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What is best for state-ed kids to do to compete with private-ed?

(45 Posts)
Basketofchocolate Sat 11-Jul-15 13:47:37

I am sure this has been asked before, but my searches brought up nothing.

We cannot afford private school for DS but since he shows promise academically, we'd like to give him the opportunities that private-ed kids round here might get so we can widen his knowledge, social skills, etc. which is often what marks private-ed kids out (IMO).

Sadly in this area there is not a lot on offer (towns in 'nicer' areas are full of clubs would like DS to go to but cannot travel the distance). So, if want (and he wants) DS to do clubs other than 'theatre school' what should I concentrate on as it will prob mean a private tutor and therefore be expensive.

Languages? Sports? Music? Drama?

Happyyellowcar Sat 11-Jul-15 13:49:45

Teach him how to think for himself. That's all.

SunnyBaudelaire Sat 11-Jul-15 13:49:56

Elocution lessons

howabout Sat 11-Jul-15 13:55:23

Social circles.

Confidence to pursue opportunities.

Chottie Sat 11-Jul-15 13:55:37

He sounds like he has two loving and caring parents - so he already has a good start in life smile

I would suggest you listen to him, read both to him and with him, bring him up to have good self esteem and confidence. Encourage his intellectual intelligence.

SayThisOnlyOnce Sat 11-Jul-15 13:57:44

See what he would do at private school and go from there?

My friends son goes to private school and the main differences appear to be smaller classes, expensive gender specific uniforms and a sense of superiority. Hth.

Happyyellowcar Sat 11-Jul-15 14:07:35

Just to clarify, I'm a teacher and have worked in both state and private schools and am a product of the state system myself. I was under a lot more pressure from the Head and parents in the private schools to get results from the pupils, often a couple of grades higher than their natural ability. This lead to a lot of spoon feeding and whilst they did perform well in exams the pupils were often petrified to write things down without being told specifically what to write etc. many dropped out of uni because they had never had to think for themselves in terms of organising themselves or their work etc. so really as you sound like a parent who believes in a good education and will be supportive of your DS I really don't believe he will be at a disadvantage at all. Help him to question everything and if he asks a question then always turn it round into "well what do you think?". And try not to do his homework for him!

Basketofchocolate Sat 11-Jul-15 14:12:47

Lol at Sunny after the choice words he's brought home from school this week I think the whole class could do with elocution lessons!

Doesn't help when the TAs and parent helpers in the school don't seem to know their grammar too well.

That's encouraging, though, thanks. We do make an effort and do take him places and DH is really good at working on projects with him at home so maybe we do just need to chill out a bit and do more of the same. He certainly has a good head on his shoulders so far and know that problem-solving is probably best thing we can teach him. As an 'only' he does get stuck into family discussions about 'what to do about X or Y' and why we choose what we choose.

Have a friend who has promised to teach him to ski when he's a bit older - have never fancied it myself, but I think along with golf, it's something that families from the 'nicer' schools all seem to do grin

Basketofchocolate Sat 11-Jul-15 14:15:02

And Happy I wish he had homework! School doesn't give any at the moment so instead he just rocks up to maths class each week and aces the v easy test. Not great for teaching him learning skills but I do think that homework in infants is a waste of time, so am ok with that. When he's older, he'll be doing it on his own for sure - not sure I can remember stuff that far back and the maths all seems to be quite different these days.

Basketofchocolate Sat 11-Jul-15 14:17:34

Sorry, missed reply to Saythis that's a good idea. The private schools near here have open days quite often so I shall pop along and do some mystery shopping! grin

PerspicaciaTick Sat 11-Jul-15 14:19:58

I'd go for scouting and/or DofE awards.Or sign him up to volunteer in a library (from 14yo I think) on the Summer Reading Challenge, meeting lots of people.

BrilliantDayForTheRace Sat 11-Jul-15 14:24:47

Don't think of it in terms of competing. It's not a competition.

Think in terms of what you'd like him to experience / be good at.

I think 2 very valuable things to experience are team sport and music lessons.

And you most certainly don't need to go to a private school for them.

ImpatientGriselda2 Sat 11-Jul-15 14:32:14

I went to a fairly rubbish private school that was worse academically and in extra curricular terms than the state schools most of my uni friends went to. The main bonus, in retrospect, was that there was very little disruption in lessons, and the school arranged some interesting work placements in 5th and 6th form.

