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If you chose a private education for your DC, was the environment/facilities more important, or the standard of learning/progress?

(48 Posts)
bronya Thu 12-Jun-14 19:27:13

I'm genuinely curious! I have experience of teaching in the state sector, and friends with DC who are privately educated (at different schools). I have heard their complaints about the schools (mostly progress related), seen how many different tutors they use, and the effort the parents put in at home. I have seen SEN overlooked, children not provided with resources they need and simply told to find another school, 'top' students with levels of Maths/English I would not see as 'top' in a state school with mixed catchment. So I wonder - is it the environment (smaller classes, better facilities, more opportunity for different music/sport interests to be followed) that people pay all this money for? If it is the education, then I know there are some excellent private schools, but it doesn't seem to be the norm!

Reastie Thu 12-Jun-14 19:36:31

IMO you can have the best facilities in the world, but if you haven't got good teachers/leadership/genuine care from staff to do what's best for your DC what's the point in the amazing facilities? They are nice but they're not essential. Granted if you're paying for education there might be an element of wanting the naiceness, but I'd rather pay for a good education from excellent teachers with a DC making excellent progress for their ability and having all needs (eg SEN) taken care of than having rubbish teachers but fancy facilities. I think people pay for smaller class sizes, as it allows more individualised attention and personalised learning. It allows teachers to know their students really well and tailor the needs of the class more easily and to ensure everyone is making good progress.

There may be an element of some parents wanting to send their DC to private school just to mix with people from what they believe to be a similar background (or the longer holidays!). The schools may be more likely to offer wraparound childcare pre and post school hours which they find useful and there is more a sense of having an input/say in the children's education than a state school. It may also just be something they had themselves so it's the norm to do.

I work at a private school where there is a huge mixture of parents. I've taught children whose parent was on the Times Rich List to parents who have remortgaged their homes/down sized their home to pay for the fees as they believe the school is the best school for their child.

Sorry, that was rather rambling and didn't really help!

trinity0097 Thu 12-Jun-14 20:38:24

For many parents it is the whole experience where the whole child is focused on and not just SATs subjects etc...

happygardening Thu 12-Jun-14 21:27:41

OP having had DC's in both sectors plenty of parents with DC's in well regarded state school feel the same; their complain about poor progress, use tutors extensively, state school are equally as capable of over looking or have an incomprehension of SEN, children are not provided with resources that need, and "top" student not "top" in the independent sector and definitely not being "top" set in a selective independent when they were "top" set in a state school.
Many people feel disillusioned by the state sector and feel that they have no choice but to pay. I agree many independent schools are pretty rubbish as well but the certainly don't have the monopoly not providing what many think are basic requirements.

kickassangel Thu 12-Jun-14 22:03:53

I teach in a private school and have taught for many years in state. Dd now in the private school after starting out in state

Private schools have more autonomy so can vary wildly. This should be a good thing (though it isn't guaranteed). Where dd goes and I teach I absolutely love the school. Class sizes and the school itself are so much smaller and there is a real difference in how children and adults relate.

It's quite an academic school and I teach kids a good year or more above the level I taught in state school. I know that they do extremely well in high school after leaving us. This is partly because we have smaller classes and know the kids so well. We're really on top of any problems and can deal with them in a far more individual way.

We know the kids so well that they are very well lives. Many I them come back to visit and are shocked that the teachers in their high schools are so different.

I wanted dd at the school (I already taught there) because she is on the spectrum but too bright and high functioning to get any support. The smaller classes and better relationship really work well for her.

diamondage Thu 12-Jun-14 22:06:48

I have experience of both too but that's still only 3 primary schools & 2 senior schools for my DC so far (I'm not including my own education although funnily enough I too went to both state and private schools).

The point is that there are just too many variables and just like there are superb state schools there are also duff private ones. Equally there are many reasons for why parents choose one or the other.

I was very interested to note that a local private school had results way below the local state school - the private school is still doing well (or at least are still recruiting), but either the parents are choosing it for non academic reasons or they don't know how to check!

