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Independent school from 4-18 or just 11+???

(33 Posts)
hemsireJoJo Mon 13-Nov-17 14:27:51

Hi everyone,
I wanted to get some advice from other parents who might already have experience of the school system, especially private schools.

We are newish to the portsmouth area with two pre school aged boys. We have just enough money to send them to an independent school like Mayville or St John's College and we are debating whether to send the kids to one of these schools (or a similar school) from age 4-16/18.
Or another option for us would be to put them into state primarys and then try for a senior private school like PGS or Churchers. These schools are a bit more expensive and Churchers is further away (and would require a move) which is why they would only be an option for us from 11+. They are also selective and I'm imagining they're quite competitive. However their exam results are fantastic and we have heard especially good things about Churchers

What would others do given these two options? In all honesty, we dont want to fund them both through private school for them to obtain the same results they would get going through the state system (I know pastral care is also very important though!). But do you think they would achieve differently/better/worse with one option versus the other? Or there any good local state schools anyone knows of (that aren't religious)?

Any opinions on this would be great. Thank you in advance.

nocampinghere Mon 13-Nov-17 14:51:50

i only know PGS of the schools you mention, but on the broader topic 11+ from a state primary takes a lot of effort on your part. A state school doesn't prepare them at all for the independent entry exams. You'll probably have to get an external tutor (unless your dcs are very bright and you're very confident/brave!) and be prepared to supervise/cajole/encourage/bribe them through the extra prep required.

If you don't want to do this, or don't have time, then i'd pay from 7 at least.

And that's before thinking about extra curricular sport/drama/music which is fairly scarce in state schools vs preps ime but can easily be supplemented out of school.

hemsireJoJo Tue 14-Nov-17 08:48:17

Thank you nocampinghere,
This is what I suspected, that I'd need to fund them from year 3 if I intend to send them to a highly selective school.
Unfortunatley, I dont think we can afford it. I think one of the non-selectves may be better for us, given our circumstances.
The non seletives still seem to be producing good grades and I have visited one and the class sizes and friendly feel really impressed me.

Seeline Tue 14-Nov-17 08:52:43

Whilst I get the attraction of finding a school at 4 and sticking with it to 18, I don't know that it is always a good thing.
Children change - a lot and what suited them at 4 might not be the best fit at 11 or 16. the general complaint about grammar schools is slotting kids into something at 10, and not taking account of late developers, or those that developed early and then stall. I think this applies more so at 4.
Also - do the schools guarantee a through place, or do they sort through at 7, 11 and 16? It often happens.
I think if your kids have the chance at attending good state primaries, with supplemented extra-curricular, and possibly tutoring from Y4, it is possible too enter private at 11 if they are bright. Both mine have done it, as did many of their friends.
Have a really good look round all the schools and see what your gut feeling is. Every school is different so every comparison is different - only you know what will suit your DC.

nocampinghere Tue 14-Nov-17 08:53:46

I didn't mean to be so negative - both my DDs are at a selective academic secondary similar to PGS and they went from a state school. It isn't impossible just don't underestimate how much effort you/they have to put in. The prep schools do that for you. We couldn't have afforded prep either and it worked out anyway just be ready and willing to get them working!

nocampinghere Tue 14-Nov-17 08:55:01

And ask your chosen schools what % come from state primaries / preps etc.
Do they have a junior school?

hemsireJoJo Tue 14-Nov-17 11:56:46

Thank you both. That all seems very good and sensible advice.

I really appreciate your honesty about the hard work it takes if we do put them into state schools for their primary years.

Having looked through Mumsnet I'm very impressed by peoples experiences of Churchers. But its supposed to be very selective at age 11. It seems there are lots of good private and state schools in and around Petersfield (which is not where we live and we cant afford to move there) so I know our chances are slim. They do have their own junior school and it says on their website that they aim to take 90% of those students into their senior school too. We will keep it in mind but I also want to be realistic about our options

Im not sure if PGS is right for us either, given what I've read. But it's probably best for us to look at all the schools we have on offer and see how we feel about them.

