Advanced search

Article on taking children out of private schools

(26 Posts)
Judy1234 Thu 16-Jul-09 18:19:26

From today's Times. To send your son to Eton for one year only where his brother went and then remove him kind of breaks your pact with him, better not to start than start and then fail.

"Expensive private education? Think again
No wonder demand for state school places is soaring. Many of us can no longer pay big bucks
Heather McGregor


Recommend? (149)

Where do your children go to school?” I am frequently asked. It might be the social niceties of a business lunch, or the surroundings of a wedding reception. Do they want to check that you are in their league? Or do they want to make sure that you are doing that uniquely British thing — spending every last penny you possess (and many that you don’t) on putting your children through the very best education you can obtain for them?

It is a British thing. The French, for instance, cannot fathom why we pay so much for private secondary schools. In Australia, where the Government gives private schools a subsidy for every child they spare the state having to educate, they wonder at the prices the British will pay for a private education. And the Americans find the concept ever so slightly mad.

We used to be one of those slightly mad families. For years we paid for our three children to attend the very best of Britain’s private schools. We never considered doing anything else; we had both been educated privately and wanted for our children what had been provided for us.

But then the recession arrived, and we had to face the truth; we are not Goldman Sachs partners nor in possession of trust funds set up by munificent grandparents to pay for school fees. Our eldest son was about to start university. But the other two were being educated out of current income. Running a small business in a recession does not yield a lot of cash.

* Crisis in primary school places causes councils to cut back other services

* Demand for state school places soars

* Troubled teenagers? You’re to blame

* Charity Begins at School

The prospect of using up what savings we had, and/or borrowing money, made us stop and think: why are we doing this? Will these children really be that much worse off in the state sector? We had looked at several private schools for our sons and chosen one that we thought would provide our children not only with an education, but wider skills and a network — membership of a club.

Now we had to challenge our long-held beliefs and go and see what choice was available to us; we were very pleasantly surprised. For secondary education we had a boys-only option, our closest state school, and, almost equidistant, a co-educational comprehensive with a very helpful and supportive headmaster who found another previously privately educated child to show us around. And if we were prepared to venture a little farther there was an 11-16 co-ed cited by Ofsted this year as having “an outstanding quality of education”.

There was also the local private day school, which does not usually admit pupils at 14+, and whose 13+ place we had turned down a while ago in preference for one at one of the grandest public schools in the country. A letter explaining frankly why we had previously spurned them, and why we would be grateful for a further discussion, persuaded them to re-interview and re-examine our son. For £4,500 a term (as opposed to almost £12,000) he now has a place at a school that sends almost a third of its pupils to Oxbridge each year, where the parents are more likely to be our peers, and where he will make local friends rather than ones who live in Moscow or have a second home in Barbados.

The ten-year-old is returning to the local village primary school after a three-year absence; again, a truthful letter to the new headmistress paved the way.

The boys have been brilliant; the younger one is thrilled to be coming home from boarding school, and the older one, while very disappointed at leaving new friends and a school where he was extremely happy, recognises that as a family we will all be better prepared financially if he moves.

We will need to adjust our lives to do more hands-on parenting; that too is no bad thing. They have probably lost their “club membership”; we shall have to compensate. The process has been cathartic, and while we acknowledge that others may not have such high-quality options as we do in Oxfordshire, I would still encourage anyone facing financial challenges to consider something they may previously have considered heresy.

How will it turn out? I have no idea, but I would cite two people who have contacted me since I made our decision public. The first was a banker, whom I know. “I’ve always regarded private secondary education as absurdly expensive and, thank God, managed to put my two children through the grammar school system.” He did, however, pay for one of them, who had good GCSE grades, to do her A levels in the private sector. “Just as I expected, this ended up as simply being an expensive private members’ club and her results would have been just the same . . .”

The other is someone I had never met, a young man in his early twenties. His parents had done the same to him — removed him from one of the country’s grandest establishments and sent him to the local (and very much cheaper) private day school. “I won’t pretend the transition was all that easy. It was very difficult having my parents involved in my day-to-day education ... But I made new and good friends (who lived around the corner, rather than in Paris, New York etc) and found that I really enjoyed the additional freedom I got from going to a day school. I got my As and went to Durham.”

He signed off his e-mail with the reassuring “It’ll be fine.” And do you know what? I suspect it will be. Contrary to long-held beliefs, private education, and especially the most expensive kind, is not necessarily the only option. The psychological barrier for us was, I suspect, much harder than the real one is going to be.

