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Independant education - are we overstretching ourselves?

(112 Posts)
Reastie Mon 05-Aug-13 15:49:32

We are in very early stages here of just looking into options. Have just done some figures and after paying all bills/expenses for our home etc, were we to send DD to private school we would have an average of £300 left per month for anything non essential (and that would have to cover cost of clothes and going out etc but not petrol/insurances/food/bills/mortgage). Does this sound unreasonable or doable? We would certainly not be able to save anything (we try to now but not a huge amount) and would struggle when things need doing on the house/we need a new car etc, but we would be able to live and eat, go on one cheapish weeks holiday a year, have a nice but budgeted life. To me education is very important, but I don't know if I'm over reaching things here and would be interested in opinions on how this sounds, it's so much money for us but can you put a price on a good education... thanks

fabricmum Tue 06-Aug-13 18:00:44

Fluffy-That last sentence is very poignant and true. We all have a habit of constantly worrying about our offspring whilst neglecting our own needs. There certainly needs to be a good balance when deciding something as big as this.

Reastie Tue 06-Aug-13 18:38:10

fluffy half fees approximately is £500 a month. My income is £800 - £900 a month. I'm at the top of the pay scale for what I do where I work but it's likely I could work an extra afternoon a week should I want to when she goes to school. DHs wage covers the mortgage shortfall on the buy to let property and all bills/essentials but not much more. We have around 8 years left on his mortgage so then we will be in a much better financial situation (around 6k or so better off a year from rental income). DH is self employed and his income is relatively stable (well, as stable as it can be) and is unlikely to get much more comparatively). I think as parents we always put ourselves at the bottom of the list don't we. I'm desperate to rejoin the gym once DD goes to school when I'll have some time to actually go but if we sent her privately I wouldn't be able to. I was shrugging this off as how can I compare my gym membership to her education....maybe I need to think about us as a family and our life together a bit more. Thanks fluffy

JohnnyUtah Tue 06-Aug-13 18:57:05

You could always take up running instead of paying money to the gym though

keepsmiling12345 Tue 06-Aug-13 19:10:37

reastie this honestly doesn't sound a stretch to me. If I understand correctly, you have no mortgage on your own property and one on a buy to let property which will end in 8 years (and for which you are presumably receiving rent?). You could work extra hours if required, so presumably are part time now, and your DH's income is relatively stable. And you are content that your parents, who are paying 50 % of the fees, won't have any issues continuing to do so. Yes, £300 isn't a huge amount each month for non-essentials but it seems plenty. If there was a big issue with your house that required fixing, you could presumably use the fact you own it outright to borrow or remortgage to cover any large expense. Honestly, in my world, this is positively comfortable!

cockerpoodle Tue 06-Aug-13 20:05:21

Education isn't important to me, so I just send mine State.

cockerpoodle Tue 06-Aug-13 20:19:50

Go for it OP... no one will ever be able to take those years, however many there are, away from her

You do know it's just a school, right? It's not some glittering, magical fairyland. It's not, like, Narnia...

Reastie Tue 06-Aug-13 20:24:29

<shows cockerpoodle the prospectus for Narnia School for naice girls and Lions> wink

cockerpoodle Tue 06-Aug-13 20:33:19


there will be big, spendy trips in secondary school, they will cost between one and several thousand pounds. My eldest DD travelled to four continents on school trips at quite some cost, and this was at a state school. Private will be even more spendy. Your daughter will want to go, and you will really, really want her to. No way I could have afforded it if I'd been paying school fees, and I wouldn't have had her miss those trips for the world.

Farewelltoarms Tue 06-Aug-13 20:46:04

Cocker, when parents tell me that they'd love to use state but their children are so bright and so sensitive, I always think it's lucky mine are such thick brutes then...

seventhchild Tue 06-Aug-13 21:01:02

My son holds an offer for Oxford this year, he went to a comprehensive school. Private isn't everything.

scarlettsmummy2 Tue 06-Aug-13 21:06:27

Hi, my daughter is at a prep school, and it is a stretch, but worth it. I think though that if I was you I would try and increase my own earnings. For me, the fees are a lot, but there are all the other bits, which you don't have to do, but may want to. For example, play events aren't normally cheap! We tend to go to things like the zoo, pottery, soft play and lunch etc, I haven't spent less than £25 at each one yet, plus the mums regularly go out and it's not on a budget. Then there is the whip rounds for staff at Xmas and end of term- £20 a time, plus a birthday party every other week, and yes, they are all expensive parties. Just something to think about, as it wasn't something I had thought of before sending my daughter. But again, for us it was worth it.

Zigster Tue 06-Aug-13 21:15:03


I'm with you all the way on this - your view and experience of this sounds spookily close to mine.

If money was no object, I would definitely send my kids to a private school.

But I have no other financial commitment anything like as large as school fees - it is several times the mortgage, for example. Without the school fees, we would enough money for all we wanted to do and still have plenty left over; with school fees, we have financial pressure.

I work harder than I would like to because I have to keep bringing home the bacon. So I'm stressed about money (particularly around bonus time - what if my boss decides this is the year to stitch me up? That would mean no holiday and our senior school fees planning would be shot to pieces).

