Objective input please! Private or state??(60 Posts)
Name changed for political objectivity!
DH and I are on opposite sides of this one for our DC (3). Considerations:
- good possibility of DC eventually getting into good secondary.
- primary schools in area very variable in quality and 'good schools' significantly oversubscribed.
- DC has no statements etc. that would prioritise their application.
- financially able to afford private, but tightens finances so that many luxuries will have to be cut back, such as holidays.
- concerns about the general direction of state education due to governmental input
- one of us a teacher in state school
- grandparents likely to offer to contribute to costs of private education
- social concerns about child becoming entitled in private environment.
Other than visiting schools themselves, what do we need to consider when making this rather tricky decision?
All (respectful) opinions gratefully received! Thanks!
You don't mention the quality and type: through school, big name super selective coed ed etc. of your local independent school. As I'm sure you know paying doesn't necessarily mean that it's better or that it will suit you or your DD. For me this would be a big deciding factor.
I know little about state ed outside of rural areas where places are readily available at very we'll regarded schools. But it appears from reading comments on here that in many areas state school places at good schools are like hens teeth, what about starting off state and seeing how it pans out? It's probably easier to jump ships to independent ed than the other way round if places at good school are limited especially as many will have a 7+ 8+ and even a 9/10+ entry point. My DS2 went to a tiny village school till yr 2 and then moved to a prep by then we were more certain what sort of future school we wanted for him and thus choose an appropriate prep,, if we'd looked for one when he was younger we wouldn't necessarily of made the same decision, this will also save you a few years of school fees and if your state primary is not great, a good prep will quickly address any areas that need working on.
For me, the purpose of going private is great teaching. Not a social prestige and contacts and all that stuff that people sometimes worry about. It's also the chance to get a better curriculum. So For me, the private schools would have to offer that. Next, I'd have to be sure we could afford it for all our children taking into account fee rises. If grandparents were part of this, we'd have to have a frank discussion and make sure that they were financially committed and capable of seeing it through. Finally, if all that was in place, I wouldn't feel guilty from a political perspective. I think your most basic responsibility is to your children and education is paramount. Larger, political concerns come second.
"Other than visiting schools themselves, what do we need to consider when making this rather tricky decision?"
Nothing really, it's all about the individual schools, what they offer and what you think would suit your DC best. With a teacher as a parent, you're probably ahead of us in knowing your minds about this one, it's just a case of deciding which school/s are closest fit and whether you are likely to secure an offer.
"social concerns about child becoming entitled in private environment"
Unless this statement is made just through lack of knowledge/experience of the private sector, then I suspect it might not be for you. Because it's blazingly obvious to the outsider that lots of parents just like you use the the private sector and that grandparents fund quite a lot. If despite that, you still have that attitude towards those communities, it's never going to be an easy fit for you, so probably will inevitably be the wrong choice.
If you can afford private school, and would consider one, then what that means is you will have a wider choice of schools available. You need to look at them all and decide which you prefer. There are some private schools near me that I would say are worse than some of the state schools, and vice versa.
And, of course, many good private schools are oversubscribed, so can't be considered a shoe-in, in the same way that some popular state schools may be oversubscribed.
Once you get offers, you need to decide which you prefer.
You may find you need to pay a non-refundable deposit to secure a place at a private school, and may also be liable for a term's fees, depending on when state school offers are made. But if you are offered a state school you prefer, you may be content to accept this loss.
It what way do you worry your child will become entitled?
Assuming your looking at day rather than boarding then there is likely to be a broadish mix of backgrounds. Many pupils will be aware that their families are giving up things to pay and rather than feel entitled will feel under pressure to maximise the all the opportunities on offer and get good exam grades as well. Independent schools generally don't promote an ethos of entitlement in fact the complete opposite, most staff are just like you and me and find entitled behaviour as unsavoury as the rest of us.
As well as thinking about what you want for your children in the abstract, do think about the actual day to day experience for your DC.
Having friends within walking distance and being able to walk to school are strong benefits of going to your local state school - and big things to give up. (Friends close by mean easy playdates, early independence in being able to go over to friends by themselves, and easier logistics for you including shared pickups/someone to step in if you get delayed)
On the other hand, a private school (depending on the school of course) is more likely to give access to a wider curriculum (where the schools are more free to teach what they think is best). There may also be more teacher access in smaller classes. Attitudes amongst the children are generally pro-learning, since their parents obviously value education highly. Add to that potentially better sport/music/drama/art facilities and lots of day trips and visits, and private school may end up being a more pleasant learning experience.
I think for many people, the benefits of private school are all around the wider experience, not primarily about the academics - a bright child can certainly learn anywhere, but may have a more or less pleasant experience doing it. And the only way to judge that is to visit all the schools with an open mind.
