Lots of primaries stream, I don't know where you get your info from. DS is targeted L6 for both subjects based on assessments, and works in a small group at that level. If he gets to do some shared art project with as you say a kid with an iq of 100 then I think that is great, it will teach him the width and variety in the human race.

CamillaMacaulay1 Sun 31-Mar-13 10:34:46

Xenia, I don't agree with your generalisation about disruptive children being specific to state schools at all. Schools are all very different and everything about a school comes from the head imo.

Also, when you talk about children who are average intelligence - it it those children who most benefit from a private school. My friends who have clever children, who have been ahead from pre-school have done very well in state schools. It is the more average children who get left behind in state schools as I have seen it.

basildonbond Sun 31-Mar-13 10:15:54

In the OP's situation I'd start off with state and only change if a) dc wasn't happy or progressing at local primary and b) if the private alternative was genuinely better

We moved dd to a private school for the start of y3 because she was lonely and thoroughly bored at the local state. She's been fantastically happy ever since, partly because there are lots of other bright girls there with whom she 'clicked', partly because they are set for English and maths so the work is challenging and interesting but also because of all the extra opportunities she's had to take part in proper sport, drama, music etc

I'm perfectly well aware that there are some state schools which provide the same opportunities but unfortunately in our area you have to pay for what some families get for free.

purples Sun 31-Mar-13 09:43:38

IcouldstillbeJoseph, in answer to your original question, it comes down to how good is the local state primary compared to private option. I looked at both and opted for state primary education in an outstanding state primary. Had I not got a place at an outstanding state primary , I would have opted for the private route. If you are unsure if you would get into an outstanding primary, then I would have the insurance policy of applying to a private school just in case.
Each year many children form my daughters small state primary go onto grammar schools, super-selective grammar schools, scholarships at private secondaries. Some parents have less academic children, but still opt out of the local state secondaries and pay the full amount for private education. I know children who have taken all these routes successfully, there has been no problem integrating into any of these excellent schools if you have been to a good state primary.

dottt Sun 31-Mar-13 09:00:21

Rabitstew local authority outsourced body provide the teachers and set the price of £240! Agree outrageously and prohibitively expensive.

Xenia Sun 31-Mar-13 08:46:13

Half of the places at university got to state school pupils so if you cannot afford or don't like private schools don't go. I was just making the point that many private school parents are very pleased with what they obtain. There may well be good state schools with good musical standards but our children did a joint local event with a local state school and I was hoping my prejudices would be overturned but the only ordinary decent music done was from the rep school. The state school's performances from about 4 different schools including two secondaries was just pop stuff. It was a bad standard.

Parental backgrounds differ a lot in private schools and many people are first time buyers. Some are funded by grandparents. Many are not posh. Some are on scholarships. I don't agree that you do not learn to mix withdifferent people at private schools. You also tend to do more volunteering in care homes etc as most children do Duke of Edinburgh awards etc so they will meet all kinds of different people from that. The fact you share a class room in academic privates and state grammars and comps which have classes which are set is a plus not a minus. IT means lessons are all at a similar standard. You don't get that in state primaries - you will be in a class with some children with the average 100 IQ, plenty who are under that and some who are disruptive and spoil lessons for the rest. It is harder to learn in that kind of environment.

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