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My son hasn't even started private school and I am already a nervous freak

(67 Posts)
PrettyBelle Mon 29-Jul-13 11:13:21

This September my DS is moving from state to private. My DD will be sitting 7+ exams next January. As things stand, we can afford two private schools on my salary alone.

Private education for my two children has always been my ultimate goal even though our local state schools are supposedly great and both DS and DD have been happy in their schools. But naturally I want the best for them and can't help wondering if they will achieve better in a private system.

Yet, ever since I wrote that cheque confirming our acceptance of DS's place I seem to be on edge all the time. I have a salaried job and some self-employed income and I am terrified at jinxing my good fortune. I am afraid of screwing up at work and risking my job. I fear that I will make a mistake in my freelance project, lose a client and a chunk of income.

And I will have to make the state vs private choice for my DD next year so the troubling thoughts are likely to get worse.

Has anyone experienced the same? How do you reason with yourselves?

britishsummer Mon 29-Jul-13 17:23:41

Your private school may have excellent teachers, better than the tutors you tried in which case it will be very much worth it. It may have extracurricular provision and wrap around care that you could n't match logistically because of working full time which would help make it worth the possible financial risk. However it is worth keeping an open mind and finding out more over the next year for example are the academic results of the private school due to extra stuff the pupils do at home (parents or tutors) rather than the quality of the teaching?
it is definitely worth talking to as many parents as possible whose DC are at the later stages of going through the private system in your area to work out what are the real advantages rather than hype.

fabricmum Mon 29-Jul-13 20:24:23

I've just spent the last three years paying my sons school fees. He's going onto a state secondary school now, the pressure to pay his fees for the last three years has almost killed me and i wouldn't wish that on anyone.
Think very carefully before sending a child to private school, it is my no means the golden ticket. My son is dyslexic and is average academically and i've discovered from experience that the state system is better set up for this, particularly at secondary level. He did go to a very good prep school, mixed ability. The facilities are great, but often that's all your paying for and it's been proven that small class sizes don't do anything, it's the quality of the teaching that matters.

Runningchick123 Mon 29-Jul-13 21:19:35

fabricmum I agree that children with dyslexia or other identified learning needs are better catered for in the state sector, partly due to the availability of additional funds to support the learning need.
However, I disagree about your point on class sizes as there has been lots of research done n the subject matter and it shows that the brightest children suffer more in large classes due to the difficulties of teaching a mixed ability class of 30 children.

I think different schools suit different children. I have one in state and one in private and they are both well suited to their schools due to having different needs and different personalities. I worry enormously about the viability of affording school fees long term but I think that worry is natural and comes with the territory as nobody wants to move their child to a new school if they are happy. There isn't, however, a feeling that my child doesn't fit in due to us not having the same spending power as some of the other parents or driving a top level range rover. All the parents and children at the private school get along with each other as much as they do at the state school. There isn't an air of needing to keep up with the joneses - that's just an urban myth.

britishsummer Mon 29-Jul-13 21:40:12

As an aside to what has just been said, OP you have had problems even with the help of recommendations in finding a single tutor who gets the best out of your son in a one to one situation. This is emblematic of why it is often so difficult to be confident of the extra quality that any private school may offer an individual child. Unfortunately if we do get it wrong, unlike changing tutors, changing schools can't be done too many times as we risk messing up our children's all important building of friendships, particularly at the secondary stage.
There is also the trap that one has less and less time to spend with one's DC because of having to work more hours to cover the fees.

fabricmum Mon 29-Jul-13 21:43:34

I definitely don't or have never tried to keep up with the joneses, you would need to be extremely shallow or stupid to do that whilst paying school fees. In my experience, most people i've met who pay school fees, either have them paid by grandparents or earn enough a month to cover them, generally company directors or bankers. I live in the south east where many parents are taking on extra mortgages to pay for school fees which is dangerous in my opinion, I've watched them like lemmings.
Parents who choose to pay for private schooling come in two categories: they were privately educated themselves and consider it's the only way, or two, they had a crap education themselves and don't want to subject their kids to the same fate. I'm of the latter, but having slogged my guts out for three years, i consider that my and my family's quality of life is better.

Runningchick123 Tue 30-Jul-13 06:39:43

fabricmum there aren't many bankers or company director parents at my sons private school. It must be different in the south east as up here in the north west prep school fees average £2300 per term and senior school fees around £3300 per term. It is expensive, but probably cheaper than your south east schools, lots of the parents (including teaching assistants, nurses, labourers, secretaries, small business owners) afford the fees by sacrificing foreign holidays and new cars etc. There are some parents who are quite wealthy (probably a 50:50 split) but like you said people would need to be stupid to try and keep up with the joneses.

