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AIBU to think DS will be fine at local South London state primary with fairly poor SATs even if we can afford to go private?

(48 Posts)
pasturesnew Mon 06-Jul-09 10:43:55

Apologies for the long post!

DS is coming up to 3 so am guessing if we want to go the private route then we need to book him a place soon.

There are good state schools near us in South London but apparently they are all expecting plenty of siblings so likelihood is as DS is first child that he will end up in local state primary that is a bit poor in the results stakes as our local authority does not have enough places at the moment and has had to set up temporary classrooms in some schools in our area. The state school is near our house. The private schools are further away and seem to be all right but not amazing.

We would like 3 kids with no. 2 on the way now so if we go private it would cost a great deal as then we would be committed for all 3, wouldn't we?

We would consider private at secondary level but there seem to be plenty of decent state secondaries nearby so hopefully that won't be necessary.

We could afford it and to be honest if we start down the private route grandparents are likely to want to chip in but it seems like a lot of money that could go somewhere else more useful or fun e.g. holidays, paying down the mortgage, saving for the kids' futures, or I could go part-time at work or DH could become a SAHD.

DH was happy at failing South London primary school then went to pushy prep at 7 and did fine but felt really pressured. He liked his private secondary school, though, partly because of the sports and partly because his parents were going through a rough patch so he boarded for a while and made some lovely friends in his boarding house.

I am a perfectly happy ex-state pupil both at primary and secondary level. My exam results at school and university were way better than DH's and overall my experience of education seems to have been more positive than his, which I would largely put down to a happier home life as a child.

The only thing that would really sell a private primary school to us would be if we felt they would really love and value the kids.

What do you think? Thanks!

tattycoram Mon 06-Jul-09 10:56:24

It sounds like you've made your mind up. I wouldn't hesitate to send him to the local primary school in your shoes. It sounds as he will be absoltuely fine

maria1665 Mon 06-Jul-09 10:56:43

From my own experience, I would not put too much reliance on SATS results and even OFSTED. Far better to speak to parents whose kids are at the school now, and judge the school by how happy kids seem to be there, how close it is to your home, whether it offers other activites that you would wish your child to get a chance at. Whether the school is independent or state is really secondary to the above.

DS is just about to leave a primary school rated as 'Outstanding' by OFSTED three years ago, and getting SATS results which put it in the top 40 state primaries in the country.

Three years ago, the school was outstanding. But since then the push for better and better SATS results, and jealous in fighting amongst the staff have made the last two years thoroughly miserable. I know for a fact that the school's 'How are we doing?' questionaire results made for uncomfortable reading.

Your penultimate paragraph is bob on - do the staff love and value the kids - in a primary school especially, that's the key consideration.

ninamag Mon 06-Jul-09 11:00:16

My daughter is just leaving year 6. She has been at our local primary with a good ofsted and average sats results. She has been really happy, made loads of friends and has really enjoyed her time at school. We had this dilemma when she was 4 and have not regretted our decision. We have since gone on to have 3 more DDS so we no longer have the option of private. Well that's my tuppence worth.

Blackduck Mon 06-Jul-09 11:01:01

When you say it is a bit poor I assume you don't mean it is failing, merely that it isn't as highly ranked as some of the others? I would look across the Ofsted reports and also bear in mind that changes in staff can effect a school (my ds's infant has dropped a grade part of which, I am sure, is due to the fact 2/3s of the staff had only been in the school a matter of weeks when it was last inspected!). I have a lot of friends who are primary school teachers and they are of the view that you can make up any deficiet yourself at this age.
One of the issues with private ed as you have pointed out is that once you start you have to keep going and it isn't cheap! My brother found it a struggle to keep his ds and dd in private school (DS is now in a grammer but thats another story). Look round the school and go with your gut!

Wonderstuff Mon 06-Jul-09 11:03:50

I teach in a state secondary which until recently had very poor GCSE's. The children with committed, educated parents do well. I am currently debating whether to buy a small house near to good schools or a bigger one next to one with poorer results, so similar dilemma I guess. The big advantage of the 'nicer' school I think is the other childrens behaviour. My only fear is dd picking up bad habits, my hope is that I will raise a child who is secure enough to work hard even if this appears 'geeky'. If we go for the weaker school I also plan to investigate how I can become a govenor and generally get as involved as I can. DD is only 20mo so we have lots of time.

My personal experience is state school and I did well I think in spite of my school I genuinely think it wouldn't have made much difference where I went. However my db went to a rougher school and is more of a follower than me and did badly. I think there were lots of reasons for this but a 'better' secondary would have changed things.

