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At what point is going private NOT worth it?

(711 Posts)
lexlees Thu 05-Nov-15 14:31:41

I was chatting to a friend recently and we got chatting about schools. Their only daughter goes to a top private school and it is a real financial strain on them. They reckon they spend 40% of their net family income on school fees and extras. All her wages go towards the school fees and even then only covers 2/3 of it - the remaining third comes from her husband's salary.

From my perspective I don't see how it is worth it. She maintained that it is not unusual. They just want their child to have 'every advantage' because both she and her husband went private.

Their girl is bright but didn't qualify for any bursary or scholarship and failed to get into the selective state school (they did try all three). Although the girl was top of her class in her state primary, she now feels so much pressure because she hasn't gotten an 'A' in anything yet. She is now no longer the bright one and it took two terms to make friends. I'd love to say she is a lovely girl, but honestly, she is an ungrateful and mean brat (she used to beat up/be cruel to my ds every time they were alone - then lie about it - hence I don't bring my ds anymore to their house).

They are putting minimal money into pensions and have only 'one term's worth' of savings. They haven't had a holiday for two to three years, never eat out and hardly buy stuff (except for stuff for their daughter - so she doesn't feel 'left out' at school) as they have a mortgage as well. They also don't have parental financial support or expect much of any inheritance either. I feel like my friend has changed into some penny pinching miser, always working out how to save pennies and she is just worn out from a low paid job!

It got me wondering if other people are just making ends meet to send a child or children private. Is she correct that it is normal? At what point does it become NOT worth it.

HeadDreamer Thu 05-Nov-15 14:37:57

I think she's both normal and not normal. There must be some people so rich they don't find sending a child private a strain.

But we have a friend who put her son into private education for the same 'every advantage' reason. She's not put any money into pensions and she works in a university with a final salary pension! It's madness. She's not got clothes and her house needs a lot of work, and she's told us she can't afford the fees if she pays into her pensions.

I guess we have it easy because we just couldn't afford the fees so it's never a choice for us to go private.

MrsNuckyT Thu 05-Nov-15 14:39:22

I think that sounds like far too much of a financial strain for that particular family.

twirlypoo Thu 05-Nov-15 14:59:22

I forgo maintenance in order for my son to go private (his dad pays the fees in lieu of giving me money direct) it's bastarding hard! I am currently £100 over my over draft limit and we are just lucky that I have a full tank of petrol and food in.

For me, it's worth it. Ds dad would never have paid for me to move to a better area with better schools, and so this is my way of securing him a better future as best I can.

I feel terribly guilty for Ds comkng from the background he does (his dad left when I was pregnant and I tortured myself with statistics about children from broken homes and low incomes) I know that is my issue, but I am desperate to level the playing field for him. If that means Gojng withoit for me, then I'll cope with it. It's hard but I don't know if any other way would be easier!

MyLifeisaboxofwormgears Thu 05-Nov-15 15:06:49

Some people send their DC private simply for the snob value and these are the people who look down on just about everyone.
Some send their DC private because that's what their family did.

Many people send their children private and don't notice their child isn't taking advantage of anything the school has to offer.
Children in super selective privates who are in the bottom half of the class constantly have a rotten time IMO.

I consider private to be worth it for my DD simply because her mind zings off in all directions and she is restlessly inquisitive and the local states school didn't welcome this and I could see it getting worse at secondary. Her current private school is fine with her approach - some private schools really wouldn't be.

For this particular family they may well be kidding themselves about what value they are getting from this school. I hl

peteneras Thu 05-Nov-15 15:14:02

”Their only daughter goes to a top private school and it is a real financial strain on them. . . They just want their child to have 'every advantage'. . . Their girl is bright but didn't qualify for any bursary or scholarship and failed to get into the selective state school (they did try all three).”

Which reminds me of someone I once knew - DD wasn’t the brightest spark, only child, spoilt brat, tried all selective state grammar schools but got nowhere. Parents forever quarrelling and fighting - about money, because they sent DD to a top London private girls school to have ‘every advantage’.

Hey! Are we talking about the same people?

No, probably not. Because that was sometime ago.

Was it all worth it you asked? Well, I don’t know . . . you judge for yourself. DD finally qualified as a doctor and now practising as a GP. But mom died many years ago due to strain and constant financial pressure.

atticusclaw2 Thu 05-Nov-15 15:18:59

I know a few families for whom its a real struggle.

For us I'd go to some lengths not to change the DSs school, including selling the house etc. DS1 would do well anywhere. DS2 needs to be kept on a tight rein to fulfil his potential.

lexlees Thu 05-Nov-15 16:10:18

@peteneras - yes sounds very much like the same circumstances. It is even a top school in London! :-)

We considered briefly sending ds privately but realised that it just was not feasible financially. I honestly think that my friend is just keeping up with her siblings/in laws and that she truly believes that to go to state school for secondary is some kind of failing on the parents part.

derektheladyhamster Thu 05-Nov-15 16:16:11

Sounds like us (financially anyway ) we (and DS) are happy with the education he is receiving. He is on a bursery though. No way we could afford full fees.

cosmobrown Thu 05-Nov-15 16:37:26

I think if your dc is taking advantage of all the extra's available at the private school, then for me it would be worth it. Not all Private schools offer much more than some state schools though, so in that instance I would say it was NOT worth scrimping to go private.
We have one dc in private, and one dc in state as dc2 is a different child who requires a different educational approach - which our state school can offer.
SO as always, there is never a sweeping answer to these sorts of questions.
It's personal opinion isn't it.

Shirehorsesworkhardest Thu 05-Nov-15 17:44:02

Its never really occurred to me to send a child of mine private.

I don't know if regional differences come into it.

