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How do you know if private school is worth the money?

(55 Posts)
AmberDrop Mon 20-Oct-14 18:35:26

I know it's very hard to measure the effect of private education versus state as you cannot tell what direction a child might have gone in if they had remained in a state school but.....how can you tell if the investment is having any affect (Ie if your Dc is responding to the experience or coasting through it and not enjoying it and would be just as happy/engaged/capable of fulfilling potential at state school)?

DS (9) is not enjoying his school but then I'm not sure that's unusual, regardless of whether it's private or state. However, he seems to be treading water and we're just at the point of wondering if we should take him out as he doesn't seem any further ahead (in terms of academia or enthusiasm) than 2years ago. If anything, he's actually a bit lazy and easily defeated in his approach to the whole thing.

As someone who was very happily state school educated, I am failing to see how the £18k it's costing is being well spent. But maybe I am missing something?

morethanpotatoprints Mon 20-Oct-14 18:46:40

I think you have to compare individual schools and the personality of your child.
If you live in an area where state schools are really bad then if you have the resources you would go private without a shadow of doubt.

if you live in a nice area where the state schools are good then why waste money on private when they could do as well in state.

Also, what suits one child won't suit another.
for example, we don't have grammar but if we did I know mine wouldn't have been happy there with all the tutoring in the world as they aren't academic.

Look at the individual child, their strengths and weaknesses and work from there.

noddyboulder Mon 20-Oct-14 20:59:27

Dd (Yr4) was at a good with outstanding features state primary, but was just coasting as she is bright but a bit slapdash (e.g. spellings and tables outside of a test environment are terrible). The top table weren't pushed as all attention was going to pulling up the other end of the scale.

We moved her to a private school and she is having the time of her life - loves all the extra bits such as loads of sport (she always hated sport before), art and music, and being taught by teachers who specialise in their subjects rather than having the same teacher for all lessons.

For us, it was worth every penny. She can't hide and coast in a class that's half the size of her previous one, also. We have very good local state schools across our city, but halving the class size and all the additional facilities and teacher knowledge was well worth the cost. I am a governor of her old school and sit on the council's education board - I wish to hell state schools could do some of this; specialist teachers in KS2, for instance - but it won't happen, which makes me incredibly sad.

P.S. The old school was oversubscribed, so I tone down my middle class guilt by reasoning that I have freed up a place for someone who would otherwise have gone to the not-so-great new academy resurrected failing school next door...

ZeroSomeGameThingy Mon 20-Oct-14 21:04:31

Assuming you undertook at least the minimum amount of agonizing and researching and discussing and not sleeping and finally chose the school you thought would be best for him - what was your purpose in choosing that school?

You only say "private school" so it's not clear if this is a prep or the junior part of a bigger school or something else entirely.

In my experience children in yr 5(?) of a prep are starting to talk (and even think quite seriously sometimes) about where they might be going at 13. They may have school visits planned and be assessing their fellows' chances of getting into their chosen schools. So even without major exams to worry about they are focused on an end goal. I imagine if they're changing school at 11 there's some similar impetus.

But you don't give any indication of why he's there. Does he know what he's at that school for?

Setting aside academic stuff (and assuming it's a day school), if he's not coming home full of stories of the day's adventures then it may simply not be the right school for him. (Has he been there since Reception? Perhaps the school suited him at 4/5 but he's outgrown it?)

What does he say himself?

Madcats Mon 20-Oct-14 21:27:49

It's sad to hear that a child is underwhelmed by their schooling; doubly so if you are paying £ for it. Quite a lot of £.

Is it an academic school? If so, they should be giving you fairly big steers about whether you DS is enjoying the environment. Or do you think the school isn't pushy enough to get him up to secondary/13+.

basildonbond Mon 20-Oct-14 22:07:43

For me it's more about the child's experience at school than the outcome in terms of results. Dd is bright and works hard - I should imagine that her exam grades would be very similar wherever she'd gone so in some respects the amount we're paying isn't getting us much that's tangible. However .... she's really happy and engaged and has thrown herself into loads of extra-curricular activities. She loves drama and 'niche' sports (water polo, track cycling etc) and the facilities and opportunities on offer at her new school just don't exist in the otherwise very good state alternatives. Plus the year group is much smaller (although still plenty big enough to make lots of new friends) which helps dd as she can be very reserved.

lizardpops Mon 20-Oct-14 22:16:13

I think the only way to tell if the private school is worth it is a controlled experiment using identical twins. Obviously you can't do this but if your ds is not enthused and you're paying 18k (ouch) I'd have a look elsewhere.

happygardening Tue 21-Oct-14 10:43:00

OP you say your DS is not enjoying school and treading water, but don't all children go through phases like this in both sectors? Coming back after the lovely long summer break is a bit of a shock. Is he yr 4or 5? Is this an 11+ prep or 13+ prep. If he's year 5 and due to sit the 11+ next year perhaps he's not happy with the increased pressure maybe they've covered all the work and this year is all about exam preparation. On the other hand if this is a 13+ prep perhaps he feel the end is a long way off and he's nothing to focus on and aim for. I always think in these situations it's worth giving it a term children change their views and attitudes very quickly one minute they dislike something the next minute they love it.
Does you school provide any activities he would struggle to get anywhere else? Why did you choose this school in the first place, has it lived up to your expectations?

Moreisnnogedag Tue 21-Oct-14 11:13:42

It would depend on what else is on offer really (and your chances of getting him in).

We've decided to send DS to private school mostly because the state school here is failing. It manages to get less children through GCSEs than the abysmal high school I went to. I love the extra bits that are part and parcel of this private school's experience. Why did you pick that school?

sharanel Tue 21-Oct-14 12:14:51

I do think that happy children make the best learners and to that end you need to choose a school that is right for your child. Perhaps he doesnt fit at that partic school?

sunnyrosegarden Tue 21-Oct-14 14:30:15

I think the answer is the right school for the child, rather than whether it is state or private. My children are at a state primary, which currently "requires improvement" and love every second.

Saying that, around here, the divide between state and private is more to do with your social life (if you want to go to school with TV presenter's children, or bump into premier league footballers in the car park, then go private), but I don't think there is a huge difference in teaching or outcome.

Depends on your local schools, though.

AmberDrop Tue 21-Oct-14 17:17:04

Thanks so much for all the views and insight - hugely helpful.

The (day, prep) school was picked carefully for its academic excellence (DS's fav subject is maths) but also there is an emphasis on increasing confidence, social skills, good manners and independence.

I think he has really benefitted from the much smaller class sizes and is socially stronger with peers but his general manners, independence and confidence etc are still really average and he's getting lazy at maths (as he thinks he knows it all) while giving up too easily as subjects he finds challenging. He complains about the food and about the homework (which of course cranks up in years 5).

We support him in every possible way and spend a lot of time guiding him with his homework. His teachers are happy with him.

We have good state primaries around us. Like your daughter, noddy, we felt he was not getting pushed enough and was in danger of getting really bored and going downhill, hence the move. But I'm just not convinced it's made much difference. Certainly not £18k difference.

happygardening Tue 21-Oct-14 17:46:54

When is he due to leave end of yr 6 or 8? Are you planning to carry on paying? Will he prep for an entrance exam will he get it at a primary school?
Most importantly have you talked to the staff at the school about your concerns?

Corestrategy Wed 22-Oct-14 11:00:57

I sent one of my children to an independent school because, for a whole set of complicated reasons, his state primary was very seriously failing him and he had become totally disengaged and miserable.

He is now engaged with his lessons, talks about what he did that day, is making good progress, gets involved in extra curricular activities, has more self-confidence and self worth and his personality is back to the cheerful boy he was before his school problems set in. For me it is worth every hard earned penny. However, if I thought that there was no difference between the state and private I'd take him out.

MsHerodotus Wed 22-Oct-14 17:15:12

We agonised over whether to move DS1 at the end of y5 as he was in a lovely local primary, but was bored out of his mind in the lessons. The teachers said he was much more able than other DC and they were at a loss how to stretch him. We did move him to a top performing local prep school, where he blossomed and enjoyed being among other very able children, and as others have said, teachers who are specialist in their subjects.
(As it happened I am a secondary teacher who often teaches in state primaries because I enjoy it but have not training at all in it, so am only too aware of the lack of specialism. Also do see how the top tables are left, even by the best teachers, because they get on with their work and do not disrupt and are generally less 'needy', and teachers are over-stretched dealing with those who are struggling).
He stayed in touch with his friends from primary - still sees them a lot 6 years later - but also has new friends as well. So for us, and for him it was money well spent.
If he had been fully stretched and happy at the primary we would have kept him there, and had a much nice car grin

Greengrow Sun 26-Oct-14 11:17:55

I have always thought it had a good effect and have been happy to pay. However I have never seen it as paying for exam results but for a whole heap of other advantages too. Children in private schools on the whole do an awful lot better in life than those in state schools even if they don't do very well in the school eg Richard Branson. Keep paying the fees.

Kenlee Mon 27-Oct-14 09:46:47

I judge it on one criteria. That is happiness. If your daughter is happy and enjoys the teachers then all is good. If not why bother paying?

I'm not saying you can not be happy in state sector but that route was not available to her. So yes go private if its the right school for your child.

CindyLou Mon 27-Oct-14 09:53:00

Kenlee well said- re the happiness. That's is the yardstick we apply to our DC schooling.

minifingers Tue 28-Oct-14 14:57:43

Children in private schools on the whole do an awful lot better in life than those in state schools

Actually I'm not sure you can back that up with any reference to the facts.

If you compare 'like with like' - ie children from the same social backgrounds and with similar levels of support from parents, private schools don't actually seem to make much difference.

It's true that when you're comparing like with like, children from private schools may get better A level grades, but for all the very very highest achievers, then tend to do worse at university than state educated children entering higher education with similar grades - more likely to drop out and get a worse class of degree.

Greengrow Tue 28-Oct-14 18:10:24

80% of the judiciary went to private schools, hgue number in the cabinet, many many in the professions, massive proportion compared to the number who went to private schools, same in Olympics, same even with acting these days - in almost every good field the private pupils still win out big time. Best money you can spend.

DontGoToRoehampton Tue 28-Oct-14 18:16:53

My DC have no ambition to go into law or banking - mercifully, as I want them to have a fulfilled life as adults also.
Whatever they do - completely irrelevant.
The money has been well spent because they have had a happy and fulfilling learning experience, and they will only have one childhood (each, I mean grin).

Greengrow Tue 28-Oct-14 19:10:18

There is no more fulfilled life on the planet than being a lawyer. A blessed and wonderful existence.

LePetitMarseillais Tue 28-Oct-14 19:35:42

"In almost every good field"

Sooooo we're presuming anything not in your rather narrow field isn't "good". hmm

Acting,Olympics,cabinet,law errrr no thanks I'd rather eat my own hair, as would many others I suspect.

Corestrategy Tue 28-Oct-14 20:45:43

There is no more fulfilled life on the planet than being a lawyer. A blessed and wonderful existence.

You are saying that tongue in cheek?

Greengrow Tue 28-Oct-14 21:11:24

No not at all.It has been and will continue to be wonderful - very high pay, the best of lives, wonderful interesting intellectual satisfying work. What is not to like?

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