I often read on MN that private schools say they are working 2 years ahead but in state schools some children are working 3 or 4 years ahead. This doesn't surprise me because the pool of people that can afford private is relatively small and very bright people (who often make more very bright people) aren't always motivated to make huge amounts of money so naturally there are very bright kids in state schools. However DD2 is in a highly academic school & there are both children that are fairly average (at least right now) and those that are 3 to 4 years ahead. So not disimiler to a state school except there are none below average. The results are nearly 100 % L3 KS1 and 50% L5 50% L6 at KS2.

Despite being able to tell you that now I knew nothing about their results when looking at the school, although I knew it was academically selective I had no idea about it's relative position. My reasons were simply that DD2 shares many of DD1s characteristics, so quiet and well structured works. Still tried state first (for far too long with DD1) but our local state schools + sensory issues are not a good mix IMO.

TuttiFrutti Thu 12-Jun-14 22:07:54

I've got one child at state and one at private. Key differences for me:

Smaller class sizes at private school is fundamental. Children get much more individual attention. This may matter more if your child has mild special needs but is quiet and well-behaved, so easy for a stressed teacher to ignore.

Sport is taken very seriously at private schools. They do at least one hour a day, and all afternoon on Wednesday at my ds's school. At my ds's state school, it is two hours per week. There are no fat children at the private school.

Basic English and maths is very similar at both, and sometimes the teaching at the state school is better. It depends on the individual teacher.

There is more emphasis on handwriting at the private school, with all children encouraged to develop copperplate fountain-pen script, and more stress on presentation generally.

The non-core subjects like history and languages are taken much more seriously at the private school. I get the impression that the state school is highly motivated by its SATs scores, so non-SAT subjects are not seen as so important.

Sorry that's a bit of an essay, and I realise I'm just comparing one individual school with another, but I think some of those points apply across the board.

Jinsei Thu 12-Jun-14 22:20:24

I have a lot of friends who send their kids private. I have seen no evidence that they're getting a better education than my dd in what is admittedly an outstanding state school.

From the conversations I've had with friends, it's my perception that lots of parents make assumptions about the education on offer at private schools. They see the facilities and the huge price tag, and they jump to the conclusion that private schools must be better, simply because they're so expensive. Having spent time in a lot of state and private schools in a professional capacity, I am less than convinced.

Jinsei Thu 12-Jun-14 22:25:20

I often read on MN that private schools say they are working 2 years ahead but in state schools some children are working 3 or 4 years ahead. This doesn't surprise me because the pool of people that can afford private is relatively small and very bright people (who often make more very bright people) aren't always motivated to make huge amounts of money so naturally there are very bright kids in state schools.

Yes indeed - and even if the parents do have money, they may not choose to spend it on a private education if they consider the state options to be just as good, if not better!

atticusclaw Thu 12-Jun-14 22:26:33

These threads often seem to be written to criticise but for us the local state school has perfectly good facilities, brand new eco building etc.

The independent school the DCs go to is a selective independent. Academic standards very high, big focus on sports and activity (all boys school). Sport every single day, swimming twice a week.

Biggest swinging factor for us was that whilst the local state primaries are good the local state senior schools are not so good and we wanted continuity.

atticusclaw Thu 12-Jun-14 22:30:02

On the two years ahead thing yes I would agree with diamondage that the difference is that whilst the academic private schools will also have the children working 3-4 years ahead they have very few working below 2 years ahead (or at least that's the case at the DC's school).

happygardening Thu 12-Jun-14 22:58:08

Jinsei if you have no evidence that kids at private school can get a better education at a private school then all I can say is that you obviously have not looked at or have experience of every independent school. I have/had one DS in an outstanding state school with very impressive results and one in a famous super selective boys boarding school. All I can say is that I'm not jumping to conclusions I am able compare objectively like with like. the the former (state school) is a million miles from the standard opportunities and type of education offered by the latter.

