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Grammar place vs Indie Offer - mind made up?...

(27 Posts)
icklemonst Tue 18-Feb-14 16:37:42

Just wondering how many have already decided that whatever March 3rd brings they will be accepting their indie offer....and what has swung it for them?

LadyMuck Wed 19-Feb-14 18:30:33

It is difficult because at the end of the day you are choosing between available schools for your kids. The ability to pay should give you a wider choice, but again you're looking at specific schools and specific children.

I have a few factors which have swayed me:
a) a preference for co-ed v single-sex for the current child.
b) where my dc will sit within their cohort; Some fantastically hardworking bright dc in the grammars, and I worry about how my dc will see themselves, especially if they are in the lower sets throughout
c) being in a community of parents with similar values. I appreciate that grammar parents want the grammars, though at best you get offered only one usually. Most of the parents at the indie will have chosen that specific school and its particular ethos.
d) for me co-curricular matters. Fewer pupils seem to get involved in after school activities at some of our local grammars.
e) communication and possibly what I might term "customer service", though that isn't quite the right term. On the whole I know what is going on with dcs, and I get a fast response by email to enquires - usually. The grammars seem v keen at keeping parents out (though perhaps that it just about keeping prospective parents out).

We've already returned our deposit, but I guess I will at least see whether any state school we're offered will actually let me see it other than at the annual open day.

icklemonst Wed 19-Feb-14 22:45:31

Thank you for your thoughtful response.

I have been pretty sure of my school of choice since first visiting 18 months ago but as the date for indie deposit/grammar results day looms closer, I am beginning to feel nervous about potentially turning down what I'm sure would be an excellent FREE education. Particularly since DS is our first of four and, I think, has the best chance of all of them of being offered a grammar school place!

I'm determined to have another look at the grammar school if we get an offer of a place - I agree it seems hard to do so prior to March 3rd.

Northerner7777 Wed 19-Feb-14 23:53:22

Definitely grammar!
Don't turn down a grammar place, especially if you've still got 3 to go through. Ive had kids though both and grammar has been the best. Nothing wrong with indie (better facilities, smaller classes) but loads more homework and my dcs who have gone through grammar have had more time in the evenings and can spend it with their friends.
I will even go as far as saying that they have the same education academically the only difference is the 3 hours of sport and 4 hours of homework from the indie.
If come the 3rd March, if you get a choice choose Grammar. If it doesn't work out there will always be a place at an indie, they love as much money they can get these days even from dcs starting in the middle of term.

scarlettsmummy2 Thu 20-Feb-14 07:37:28

Grammar. I went to one and my daughter is currently at a private school. The private is fab, however not so hugely different to my old excellent grammar so not worth the difference in cost.

wordfactory Thu 20-Feb-14 08:08:24

We went for the independent OP.

In fact we turned down both the grammar place and a more selective independent place.

Turning down the grammar was a no brainer. Compared to either independent it didn't pass muster. The class sizes were large, the feeling impersonal and dry. Little sport, music or drama...all about the academics. My DD did not fancy it one jot.

That said both independent schools on offer were excellent and money wasn't an issue for us. Had the indies been a bit meh or we'd struggle to find the fees, we might have taken the grammar.

icklemonst Thu 20-Feb-14 09:11:11

Thank you for your comments. Ahhh -decisions!!! - though of course there may not be one to make, but the waiting is painful....

HercShipwright Thu 20-Feb-14 09:37:09

Surely it will depend on the specific grammar and the specific indie in question (ceteris paribus)? In some parts of the country the available grammar(s) is significantly better than the available posh school. In some parts of the country, the available grammar(s) is significantly worse. In some places they are probably all much of a muchness. You just can't talk about 'grammars' as if they are all the same.

happygardening Thu 20-Feb-14 10:27:55

We also had a place at one of the countries top 10 grammar schools. I completely agree with everything word said my concerns were hers "feeling impersonal and dry, little sport" or in my DS's case culture of the sort of level we wanted, "all about academics" a complete obsession with its position in the league tables.
We live carefully to pay the fees but I've never regretted my decision.

