Advanced search

pay for prep school or pay for house....

(24 Posts)
yentil Thu 13-Mar-14 11:47:57

thats my dilemma. DD is in year 4 and plateauing, specifically at the begining of Year 4 she was predicted to end the year at a Level 4 but this has been downgraded (levels 3b). they say she has a 'cant be bothered' attitude at school and doesn't push herself. So she has the ability of level 4 but doesnt mind NOT showing this in her work.

I am wondering if I should pull her out of the state primary which is oversubscribed and outstanding but full of tutored middle class children (so not sure if the achievements are solely down to school but more likely due to the demographics of the area) and give her a boost at a prep for year 5 and 6. The rationale is that she enters Year 7 state school with higher confidence levels (she thrives when praised for good work - yet doesn't seem to correlate that the work needs to be put in to get that praise IFYSWIM).

Anyway we had planned to move in time for year 7 as we are borderline for three good secondary comps. So we were going to pick one and firmly place ourselves in that catchment as our final move as it were. If we pay for prep we will have to stay on the borderline as couldn't afford to move as well.

We haven't visited any of these schools this is just by league tables and local long standing reputations.

The prep may also enable her to sit for an 11+ but we aren't banking on that. Mainly due to her relatively average attainment levels and lack of drive thus far making us this she isn't grammer material.

So do we pay for prep to boost attainment levels and confidence before entering an well performing state secondary - or just tutor whilst staying in state primary to help her academically and try and work more with school (kind of what we have been doing with limited results thus far) and hope to move in time for secondary applications to a more certain catchment.

sorry for long post any advice appreciated.

Cringechilli Thu 13-Mar-14 11:53:27

I don't think a private school for 2 years will automatically change her attitude. I would keep her where she is if she is happy and do something at home to boost her and also discuss with the school how to improve things for her. I would move into the catchment of the best secondary you can. Not sure exactly how to boost her at home, maybe start a thread specifically asking that. I think I would answer differently if you were considering private right through to 18 but just for 2 years at the expense of getting a house you want and need is bit worth it IMO.

yentil Thu 13-Mar-14 11:57:05

Thanks Cringechilli - if you could do both (house and prep) would you still think the prep a waste of money for years 5&6?

OnGoldenPond Thu 13-Mar-14 12:05:19

Why do you think a prep school will make your DD work harder and achieve more than the state primary can? Have you identified specific failings with the state school and have identified a specific prep school which should be better or is it just a general feeling that prep schools push more and get better results?

There is no secret formula that preps have access to. If a DC does not put the work in they will not progress no matter what school they are at. Leading a horse to water and all that ......

Remember that a lot of preps are selective which is why some achieve high results. These type of preps would probably not accept a DC who is currently not a high attainer. So you would be choosing from non selective preps which may be no better at motivating your DD than her current school.

Can you afford to keep paying private fees into secondary? If not you are faced with possibly sending your DD to an iffy state secondary which will be much more likely to lead to underachieving at the most crucial stage.

Personally, unless there are specific failings in the current school and you have a specific prep in mind who will definitely be much better I would concentrate on getting into the catchment area if a good secondary and perhaps get some specific one to one tutoring in the meantime if necessary.

Make no mistake prep schools gave their fair share of DCs underachieving due to poor motivation and they do not have any magic formulas to deal with it.

Cringechilli Thu 13-Mar-14 12:11:22

If you were certain that the primary was the root of the problem or she was being bullied or something, I would say put her in the prep for Y5/6. However, it doesn't sound like that's the case and if you can afford a bit of private schooling, it may be worth considering Y9,10 and 11 instead of Y5/6 to cover GCSEs. Having said that, there would be no harm in investigating the private school and talking to them about whether they could resolve these sorts of issues.
The other thing to consider is friendships. Does she have a close knit little group?

ChazsBrilliantAttitude Thu 13-Mar-14 13:14:43

How about moving and using a bit of spare cash for a tutor.

The smaller classes in a prep would be she would not be able to fly under the radar but they can't force her to work. Also unless the preps feed into the local secondaries she is going to be surrounded by children who are focussed on going to Senior schools and she will be out of the loop. If children move at 11 from the prep they will be going on open days and preparing for entrance exams in Yr5 and 6 so your DD might feel a bit left out.