Heather McGregor is managing director of an executive search company

ihavenosecrets Thu 16-Jul-09 18:45:42

I read the article and found myself annoyed with the woman. hmm The options available to the family were very good, excellent private day school, impressive comp, great village school... I'm not sure what the point of the article was. Didn't Rachel Johnson write an almost identical piece 12 months ago?

frogs Thu 16-Jul-09 18:57:58


"I took my children out of a private school and sent them to <gasp> another private school. And it was fine!!! Who'd have thought it?"


FluffyBunnyGoneBad Thu 16-Jul-09 19:05:47

It appears to be an article about taking a child out of an expensive private school and putting them into a cheaper one/state school. I also can't see the point of it.

Judy1234 Thu 16-Jul-09 19:51:23

She writes an anonymous column ni the weekend FT every week and wrote about the same issue recently -

It's very funny reading the Times today because you think they're about to go to some sink school whereas they are going to some reasonable private day school.

She must be having hard times if she can't affodr the difference between Eton fees £30k and day school fees - about £11k for one child and not fair that her older son got that educatino and her brother is plucked out. But times are hard for recruitment consultants at present. Not sure what her husband does.

1dilemma Thu 16-Jul-09 23:41:25

oh yes times are hard

22K out of current income
house in Oxfordshire (bet it's not terraced)
choice of excellent local schools

times are indeed hard wink

FluffyBunnyGoneBad Thu 16-Jul-09 23:44:38

She misses out the bits where the children get bullied because they are from a private school. Where's that then?

OurLadyOfPerpetualSupper Thu 16-Jul-09 23:54:12

The ten year old has been at boarding school for three years?!?

That fact alone speaks volumes.

FluffyBunnyGoneBad Fri 17-Jul-09 00:00:28


'the' ten year old?? hmm

Judy1234 Fri 17-Jul-09 06:32:25

Yes, I've read her columns for years and I never liked the boarding school aspect and pro boarding comments when she's made them and even her comment in this article that the parents will need to do more isn't usually how most parents, even those like I am who work full time, feel.

What is quite an interesting topic is how people adjust when moving from one income level down to another once you've got used to one standard whether that's being on £50k a year down to £25k or £30k down to benefits levels.

And she left the City to set up her own firm - that is risky if you've made commitments to school fees etc. I think I'd sack a few members of staff and remortgage the house before taking my chdilren out of their (day) private schools, if I were her particularly as schooling is just for a definite period of time but the benefits are with you forever, because the recession will be over and borrowing is terribly cheap and because I'm optimist - there is always more money to be made.

OurLadyOfPerpetualSupper Fri 17-Jul-09 08:41:26

Well, from a purely financial viewpoint, perhaps that's what she should have done - and as there don't seem to be any emotional reasons for her allowing her children actually to live with her, it's surprising she didn't.

margotfonteyn Fri 17-Jul-09 08:54:34

I read this article yesterday and thought it was pretty uninteresting. Just highlighted the snobbery between different private/public schools.

Obviously she thinks people are interested that she has had to 'downsize' from a very prestigious school to another less prestigious school, conveniently wrapped up into a view that now she finds it has been marvellous for her family.

I doubt she would have 'downsized'to a day school for the sake of her family if she hadn't run out of money.

It is quite pathetic really. Fantastic news though that her friend 'the banker' found his DC got just as good results at a grammar school though (gasp).

OurLadyOfPerpetualSupper Fri 17-Jul-09 09:19:48

Thing is, she isn't downsizing 'for the sake of her family' - she hasn't mentioned any benefits other than financial, and is clearly relieved and somewhat incredulous that - guess what - they could get the same results from the second-tier day school, or even (whisper) the local comp.

The benefits are unexpected rather than planned for.

If they hadn't been stretched financially, she'd still be merrily waving them off at the start of each term and picking them up at the end, secure in her membership of the 'club' and blissfully ignorant that there might be another option.

margotfonteyn Fri 17-Jul-09 09:49:51

It just shows how ghastly life can be once people get used to a certain level of lifestyle. The continuing 'keeping up with the Jones'' mentality must be dreadfully trying (read the article linked to in the FT).

However, now the kids are in the lower echelon private school she will be top of a slightly less prestigious pile again.

