Please be frank: is paying for prep/junior school worth it?(279 Posts)
Hello, continuation from my previous thread but with a more specific question! We have mixed sex twins - while private is an option at this stage, the local faith school is pretty good.
What can a prep or private junior school offer my DC that could not be matched by state + extra curricular activities?
Looking further ahead, would they be disadvantaged when applying for highly ranked public schools (if we/they feel this is right) later on if they did not attend private school at primary level?
Prep schools want you to think they operate some sort of educational voodoo, that can't be emulated without huge fees. It's nonsense.
Little Frieda, that's a bit of a generalization. Yes, there are many preps which your statement might accurately describe, but there are others which certainly are worth the fees. In London, which is where the OP seems to reside, the difference between the good preps and the mediocre ones is vast and I'd advise her to do her research.
I'd say, like any big purchase, look at the options and purchase wisely.
I do sort of agre with you LittleFrieda it is possible but in you example the child going onto Win Coll did spend two years in a prep.
Ds has been doing French since reception (now in year 4). He knows next to know French and didn't seem to know the basics when I put him to the test in Paris last year. When I enquired whether his classmates were the same everyone said yes so I'm not sure what the benefit is of starting to learn at a young age. If you have a motivated child transferring from state to prep at 11 I don't think it would take long to catch up.
Ds starts Latin in year 5 but again I don't think that would be difficult to catch up either.
The one thing that prep does seem to give ds is bags of confidence and an expectation that he will go on to a senior public school. I've told him that he would need to get a scholarship equivalent to the level he has for his prep for that to be a realistic possibility.
Anecdotally, I joined a school in the equivalent of Yr 8 having done no French at all. Most of my classmates had done it at least from the age of 7.
I took my O-level a year early, having done French for exactly 3 years, progressing from the bottom set to the top of the top within 3 terms. No extra tuition.
The Win Coll Latin exam is notoriously difficult a part is AS level but I do agree a bright child with a fantastic teacher could do it in two years but I think you'd have to an aptitude and a liking for it. St Pauls want the higher level for CE Latin (?level 3) and 70+% again I think you would have to have a fab teacher and an aptitude for it. I believe you can be allowed to sit a lower level at St Pauls if you have a legitimate reason and as many come from abroad at Win Coll I suspect they just don't sit Latin. But on starting at either of these you will have to quickly learn it and work at it in schools where A*'s are expected especially if your DC is sitting the significantly harder IGCSE the set text is a bit of a nightmare.
If a boy from my son's primary school two years ago is anything to go on, the scholarship to Winchester College was offered at the beginning of year 6 (on the basis of good academics and music at primary school and home) and included the cost of two years at prep school.
As far as the respective benefits of prep school or primary school you cannot generalise. My son's class (primary in county town) includes 7 children with scholarships to private schools / 11 plus passes to neighbouring county super selective grammar 20 miles away.... basically all the children who applied did extremely well. My son got an academic scholarship to local HMC selective independent.
A parent at the feeder prep school indicated privately that a number of the prep school children had not got into the senior school. She put the responsibility of complacent parents thinking that private education allowed one to abdicate any responsibility for support at home. I have no idea if it is correct there or anywhere else. However, for primary schools it is useful to look at where the children end up going and numbers achieving level 5 and now 6 in SATS.
Justice According to the Win Coll website you have to be a minimum age of 12 and a maximum age of 14 to sit the scholarship exam. Harrow do offer a scheme very similar to that which you've described, and Eton used too.
DD has been in an independent primary since reception. She is now in Y6 and is going to an independent secondary. I guess the main advantage is that the independent schools will do some entrance exam practise within the curriculum whereas state primaries won't, but that is probably it.
Is it worth it?
Well, it depends on what you mean really. DD has loved her primary school and will be very sad to leave. She has developed into a bright, capable and politely confident 11 year old, loves school and learning, enjoys trying lots of new things, is happy to stand on stage and act, sing or orate.
For DD, we do feel she has benefited from what has been on offer from her small independent school with small class sizes and a full varied curriculum. It has certainly prepared her for her coming years at her chosen secondary.
But most of this is available from state schools, after school clubs or from doing things ourself at home too, with time and money.
Some people will say yes, others may feel not. You can only do what feels right for you and your children, and your own current situations.
Definitely think a prep will help in getting into the senior schools. Pick your school carefully. It is difficult to get into the senior schools unless you have a child genius and know when to register, and key dates if you are trying to do on your own. You will be an unknown. A prep school will help you with this and a head's recommedation for places such as Eton, Charterhouse, Harrow etc will really really help.
I have two children one of whom goes to one of the big senior boarding schools. I have also seen parents try and use the last two years of the prep to get their children into Eton etc. It doesnt always work, references are taken at at least 18 months before they are due to join.
I think the good preps are worth their weight in gold!
handcream boys sit the Eton test in yr 6 THE closing date for registration for non scholars is 10 years and 6 months so would be too late if they applied when they started at a prep in yr 7.
Is it worth it?
Well, I think it depends how much you value what they're providing and how much money you've got [WINK]
It depends on the school. We chose an independent prep but could have sent DS to one of a number of outstanding rated state primaries. It was a difficult decision, especially considering the fees, but we felt more confident in the prep school's abilities to educate our son. Plus there is a high degree of expectation - from the parents and the school which tends to drive up performance. Also, with the government constantly tinkering with the education system, we didn't want that to interfere with his education. I believe they have removed the restrictions re max 30 in a class too.