IndridCold Thu 05-Nov-15 18:02:14

This is bound to vary from family to family. I've had conversations with other parents which range from 'I would live in a caravan to keep the kids as school' to 'We as a family are not prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to send DC away to boarding school', and everything in between.

If big sacrifices do have to be made, then I think that everyone involved has to be in agreement with the decision. A good education is very important, but not at the expense of a harmonious and happy family life.

happygardening Thu 05-Nov-15 18:28:40

"I'd love to say she's a lovely child but honestly she's an ungrateful and mean brat"
Not sure what this has to do woth paying for education or not and I sincerely hope her parents don't see her like this.
We pay and in comparison with most at DH's school we live a fairly low budget life although I'm not living in Lala land I am aware that our lifestyle is significantly out of the reach of many. It stays worth it for us whilst I believe that my DS gets something from it that he wouldn't get from a state school. If that stopped being the case then it would definitely not be worth it.

voluptuagoodshag Thu 05-Nov-15 18:38:39

I think if the state school they are meant to go to has excellent reports and a good reputation and sending them private is a huge financial pressure as well as raised expectations of the child, then it's pointless.
I know of a few families in my area who have sent their kids private but it's all they talk about now. I know some have remortgaged their house to do so. In addition, they are also paying for private tutors in certain subjects (if I was paying school fees I'd be mighty miffed at paying for extra tuition too). The pressure the kids seem to be under to perform well and appreciate the chances they are being given is colossal. The kids seem indifferent. They are doing ok but they probably would have done ok at the state school too.

SheGotAllDaMoves Thu 05-Nov-15 18:39:34

What something is worth is completely subjective.

Our DC's school is of great value to us and we don't mind paying the fees. Whilst we can comfortably afford them, I think we'd certainly be prepared to do without a lot if we had to since we now know what's on offer.

That said, I'm not very good at self denial wink so maybe I'd whip them out at the first sign of struggle!

Parents who do scrimp for their DC's education are admirable though I think. I can't envisage many more worthwhile things to spend money on.

BertrandRussell Thu 05-Nov-15 18:52:51

It's very difficult because what you get from private school is not really measurable. A clever and supported child (ie the sort of child who will go to private school) will get the same results wherever they go to school. But a good private school will have the time and the money to add lots of stuff ("cultural capital" if you like) that state schools just can't And which you as a parent probably add anyway if you are the sort of person in a position to send your child to a private school. Whatever school you send your child to.

So privileged children are privileged, whatever system they are educated in. And disadvantaged children have no choice.

happygardening Thu 05-Nov-15 18:58:58

"Cultural capital ..... And which you as a parent probably can add anyway if your the sort of person who send your child to a private school"
Well I can't add although it on a regular basis and I doubt many who live outside of London very large metropolitan areas can add it especially if they're also holding down full time jobs.

BertrandRussell Thu 05-Nov-15 19:15:13

Does coutural capital happen only happen in London? grin Oops- I must have made a big mistake living in the countryside!

BabyGanoush Thu 05-Nov-15 19:21:57

It's called "cultural capital"

Not "Capital culture" wink

BabyGanoush Thu 05-Nov-15 19:23:24

I think someone who chooses a username like Bertrand Russell would be well equipped to supply their kids with a bit of cultural capital at home grin

BertrandRussell Thu 05-Nov-15 19:29:37


Yep. Like most of my educational level and class, frankly. Regardless of the school our children go to. The children who need outside input don't get it.

Privileged children attract more privilege. Disadvantaged children are left behind.

happygardening Thu 05-Nov-15 19:31:05

I live in a rural area with very limited public transport which starts at 8 am and ends at 5 pm and only goes to two places neither of which have any culture beyond High School Musical and a country crafts exhibition. No art exhibitions, ballet, classical or modern, concerts, plays etc, the nearest sports club that does his sport is just short of a 60 mile round trip (no public transport ever) ditto our nearest city with concerts exhibitions etc. So my DS cannot easily access even 10% of the "cultural capital" he's able to access at school unless I gave up work, purchased a helicopter, (school fees are expensive but not that expensive) and turned over my every spare waking moment to driving him around.
I know and in fact have met some parents do try to do it or some have grand parents helping (my DS doesn't have any) although I doubt they achieve the diversity of cultural capital that DS's school offers and I genuinely take my hat off to them but I am never going to one of those parents

BertrandRussell Thu 05-Nov-15 19:34:33

Happygardening- most private schools are not Winchester.

happygardening Thu 05-Nov-15 19:48:30

Bertrand I accept your point but Winchester I suspect it is not the only private school that offers some sort of "cultural capital" in excess of what my DS can access with minimal input from me in our area.
Maybe the rural area you live in is better served? Do you have good public transport infra structure (in my dreams), regular local art exhibitions of important artists, concerts etc or a wide variety of sports not just the usual martial arts, cricket, rugby and football on offer locally. If you do I think you'll find that most people in rural area would say that sadly this is the exception not the rule.

nightsky010 Fri 06-Nov-15 05:57:00

I think it becomes not worth it when either the DC would get a near identical experience at state, or when the overall experience they get is very unbalanced, eg fantastic school but family can never go anywhere nice together, kids need to have charity shop clothes and toys or live in a 1 bed flat! (As I read someone on MN was doing.) I do think for some kids a degree of sacrifice is more than worth it though, such as the sensitive ones who need very specific environments.

I'd agree with Happygardening regarding rural areas (having myself grown up in one it was one of my biggest gripes). The only opportunities would be to join the vindictive bastards parish council, go hunting, go shooting.... Erm, struggling to think of much else. No public transport, and even if there was, where could you go? Some towns don't even have a Waitrose, you know shock ;-)

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