I think I would go for the state but if you become unhappy at least you have the option of changing later. It may be that different schools suit each of your children, I have a friend who moved from public to state as he was unhappy and flourished at state school.

dinosaur Mon 06-Jul-09 11:08:20

Talk to other parents with children at the local state primary, and visit it too. Then make your decision.

My DSs go to the local (ie the nearest) state primary to us in Hackney and we are very very happy with it.

So no, you are not being unreasonable in principle, but you need to get as much information as you can.

pasturesnew Mon 06-Jul-09 11:10:21

I suppose my worry is that I might be too blase from my own experience and if an eighties primary school in the North is any way to judge a 2010s (what is that called btw? The "tens", like the pain relief gadgets?) South London primary in an area where there are some nasty crime issues?

Not sure what extra activities we would like at primary level tbh. We can go swimming at home, or arrange private music lessons if it seems like fun. Not that bothered about languages as DS is already learning Dutch from spending a day a week with his gran.

How do you approach parents who have children at the school? The parents we know round here have older children at the "better" state schools so have not got the same admissions issues as us.

daftpunk Mon 06-Jul-09 11:15:50

where abouts in london are you? Thomas's in Clapham is very good (i've heard)...it's fee paying.....i personally wouldn't pay for primary education..but would deffo consider going private for secondary.

Wonderstuff Mon 06-Jul-09 11:17:56

I would go and visit the school and I would also look up the OFSTED report to find out what they think the issues are.

thirtysomething Mon 06-Jul-09 11:18:08

agree with Maria - both the (state) infant and juniors my DC have been to have outstanding OFSTED reports and great SATS results but we've been quite disappointed to be honest - both these factors have bred total complacency amongst the staff, and both schools are very smug about their results whilst not treating children as individuals,and neglecting all the extra-currcicular stuff. I'm sure they put on great PE lessons for the OFSTED inspectors but can go 3 weeks normally without doing PE for example - too many other "exciting" things to do/too cold/wet/hot etc. We have another school near us that doesn't do as well on paper but the kids do loads more non-academic stuff, are encouraged to get messy and creative and they foster responsibility through having a mini-farm and allotment where the children have duties and little jobs etc. I think all this makes happier, more rounded children than putting on a good show for Mr OFSTED inspector and focusing purely on SATS.

MY older DC now year 6 has chosen a private secondary primarily because they offer so much sport, drama etc - he's felt very pushed academically at his state primary and, although he responds well to this and is quite bright, is bored rigid with this one-dimensional approach and wants a broader curriculum. So my advice is to go visit the school and look beyond SATS/OFSTED anyway...

EldonAve Mon 06-Jul-09 11:23:41

Have you been to look at the schools?

Do the private schools have places or did you already put your child's name down? Depending on where you live you may be too late for private primary anyway

janinlondon Mon 06-Jul-09 11:31:57

If the private schools are "alright but not amazing" I would be a bit hmm about them to be honest.

SparkyMalarky Mon 06-Jul-09 11:34:48

I could have written your post! Having exactly the same discussion with DH now - we both went to state schools and have done ok - but have been considering the private v state schools for 3 yr old DS

YANBU at all - we've pretty much made the same decision - we felt that private school was a big commitment at this stage - we've just had another DC and would like a third, and although we're unlikely to get into any of the great state schools in our area of west london (lots of siblings here too!), the one nearest us - although it did v badly in the SATs - has a good ofsted report and reports from local parents are all good too.

Have you been to see the school? Can you ask any current parents with kids at the school? That might help put your mind at rest.

pasturesnew Mon 06-Jul-09 12:01:27

The local private schools do still have places, part of the pressure on LA no.s round here seems to be that private school fees are becoming less attractive! If we put DS's name down just in case now there is a £1,000 nonrefundable deposit at each school. Not sure this is money worth spending if it's more likely than not that we'll go the state route.

Do you know what, I looked at that "poor" school's most recent Ofsted and it's actually a 2 overall for 2008 which is fine, isn't it? I think the buzz round here that it is a bit poor relates to it having worse SATs than the better state primaries but tellingly their English SATs are the worst and apparently "Nearly half of the pupils do not speak English at home" so that's understandable and wouldn't apply to us anyway. The science SATs, by contrast, seem fine.

I agree that SATs and Ofsted aren't enough to go on anyway and will visit the schools but was feeling a bit fatalistic that it wouldn't make much difference as pressure of LA numbers is so tight we would have to just get whatever we would get.