Without school fees, the financial pressure is off. I can come home more promptly rather than busting a gut and spend those evenings with my kids rather than hunched over a spreadsheet.

So would my kids (and me) prefer private school and weekend-only daddy? Or the local State school and a daddy who is around, engaged with them and smiling? Is it even possible to compare the additional benefit of a private school education with the benefit of an involved daddy who plays football with them, helps them with their prep and takes them to Disneyworld?

Private schools are (for the most part) great. But they're not that great.

Farewelltoarms Tue 06-Aug-13 21:22:37

I know this isn't a state v private so apologies if I sound snippy, but when people talk about how it's so important to lay the foundations of education in the early years at private, it makes it sound as if kids at state primary school are running around learning how to swear and nothing else.

They do learn the basics and then some at state schools especially if they have parents as committed as you op. Money wasn't an issue for us and I chose our local state for entirely positive reasons. Just as someone above feels sure their private is worth it, I feel sure my children could not be happier or more fulfilled anywhere else. Of course, neither of us can ever really know how they'd have fared in a parallel life.

I'd guess that maybe they'd possibly be further ahead in a purely academic sense in smaller classes. But whether one reading band higher or times tables learnt in y1 instead of y2 is worth 12k pa is moot.

Farewelltoarms Tue 06-Aug-13 21:27:52

Sorry xposted with you Zigster but I think what we're saying sort of tallies.

PareyMortas Tue 06-Aug-13 21:36:11

It's very common for a few children to leave their state schools at the end of year two to go to independant schools. I'd properly research your local state school options, it's highly unlikely that you have a choice of one school. Find your best school and send dd there until Key stage 2. You might love the school and want to keep her there if not shell have all the basics and plenty of time in an indi if she starts at the begining of KS2.

It's unusual for primary schools to all be rubbish in a grammar school area, so do your research.

Inherent meantime live on the reduced budget for the next few months and see what it's like, including Christmas, birthdays etc.

Reastie Wed 07-Aug-13 07:14:34

Yes we will be living on a reduced income to 'practice' how it would be if DD is at private school <hides purse>

zigster yes that's very interesting. I had thought about presents and parties, but I didn't think of the cost of social meetings/going out with friends etc.

parey yes we get to give our choice in where we'd like DD to go to state primary but the likelihood of her getting a space at the other local ones are not great (very popular, as we are opposite our local primary school and not that high on the entrance criteria of the other schools it's highly likely she'll get a place there).

Mendi Wed 07-Aug-13 07:39:05

Farewelltoarms isn't your interpretation of the comments about primary level schooling a bit reductive? I don't think it's as simple as suggesting kids in primary schools are all running riot just because some suggest private schools are "better".

Speaking from personal experience, I sent both my 2 to the local primary, a nice OFSTED "outstanding" school. It was ok. DD who is "gifted and talented" (level 5s at end of year 4) has been bored in school for ages because the school's idea of "extension work" for her has been just to let her do the work of the year 5s and 6s. In the last year, when doing that work itself hasn't been a challenge, the approach has just been "what more can we do?"

On the other hand, DS is a much more middling child, can do well but not like his sister. Has finished year 6 with a perfectly respectable level 5s and a 4. But he has had no homework at all for the whole of year 6, has not been encouraged in school to stretch himself that bit further to get the 4 up to a 5, and from what I can see, has just loafed around in class while all of the effort of the teachers has been focused heavily on the few kids at the bottom of the class who were not going to hit level 4s across the board. All the attention is on dragging those ones up to the minimum "good" standard so the school can look better on it's SATS results.

I understand this is even more so at secondary level with the holy grail of 5 A-C at GCSE. If my DS - who given the chance is quite happy to coast along and do "ok" rather than go the extra mile to do his "best" - were to go to our local (also "outstanding") comp., he would probably leave with some A-C grades but I know he can do more than that and that's why I'm sending him to a selective private school instead. DD is also moving and can't wait "to do some interesting work". I will have less than £300 left at the end of the month like the OP but just consider the smaller class sizes and higher expectations in the schools they are going to to be vital.

Little story about the expectation levels: when DS was approaching the time for the exam for the school he's going to, I got some Bond papers for him to practise. He was routinely getting 60% on the maths (min. 70% needed). His primary school had always given him fantastic reports for maths, so I wrote to his teacher with a copy of a paper he'd done asking if this was the level she expected of him as a "good" maths pupil, as it was nowhere near the required pass mark. I got a letter back which simply said "the expectation levels are very different". She was happy to leave that as her answer! This is in an "outstanding" school, remember.

