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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

teacherwith2kids Sun 11-Aug-13 10:35:52


I would also say - and this is from someone who works in, sends her children to, and believes wholeheartedly in, the state system - that the gap between state and private options varies hugely across the country, or even within a single town, and it is often this gap which is important when making choices, not the absolute quality of the private school.

So in some areas, using the private system does not give any more likelihood of 'ultimate success' than a good state option does in another area, and may even give less. However, it does give a very much better chance than the stae option available to that family at that time, and iut is on that school by school (not sector by sector) comparison that choices are made.

The OP has stated that she would cheerfully send her child to a state school elsewhere in her area, but that living where she does, her best chance of an education comparable to that available in the good state schools is via the private system, and I understand that, though I would still urge her to take a really good, close look at the state option and examine the education available there to the subset of children who are like her own child, rather then being swayed by rumour, overall results, and the type of cohort.

I would be posting differently if she was saying 'there's a brilliant state school just opposite my house but I want to send my child private because I think that might give her a bit of an edge'...and even then it would depend if she was talking about St Somebody's tinpot private with nice braided uniforms or Winchester.

Where I live, going private for primary buys you nothing over and above the local state primary (except outmoded teaching, more traditional uniforms and - critically for most of the people who send their children there - a degree of social esegregation and 7 years of intensive coaching for the local 11+ superselective system). However, live a mile across town and the calculation really is very differnt, simply because of a wide variation in primary school quality.

curlew Sun 11-Aug-13 10:46:12

Have you actually visited the local school, or are you judging it by the noisy minority you see in the street outside?

teacherwith2kids Sun 11-Aug-13 11:01:41

Would add my voice to curlew - go in and visit the school. Really, really look at what is going on, and ask specifically about the achievement and progress of 'children like your DD', for want of a better term. You do seem to be projecting your own experience onto what your child might experience - try not to do that, education has changed [less so in the private system in many cases, but A LOT in the state system].

In my last school, I know that parents from a nearish village discussed my school in appalled terms. They judged the children by the behaviour of a minority of children who played in the park opposite it, and on the fact that we had a substantial minority of Traveller children...and their views were also coloured by the relative affluence of their village compared to the one that my school was in.

Then a few clued-up parents, who actually started looking critically at the education that their children were receiving in the 'pretty little village school' in the affluent village (many were teachers themselves, or simply knew something about education) started visiting our school. And their children transferred to us in droves (we grew by 1/3 in a year, while their numbers, always smaller than ours, shrank by half). ALL those children were behind where we would have expected them to be, bu 1-2 years - because our expectations of children were more rigorous even though our actual ability profile was very much more boased towards the lower end, so our results didn't look as good. Their behaviour also wasn't as good - because the school had a 'naice' intake, low level stuff wasn't dealt with. Because we had the potential for really serious disruption if we didn't keep great control, our expectations of behaviour were that nothing less than exemplary was allowable when inside the school - and so Outstanding behaviour was what we got.

What you see INSIDE a school in terms of education may - or may not- look very different from what you see on the street outside, or hear about in local gossip.

Looster Sun 11-Aug-13 11:09:38

Could you increase your income in anyway? I think £300 is tight. Have you factored in all costs? Moneysavingexpert's budget planner is really detailed - I think you need to work out a budget that does include clothes, going out, buying birthday cards - the lot! My kids are in state primary but even with that, am still shocked by the costs of the extras. DD1 is massively into sports - we get through so many shoes/ trainers /hockey boots. List is endless! Some months between the two of them they might get invited to 4-6 bday parties - it all adds up.

ipadquietly Sun 11-Aug-13 14:37:41

I asked my question about whether all the sacrifice is worth it with ds in mind.

He was quite an 'academic' lad at primary and in yrs 7 and 8 (all L5s in Y6, grammar school, aspirations to be a lawyer). Then in yr 8 he lost all interest in conventional academic subjects and chose to take art and graphics, which none of us would have predicted (and he really enjoys).

If I had decided to send him to an independent primary and a private secondary (which would have been within our means), I wonder what would have happened - and, having paid thousands and thousands of pounds over 14 years, would I have felt cheated and disappointed had he shunned the 'academic' subjects for art?

Would the sacrifice of my extra comforts on behalf of his education have been worth it?