barbour Thu 20-Feb-14 12:18:28

ditto...after some careful thought, we are turning down top five superselective grammar for very selective top ten indie....similar concerns

barbour Thu 20-Feb-14 12:19:51

if money was the overriding issue though...grammar would be more than fine

Northerner7777 Thu 20-Feb-14 18:33:23

it really depends on what you want for your dc and the money factor. Fees go up every year and they get more expensive the further up the school you go. Please factor this in.
I hope you make the right decision based on your values and dcs needs.

icklemonst Thu 20-Feb-14 19:52:59

True, of course it's all about your individual child and the available options - not all 'indies' or 'grammars' are the same and ultimately we know our family's needs best bearing all factors in mind (including financial). My instinct, I guess, has been shaken by responses of " are you mad?" when I have mentioned that we will most probably send our DS to our chosen independent option even if he is offered a place at grammar.

I agree with the point about some grammars appearing 'dry', we went to one superselective in our area expecting to love it (we know several families with DSs there) and were surprised to find it leaving us cold! Just goes to show that priorities are different for every child/family.....

Dilemmama Fri 21-Feb-14 16:02:19

I'd be really interested to read more perspectives here too, very helpful thus far.
Same dilemma here (name change to preserve anonymity). A very different dynamic when you have 4. Difficult to discuss with friends who almost all think go for the GS .
Utterly confused, head (and DH) says GS, heart (and me) thinks Indie. DC says "doesn't mind" and won't be choosing anyway. Frankly DC will be fine at either but is already at the Junior Dept of the Indie as are the others. Has been the target of some bullies in the past, some are staying on, some likely to get GS place. A bit worried it'll start again in either setting.
DC has high GS score, but also a good scholarship to the Indie making it affordable for now. Likewise they may be the only DC of ours who makes it. Worried about fees and feel sad that DC's choice has to be governed by not just what's best for them, but the whole family.
The schools are roughly the Same distance away, similar academic results but GS better for Russell group/ Oxbridge sciences which DS wants to do, Indie better for the rounded person with great facilities but there is more of a humanities focus.
I really want to accept the Indie offer, but only our wealthy friends seem to agree, probably because they don't appreciate the financial implications fully.
Also considering accepting GS for GCSE only and back to Indie for A levels
So what will we do? No idea. Am about to start a spreadsheet if pros and cons.

Clobbered Fri 21-Feb-14 16:10:58

Turned down a place at super-selective GS for eldest in favour of small, nurturing Indie. Never a moment's regret - it was the place where he was going to be happiest, without a doubt, and he loved it and came out with an Oxbridge place, so all good. Everyone thought we were mad, but we knew our child best. No regrets.

saintlyjimjams Fri 21-Feb-14 16:24:07

Depends on your child. Ds2 was bullied a bit in a small non-selective indie school - years 5 & 6 were tricky. I was worried about him going to the big local all boys GS. He is SO much happier. He seems to much prefer being part of a larger cohort & is finding it much easier. I think the small school was just too intense friendship wise.

Small not always best - depends on the child. Have to say the pastoral care is much better than I expected as well & better than hhis old school. He had some hassle from an older boy (from his old school :hmm: ) & the GS sorted it within hours (literally). Very different from the small indie where it took repeated meetings to try & get to grips with ongoing bullying that was making him ill/scared to go to school. I think indies sometimes try too hard to keep all fee payers happy & don't just say 'enough'.

SweetPenelope Fri 21-Feb-14 16:50:38

As much as I'm pleased to hear about people choosing independents over the grammars (we're hoping for a place at a Sutton grammar and it's great if people drop out of the competition for places), I do think it's mad to pay all those fees if you don't have to.

It's one thing if you can easily afford it, but the idea of sacrificing the whole family's financial security unnecessarily seems strange. What happens if the main wage-earner loses his/her job? What happens with younger siblings? There's still university to save for?

LadyMuck Fri 21-Feb-14 18:26:41

Its a bit like saying "I'm glad you're all going off skiing for the half term week, but you're mad when you could go camping for free" I find most feepayers are capable of putting a budget together, but in answer to your specific queries:-

What if we lose our job? IME independent schools have hardship funds to help you out of a short term hole if you signed up in good faith. But many parents have saved up, own their own businesses/partnerships, have family who can help etc.
Siblings? I didn't think that grammars were allowed to give siblings any preference. They have to get in on their own merit. Independents often view siblings more generously, and this was a factor when we first looked at schools.
University? After 7 years of school fees one has adapted to the lifestyle which allows you to pay university fees.

diabolo Fri 21-Feb-14 18:51:29

I don't live in an area with grammar schools, but I did turn down a very highly thought of Catholic senior school in favour of a not-very selective independent, simply because I knew that was where DS would be happiest.

Best decision we've ever made I have to say. The school we turned down has gone from one of the best state schools in the area, to the worst of the three (on GCSE results).

We only chose independent education when we knew we could afford to find the whole lot regardless of redundancy etc etc.

DS will fund his own university fees with a student loan. - the idea is we give him the tools and it's up to him to use them (or not).

Dilemmama Fri 21-Feb-14 20:16:43

Saintly, our bullying experience sounds similar, although the school does seem to have sorted it out at the moment, we feel left with a choice of risking trusting the current school to look after DC onwards, with several of the bullies or having a fresh start, but also with 2 bullies but only one is really a worry. The Indie is slightly bigger, lots of alpha kids both currently and expected to join.
Quite ridiculous that we are having to prioritise DC's safety and well being instead of a pure which school is best for them choice. I had previously thought we'd accept without question, then either get a bursary or sell the house if it all went wrong job wise.
So for us, the money is now clearly less of an issue than the holistic angle.The scholarship is very generous, and if we do accept the place none of the others would need to sit 11plus.
so what will make us accept? Feeling that DC will be safe and happy would do it. We are meeting the Head shortly to discuss, but until then we think has to be the default as it feels least risky.
OP I apologise for the hijack, am feeling very emotional about all this, and would would love someone to be able to reassure me.

saintlyjimjams Fri 21-Feb-14 20:26:46

I was very worried about ds2 going to such a big school (in comparison) given the history - he's small for his age & sensitive. But no problems at all - except the one incident with the year 9 that was sorted (some minor everyday stuff, but it didn't faze him). For him I think the size allows him to escape, so if someone is being a git he talks to someone else, & wanders off to a different group until they stop behaving like an idiot. He tried that at his old school but with such a small peer group the only other available group tended to be boys in the year below - and then he was laughed at for hanging out with the younger kids hmm

He comes home all shiny & eyes lit up 95% of the time now. Gone are the tummy aches & tears & fear.

saintlyjimjams Fri 21-Feb-14 20:30:02

I've always tended to think small = more holistic & caring & that probably was the case until year 5. But after then small became threatening & meant being trapped. For ds2 - every child is different of course.

Dilemmama Fri 21-Feb-14 20:45:12

That's very reassuring Saintly, thank you. DC is small and sensitive too! And we've had the tummy aches, tears etc The bullies have always been pretty horrid so I don't feel certain that school sanctions will stifle their prowess.
I'm hoping that the GS might have more children like them, behind all that academic stuff is an 11 year old child. With the other DC staying (their school is otherwise brill and the bullying seems to be confined to Y6) we don't want DC1 to feel they must move on.
I am normally very decisive but this will go to the last minute I think. I am trying to persuade myself that we're worrying unnecessarily about the Indie.
The GS has left me cold too when I visited, but friends whose DC have gone there say the open evenings don't reflect the school.

saintlyjimjams Fri 21-Feb-14 20:57:23

I was very worried about the GS - I thought it might be very academic/severe etc with limited pastoral care. I couldn't have been more wrong. Ds2 is one of the tiniest in the school (his feet are still a size 2 grin ) but he's relaxed & happy. Catches the bus there - no problems on the buses either. Has made a wide circle of friends. I'm delighted for him tbh. I wasted a lot of time angsting over the decision. (The alternative was a performing arts comprehensive - same sort of size but big emphasis on pastoral care in the school literature & ds2 wants to go into the performing arts). Academically he's having no problems & seems to be enjoying the step up in the work.

saintlyjimjams Fri 21-Feb-14 20:58:21

Feel free to pm me btw to give the name of the GS if you want - long shot - but if it's the same one I can reassure you smile

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