Zigster Tue 30-Jul-13 09:42:07

I'm in a similar situation to fabricmum. DW was privately educated and thinks it is the only way; I was state educated and it was frankly abysmal. So DSs have been privately educated to date.

But the fees merry go round is such a chore. I earn a good income and feel like I should be able to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, but the school fees are such a big sum of money that it is a constant pressure. Also, for reasons I won't bore you with, I'm looking at a career change - and I can't do that with the pressure of school fees. The career change is likely to mean lower income but also shorter hours so I can spend more time with the family.

It's not even the early years school fees at £2.5k-£3k per term, it's the senior school fees in the future which go up to about £7.5k per term at the moment which I need to save for now as I can't afford £4k per month out of net salary when they get to GCSE and sixth-form age. And fees have been going up at a much faster rate than my salary over the last 5 years - at that rate it will be unaffordable in the future. I suspect many of the prep school parents have their heads in the sand over it (those that aren't absolutely minted or have trust funds/generous grandparents).

The problem is that once you are in private schools, it is difficult to leave. You feel like you are letting your children down as the school has been such a focus and you have convinced yourself that the better education is worth the huge cost (it's a big mindshift to move away from that), and you don't want to take your kids away from their friends (easier to do when they are young than when they are teenagers). There is the difficulty of then getting the kids back into the state sector - if it's a good school, chances are there is a big waiting list. Even if you do get offered a place at the state school, the private schools can have quite onerous withdrawal clauses.

duchesse Tue 30-Jul-13 09:45:40

Believe me it never gets any easier to sign away those ££££ every term. You just do it while you can and if the luck/money runs out you think of something else. If your state system is good you know that will always be there if you need it. It doesn't matter if DC change schools, really it doesn't.

duchesse Tue 30-Jul-13 09:47:16

Zig- Aaaargh and shock at £7500/term. Here in the SW senior school is £3500/term and most people struggle with that. We simply could not afford it at your local prices.

TheRealFellatio Tue 30-Jul-13 09:53:37

I think this is a very normal reaction. The fear is that your circumstances will change, and you mayto suffer the humiliation of having to pull them out, making them leave behind their friends, and that you will have forfeited the chance of a half-decent state school place elsewhere and they will all be full, so they end up somewhere awful. Which is a worse scenario than if you'd just accepted a good state school in the first place! Or that you can manage it for the first but come the time for DC2 you find you cannot manage it for the second, so will have all the guilt attached to that.

There are no solutions to this - all big financial commitments are a worry! All you can do is be realistic and honest about your finances and your forward projections, and act accordingly. If in any serious doubt, don't do it. The pressure and the stress will eat you up.

PrettyBelle Tue 30-Jul-13 09:59:56

britishsummer, thanks for your post. On the subject of tutors - I wouldn't say that they couldn't get the best out of my son. Our first one was an all-rounder i.e. she prepared him for Maths, English and VR. And as far as I could tell all she was doing was go through the 11+ Bond books with him - which we could do with him at home for free. DH is a Uni professor so he has been doing Maths with him - thanks to which DS was one of the top Maths students in his class. So no problem here. With VR, DS seemed to be doing well by himself. My main concern was and remains English so our second tutor was only preparing him for English. He was good and DS loved their lessons but in my opinion it just wasn't enough - one hour a week and a bit of homework. I guess if we could afford more time with that English tutor the effect would have been better but we couldn't do afternoons on weekdays. Actually he was the one who advised me to consider movong DS to private for preparation for 11+exam.

encyclogirl Tue 30-Jul-13 10:08:11

My sons' school is a 50:50 split also from what I can see. Southern Ireland so the fees are a lot cheaper than SE England. Not to be sneezed at either mind you! €3k per term.

Before ds was accepted I was looking a complete career change. I've now made the commitment to my job for the next 6 years (6 year cycle in Ireland). If we weren't doing this, I would be looking to bail much earlier.

I've made my peace with that turn of events and now I worry that I can manage to not lose my stressy job!

PrettyBelle Tue 30-Jul-13 10:23:14

Thanks very much everyone to your posts so far. I sort of resigned myself to funding DS's private education until Uni - unless our money situation changes dramatically or he is very unhappy in private school.

He is bright, everybody says that, but, as often the case with boys, he needs pushing. As soon as DH started doing Maths with him at home he shot up to the top set in three months. And if I feel I can help my 6-year old DD with her schooling I sure cannot cover the senior school programme for my DS is I feel he is not getting enough at the state school. So as much as I want private prep school for DD too I realise that DS's education is more crucial - albeit more expensive.

That's part of my reasoning...

PrettyBelle Tue 30-Jul-13 10:26:07

PS. Sorry for the typos! Don't see an option for editing posts here...

