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reasons for choosing a private school in Cambridge?

(17 Posts)
hibiscus1 Wed 08-Nov-17 12:29:43

We have 2 kids + 1 on the way. Our oldest will start primary next year. We will soon visit our local primary (Chesterton) of which so far I have heard good things.

We are both on pretty good salaries, so could afford going private for our 3 children. However, I still find it a lot of money, commute to school would be longer, friends would not live in local neighbourhood and the benefits are not clear to us. I would think that many of our friends even with good jobs can't afford it. Where we are from originally private schools are not common.

So I am wondering what the reasons are for parents to choose a private education in Cambridge?

Bella8 Wed 08-Nov-17 12:35:19

If I can play the devils advocate for a minute I'm going to say I don't agree with private schools. In my opinion public schools are just as good if not better. I'd much rather give extra money to a charity in my child's name. Some children appear to be over privileged little darlings who feel the world owes them a favour; I had quite afew of these little darlings at university with me and they didn't go on to do anything spectacular and struggled to complete (all of them were private schoolers . Private schools are a waste of money as far as I am concerned.

Bella8 Wed 08-Nov-17 12:37:35


NewbyCambs Wed 08-Nov-17 13:04:24

It’s an interesting question, and bound to start the private vs state debate. The state schools in Cambridge are pretty much all very good, and I know some that would argue they provide as good or a better education then many of the independents. I guess the question is, why do parents choose a private education for their children anywhere?! I have always believed that an individuals ability to get a good standard of education shouldn’t be dependant on how much money we have. However realistically, in Cambridge and London, places in schools are so dictated by ‘catchment areas’ that people end up paying a premium on housing to get into a ‘good’ school. I still think school should reflect society, and sending my child to a school where every one is wealthy, does not reflect that.

VeryPunny Wed 08-Nov-17 14:07:49

The scales have well and truly fallen from my eyes wrt private education, at least within Cambridge. Some of them are stuck in the last century and you may be paying for many things but better quality teaching is certainly not one of them. The hard sell tactics that they can use are a bit of an eye opener too - it was rammed home at every occasion that they test for entry at yr2, and entry not guarenteed so best to get in at reception just to be sure (no mention of the extra £36 000 in fees you'd pay over 3 years, which would buy an awful lot of extra tuition). They do seem to pander to what people think must make up a good education - stripey blazers, the whole class learning cello etc, rather than what actually is a good education.

The one thing I do think they offer is the extended day facility all in one place, but I think this is more important as they get older, and most primaries have wrap around care these days. They also charge significant markups on their add-ons, such as music lessons. And when they are tiny, the less time they spend going to and from school the better IMO.

mastertomsmum Wed 08-Nov-17 14:16:33

My son spent time in a Pre Prep and Prep school in Cambridge. Our initial reasons for taking the private route were that we were living out of the UK at the time of application for primary school and because he would have been very young in year and didn't seem school ready. The independent sector gave us the opportunity to start him in Reception aged 5 and few days rather than 4 and a few days. He has a minor physical disability.

The experience was a gradual spiral downhill. He began school being referred to as 'knowledgeable and one of the best readers in the year', we spent the next term being hassled about him not being able to via zip up his coat and being told 'he can't hop'. As he reached the Prep School part of the school he was being denied high attainment grades in Science because he could not always do the experiments without (physical) help. In the upper part of the school help in Science lessons wasn't an option and we'd become disillusioned and worried about our son's self esteem. We'd started to feel we were paying to be unhappy. This is, clearly, a very particular individual case but a universal point it does make is that a selective environment can treat a person like this, it can make judgements that would never be spoken and quite plausibly not even made in state settings.

Our son has been in a state school for the second half of his school career to date. All the things he found difficult are less so simply because no one is needlessly judging him or constantly highlighting any tiny difference in physical ability. He's top stream, high achieving. He doesn't qualify for actual help (TA etc.), but in state schools - it seems - resources are used to make lessons accessible to all and inclusivity is a requirement.

Private schools are all different and I do believe there are some excellent ones in Cambridge. I even believe the school we went to would be right for some children.

Most state primaries in Cambridge are pretty good. If you are in Chesterton and your local one is called Chesterton Primary, then that's the school in Green End Road which I went to when it was an infant school (it was called Shirley then and the current Shirley School was named St Andrews Junior).

A word about small classes - I always thought that large classes were the one thing my son would really find difficult when we transferred to the state sector. In fact it made no difference whatever. What made things work really was how resources were used not how many children were in the class.