Jinsei Thu 12-Jun-14 23:04:32

On the two years ahead thing yes I would agree with diamondage that the difference is that whilst the academic private schools will also have the children working 3-4 years ahead they have very few working below 2 years ahead (or at least that's the case at the DC's school).

Yes, but that's almost certainly a feature of their intake, rather than the education that is being provided. Most of the kids at dd's state primary are way ahead of the expected levels for their ages, even towards the lower end of the ability range, but that is probably because it's a very middle class school with a majority of children coming from very highly educated families. Any school can achieve great results with an intake like that!

Jinsei Thu 12-Jun-14 23:15:50

I'm not doubting that you can get a better education at some private schools, but it rather depends on the schools in question. In my own area, the state options are infinitely better, which is why I wouldn't consider private, despite being able to afford it.

Obviously, I haven't looked at every independent school in the country, just as you will not have looked at every state school. However, I have spent time in a professional capacity in both sectors, and I have friends around the country with kids at "famous" schools, so I base my judgement on that. The facilities at these schools are undoubtedly better, but in my considered opinion, the education is not.

happygardening Thu 12-Jun-14 23:26:18

Jinai like you I write from extensive personal and professional experience. It much depends on how you define education and what you want from education. We wanted not just a highly academic intellectual education but a intellectually broad far reaching one for DS2. On the other hand I not only have no interest in bathrooms showers or loos I have no interest in swimming pools or astro turf. I doubt there is another school in the country be it state or independent that delivers the education we wanted in the way DS2's school does so for us it is worth every penny.

MillyMollyMama Thu 12-Jun-14 23:37:37

Education can mean different things to different people. My DDs old prep school had girls getting 20 scholarships a year to prestigious senior schools. They also had plenty who were not 2 years ahead and my DD was one of them! Everyone there had plenty of money but the girls were not all super intelligent. Who is judging "2 years ahead" anyway as lots of the schools do not sit SATs! We never had NC levels either so how is anyone ever to know what "ahead" means?. If this was the case, independent school pupils would have ALL the places at the most academic universities - clearly they do not all achieve this.

So what you actually get is your child in a school where there will be many like-minded people. There will probably be better sport, drama and art facilities. There will be specialist teachers for more subjects. Last, but by no means least, you are buying connections. Never under estimate this. Some people would never consider a state school. They have never been into one.

duchesse Thu 12-Jun-14 23:39:53

For us it was the speed and levels achieved that were the motivating factor. Our son in year 4 was learning things that my year 7 and 8 pupils didn't know. At senior school level for him the teaching was mixed in quality and as you say SEN not especially well catered for but the non-disruptive environment and fast pace made up for this for us.

DD2 (different school from DS and DD1) is at a school filled with bright pupils and excellent teachers. Facilities are a bit hit and miss, but the school seems to be focusing on the important things imo.

Jinsei Thu 12-Jun-14 23:48:01

Well, we can at least agree that the breadth and quality of experience beyond the academic sphere is of huge importance, though from a personal point of view, I would not want all of dd's experiences to be centred around her school. I don't doubt that independent schools on average have a somewhat broader range of extracurricular activities on offer, but that wasn't a major issue for us as we value the opportunity for her to mix with kids outside of school in any case. As far as breadth within the curriculum is concerned, I have been bowled over by the opportunities that dd has had - loads of academics from local universities, lots of interaction with partner schools overseas, lots of really exciting outward bounds stuff and lots of opportunities for kids to develop the softer skills such as teamwork, leadership and the like. For me, though, the ethos and values of a school are perhaps the most important, and it is these aspects that make dd's school special in my view.

I'm not arguing by the way that you aren't getting your money's worth from your dc's independent school. It's great that you are so happy with it, and you're probably right, no other school could give him exactly the same education. However, I just happen to feel exactly the same about my dd's state primary. She would probably get a great education at any number of other schools, but no other school would give her the same experience that she is getting at present, with just the right combination of things that I value dearly.

Jinsei Thu 12-Jun-14 23:59:10

I guess I look at it from the other end, too. About half of my British friends were state educated, and about half were educated privately. I have known many of them since we were at Cambridge together.