Good idea to follow your son's interests and not shoehorn him into stuff he's waiting to be old enough to get out of though. Especially if it's expensive.

Activities I wished I'd had access to that kids from good state schools did:
- regular drama groups
- chess
- debating - I think that could be a good one for the confidence and interview skills typically associated with private school kids.
- school newspapers and magazines
- music teaching that was actually interesting - a big regret in student days when people were forming bands, and they already knew what they were doing
- taking extra GCSE or A level subjects elsewhere that the school didn't offer

Only very big private schools offer a really wide range of sports, and not all the kids do them, but if it's feasible for him to try things out, martial arts, climbing, trathlon, whatever, that would be great.

Can you travel for him to try things 2 or 3 times before investing in a tutor? Also the group nature of activities can be important, getting used to teamwork or turn-taking in a less structured environment than a school class.

One of the other things about school clubs is that a kid can try an activity, decide they don't like it but give it another go a year or two later, without necessarily having to ask anyone or be put off by someone who has the power to veto travel arrangements "but you didn't like that/ weren't very good at it"

1805 Sat 11-Jul-15 14:33:14

cricket/rugby, music lessons, basic general knowledge, British history, constant tests/exams.

That's the difference we found between our local state schools and the private school ds went to.

But all schools teach slightly different things.

TheMotherOfAllDilemmas Sat 11-Jul-15 14:40:45

Having been the product of both private and state education, I would say the most important things are:

- Suround them with good reading materials, good quality papers, Radio 4 and plenty of Penguin classics books around the house, so they have a good grounding to have well informed opinions.

- The reading will improve their communication skills, I think having a very good command of the language is what really opens doors. It is not what you say but how you say it. Elocution classes seems old fashioned, but I think having a polished accent really makes a difference when it comes to moving up in the career ladder.

You don't need to send them to classes, DS has a very posh accent which is owed more to years spent watching Jeremy Clarkson in Top Gear than the years he was privately educated. grin (Disclaimer: just before anyone points out my gramatical errors, I may say in my defence that English is my third or fourth language so my English language skills are much worse than I would like them to be).

- Teach them to think independantly, the crowd is never necessarily right.

- Some simple graces go a long way, like looking at people's faces when you talk, answer in sentences rather than monosyllabics, address people correctly and try to involve everyone in the conversation.

Tanaqui Sat 11-Jul-15 14:51:52

I second music and a sport- could be x country or triathlon if no team sports appeal- rugby ir cricket usually less angsty than football!

Also lots if books, theatre/ museums if you have access, eat out, have lots if friends!

JessiePinkMan Sat 11-Jul-15 15:08:21


Lilymaid Sat 11-Jul-15 15:13:11

Best things are free or dead cheap - lots of discussion at dinner table to get them to think and speak with clarity. Walks in country - providing a knowledge of geography and natural world - again discussing it.
Anything confidence building such as Dof E, scouts/guides.
Going out to meals when funds allow or at least broadening the foods served at home (and attention to reasonable table manners)
Common courtesy
Most of these are obviously not the sole preserve of the privately educated but of a well rounded person.

Basketofchocolate Sat 11-Jul-15 15:29:01

More good replies! Thanks. Accent drives me bonkers as he picks up terrible stuff at school (DH and I speak ok I think and certainly know when to 'pick it up a notch' when in certain company) but am hoping that he is just playing the words/accent. The swear words he has told me about but using 'ain't' drives me nuts - which he knows and therefore uses to great effect! Drama school may be ideal for him thinking about it grin

We do have a lot of books around the house. Am not a big fan of 'classics' myself but am avid reader and read fiction and non-fiction as is he. We don't get a newspaper for us, but have recently signed him up for First News which he does seem to be enjoying. We are radio2 listeners here but don't want TV in front of him unless it is a documentary that we sit down to watch together (he has no interest in the Disney stuff).

He's recently started out in Beavers and I think those kind of activities are more his bag than team sports.

Is reading books at the table considered reasonable table manners? hmm grin We do take him to restaurants when we can and do try to keep him well-mannered and do his own ordering, etc. I think he has more confidence speaking to adults than I ever did at that age but then all our friends are adults without kids.