Try to go to open days - where you are more likely to meet the children. Lots of schools (state and private) have the kids show you round, and I find you can get lots of info just by chatting to them and asking about homework, sports, trips etc. This should set your mind at rest about the children becoming entitled too!
You said you're thinking about this for one of your dcs. Are there others you'd also have to pay for?
Agree there is no discussion of the pros and cons to be had here. It all depends on your kid and your actual school options. None of us knows that better than you!
Just to point out the obvious, but a decision made now doesn't have to be binding forever. You could pick state for primary and decide private for secondary, or the other way round.
We have put both DC into a local private primary. DD was there from nursery through to Y6 and is now in Y8 at an outstanding state boarding secondary and DS in still there in Y4. He will take 11+ and then either attend a local super selective grammar or follow DD to her school.
It's been tough at times financially. It's a huge commitment and we have had to forgo holidays and some luxuries to manage it. However both DC have had a fabulous grounding in all subjects with specialist teachers in sports, languages and sciences from an early age. As well as being enabled to perform to their potential academically, they have both been supported to develop a level of self confidence (no mean feat for DS who is naturally quiet and shy like me) that I envy. They have a great work ethic and understand that hard work equals good results.
Of course we may have seen the same results if they had attended the local village school. But we will never know and the important thing is that we feel it's been worth
We are in the same position as you (or similar at least) in that we are about to make a choice between state and private.
I think we will end up going private because of what a PP has said - a broad curriculum, lots of opportunities to explore art, sport and music, and really lovely supportive teachers in small classes (we've been on several visits).
The cons for us are a longer commute, and the lack of really local friends. Those are big cons though so we are still making up our mind. Good luck!
Could the one of you that is teaching in the state sector get a job in the indpendent school you are considering? Bit of a long shot, but might give you a staff discount that makes it more affordable.
Entitled attitudes come from parents, not schools.
It is impossible to say on a sector by sector basis - what matters is a school by school comparison, for your child.
Even in my small area of my smallish town, for example, there is one private primary I would see as being 'better' that the state primaries for an upper middle ability who might need additional 'push' to get into selective secondaries. However, if I had a child who was even slightly less academic, and particularly if they had any hint of any SEN, I would not touch it with the proverbial bargepole.
Equally, there is a private I would not send any child to at all, unless there was no place available in any of the state primaries OR if either 'small and nurturing' or 'lots of sport' were my ONLY selection criteria.
Then there are state primaries I would rank in slightly different ways depending on the type of child I have, mostly ranking between the two above for a 'middle to upper' ability child, but ranking in a very different way compared with each other for a child with any SEN. There is a further private primary i would rank in amongst these, whose USP is that it is an automatic feeder school for a 13-18 secondary.
So you need to look at the actual schools in question before you judge. Winchester vs bog standard comp is a very different comparison from St Xs tiny private school vs an excellent state primary
Also at 3 you have no idea of what SEN etc may come your way in the future. This is why lots of people I have known have had to change schools and sector for their children. You really can 't know for sure at 3 what is going to be the best route overall for your child.
Local state primary schools here have specialist music and language teachers and lots of opportunities to explore art and music. Larger classes mean more choice of friends for children which can be helpful.
Funding, academisation and the new curriculum are all hazards for the state sector currently. However Brexit could also reduce funds for the richest which might mean private education suffers, academisation might be ok for non SEN children, Gove's curriculum might be disbanded or as Gove would suggest, might produce results which are more equal to private schools- especially as your child would start with the new curriculum rather than having to bridge from one to the other.
Dc would probably cope better state primary to state secondary rather than private primary to state secondary because of the cultural difference and lack of local friends
If you can afford it, independent secondary - no brainer.
Then if you can also afford primary as well, independent primary.
I have seen it form all sides.
My Dc were in state(outstanding in a leafy suburb) primary, then independent primary, then independent secondary.
I am a teacher and teach in all kinds of schools, mostly secondary, both state and independent ( supply teacher) and do not regret a penny of the money we have spent on their education, and would willingly go without non-essential to provide that.
Even the most outstanding state secondaries have truly awful behaviour problems that waste vast amount of teaching time. (Not only supply teachers btw for those who like to slate them - I see the behaviour logs from their regular teachers -no better for them). And many, many lessons are covered by both supply teachers and 'cover supervisors'.
I state secondaries I cover every subject - independent schools rarely use supply teachers, and then for specific subject specialisms.
You only get one shot at being a child/teenager.
If you go state, look at the percentage making 'expected progress' on the Dfe website - easy comparison tool and ask hard questions about staff turnover/sickness rates and how they cover absences.
Also, yes class sizes.
You will hear people saying 'there is no research that proves class size matters'.
It does - more time for individual attention, less marking so less frazzled teachers, tachers know the kids much better.