From what I know, Mayville and St John's are non-selective and so once your in your in (so long as there's no major behavioural issues, etc).

The primarys around here arent supposed to be that great unless you get into one of the Catholic schools but they are oversubscribed and we have little chance of getting in there either! We will keep looking to see if there are any others around that might suit us.

nocampinghere Tue 14-Nov-17 12:06:33

How old are your dc's?
I really don't think you can choose their secondary school until they are about 9. You just don't know how academic they will be, their temperament, co-ed suitability plus any particular interests etc etc..

I also see more and more children leaving 4-18 schools at 11. 7 years in the same place with the same group of children all day every day is long. Both my dcs were very ready to leave primary and branch out. Change of environment, school, teachers, town as much as a whole new set of friends.

hemsireJoJo Tue 14-Nov-17 13:33:36

Yes, you make a very good point and it is really very early for me to be thinking about where my children might go to secondary school.
My eldest is only 3 and so we are thinking about primary school admissions and trying to be reasonable with what we can afford now and in the future.

Maybe, the best solution is to enter them into a state primary (although the state schools are not great around here) and give them extra tutoring as required before applying for places at private senior schools? If they dont get into a selective school then I should be able to pay for a non-selective secondary anyway.

Another option is to send them to the non-selective prep school from years 3-6 and then try for the selective. It would give us more time to save up.

Allthebestnamesareused Tue 14-Nov-17 15:31:22

You don't even need to do it right from 4 though.

Our DS went to an independent from Year 3 (ie when they switch to KS2) and he could have stayed there until 18 but he switched at year 9 to a superselective indie.

The good thing about doing KS1 in the village primary was that he formed friendships and went to Beavers and football with local kids and still plays for the same football team as do many of the friends he made at that early stage. This means that he has local friends as well as school friends (indies usually attract a wider geographical spread of friends).

Hoppinggreen Tue 14-Nov-17 15:40:22

My DD went to State Primary and State Secondary and her brother will do the same
The school she is at gets very good results but is actually non selective ( there is an entrance exam but it's to level them more than anything else)
We made this decision because we had the option of a good State Primary and also because I didn't want the at one school from 4 up to 16 - no 6th form there.
The major blow ups and friendship issues at the school seem to be caused by the kids who have been close since at 4 ( or 3 if at the nursery) and are trying to find their place in year 7/8.
Also, I didnt want my dc in such a small and relatively protected environment for most of their school lives. Their Primary school was in a generally nice area but there were all sorts of children there. They have mixed with people of many backgrounds and my friends, many of whom I met through the dc Primary school, are a mixed bunch which I prefer
Additionally, this way we can afford the fees easily and can still have holidays etc

poisonedbypen Tue 14-Nov-17 15:41:40

Independent schools are no guarantee of good pastoral care, I know from experience (none of the schools you are talking about)

hemsireJoJo Tue 14-Nov-17 16:40:34

Thank you for all for sharing your opinions/thoughts. It is really helping a lot with the decision making process.

From what a lot of you are saying I am now thinking it might be a good idea to place the children in the local infant school (which would be the one that would naturally go to anyway). Then when they reach junior school age (year 3) I can place them in the local non-selective independent instead.

That would give us time to save up money so that they could go to a more selective senior school if that's an option for them at the time.

My only worry with doing this is that when it comes time to move school and all their friends move up to the local junior school, they will want to go there with them. Has this been an issue for anyone here?

ChocolateWombat Tue 14-Nov-17 17:17:08

I wonder what you hope to achieve via the independent - are you keen for great results, the broader extra curricular or both?

If you are wanting academic excellence, then the non-selectives might not offer much more in the way if academics than a state school - what really would you be paying for? You clearly see the non selectives as a second best option - so are they actually worth paying for at all?

I would agree that you can certainly do Infants in a State school to save money. Lots of people do 'State 'til 8' and then move their kids as pre-prep in Indies corresponds with INfants and Prep begins in Yr3 as Junior starts.