Reastie Sun 11-Aug-13 14:47:17

curlew I have indeed visited said local primary school, I'm not just judging it on here say.

teacher that's true re: projecting my experience onto DD. I guess I just want her not to find the same problems I had, but of course she is a different person. She is quite a 'sensitive' child and think she would be eaten alive (in her current manner/behaviour) in a rougher school.

looster will check out that MSE budgeter - haven't seen that before

HmmAnOxfordComma Sun 11-Aug-13 15:23:49

I do think your question is slightly odd, ipad. My ds moved to a private school for secondary - for mostly SEN/pastoral/size of class reasons - and I would love for him to go down the art/graphics route should he so choose.

He is fairly academic (near the top of his year in all three core subjects) but also adores illustration and drama etc and still has no idea what he wants to do for a living.

The difference between his school and the 'best' state school option is most visible when it comes to non-core subjects - I really do feel he's getting a fantastic art and music education, for example (and not necessarily/always down to better facilities).

The thing is, I won't judge the outcome of his education on what he earns when he eventually does start earning or on what qualifications he achieves, but on how happy and settled he's been during his time there, on how 'all-round' educated and cultured he has become, how independent a learner, and how mature, considerate and reflective he has become.

Obviously all of these outcomes are achievable within the state sector and most of them are equally related to parental input, too.

But from amongst the choices we had open to us, we feel very strongly that his school gives him (us) the best chance of him 'turning out' how we would like him to. Not of earning a particular salary or having a particular career.

And (to slightly answer the OP) we are sacrificing quite a lot. Dh has had to take early medical retirement (has terminal illness) and we have downsized our house considerably for location and fee-paying purposes. We don't have lots of spare money but a bit more than the OP.

I do think the primary years can be quite expensive for all the reasons others have listed (even just all the birthday parties!) and I (personally) think private primary schooling is far less worthwhile than secondary. But that is just me with my options and location, and not yours!

teacherwith2kids Sun 11-Aug-13 15:37:45

So what did you think of the school whe n you visited it? All of the opinions that you posted earlier on the thread were about behaviour outside the school, which gave me the mistaken impression that you hadn't been round in detail inside. What's it like in terms of teaching / progress / engagement / buzz / focus? It won't look, necessarily, like a private school - but that may be for good reasons such as the proper implementation of a play-based foundation stage. But what does it look like as an educational environment? What's their added value like? What is the text of their Ofsted report? Turnover of staff?

Reastie Sun 11-Aug-13 16:00:29

OK, I should have been clearer teacher I have visited the school but it was as a teacher professionally rather than as a parent having the tour as a prospective parent. I found the teachers weren't bad in the lesson observations but behaviour and attitude of children wasn't good, the teachers had alot of work just to get them on task and remaining on task and it was the bad behaviour which really spoilt what would have been a good activity for everyone. Maybe this is the norm??? I realise private won't be a utopia where all children behave impeccably and there will always be issues in every school, but I also think smaller class sizes must help alot in this respect (and private schools can choose who they do and don't want). Turnover of staff is relatively quick, alot of staff have come and gone in recent years and there's been a number of head teachers/fill in heads in the past 5 or so years. We went for a tour of the nursery there recently for DD and asked the nursery leader about the school and she heavily implied from her answers to our questions the school was going through a problematic time staffing etc wise. I will give you some ofsted blurb later but DD wanting me to read her a book.

teacherwith2kids Sun 11-Aug-13 16:17:08

That kind of behaviour definitely isn't the norm, IME - or needn't be, IYSWIM. As I said, the children's behaviour in my old school, with a very, very mixed cohort, was impeccable. In fact in my very MN new school, very MC, the level of low-level off topic behaviour is significantly worse and some of the children regard my behaviour expectations as unreasonably greater than those of other staff - simply because it is never going to get worse than mild off-task behaviour, some of my colleagues don't seem to crack down on it in the same way that I so.

teacherwith2kids Sun 11-Aug-13 16:19:08

Thanks for the full reply, btw, from what you had posted before it seemed as if you were judging from the outside - from what you have posted now, your concern seems entirely reasonable. As i said a few posts ago, the private / state decision is often much more to do with the local options available in each sector, not the desirability of one sector over and above the other in principle.

Reastie Sun 11-Aug-13 16:21:32

The ofsted report talks of not extending learning at all and lessons/learning at a very slow pace/children's development is slow because of this and they are not fulfilling their potential (that last bit is my interpretation of what they say). It seems to be satisfactory at everything, good only for attendance.

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