StrumpersPlunkett Wed 08-Nov-17 22:30:07

I think it is totally down to your child's fit in the school available

We were v v happy for 5 years in our local school. There were issues that came up that the state sector does not have the bandwidth to fix.
We moved schools when ds1 was going into yr5 he is now in yr9 and we couldn't be more sure of our decision.
Aside from everything else he has nowhere to hide in a class of 18-20 instead of 30+

I work in a state primary school in Cambridge. All staff are fabulous trying their best under v hard circumstances. Squeezed to the limits. But if your child is flowing with the tide or qualifies for 1-1 help they will be fine 🙂

Biscuitsneeded Wed 08-Nov-17 22:34:53

I'm not sure about this one either. Arguably (and the strongest argument as far as I can see) you are paying for better facilities. The Leys for example has amazing sports facilities and its own theatre. I know a lot of people who set great store by small classes, but I think although small classes are nice for the teacher (less marking, easier to get round to see all kids, slightly fewer eyes-needed-in-back-of-head moments), I don't think there's a huge advantage for the children, even less confident ones. I think larger classes/schools actually offer a better experience as there is more of a choice of people to be friends with, and you don't tend to get one Queen bee dictating the friendships of everyone else and excluding individuals, because those individuals have other social options. And research has shown that class size doesn't really impact on outcomes.
For SEN, state schools are better. No question. Private schools aren't set up for that on the same scale.
Having taught in a small private school, I can say that if you are the kind of parent who will always want to 'have a word' with the teacher, and who believes firmly that your child is an extra special and rare creature, then you may be happier with a private school, as part of the deal does seem to be that this sort of parent is rather more indulged. Whilst it's annoying for the teacher, you are paying what might be a vast chunk of your salary for the privilege, so you might as well enjoy it. Certainly, in Cambridge in particular where there are choirs and orchestras and sports clubs and theatre schools etc to fill the extra-curricular gap more than adequately, and where state schools are by and large excellent, I do struggle to understand what it is people think they are buying. I don't agree that all private school kids are horrible and entitled - some are, but you can get horrible kids in state schools too. I've also taught some absolutely lovely kids in private school, who were very aware of the sacrifices their parents were making and determined to make their sacrifices worth it - but I still question the wisdom of their parents' decision when the kid in question would have been more than fine in a state school.

Biscuitsneeded Wed 08-Nov-17 22:37:37

Sorry Strumpers, I was composing my message while you posted, and posted mine before I saw yours. I don't mean to imply that you think your child is a special snowflake, or that you didn't have very legitimate reasons for the decision you made!

StrumpersPlunkett Wed 08-Nov-17 22:48:53

😁 biscuits it takes more than that to cause offence.
Our issues were that he is bright, quiet, well behaved with hang over problems from lengthy speech therapy requirements which meant he almost totally missed out on phonics teaching. School were telling us he was bright and exceeding expected level and yet he could barely read and write!!!

We considered hiring a tutor for him to catch up but dh's parents had always been pushing as to why they weren't at private school (they were going to be paying) it was harder and harder to argue that the local school was fabulous and that we were v happy with it.
As soon as we started looking around seeing facilities for science/sport/languages at primary school age it was a no brainer.

I know that secondary schools have most of these things is also fab but it has been great getting these extras earlier.

However as I said it is v v much down to individual children. I am pretty certain ds2 would be achieving the same results in a state school. 😀

mastertomsmum Thu 09-Nov-17 10:22:41

At primary level facilities at lots of Pre Prep/Prep schools will be far better than the average state primary. I'm in 2 minds as to how much this matters. If your have a child who is really into sport or music, better facilities are really welcome but you might want to cover this outside school with clubs and so on.

We switched from a school with marvellous facilities to a local school without any outdoor sportsfields. I thought it would matter a lot, but the advantage of a more caring setting really outweighed any advantage better facilities could provide. It also highlighted that a lot of resources were put into sport at the Prep School but not into other useful things. The school trips in the state Primary were much better as was the maths teaching. The Maths and English teaching in the early part of the Prep School suffered because they did 3 weekly sessions of Sport and the Maths and English did not match SATs preparation standards.

Language teaching in our Primary was also better, although I would say this is dependent on local circumstances. At our local Primary the French teaching was done by a TA who lived in France and was a very good teacher. At the Prep School the language teaching was also done by a TA but one who's teaching ability was not as good.

I need to mention greater choice/input etc. that paying gives you - as far as I can see this is more or less a complete myth. Selectivity means one is forever worried that asking too much or making mild criticism might mean ones child gets deselected. But, I will say not every setting/school is the same. However, even in a nice caring setting selectivity is an elephant in the room.

At secondary level, most schools in Cambridge have very good sports facilities. At the moment, secondaries and primaries also have access to good instrument teaching so long as Cambridgeshire Music doesn't get hit by cuts.

Small classes in Prep Schools may not have a TA presence, large ones in Primary will have up to Yr 5 and small group work too. Pre Prep will have TAs

NewbyCambs Thu 09-Nov-17 10:30:02

I would be interested to know which primary you refer to mastertomsmum as it sounds very good

Tingalingle Thu 09-Nov-17 11:22:24

According to a friend's child, one advantage of going to private school is 'friends who have a castle'. No, I don't know where.

Stillnoidea Thu 09-Nov-17 16:01:34

Oooh tingalingle my friend had children at the school with the children who have the castle. not such a small world when the connection is so tenuous think it's somewhere in Norfolk not even helpful

Stillnoidea Thu 09-Nov-17 16:02:20

Of course there may be more than one castle...

mastertomsmum Thu 09-Nov-17 17:57:43

We got our castle from ELC, nice wooden one, slots together!

Seriously, parents at independent schools are as likely to be property developers, IT folk or whatever. Never met any who owned a bricks and mortar castle but we did have someone who bragged about buying a house that would have cost 2 million had it been in the city and how wonderful it was to have saved a million. The act of such bragging kinda makes one think we're not talking about old money type folk!

Londo Tue 21-Nov-17 20:10:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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