TheRealFellatio Tue 30-Jul-13 10:27:02

You don't need to justify/explain why you want to send him to anybody. You just need to be sure that you can afford it without creating undue stress.

sussexmum38 Tue 30-Jul-13 10:43:41

We have financially struggled to put dd's through private education. We went private due to their dyslexia and needed the smaller classes and one to one teaching. Naturally we wanted to give them the best chance even if we had to make do. Everything has been expensive. We thought that if we couldn't find the money we would put them back in the state system. Some of their friends have had to do that. No problem on the education side but their biggest challenges was the bullying by the kids.

Their rich friends and parents accepted our poverty. I don't think that it mattered one bit. The real time that it was noticeable was at party time. Birthday parties and gifts were lavish ours was a trip to Pizza Express.

You have to do what you feel is the best.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Tue 30-Jul-13 10:53:00

Sorry PrettyBelle, I don't understand why your DS's education is more crucial?

I think there can be a bit of an Emperor's New Clothes effect with private schools. The very large cost makes people think there must be something excellent about them, but that isn't necessarily the case.

SunnyIntervals Tue 30-Jul-13 10:57:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PrettyBelle Tue 30-Jul-13 11:01:12

ElephantsAndMiasmas, because he is older so his education is more complex at the senior stage, so to say... Also he needs more attention and structure - whereas my girl is a keen learner on her own initiative so is likely to do well regardless.

Our state school, although well regarded, is huge. 10 classes per year. I am concerned he will be "lost" there.

These are my thoughts anyway. Am I missing something?

Still, she will be sitting 7+ exams next year so if she gets in her first or second choice school she will probably go private too.

Runningchick123 Tue 30-Jul-13 11:22:15

prettybelle yo don't have to justify your choice that private is more crucial for your DS at this stage than it is for your DD. you know your children best and what will suit their personalities and learning style best.
I have one son in state and one son in private and the decision has been based on what suits each of them as an individual, what makes them happiest and what helps them to learn in the way most appropriate to their individual needs. I don't feel guilty for spending more money on one sons education than the other and nor will I feel disappointed if the privately educated son decides not to go to uni.
As long as each of my children reaches their potential at school and is happy then I am happy.

encyclogirl Tue 30-Jul-13 11:54:50

My dd has SN and is in a state funded unit attached to a mainstream school. I could not buy a better quality education for her. Her teachers, SNAs and the wider school population have made the experience fantastic, it's a local comp, newly built and the facilities are amazing. We have totally lucked out with the unit coordinator too, and e works like a dog for the students.

It is exactly the right school for her and she is dying to get back in September.

Ds is going private because we have identified this is the exactly the right school for him.

We've had a few raised eyebrows locally because he's not going to be attending dd's school. We have our reasons, mostly because I represent the Special Needs unit on dd's School Board and I know a bit too much about the mainstream section of the school. I would never disseminate any of that information but it's enough for me to know that we are doing the right thing not sending ds there.

fabricmum Tue 30-Jul-13 12:36:08

Our main problem being in the south east is that the senior selective schools are priced okay (4-5k). But the 2 unselective senior schools near us (from y9 onwards) are sooo expensive. We first registered our DS 2 year ago when the fees were £4950 per term so just about affordable, they've now gone up to £6200. So by the time he would start we reckoned they'd be about £6800 per term, which is outrageous amount of money considering it's not even for boarding.
The price of senior schools are just going up and up, and when the money dries up these schools are going to be in trouble although i suppose the wealth in my area means they'll sustain the interest.

britishsummer Tue 30-Jul-13 22:08:06

PrettyB, it sounds as though you think the possible secondary private schools in your area are very much worth an extra push at this stage for at least your DS. He is extremely unlikely to be unhappy at his new school.
Look forward to hearing an update from you. We have experienced excellence in both sectors as well as mediocrity in a private prep (but the DC had a great social time there so it definitely had its benefits!).

Xihha Wed 31-Jul-13 00:27:53

Their rich friends and parents accepted our poverty. I don't think that it mattered one bit.

Sussexmum, that is so good to know, I hope dd's school friends are the same. I don't know anyone who has gone to private school other than my mum who went 40 years ago so I have no idea what the children and their parents are likely to be like!

OP, I'm so glad you put this up, it has made me far less worried, hope you are feeling better about it all too

primroseyellow Wed 31-Jul-13 00:54:54

Years ago a relative got an 'assisted place' so the govt paid the basic fees but parents found there were loads of 'extras' eg cost of school bus, lunches, after school clubs, uniform and endless very specific kit for every sort of sport, need for new shoes because the black ones purchased did not meet the standard required (coloured stitching!), replacement kit for that lost, 'damage' payments, swimming, music etc etc etc. Relative did not rate the teaching and returned to local comp in Y9 and has done extremely well since.

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