My friend use to commute to Amsterdam weekly and he would always fly front of the plane class. He arrives just in time so it's not as if he uses the lounge. The middle seat in the three seat setup becomes a tray so it's not was if he gets a more generous seat. And the flight only last about an hour. He does get on and off first though
Is he getting anything extra for his money? Yes. Is the extra money worth the extra in comfort and convenience? Depends on you, the individual. Same with private education.
I don't think it's possible to say whether it is worth the money or not. But the best advice I had, from someone with way more experience than me, was that it is better to start independent school ASAP (we were originally planning on state and then independent secondary).
I think it also very much depends on you primary school as well. DS2 spent a brief period in a quaint roses round the door primary with 38 children from reception to yr 6 16 of those were in yrs 2 and 3. There were 4 n his year and 3 in the year beneath him the head was shared with another slightly larger primary and there were only three teachers in total. Ok everyone knew everyone else but there were no extra curricular activities no breakfast/ after school clubs no differentiation between work for different abilities because with such tiny numbers it wasn't possible or realistic.
OP you need to decide where you want your children to end up; what senior school in the ideal world, when would they go tbere yr 7 or 9, how hard will the entrance test be, can you tutor or find a tutor for your DC's if it's necessary because they're in state ed and there not covering all the curriculum or you're hoping for a scholarship into a super selective, do you want wrap around childcare or loads of extra curricular activities on site? Will you need knowledgeable advise about the right senior school for your DC's, would you be more confident about getting into your choice if you felt a prep was preparing them, writing references, practising interviews CE etc (that's why they were called prep schools they prepared children for their senior schools) having worked this out then work out if a state primary or prep will best fit your requirements.
My DS went to Eton. With the benefit of hindsight I think he'd have done fine in the state system until he was 11.
Those schools 13+ offering sponsorship tend to pay for 2 years a pre school from 11+ so I suspect at least paying for those 2 years is sensible.
We had some our children in schools at 4 or 5+ which saved them worrying too much about getting into the same school at 11+ which is a plan that worked well and because of my career choice I could afford 5 sets of school fees.
To echo what has been said above, it depend on where you want to send them at senior school stage. It also depends on the prep school- there are some mediocre ones, and then there are those which completely outstrip the local state schools on all levels in terms of facilities, sporting opportunities and academics.
Id only consider it once I knew uni fees were absolutely sorted for all my kids.
I attended an average private and an excellent state school. Private school encouraged a much more confident (some might say entitled) attitude amongst the kids but had the only slightly higher proportion of oxbridge entrants. Think overall its healthier to mix with a variety of individuals if the standard of education is the same.
Foe example, in my geography in East Berkshire we have Ludgrove, Eagle House, Papplewick and Lambrook....there are no primary schools that remotely come close to these in terms of facilities, opportunities etc. ...whether rated "outstanding" or not...but there are also some lesser known mediocre prep schools (I won't name them so as not to offend). This is in an area that is supposed to be known for its good primary options...the secondary options apart from the two single sex grammars are not great (and getting into those is as much of a long shot as getting onto Eton), so that also affects the decision.
Why university fees? Also if you can afford a set of private school fees out of earned income university fees are cheaper so your outgoings go down at that stage if you choose to fund the university fees and have bene paying private school fees, not up.
Also not a penny of fees is payable unless and until the child earns over the threshold. If they intend to work for 5 years and then be housewives for life or never over the minimum wage which seems to be the choice of many mumsnetters they will never pay a penny of the university fees back so why save to fund them?
If you are going to use state primary, have a frank discussion with the head-teacher about competitive entry to private schools at 11+.
I did this and got a wide variety of responses - from a look that suggested I had asked whether they practiced satanism and it being made clear that they didn't really approve of private education and would not be helping in any way, through the 'never really thought about it's to the 'oh yes, we send lots of our children to selective schools every year' and a list of the latest placements and information of the 11+ prep classes arranged after school!
Obviously we are now sweating it out on the waiting list for the latter!
If your school is very supportive and high achieving then I think you could either stay there throughout and not dent your chances at the big London day schools or similar.
If you want one of the big schools - Eton, Win Coll etc - then I would suggest state until 8, then take a look and either try for a prep place or if things going well then maybe hold off till 11. I wouldn't try and do a state secondary entry to one of those schools unless you know exactly what you are doing and have some serious help with tutoring.
FWIW, I went to a hot housing prep and then a grammar. The difference between the two in terms of all round education was HUGE. At the time the grammar took the top 25% of the local comps (was 13+ entry) and the prep kids basically marked time for the first year - I believe it's now a tiny number from the local comps and mainly prep kids going there so things have probably improved.
My prep had specialist teachers in every subject from Yr3, huge grounds, sport 4 afternoons a week and activities the other. I wasn't happy there for various reasons, but I can say it was the best education I had at any school - we were not just taught to the test, but way beyond and sideways.
That said, there are a lot of preps which are just expensive versions of a mediocre primary.
As for university fees, I think I would want enough put aside to pay off DC's loans as and when they activate.
But there's not a cat in hell's chance I'm paying for fees up front. I can't see any advantage in that money sitting in the government's bak account rather than mine!
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