I truely hope she realises there is more to life than money now.

fembear Fri 17-Jul-09 10:44:31

I thought that the Times was supposed to be a newspaper for the intelligentsia. Does this article prove that it is for people with more money than sense who have a desperate need to keep up with the Jones's. I used to occasionally read my brother's Sunday edition where they had a loathesome weekly article called "How To Spend It". How pathetic is that- that you need a newspaper to tell you want you really really want because you can't figure it out for yourself. It may have been tongue in cheek but, for me, it summed up all that was wrong with The Times.
Is this woman seriously saying that she didn't think through all the options before sending her DC to the 'prestigious' school – did she not even look at local schools!?shock

I hate executive search recruitment agencies anyway. They do a rubbish job for exorbitant fees. It's about time they got real. No sympathy, only schadenfreude.

Litchick Fri 17-Jul-09 11:04:27

I just don't get the mentality of people like this. I use independent school myself but couldn't imagin ehanding over that sort of money without having thought long and hard about it.
The idea that you would do it because 'that's what poeple like us do,' is, frankly, pathetic.

OurLadyOfPerpetualSupper Fri 17-Jul-09 11:06:35

MargotF, I'm sure you were being ironic when you spoke of how 'ghastly life can be once people get used to a certain level of lifestyle.'
This woman now has her children in an expensive dayschool - she's still several eschelons (echelons?) above most of the rest of the population financially - my heart bleeds for her, poor lamb..

jujumaman Fri 17-Jul-09 12:20:53

To say we've cut our fees from £30000 a year to £13500 and gosh, the world hasn't ended is unbelievably offensive in the current climate. Heather Mc once invited me to some "networking" event. I said I couldn't go because I had a four week old baby, her PA said "Oh" sounding horrified, hung up and that was the last I ever heard from her smile

UnquietDad Fri 17-Jul-09 12:30:02

Wealthy family purchases high-end luxury goods, becomes slightly less wealthy, purchases slightly less high-end luxury goods.

Is this news?

lazymumofteenagesons Fri 17-Jul-09 12:36:15

I read this article thinking it was going to be about pulling kids out of private ed and into some sink inner city comp.

I actually found the article embarassing. How can anyone feel readers are interested in her moving from boarding to day. Not exactly a huge change of circumstances.

And in the 21st century who still sends there kids to board at 7 years old.

margotfonteyn Fri 17-Jul-09 13:22:24

Well, I wasn't actually being ironic. I do think her life must be pretty horrid having to do all that keeping up with the jones', and living her life through her sons going leaving and then having to write about it in the Times, and then actually thinking the Great British Public might be interested or care about it.

It beggars belief how egocentric these idiots high flyers are.

margotfonteyn Fri 17-Jul-09 13:24:37

that was going to Eton!!!

margotfonteyn Fri 17-Jul-09 13:29:01

that was going to Eton!!!

ZZZenAgain Fri 17-Jul-09 13:50:23

well I suppose it is the world, the small world of the very wealthy and those who want to belong to it or want to be sure their dc will belong. Only thing that bothers me is her talk of the "networking" and "the club".

I find it interesting in that there is huge discussion on MN re state vs. private, and yet with private generally MN dp are referring to those "cheaper" independent schools this author was so concerned about having her dc attend.

Seems as the independent school dp view the state school options warily, thinking in the interests of their dc getting the education they want for them, school fees have to be paid; the dp whose children are at the extremely expensive schools view warily those independent schools with lower fees.

Just wish the level of education generally right across the country were higher, so that we could all worry less about this. I feel that schools expect too little of our dc and there is widespread (seems to be) complacency that mediocrity in educational attainment is what most dc can settle for.

Miggsie Fri 17-Jul-09 14:58:27

There was an article a while ago which I can't find but I think it made it onto saying that they did a massive study and found private education had huge benefits to the top 2-3% of academic children but for most middle of the road students the achievements in later life of those in private education compared to those in state were no different.

So if her children were fairly average she was probably making a good decision as the private school would not have given them any more advantage than a state one.

But why one would write in the Times about this I don't know.

Mind you, my brother was round my house complaining that his income had fallen below £100k this year and he didn't know how he could manage and his car expenses didn't cover the cost of his 4x4 and other woe.
I sit there as a disabled part time worker earning somewhat less than £100k thinking "and I am meant to sympathise?"

I'm planning to send DD private and ask for a bursary. They offer them, I'm asking for one. My friend and her DH are unemployed and on benefits and they have 2 kids in private school both on bursaries (both very famous schools too). She took her boys along, did the entrance test, found they passed (one is a scholarship), asked for a full bursary, and got one.

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: