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Prep school but can't really afford it

(173 Posts)
winkywinkola Mon 10-Nov-14 12:54:40

3 of my dcs are at prep school. They're very happy there, doing well etc.

We struggle to send them there. Overdrawn every month. No holidays apart from trips up north to stay with family.

Dh is insistent they go there. They will go state secondary so ds1 has 1.5 years left but then ds3 will start at the prep so our financial situation will not improve until dd leaves to go state in 3 years.

I do wonder about the wisdom of this. The school is smashing. There is no doubt about that. The dcs are doing very well there but there are absolutely no frills in our lives whatsover. It's tough and we are both feeling the pressure.

Dh thinks it's a good investment for now and worth the struggle. I've gone back to work (happily) but on a freelance basis so the money isn't that regular. And we're just about to take in two lodgers which will help too.

But it will a while before we feel any happiness from this increased revenue because we've built up £5k worth of debt over the last two years. Part of which is due to decorating and furnishing to a decent standard the two rooms we're letting out.

When I think of the money we spend each year on fees and the stress, worry and arguments we have about money, I just wonder if it's worth it. The local schools are all 'needing improvement' according to OFSTED and DH just won't consider them and is prepared to live threadbare lives. I think it's ridiculous. This is the one big bone of contention in our lives imo.

We are so the poor family at school! Not that I care but it just highlights to me just how much money one really needs to go private.

Please can anyone furnish me with stronger rationales as to why we should go state?

LittleBairn Mon 10-Nov-14 12:59:53

You could point out the money could be used for over paying the morgage and work out how many years it would take to be morgage free.

Does the school do sibling discount, would they be willing to give you a better one in order to keep them all at the school?
Are there any scholarships avalible?

winkywinkola Mon 10-Nov-14 13:03:03

Yes we get 10% for each child. It's not much. No scholarships. Plus my dcs don't really shine at anything in particular to warrant such special treatment.

I worry about being able to buy winter boots. I fantasise about what Christmas presents to get the dcs. It's not really possible without incurring more debt.

It seems the wrong way round to me but dh says they will be really well equipped for secondary schools.

Hakluyt Mon 10-Nov-14 13:04:43

Why is it his decision?

winkywinkola Mon 10-Nov-14 13:10:33

To be fair to him, it's really the only thing he has ever really stipulated as something hugely important to him. The only really big deal he's ever made about.

LemonBreeland Mon 10-Nov-14 13:11:05

I don't understand why your dh sees it as such a great investment of they are going to state secondary anyway. Unless every primary in your local area is in special measures then it seems completely crazy to put yourself into so much debt for a few years of school.

Would your dh consider state primary and a tutor for the dc to ensure they achieve their potential. It would be a lot cheaper.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Mon 10-Nov-14 13:11:28

Talk me through this.

You have four children who will all potentially have gone through prep school?

But not going on to fee paying senior schools?

Are you preparing them for a grammar school? (What if they don't get in?)

From what you say - you might, perversely have been better off if they were at a prep for the purpose of preparing to enter a public school. Because then the prep might have offered a bursary or two - given your financial position. But they're unlikely to offer bursaries to children who are not proceeding in glory to the most desirable senior school.

What age do they move to seniors? It's not compulsory to start at prep at the first opportunity. Perhaps your youngest child could attend the state school for the first couple of years to give you some breathing space?

But without knowing more I'm not quite sure what you are preparing them for.

Or why you didn't address the bursary possibility at the outset. (Are you too rich to qualify at any prep or is it simply that yours doesn't offer them?)

LaurieFairyCake Mon 10-Nov-14 13:11:42

Taking in 2 lodgers will make a massive difference though won't it? Extra 800 a month or more?

I'd wait to see what impact that money has before talking about changes.

Also, it will be really difficult to not send the last child there won't it?

Hakluyt Mon 10-Nov-14 13:13:15

"To be fair to him, it's really the only thing he has ever really stipulated as something hugely important to him. The only really big deal he's ever made about."

What are his reasons?

ZeroSomeGameThingy Mon 10-Nov-14 13:14:03

Typed slowly. But other preps DO give significant bursaries....

EdithWeston Mon 10-Nov-14 13:16:25

It should be everyone's decision.

If money was out of the equation, would you keep them at the prep and go to a state secondary? Or private all the way? Or what? (ie what do you want for your DC's education?)

If there are really sound reasons for wanting the prep, then you need to look at the other end too - what, if anything, can you do to get more money? More hours, better job, evening shifts at a pub, ironing, baby-sitting, mystery shopping?

If you're more flexible about the sort of school you want, have you looked round the state primaries near you? Might be worth another look now, if you haven't toured since your eldest was approaching reception age. If there are any you like, what are your chances of securing places?

And ahead to secondary - do you know which schools you are aiming for, and what are your realistic chances of securing a place?

iseenodust Mon 10-Nov-14 13:23:40

Have you been to look round the state primaries with places near you? You only say what OFSTED has concluded.

DS moved to an academic independent in yr5 and his state primary (not OFSTED outstanding) education put him straight in at the top of the class. We moved him because we didn't like our secondary options and we felt it would be good to start making friends. So more local friends going up to same secondary might be another reason?

winkywinkola Mon 10-Nov-14 13:38:03

Well, grammar school is an option.

It's so very competitive though and I don't really want to add to the dcs homework tbh. We will enter them for that and if they don't pass, there are two good secondary schools about 4 kms away from us in opposite directions.

Dh's view is that prep school gives them a good work ethic. And this school claims that by year 6, top set children have covered year 8 work in the state system.

I don't put much store by that either - so what if they've covered more ground? They will all sit their GCSEs and A levels at whatever age. To me that's irrelevant.

Toomanyhouseguests Mon 10-Nov-14 13:48:19

This is a tough one. My feeling is that you never should have set down this path in the first place, but now that you have it is difficult to stop.

Hopefully, the lodgers will work out and take some of the pressure off. Perhaps put some of the money towards paying off debt and some of the money towards making life a bit more pleasant?

The ungenerous part of me thinks, that if your husband wants all this he should look for a more lucrative job or take on some extra work. It feels like he isn't facing up to reality here.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Mon 10-Nov-14 13:52:42

You and your DH seem to be working towards diametrically opposite goals!

He wants them expensively prepped for a competitive future. (Even though they will end up at the same school as the children from the undesirable primary?)

You - despite the fact you are paying to buy an "advantage", don't think your children have any special talents, don't want them to do extra homework, don't want them to compete for a grammar school place...

And you're right of course (although I take what you were told with a pinch of salt) what's the point of their being pushed now if they'll be treading water at secondary school?

Iggly Mon 10-Nov-14 13:53:30

A good work ethic hmm

My understanding is that at primary school age, parents are the biggest influence on children whereas from secondary they're more influenced by peers.
There fore they will get a work ethic from you and he.

However you are teaching them to get into debt - not to live within your means etc.

Clavinova Mon 10-Nov-14 14:28:50

Is the 10% discount you get now just a regular sibling discount? Are you on friendly terms with the Head? At least 4 families I know personally have been given decent discounts on the fees at a prep (one of them £12,000 pa covering 2 dc) after a frank conversation with the Head about their lack of funds. You may well be asked to make an appointment with the bursar but if your lives are as frugal as you say then you've got nothing to lose - there's no shame in admitting you can't afford to put 3/4 dc through prep school! Have you looked at the accounts for your prep on the Charity Commission Website to see how many others are receiving discounts/bursaries? You might be surprised and wished you'd asked sooner.

Hakluyt Mon 10-Nov-14 15:39:52

Dh's view is that prep school gives them a good work ethic. And this school claims that by year 6, top set children have covered year 8 work in the state system."

How will this advantage them in year 7 of a state school? I really think your Dp has not thought this through........

elltee Mon 10-Nov-14 17:25:11

OP, no need to answer this here, but if you are taking in more than one lodger have you checked that you understand both the income tax and capital gains tax impact of doing so? Any income you earn over 4.2k will be taxed at your highest tax rate (assuming both you and DP are working) and more than one lodger means you won't be completely exempt from tax if you sell your house in the future. Please take this as meant constructively - it does need to be factored on when working out whether it's worth the aggravation.

I think your DH is wrong and I say that having 2 DC in prep school who will be going on to fee paying senior schools. Your DC will end up in the same secondary schools as your non-fee paying neighbours. In the meantime they will have missed out on a lot of life experiences and opportunities that you as a family could have had if you had the money available.

You could have, instead, spent money on tutors, music and sports clubs etc to stretch the children teach them a work ethic (which they learn from you as parents too). This would have still left you with a fair bit of cash free for holidays, days out, clothes, theatre and general fun stuff.

Private education can be very good but there is an element of cost benefit analysis to be done. Is the benefit to the children greater than the cost (financial and non-financial) to the family. In your particular case, I am not sure it is.

mummytime Mon 10-Nov-14 17:51:40

Okay if by year 6 they really have covered year 8 work. what will then happen if they end up in a "bog standard" state secondary?

Well what I have seen, and used to be very common from one very high achieving Prep school close to me, is that there boys went to independents having being pushed to the limit. They went in with Scholarships. They then stopped working, as they didn't need to really. They came out with lower grades than the boys who had gone to less "pushy" preps and state.

The same can happen with girls. My Mum achieved very highly at primary, then was bored as she spent the first couple of years of Grammar repeating stuff she had done at Primary, and ended up crashing out of Secondary.

But to be honest saying their pupils are 2 years ahead of State schools, at most (certainly non-selective) Preps is just part of the marketing. Often what they are saying is: our pupils are all achieving level 5s (which is 2 years or more) ahead in year 6. Lots of State primaries achieve the same.

Has you DH looked at the local state schools? Have you?
If you are struggling that much, then I think State and Tutors makes more financial sense. Or at least go in debt to move to an area with better schools (you may make a financial return on the debt that way).

ZeroSomeGameThingy Mon 10-Nov-14 18:01:18

Yes, I think "return on your investment" is the crucial issue.

No-one would say it isn't worth it if you were desperate to get them into one particularly stupendous grammar school, or if they really needed the prep for entry to the perfect fee paying senior - with sensible bursaries in place.

It's perfectly reasonable to send children to a prep just for the "quality of life" but that doesn't seem to be a luxury you can afford.

What seems strange is to be doing all this when it is entirely unnecessary for their own progress and you have no particular school ambitions for them.

merrymouse Mon 10-Nov-14 18:12:58

Agree with others - if you aren't 'preparing' for private secondary, or your children don't have special needs it seems crazy to be under so much stress. Moving house/getting tutors/working less and supplementing teaching yourselves all seem to be better options.

SlowlorisIncognito Mon 10-Nov-14 18:34:09

If they have covered y8 work by y6, and go to a comprehensive secondary school, what do you see happening to them in y7? In some subjects, especially ones like maths, they may spend a lot of time being bored and disengaging with education.

If they spend 1-2 years knowing more (while not being more academically able) they could actually lose study habits and really struggle when they have to tackle new content again (just in time to start GCSEs).

Having them in state school, and perhaps using some money to tutor for the 11+ or in weaker areas would surely make more sense.

Do your DC get to do any hobbies?

Snapespotions Mon 10-Nov-14 18:47:47

Dh's view is that prep school gives them a good work ethic. And this school claims that by year 6, top set children have covered year 8 work in the state system.

Two years ahead for "top set" kids would surely be pretty standard stuff in most state schools? Obviously the truly gifted dc would be considerably further ahead.

What is it about the work ethic at a prep school that your DH thinks is different? Has he ever seen inside a decent state primary?

Tbh, I think he's barking. You clearly can't afford prep school for so many children, they're all going to state secondaries anyway, and there doesn't seem to be any good reason for insisting on private other than a vague - probably unfounded - impression that it's better. Can you not persuade him to reconsider?

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