In many Indies, it is in Prep from Yr3 that the subject specialists really get used, so there is more difference to State than perhaps in pre-prep which will be similar but with smaller classes.

Re the Selective indies - these are what you should really aim for in my view. You have to work backwards to how you can get there within your budget. It should be possible to get there from State if the child is able and had some tutoring. Tutoring, which is targeted at the individual child and towards a specific school entrance exam can be very effective and a focused, cost effective way of preparing, compared to Prep where even with exam prep, a child is still in a class of many and any exam prep might be focused on several schools not just one. The idea that Prep schools put kids miles ahead, in my view, for able kids, is just not really the case......if you look at the very selective day schools, you will see good proportions always come from state schools. Yes, they may have had tutoring and parental input and worked hard, but as a parent you can make all this happen.

If money is a bit tight, I would certainly start in state infant, re-assess at 7 and consider Indie and possibly at State, save all that time for the better Secondary option.

Personally I think Prep is a lovely luxury, but for most people for whom school fees are a real stretch, unless you're in a Grammar area which means you hope not to pay secondary fees, Prep is a lovely luxury which can be lived without and can pretty easily be lived without.....because tutors and parents can plug the gaps and do it really well. Doing this at Secondary just isn't so possible, so it's worth putting the money into that if there is only money for a limited period.

Ttbb Tue 14-Nov-17 17:22:00

It's not that easy to go from state to private if the private school is selective. The whole point of prep schools is that the prepare you for intake exams into public schools. When you go to visit state schools you should ask about preparation for such exams and look at availability of tutors in your area before making your decision. Another option may be touring the private schools and asking what schools their pupils come from although they won't always tell you in full it may give you an idea.

Ttbb Tue 14-Nov-17 17:22:29

Of course ask parents with children at those schools where they went for orobary.

ChocolateWombat Tue 14-Nov-17 17:44:50

Ttbb, boarding schools and those only start at 13 aside, I really don't agree that it's really difficult to move from State to Independent, even with very selective schools.

If you look at the top academically selective day schools, which tend to take in at 11 and 13, often up to half of those entering at 11 are from State schools. They have clearly made the leap. And those academically selective Indies want them, because they simply want the best and lots of the best are in state schools.

Often those who make it in from Stae schools have been tutored or had parental input and had to work hard, but actually all children from any school need to work had to get into the top schools. Think about some of the London day schools like Alleyns, Jags, City, Hampton and some of the highly performing girls schools such as Guildford High, they all take in decent numbers of State school kids.

For 11+ kids don't need to have done Latin or much at all in the way of languages. They tend to be tested on Maths, writing a story and Comprehension, plus VR/NVR. All of this can be covered by an interested parent or a tutor if a child is relatively able.

I agree that it's harder to get to 13+ schools - it's not necessarily about academic ability, but more about not always having had access to things like Latin. However, increasingly those 13+ schools don't just rely on CE but have their own internal exams which focus on Maths, English and Reasoning. Some schools such as St Pauls or Westminster test state school boys for 11+ and give them places on the Prep until 13 when they move to the Senior school - they too want the really able state school kids.

Yes of course Preps tailor their teaching more towards entrance exams - they are meant to be 'prepping' after all. However, a surprising number of parents still feel the need to use tutors or to do a lot of work themselves in the lead up to entrance exams, suggesting the Preps perhaps haven't provided the full service parents might hope for. It's hard when they have to prep perhaps 50 kids for perhaps 10 different schools with 10 slightly different exams.

hiyasminitsme Tue 14-Nov-17 18:31:30

I don't know Portsmouth, but where I am moving from state to private at 11+ takes a good two years of pretty intensive tutoring, unless you have an utter genius.

nocampinghere Tue 14-Nov-17 20:54:02

When you go to visit state schools you should ask about preparation for such exams
they will say "we don't"

The focus is all on SATS SATS SATS. I must say that however much my dds hated doing all the SATS work they are ninjas at tests in their private secondary! 2 mark question? Aim for tick, tick... no long essays!

crazycrofter Tue 14-Nov-17 21:15:07

I wonder if people just assume the jump from state primary to private secondary requires intensive tutoring because those they know who did it were tutored? It's the same here in the Midlands for both the grammar schools and the selective independents.