The things we really don't want to happen is for the only state place to be 2 or 3 miles away or for DS to be one of the temporary classroom kids.

OrmIrian Mon 06-Jul-09 12:06:35

"The only thing that would really sell a private primary school to us would be if we felt they would really love and value the kids" Precisely smile You are on completely the right track!

Speak to local parents. Visit the school. My DCs school has moderate SATs but a good Ofsted but more importantly my children feel happy and safe there. DS#1 got high 4s and 5s in Yr 6 SATS even though he struggled earlier in the school. DD is in yr5 and already at level 5 for several subjects. Bright kids with supportive parents will do OK IME at reasonable primary schools.

Oh and don't forget that your DC won't be starting for over a year and things can change.

1dilemma Mon 06-Jul-09 12:13:55

I wouldn't be quite so sure that the other children not speaking English at home will not impact on your child IMHO

a) most of the schools resources ie money and energy will go on those dcs

b) it can narrow down your dcs opportunity to make friends

grade 2 is fine but I think you need to look at the report and read between the lines and work out what will apply to you.

I'm guessing if your private schools aren't full then they aren't up to much good, have you looked at some of the full ones for comparison?

oh and I'm sure (although I have no experience of this yet) that the extra children into schools won't be branded at the school gate and sent to the far corner of the playground but will be mixed and matched so you will have no idea (unless you base it on proximity/who has elder sibling smile

pasturesnew Mon 06-Jul-09 12:27:20

Full private schools are further away which would involve needing an au pair to drive kids to school which we don't really fancy. They are also where children go who have SAHMs, nannies and private swimming pools at home etc. so not such a community feel as the other private schools. In their defence, the local private schools nearest us are good and all, I suppose by "not amazing" I was thinking more, "does not include goldsmithing in art class or stabling and groom for one's own pony" grin

As to the extra children, I am an LEA governor of an excellent state primary in our LA which is going to have a temporary classroom next year. They will be taught separately from the other kids and then moved into new primary schools in the LA in due course once these have been refurbished / expanded / built. Their siblings will not follow them into the school where they are temporary. The governors had great concerns about this but in the end we felt it was still the best the LA could do for the kids but we were v v cross with the LA for not getting their figures right sooner as some of the new school places could have been made available in good time. We were not asked about the temporary kids until the end of the the Spring term and they are starting this September. Our LA is not good enough!! Luckily the schools work very hard to overcome this.

And no, DS can't go to the school I'm a governor of because we're not in the catchment area and he has no elder sibling there. And governors don't get any special admissions rights anyway.

EldonAve Mon 06-Jul-09 12:29:53

What LA are you in? The plan for the temporary classes sounds v disruptive for the children

pasturesnew Mon 06-Jul-09 12:33:41

I know EldonAve, but I don't want to say which LA it is as don't want to unduly upset lots of people who hopefully won't be affected by it. I think it is an issue across London though, apparently it's down to statistical errors at central government level and although some LAs did their own checks and planned accordingly, some, like mine, didn't.

jeee Mon 06-Jul-09 12:34:52

I'd send my DC to the local school in your situation pasturesnew - in fact, I do send my DC to the local school! However, I sometimes feel that, as a parent, if we just do the easy thing, and don't lie, cheat, change religion, rob a bank, etc., to send our DC to some oversubscibed/private school, then we believe that on some level we're failing as a parent. Which isn't true, of course, but can make us feel very guilty.

EldonAve Mon 06-Jul-09 12:37:13

I was just wondering as I know Wandsworth is adding extra classes to some schools

pasturesnew Mon 06-Jul-09 12:41:43

It depends how the extra classes are added. If the ongoing overall capacity of the schools goes up but the playground is reduced a bit by new building then I think that's OK. This is happening elsewhere in our LA, but at "my" school the capacity is only being increased on a temporary basis while the LA gets the new schools ready.

1dilemma Mon 06-Jul-09 12:43:56

I am truely shocked about the schooling arrangements for children being admitted to your school if I were a parent there I'd be up in arms about it and I'm surprised as a gov body you felt able to agree to that

Eldon I think all the W. ones expanding are going to open right through there was a piece about it on website together with another one about birth rates in the local mag on the same day which made me laugh putting the two together (and working out that I think 180 dcs are still going to be without a reception place in Sept.)

I didn't ompare the two list though because most of the schools are miles away so I might be wrong

1dilemma Mon 06-Jul-09 12:45:19

Oh and I'm guessing pn is se London from the comments about local private schools not being new (sorry p to talk about you in 3rd person on your thread wink)

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