Those who were privately educated were no better equipped to cope at university, and did not appear in any way to be better educated. They did perhaps have a veneer of confidence and self assurance that my state educated friends lacked, but if you scratched beneath the surface, many were actually deeply insecure. Now, more than 20 years on, I see no real differences in the ways in which our lives have panned out. Those who were privately educated are no more successful and do not appear to be any happier. The biggest difference between us, perhaps, is that many of them choose to send their kids to private schools, whereas most of my state educated friends do not, even if they're on a comparable level of income. There are exceptions, of course, on both sides.

happygardening Fri 13-Jun-14 00:00:00

Many send their DC's to independent schools because they can choose the school they like and that suits them. We don't all want the same thing, some want results, others believe smaller classes are important, and others want astro turf and 200 manicured acres of playing fields etc. Let's face it it doesn't matter as long as the parents believe it's better for their individual child.

ancientbuchanan Fri 13-Jun-14 00:06:13

For me, and Ds has done both,

1 good pastoral support, for an ill child
2 good academic side
3 good facilities

We moved Ds from an okish primary to an okish prep because of 1. The teachers often moved from one to another, both ways round. The state school's pastoral care was rubbish and Ds was bullied badly, the school did not take it seriously . Nor did they take his rare condition seriously, nor were they good at most sen. The prep school wasn't good at sen but was brilliant pastorally.

He is still in the private sector, and again that was the order of my priorities. This time, to my surprise, they are excellent at sen, in fact I would say outstanding. If they want you they bend over backwards.

I was taught in not v good facilities. Bit the teaching was excellent in some cases. I would always put teaching over facilities, unless you have an Olympic hopeful in which case you need specialist teaching and great facilities.

happygardening Fri 13-Jun-14 00:16:19

Jenai I not actually paying for extra curricular activities although there are plenty on offer at DS's school. They have a unique extensive intellectual and academic curriculum comprising of daily lessons but unrelated to public examinations. The agreed consensus when it was actually discussed at some length recently on another thread is that this is virtually unique in both sectors. So the budding scientist will learn about and debate many aspects of the arts and lots of other things just because they are there and vice versa. Whether this makes you a better student at Uni is for me irrelevant and I doubt it effects how your life pans out but it provides a depth of knowledge that stays with you and gives you a greater sense of satisfaction, enjoyment and interest in the world around you.

Jinsei Fri 13-Jun-14 00:37:40

It sounds fantastic, happy, and I agree that knowledge and learning for its own sake is tremendously valuable. I'm sure that the particular programme you mention is unique. However, I think that kind of broad learning does go on in many other schools, perhaps just in different ways. Certainly, when I look back on my own experience at secondary school, I feel that I had a lot of opportunities of this nature, and I hope that dd will have the same.

summerends Fri 13-Jun-14 06:47:38

Jinsei fingers crossed that your DD's positive educational experience in the state system continues, unfortunately it does n't for many. There are some parents (particularly educated mumsnetters smile) who are able, have the time and are happy to compensate and provide all that is missing from a particular state school. There are parents who have to do the same for their DC at certain private schools.
Assuming that the teachers are equally excellent at both and the blend of opportunities and social criteria (important for some in both directions) are irrelevant then I would say that private allows teachers to have more time, less lessons to prepare for, better able to feedback and more frequently as well as smaller class sizes. If the teachers are excellent, that provides a better education, particularly for DCs not full of self confidence initially and who may fall under the radar in bigger classes.
You went to Cambridge so you know the advantages of the tutorial system. A good private school will facilitate their teachers to provide something more akin to this.

lunar1 Fri 13-Jun-14 07:00:07

Our catchment state school is excellent, and only 100m from the front door. We are not eligible for it though.

It has better facilities than the independent school we chose but our class size is slightly smaller at 24. The teachers are excellent and motivated, ds1 is progressing well and has lots if friends. It's not academically selective and has really good sen support. It was either private or a special measures school that I had to pick between. If I couldn't have afforded private we would have home schooled. I realise how lucky we are.

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