BCBG Sat 11-Jul-15 15:38:51

OP, IMHO HappyYellowCar has summed it up perfectly. I have three privately educated kids, and they are lovely, sociable, well mannered, academically very successful, well informed and sporty. Uni for two of them was Durham, other one is at Cambridge doing super hard degree. He got A* A-levels x 4 plus one A. My next door neighbour's son went to the very ordinary comp down the road from here, and left with FIVE A* A levels. He wanted to study similar course to my son but got rejected from all units he applied to so read Biomedical sciences somewhere else. Has graduated with a First and is now finally going off to do post graduate Dentistry with a scholarship to help with fees. The education we paid for gave our kids access to fantastic teachers but the result was what they put in, and although they are lovely I would be the first to admit that Happy is right about organisation and self starting with at least one of them!. My neighbours son probably had access to fantastic teachers too, but I bet he had to put in twice the effort to achieve the same results - sadly he lacked confidence when he left school, and possibly didn't interview as well as my kids. So I would say if your DS is prepared to work as hard as a private school would 'make' him work, if he is well read and well informed and he gets out into the world and maybe holds down some weekend jobs then the world will be his oyster. If he isn't given homework (my neighbours son wasn't) then he has to find his own, and like him, your DS may have to cope with peers who dont like him studying so hard, but my kids faced that pressure even in their lovely private school, and to be honest I think most kids these days like seeing their friends doing well and are very supportive.

We did what we did for reasons I won't go into here, but never think that your DS is at a disadvantage because he isn't - the only advantage that privately educated kids have is self-belief, and that can be instilled in him for free!

enderwoman Sat 11-Jul-15 16:10:18

I went private while my kids are at state.

There's a huge difference between schools in each sector so I'm going to assume that you mean "well educated"

I have decided to focus on speaking because it's an important life skill that will help them.

I encourage them to learn about topics that are outside the norms amongst their friends. There is a boy in my son's group who is an F1 expert and it brings respect from his peers and becomes a topic which makes him more memorable and interesting. If I notice my kids really interested in a subject I try to help them improve their knowledge. They all have niche topics (for their group of friends) that they can talk about passionately.
I also encourage them to speak properly - no mumbling, no "ain't"/no slang when speaking to adults.
I think that being able to express an opinion is also important. For example If we go to watch a film we will dissect the film later- it was good/rubbish is not good enough. I think that having an opinion that you can defend makes you seem more "educated" (thinking of people like David Cameron here)
We often end up discussing philosophical topics that have no right or wrong answer. A recent one is if you have a transplant do you end up with traits from the donor? Nobody's a surgeon here so no idea which of my kids (if any) had the right answer.

chocolatechip123 Sat 11-Jul-15 16:17:13

Opportunity - music, sport, drama, art.

Visiting museums and galleries, chatting about news topics, getting a book out of the library on a subject and doing a project on it (history, electricity, politics, environment... Anything of interest).

Ask for his opinions on events, books, politicians .. Get him to think and analyse things 'is fox hunting good or bad?' , 'should children get the vote?' 'Should chimpanzees have human rights?'... Think about the pros and cons - Aquila magazine has questions to debate and lirs of other interesting stuff.

Confidence is a part here - can he blethet on about his favourite book, hero, hobby?

dementedma Sat 11-Jul-15 16:17:59

Read lots, across all genres
Dof E awards
Excellent manners, good eye contact, courtesy

Mistigri Sat 11-Jul-15 16:57:32

Teach him to think critically. Talk to him about stuff (science, current affairs, anything really) and challenge him to justify his opinions. These are skills that will be useful in all walks of life.

You can't unfortunately compensate for the unseen privilege that having been to the "right" school confers, especially if he chooses a career where there is a high proportion of ex public school types and the old boy network is still in operation. However, you can make sure that he gets a good education that will serve him more widely and you can try to instill the idea that privilege and ability will only get you so far but hard work is what makes the difference in the end.

TheMotherOfAllDilemmas Sat 11-Jul-15 17:11:30

I know someone who carries out admission interviews for a top university. He says that the main difference between private and state educated children is articulation. That privately educated kids seems more confident when answering and seem more relaxed.

To be honest, it is not surprising, when you are sharing a teacher with another 30 pupils, there is very little opportunity to discuss issues in detail and many children can easily fade in the background without having challenging questions thrown into their direction. sad

OP, Don''t worry too much about the accent he picks up at school, he needs to fit in there as well, as long as he can practice his 'nice' accent at home, he will be fine. DS can confidently switch between the posh accent and a very broad local dialect, he says that prevents him from being bullied. Having said that, I feel my blood boil everytime he slips a 'cos when talking to me.

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