I'm sure it all evens out in the end, cream rises to the top in any school, etc. But I want my kids to really enjoy school and find it interesting while they're there, not just coast along while the school concentrates its efforts on the kids at the bottom of the class. That's why I have decided to move them to selective private schools and I think many people move for similar reasons.

middleclassonbursary Wed 07-Aug-13 07:59:43

We have a significantly larger amount left over than that although literally not a bean of savings. IME its the week in week out, month in month out emotional strain of spending over a £1500+ a month on school fees this is our 13th year of paying fees of some description and the amount we've paid has risen every year as they've progressed through their school career. Very sadly for me it looks like we will soon inherit some money and we will use all of it to pay off completely all future fees (we've three yrs to go).For us this will literally be life changing an enormous weight will be lifted of our shoulders; we work in our current jobs and at the level we do simply to pay the fees, after food and utilities fees are our number one priority, I don't believe we "sacrifice" things because we are not hard up we pay in fees more than many people earn and we've chosen this road but they hang over our heads morning noon and night.
So the 64 million dollar question is it worth it? Looking back there has been times when I don't think it has been worth it we've usually had excellent state options as well or I believe for a short period when entrance exams were meant to be being prepared for I could have done it myself better and cheaper but currently I know that the education being received is in a league its own and frankly I would double my hours rather than change our to "excellent" state options.
Finally I wouldn't worry about designer clothes etc the vast majority of parents at my DS's school are frankly loaded paying £30 000+ a year per child is fees, most live in very large houses and drive large new cars and have very expensive ife styles my DC's will tell you not once has so our obviously less expensive life style ever been a problem.

fabricmum Wed 07-Aug-13 08:22:22

Mendi- You've had the experience of state and based on that experience you've made the decision to move your children into the private sector. You obviously haven't done this on a whim and you clearly have a very good grasp of the downsides in state education.
My eldest son who was bright, not academic went through the state comp route. He obtained 10 gcse's, mostly c grades, a spattering of b's. He wasn't particularly pushed to better his grades by the school, secondary schools only aim to get kids to the C grade they rarely push any harder (me at home getting desperate). He didn't like school and was lazy, what's worse is the school didn't pick up on his talent in the IT department, and they should've done. And to add, he had a terrible Y8, I can't explain it other than; the lights went out in his eyes. I wanted to move him into the private sector, he wouldn't budge!
He's now 19, works full time and it's transpired he is a gifted computer programmer. I spent all those secondary years worried out of my mind about exam results, revising (he pretended to revise), worrying about how many hours he was spending on his computer. By the end of next year, he would have saved enough for a house deposit. School didn't agree with him and he wouldn't have reached his potential there, it is in the workplace and doing something he loves that's going to achieve that.

teacherwith2kids Wed 07-Aug-13 10:28:29


From what I read of your posts, you sound relatively cash poor (as in income coming in, which is what you have based your calculations on) but if push came to shove you have other means of releasing / raising money (working more hours than you do currently, remortgaging one of your two properties).

FWIW, I feel that this is a very different situation from someone already mortgaged to the hilt or renting a property, working full time with no possibility of further hours etc.

In your case, there is a 'contingency' should things go pear shaped for a while - OK, it's not desirable for you to activate that contingency, but it would not put you out on the street or using food banks to gain enough to eat.

A general state / priate discussion isn't of use to you here - you can only compare the schools that you have available to you, not the excellent state or excellent private schools available elsewhere in the country. In your position, I would visit your supposedly 'undesirable' local option and see if its reputation is deserved (FWIW, the very, very 'mixed' school I used to teach in was, in terms of ensuring every single child progressed, a better educational environment than many very leafy schools, and you could not possibly udge that from the parents in the playground / children outside school), all the other schools that you have a chance of getting into AND the private options to set your overall order of choices, then see what happens when you apply to the state system. There is movement between the two systems at all ages (the gap between the two is very seldom as large as one is told) so if you do change your mind then the option to move is there with some ingenuity.

emmameghan Thu 08-Aug-13 14:41:10

My 2 dds were in private education for 6 years then me and oh got divorced and felt we couldnt afford to carry on, i cried and cried, felt I was letting them down etc. They have now been in state education for 4 years and are both very happy and doing well. I am not sure I would go down the private route if i had my time again, the cost is huge, and there does seem to be a presumption by schools that you will fork out for trips, music lessons and I remember it cost £600 approx for the first set of uniform!! Yes my dds enjoyed their time, but was it worth the cost? No I dont think it was. I will just add that the pressure to be top of the class/a team for netball was huge. But I am sure not all private schools are the same.

LIZS Thu 08-Aug-13 14:44:50

is that £300 based on Pre Prep fees ? They tend to climb quite steeply form one phase to another and above inflation increases. Your £300 could quite quickly evaporate.

Reastie Thu 08-Aug-13 15:05:39

LIZS the £300 is based on an average of the fees from reception - year 6

teacherwith2kids Thu 08-Aug-13 15:10:30

Have you factored in the cumulative effect of fee rises, though? So what you want is the average of:
Year 1 + 5%
Year 2 + compound interest of 5% each year (so 105% of 105% of current Year 2 fees)

As I said above, i don't think the £300 is the issue (I suspect that it is in fact nearer to £0 in the later years than you have calculated). It is your willingness to generate more cash flow by realising some of your non-cash assets (property or ability to do more work) to respond to circumstances or fee rises that is a bigger issue.

Hamishbear Thu 08-Aug-13 15:49:22

Mendi, IME you are spot on.

I realised, over time, that so many could do so much more & be taken so much further. The question is , is 'good enough' ok? And do they all get there in the end anyway?

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