I think in some private primaries though class can be too small from a social perspective. there is a limited pool of children to make friends with, and an even more limited pool if a child falls out with a group. Often, the catchment will be greater so there is less opportunity to socialise outside school than at your local state primary.
A visit to each school available is vital. The 'best' school may not be the best fit for your child.
If you are taken in by the PR of a private school, make sure that all of the broad curriculum and extra curricular activities are available to all.
I would say there is a huge difference between private primary schools and full-blown prep schools which are preparing children for common entrance. If the school only goes up to 11 they are not preparing for CE. Therefore, you need to decide what you really want. A good prep school will have children applying for art, sport, music and academic scholarships and will have facilities and good teaching to allow this to happen.
My did went to an early years dept at our local private school. That was excellent but we had no intention of staying. Further up the school, children moved away to proper prep schools and the size of year group reduced to 12, or less occasionally. Therefore do look very closely at what is on offer at the school from age 8. At this school there were no sports teams, art was useless and languages were barely offered. There were no science labs, drama or worthwhile after-school clubs. We moved to a proper prep school and all of the above were on offer. A totally different type of school. Our local state schools were better than the first school and free!
Most independent schools do teach the national curriculum. What you are paying for is a class sizes below 22-20. 10 is not good! A sizeable year group is desirable so there is decent sport, and also a school with more children will be financially viable! What are the destinations of the children? If you are paying, this matters. I would look very closely at what each school offers and see what is the best fit. There are by no means better teachers in private schools. Some are dinosaurs! The state is beginning to copy the independent sector regarding constant testing, by the way. Some private schools test frequently and are poor at assessment of individual children's work. They is often very high pressure to succeed! Parents are paying and they expect results. Thinking a good private school is somehow gentle and not competitive is not what I have seen, unless you go to the one my DD started at.
Ask about vacancies.
In a school near us for example, the website shows they are recruiting for 'Math Teacher' ie implication is one.
In fact, four are leaving ( out of 6), three of them to UK independent schools, and one to an overseas international school.
It will be a struggle to fill those with any other than newly qualified teachers, and not good with a new more rigorous curriculum being taught from September.
My kids, having attended private schools their entire lives, are not even remotely entitled but are fairly clueless.
I wasn't too impressed at first, but I'm now occasionally taken by surprise at the breadth of my year 8 son's education.
I would absolutely prioritise private secondary over primary, but I'd do it exactly the same over again.
I have one DC at a superselective state grammar and one at a state primary. I live in a grammar area and have seen many many children pulled out of state around Y3 in the hopes of private being able to get them into grammars. Without exception, none have passed the 11+ and all go on to private secondaries.
So in my experience I'd say it's not worth it academically round my way, as the state options if your child is bright can be excellent.
Most state primaries are pretty good now - particularly at KS1. And with supportive educated parents your DC is never going to be at a disadvantage even if your local offer is not considered top notch. Start her there and see what happens. Assuming you are not in inner London where demand for private schools can outstrip supply, you can easily move her into the private sector later if you are not happy with the state offering.
Whether you will derive any advantage from that will depend on the relative qualities of the state/private offering. And unless your local private is wonderful and your local state dire, you will probably not be able to judge that until your DC is older and you have a better idea of her abilities.
Think carefully about the finances if you are relying on others to pay. Have the grandparents factored in fee increases? How fit and well are they? Are you likely to have more DC? What happens if you fall out?
The vast majority of happy, successful people in the UK - and the rest of the developed world are educated in the state sector. You can spend hundreds of thousands on private schools - but it will not guarantee better outcomes and it will not guarantee happiness.
'Outcomes' are one measure but the least important. The ride is the most important thing for us.
I guess it depends on how you define "outcomes". No where in either sector will guarantee happiness but I do think if parents feel positive about their choices and are happy then children will generally feel the same.
OP you need to look objectively at your school choices, do the math, think hard how you feel about financially cutting back on "luxuries" for a long time, what would happen if you were suddenly landed with a big bill, a new boiler, the dentist, etc, I personally think 15+ years without any sort of holiday is a bloody long time, so hopefully you're not saying you wouldn't ever be able to afford holiday whilst your paying fees. Have you factored in extras? Uniform can often be purchased second hand so I wouldn't be overly concerned about that but for example many independent schools offer lots of very interesting residential trips often abroad, ours aren't particularly very expensive or even compulsory but it would shame if your DD could never go because you couldn't afford it. You do pay for exams (I)GCSE, A level, IB, Pre U or whatever, so are extras bill was over £1000 this term because we had to pay for exams.
So in my experience I'd say it's not worth it academically round my way, as the state options if your child is bright can be excellent.
That's not really good enough, though, is it?
Most state primaries are pretty good now - particularly at KS1.
We're sandwiched between some pretty bad ones in West London. Church is required to work one's way out of that - frankly we'd rather pay. I'm happy to go to church as and when the mood strikes, but not on that basis.
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