TalkinPeace Thu 13-Mar-14 17:04:43


nibs777 Thu 13-Mar-14 17:14:58

If it were me (speaking as prep school parent), I wouldn't bank on prep preparing you for 11+, so save the money especially as it sounds like the primary is a good one and do a lot of DIY prep at home or if you really need to use a tutor (but even that won't make up for lack of motivation) and then use the cash for senior school or simply aim for a decent state. Other posters are correct...unless the prep is selective, it will also have its fair share of academic underachievers but parents also choose preps for all the other all round activities ....there is no magic formula and it doesn't sound like its worth the upheaval at this stage for your stated aim.

nibs777 Thu 13-Mar-14 17:18:19

sorry to be blunt...but there really is no substitute ( irrespective of tutors or prep or state) for just working bloody hard to get to the top academically...which is what all those high attainers will be doing.

Blu Thu 13-Mar-14 17:22:49


That at least guarantees you a good state secondary.

Spending money on a private school guarantees nothing - not an uplift in her confidence or work ethic nor entry to a Grammar.

They mature a lot between Yr 4 and 6. She may change.

My DS was very lacking in confidence in his academic work in primary and would often not try, or give up, rather than fail. In fact the more competitive atmosphere at secondary and all the testing increased his confidence because he could see that actually he was doing very well.

It might be worth getting a tutor who could enthuse her and help her gain confidence, if you think it is her confidence that is lacking?

Preciousbane Thu 13-Mar-14 17:34:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TalkinPeace Thu 13-Mar-14 17:43:34

DCs school has a regular ebb and flow between it and the private schools
its just accepted
house every time

ReallyTired Thu 13-Mar-14 18:16:06

House every time. A tutor can work wonders with a bright child who has fallen behind their targets for whatever reason.

Beastofburden Thu 13-Mar-14 18:24:04

House. She is only 9. At 9 you can help her a lot at home or in your very good state primary school.

You need a strategy for secondary school. That is far more important.

I doubt you can get out of the current situation by going private. This is more about self-discipline and motivation than it is about the quality of her current teaching. It's quite likely that fee paying prep wouldn't make a blind bit of difference, if the issue is actually in her head, and then you wasted your money and ended up with neither.

To be honest I would stop looking for solutions that are school based. There isn't a magic school that can solve this. Only she can solve this, with your help, by deciding to pull her socks up. And the sooner she does, the better.

mary21 Thu 13-Mar-14 18:39:04

I would say get in the catchment for good secondary.
Prep could be wasted if she ends up at a so so secondary.
Try and find out what's causing the attitude problem. Often by this stage at primary kids even out so those that seemed very b right in reception/year 1 are turning out to be quite average and the slow starters are becoming very smart. Might be better in her mind to not bother or trying than not be a star.
A bit of tutoring or work with her at home might help an working with school but don't forgo a good secondary place

TalkinPeace Thu 13-Mar-14 20:25:32

I'm in catchment for a CRAP secondary, but near enough to the boundary to have got both DCs into a decent one

tutoring if really neede

mummy1973 Thu 13-Mar-14 20:28:12

House. For all the reasons above and your daughter is not particularly behind is she? No point her being pushed for 2 years then to move to senior school and (maybe) not be so much. Not sure your problem is with the school?

trader21c Thu 13-Mar-14 20:28:30

not sure that 2 years in a prep school would make a whole lot of difference - but if you were planning to move her over to a good indie secondary too then it would be excellent preparation and give her good groundwork for 11 plus ... we pulled my dd out of a state primary (as she seemed to be doing very little work) to go to a girls' indie - and there she has stayed - much better environment for her! and the juniors definitely expected them to work hard and had more extra-curricular options on offer. But it obviously depends on your DC and as someone else said, you can supplement a state primary if you need to with extra tutoring/extra curricular activities for things she's keen on ...

Soveryupset Fri 14-Mar-14 08:49:16

I would go completely against the grain but please bear in mind this is only my own personal experience. I hope sharing this will help you.

My DD1 was exactly the same as yours. Very bright child, bilingual, with a really quick mind, hard working attitude in all her extracurricular but problems started in Y1 when she said she was bored - a lot.

She was never the sort of child that enjoyed sitting down at home to "revise" - the school never gave homework, so getting her to do extras was always a struggle. Finished Y2 with all 3bs but in all honesty she was coasting.