I'm really sceptical. Our children were in a rough, very non-middle class primary, which went into special measures for my older child's last two years. We didn't pay a tutor and we simply did some practice papers over the summer and she got into grammar. We then did nothing else with her before the independent school exam 4 moths later and she was awarded a bursary.

Another boy in her class - from a council estate, ordinary parents - just did a couple of lunchtimes with his year 6 teacher looking at practice papers and got into the grammar.

Neither of them were super bright. I very much doubt they'd have done much better in the entrance exams with tutoring. But people don't believe it because everyone they know at the selective schools has been tutored. Certainly my daughter hasn't come across anyone who wasn't.

The boy who got into grammar didn't go - it was only a back up plan in case he didn't get the comp he wanted. The parents thought Grammar was too 'posh'. Which also perhaps explains the lack of untutored kids at these schools.

Honestly, kids at prep schools aren't streets ahead! They're at the same level in maths and English. The only difference is they've done more French and Science with specialist teachers - but entrance exams don't test this and the state kids catch up quickly.

JoJoSM2 Tue 14-Nov-17 21:28:10

There is a lot to be said for local primaries for little children. More time to do extracurricular activities or play. Tuition from Y5 will prep them for exams should you choose to transfer to the independent sector later.

Many parents choose that option for financial reasons too - with 2 children it will save you over 150k. There's a lot that can be done with the money: investments, pensions, paying mortgage down, having a nicer lifestyle etc. It could also allow you to have a very generous buffer in case you're unable to pay the fees in senior school for some reason.

Personally, I wouldn't choose to go indie at 4 unless you've got silly money to burn.

crazycrofter Wed 15-Nov-17 08:16:19

Honestly, the independent schools at 11 test comprehension, creative writing and maths. State schools do these things to death for SATS. We didn't find that any extra prep was necessary.

By all means choose independent school from 4 or 7 for other reasons - specialist teachers, broader curriculum (we found state primary pretty narrowly focused on maths and English), extra curricular, smaller classes,wrap around care etc. There are lots of reasons you might pay at primary level. But don't pay because you think it will be too hard to get in at 11 and you need the extra help.

nocampinghere Wed 15-Nov-17 08:27:19

We didn't find that any extra prep was necessary.
That is pretty unusual. Maybe your kids are super clever OR your primary was very thorough, OR the school you applied to not that competitive.

The SATS comprehension didn't compare to the independent ones my DDs applied for. No VR was covered (we avoided schools with NVR papers). You also need to have completed the maths syllabus before Christmas of yr6, 6 months before SATS.

hiyasminitsme Wed 15-Nov-17 09:26:20

What are the ratios that you were applying for @crazycrofter? Round here there will be about 15 applicants per place for private and 30 for grammar. If it's much less than that, obviously less prep will be needed.

crazycrofter Wed 15-Nov-17 10:34:48

I've no idea but the Birmingham grammars are super-selective and King Edward VI High School for girls is also highly selective (as I mentioned, 97% A/A* at GCSE). Our primary was an ordinary one in Walsall, in special measures due to poor SATS results etc. But dd was being prepared for level 6 Maths (3 years ago now) so she'd done enough Maths by Jan of year 6. She's not super clever though, far from it.

The exam papers were definitely not beyond key stage 2 stuff and they said they were looking for potential.

Our son didn't get into the boys independent - but we didn't expect him to as he's much weaker in creative writing and written English than in Maths. Yes we could have had him tutored to improve that area - but we didn't think the school was an ideal fit. He got into a grammar though as the test is all multi choice!

I suppose I believe that your kids should get into a school that's right for their ability without a huge amount of extra prep. I didn't want either of them to be struggling at the bottom.

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