Y3 was a complete disaster. Disengaged, couldn't get her to sit down and do anything and even the extracurricular suffered. Wasn't being bullied we started to think that's just the way DD1 was. But she did keep complaining she was bored, we just didn't know what to do.

Y3 she did not progress at all. We went in a zillion times and weren't given explanations, the work didn't look to be set to stretch her or progress her and was increasingly shabby.

Y4 started and after half a term it was even worse. To be honest I had a gut feeling that it was the school's fault, but I couldn't be sure. Anyway as we had nothing to lose, I moved her to a prep - miles away from home, away from all her friends and her siblings - it was a huge gamble.

4 months later and she has made huge strides, her attitude has completely changed, she is alert, engaged and works hard at everything. She is the little girl I used to know back those many years ago. We just had parents evening, we saw all her work and it was amazing. The transformation is total.

Yes there were children in her old school who were and are still tutored and progressed despite the school - but not all children respond to tutoring and someone who is very dynamic and has lots of hobbies/interests like my DD1 just resented being "tutored" at home. However she seems more than happy to complete homework now.

I hope this helps you, every situation is different, but I wanted to give you my own experience.

Schmedz Fri 14-Mar-14 22:38:54

Unless you have a rock solid catchment area, there is always a risk that moving house will not guarantee your secondary school place!

It is a tough decision, but our family made the decision to spend money on private school rather than moving house and it has worked out well so far for us (and is much less expensive than moving)

TalkinPeace Fri 14-Mar-14 22:51:08

Unless you have a rock solid catchment area
which most of the country does

Eastpoint Sat 15-Mar-14 06:16:31


Do you work full time? Do you have the energy to sit down with her & do workbooks? 10 minutes a day will boost her maths or English & once she starts to do better she'll enjoy the praise at school. Does her school do mathletics? She could go on line & do a little extra each day on a site which rewards her progress & consistency.

Where we live very few children move from private to state at secondary school (no 11+), I'd be worried you end up committed to private for 9 years not just 2.

Anchorage Sat 15-Mar-14 07:03:23

I'm with soveryupset in thinking that a good prep can turn around bored, coasting children. Just like a good state school can. And I also think its important to nip 'bored' in the bud. At DCs school in yr5 you wouldn't have a science lesson for example, you'd be asked to perform your choice of experiment, decide who was 'presenting', video it, edit the video and present your film to the class. It's the ability to do that that helps engage, together with the constant academic 'competitiveness' (in parenthesis because its not hot housing stuff but the emphasis that good work = house points for the team, and the atmosphere where coming top in subjects is admired by other kids in the same way as coming top in swimming is admired). Not saying that this kind of atmosphere is the preserve of private schools, but those state schools that build such ethos are - I imagine - hugely oversubscribed and therefore not an option for mid-school transfers. I also think a bad prep school can be very bad indeed.

But here's the rub. It's probably not fair on your DD to send her private for 2 years and then back to state, unless a very high proportion of the indie girls also move on at 11 to the same schools. DS is still very close to a boy who was taken out of his indie for financial reasons. The experience of moving from indie to state has been a real struggle for him, and has also put him off school because he feels it is boring compared to the old school.

The second rub? Girls are cliquey at this age. I'd be very careful because putting her in an environment where every one already has a BFF could be a horrible experience.

If it were me and I knew that
A) all the indie kids move on to good schools at 11 (to both state and private)
B) school is a top school and can show how well they engage kids
c) school has very strong policy for integrating new kids

The I'd be tempted. Otherwise i would choose House every time.

If it were me, and despite knowing how good a good prep can be,

Soveryupset Sat 15-Mar-14 09:26:26

I just wanted to add that I agree with anchorage and with all of her points.
A) The prep we moved her flows into 11+ and 98% of children from the prep move up to the secondary
B) There are a small number of children moving into Year 4, 5 and 6 every year to avoid taking the 11+ to the independent. As Anchorage says, the girls can be cliquey and my DD1 became BFF with a girl who joined at the same time as her - also ours is co-ed until 11 so there is scope for friendships with boys although sadly they seem to become harder as they grow older
C) When we went around we were blown away. We knew that if DD1 was still disengaged with the amount of activities (academic and non) on offer, then there would be no hope anywhere. We saw some really stuffy schools (preps and state) and I think my DD1 would have been even more disengaged/suffocated there - choose carefully.

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: