Fitting in at independent school..

(32 Posts)
Amc90 Mon 18-Feb-19 19:33:54

Hello mums!

I'm looking for some advice! Due to various frustrations with my DCs primary school, I decided to look into independent schools, in the hope of finding a school we could really fall in love with. She is in primary 4, but started school at 4 and a half, and is just about to turn 8.

I spoke with a few and have arranged visits to two of them who would be able to consider a bursary at her age and in our circumstances. Anyway, since then I discussed the whole thing with family and my dad has agreed to contribute the savings he has for her (intended to pay her through further education when she's 18) which would probably cover her fees for the next few years at least, should I find somewhere, which I don't doubt I will be able to as I have really great feelings about the ones I'm going to visit. Obviously the being able to pay fees without assistance changes things a great deal from my point of view, as it wouldn't be a case of hoping we would be lucky enough to be awarded a bursary. Which leads me to my question..

Will she fit in? I don't know if this is more in my head than anything else, but I'm a single mum, currently at uni for the next 4 years or so. I live in a small rented 4 in a block and drive a 15 year old car, and wonder if putting her into a place where she will be like a fish out of water could be a perilous mistake and it's really worrying me. I've read through everything here already and it seems like such a mixed bag of opinions. It worries me even more that she could miss out on a fantastic potentially life changing Education, but I wouldn't want her to have to sacrifice her happiness to get one either.. We do get by alright we go on holidays and live in quite a nice area etc.. but I worry the fact that her life is just so different from the other kids there that I should just scrap the whole thing.

The only other option would be to try to find another primary school we like then try to move into the catchment area, but she has a lot of good friends from where we live who go to different schools she plays with and has a good life where we are, other than school! There are 2 other primaries near us which are full at the moment, and neither are very good.

I'd love to hear your opinions!


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MyBaa Mon 18-Feb-19 22:59:22

I sent my older DD to independent school from reception until year 4. I sent her there because it was much smaller than the local primary...and DD was quiet and shy.

We had a bursary. I won't lie to was harder to fit in. We also weren't well off...council flat and small income.

Her new friends went on regular ski trips...parties were expensive affairs and we couldn't compete. Her friends had ponies and spent Christmas in New York....weekends in Paris etc.

But the thing that really made me find her a place at a state school for year 5 was the realisation that all her friends would be going on to an expensive private secondary...which we couldn't afford and which competition for scholarships was very high.

DD is bright but wouldn;t cope with hot grammar was also not on the cards for her.

Best thing I've ever done was get her into a nice state primary at that point and she coped well with the change.

Unless you can afford private for secondary, I would not send her private now. It's a massive financial commitment...the uniform, the expensive school trips and the fact that the other children have big houses and much more money all take a toll.

Keep your Dad's savings for her university.

Amc90 Tue 19-Feb-19 07:15:33

Thank you! That is exactly the kind of thing I mean. We have a holiday to Europe if we are lucky grin I worry she would stick out like a sore thumb.

I went to one of the top state high schools in Scotland which was probably the closest thing to a private school, with probably around 15% working class, and for the most part of high school, at least till we got to about 15, there was a really clear divide between the groups of people. Although funnily enough it was the minority of people who were the so called popular kids.

The schools I have in mind are straight through to 18, but, the fees almost double into the senior school, and by the time she is there I will hopefully be in a relatively well paid job as I'll have graduated by then, but I can't take that for granted and even at that I would still need financial assistance for her to continue and obviously they will have no idea at this point if that's something they'll be able to offer in a few years time. I don't know much about the scholarship system but it'll definitely be very competitive and my DC is a relatively clever girl but not so much that we could consider that.

I myself am good at getting along with people and making friends I'm pretty confident that way so it's not really the parents or anything that worries me, I just remember what it was like when people didn't have the latest gadgets and/or trainers at state school and worry it would just be the same, amplified.

I would have to move house to get a place into a decent school, I think anyway, as I've heard all kinds of stories of people lying etc to get in, it's v competitive!!!

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Esspee Tue 19-Feb-19 07:21:55

My concern would be that at some point it would become unaffordable.

Amc90 Tue 19-Feb-19 07:27:49

My other thought was that perhaps we could club in together to send her in secondary as the local high school here is awful and realistically it's only a couple of years away, I have friends with children there and there is no way on earth she will be going, I'd home school her first. BUT my parents tried to send me off to private school at the end of primary 7 and they were told in no uncertain terms I would not be going to this 'posh' school, even though I had been offered a scholarship. so they took the next best thing and fought to get me a place into the good state school, which done me 0 favours in the long run as I left with only 3 exams despite being very bright and was pregnant 2 years later. It scares the sh!t out of me to think of her ending up in similar position

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Amc90 Tue 19-Feb-19 07:33:20

Yeah well that's another problem now as I would be at their mercy in a few years time. At least if we were applying for a bursary from day 1 then I would know where I stood from that perspective

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BrexitBingoGenerator Tue 19-Feb-19 07:33:26

Are you looking at the big Edinburgh day schools OP? The info from your post all makes it sound that way. If so, it’s exactly what I did as a child- I moved in P5. I wouldn’t say I stuck out at that age, these schools are so massive, there are all sorts of kids from all sorts of backgrounds there. However, as I got older, I defo became more conscious of it. I was very aware that all my uniform came from the thrift shop, I couldn’t afford to go sailing, skiing or horse riding and I did feel a bit small and a bit less ‘eligible’ if that makes sense.
I’d say it still affects my confidence to this day actually. However, there were other kids who seemed less self conscious and made great successes of it. Defo go with an open mind but bear in mind that it will only get more and more and more expensive. I remember even having to buy all our own jotters and stationary in a big box at the start of the year. If we used up the the pages in the book, we had to pay the teacher for a new one from his cupboard!

Amc90 Tue 19-Feb-19 07:55:15

Hi Brexit!

Yeah that's what I'm looking at at the moment, I was actually extremely surprised by the welcoming response I received from most of them when enquiring about full bursary for her, which did make me feel at ease but I think I got a bit over excited at the thought grin

I know what you mean, i moved school myself in p5 from a school in the borders to a school in Edinburgh on a council estate, but I think it benefitted me in the long run as it taught me a lot about people and as a result I can get along with anyone as an adult if that makes sense?

I suppose you can never really tell how someone will be until in the situation but I agree it will become something she becomes aware of as she gets older, and kids want to do everything their friends are doing, I don't really picture myself on the Alps of a school holiday either to be honest grin

Do you think personally you would have thrived better in a decent state school?

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Amc90 Tue 19-Feb-19 08:04:35

LOL at the paying for the jotters, I bet he made a fortune!!!

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Esspee Tue 19-Feb-19 08:39:31

Our two were in private school from pre school (apart from one traumatic term at our local UK primary) until uni.
While the education was superb I think nowadays I would use the money to move to a better school catchment area. At least at the end of the day you have a financial return for your money.

HennyPennyHorror Tue 19-Feb-19 08:42:56

The one thing I've learned as my children have gone from private, to state and back to private (this time in Australia) is that children who want to succeed and who are supported at home, will do.

I think you'd be better off looking at private for secondary. What exactly is wrong with the local primary schools? What is the thing or things which concern you most about them?

Amc90 Tue 19-Feb-19 13:00:26

The only issue I have with that is her not wanting to go in secondary. I moved schools in p5, and was devastated when my parents told me I was going to a different high school from my new friends. The high school is rife with drugs and some of the violence has been really awful. Her current school, is really small, and there are a few extremely disruptive pupils in her class. Not just a little bit, one of them kicks off so badly the whole rest of the class have to leave the room on a regular basis. There's no space at the other 2 schools which are nearby ish, we live in a village, but a lot of kids move from them to my daughter's school, so I guess things aren't great there either!

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RomaineCalm Tue 19-Feb-19 13:23:52

At many private schools there will be a real mix of family circumstances - everything from top of the range Range Rovers, skiing trips and ponies to those children where both parents work and the family sacrifice absolutely everything to pay the school fees.

It shouldn't matter who has what and at many schools it doesn't matter.

The other things are the extra costs - uniform, sports kits, compulsory trips, music lessons - they all add up although many private school run thriving second-hand shops with no 'stigma' attached to using them as much as possible.

I would be more wary of moving DD to private now without knowing that you can keep her there until, potentially, Highers.

Have you spoken to the current school about your concerns? What is their response? if she is happy and doing well is there a way to make it work for Y5/Y6? Can you get her on a waiting list for other local schools in case a place becomes available? (I know the Scottish system is different). Could you look further afield for a Primary?

Rather than moving right now I would focus on having a plan for Secondary. If you don't want her at the local High School what are your options? Where would you need to live? Would your dad help you with moving closer to a better school? If that were an option is there a 'feeder' primary school with places so that she would go up to High School with new friends?

Finally, a lot of the advantages of private school are the activities and opportunities. You could do some of that for your daughter at a fraction of the cost - sports clubs, Brownies/Scouts etc. Save some money in case she struggles with a subject and needs some additional tuition.

HennyPennyHorror Tue 19-Feb-19 13:26:17

I moved schools in p5, and was devastated when my parents told me I was going to a different high school from my new friends.

She's not you. Her story is completely different. It's hard not to project...we as parents fear our children sharing our traumas but that's not a sensible way to live.

What's wrong with where she's at now?

guessmyusername Tue 19-Feb-19 13:30:09

My dd got a bursary for an Edinburgh school. She found that many of the others in her year were in a similar position, parents sacrificing a lot to cover fees and others on bursaries (although she never knew who!). Yes you do get a few who are obviously having holidays abroad regularly but dd never felt out of place and always had a nice friendship group.

Zebedee88 Tue 19-Feb-19 13:30:58

Not in Scotland but the children I look after all go to private school and it's common that a few leave to go to state school when they are 11years old. Quite a few go for the first few years and then only state, they're not looked at differently. There's also so many different families. Some with old cars, 'normal cars and then you'll have a few range rovers. No one is looked down upon. If you can afford it till she,s 18 and you really like the school then that's great

BrexitBingoGenerator Tue 19-Feb-19 14:09:43

Do you think personally you would have thrived better in a decent state school?

Nah, I did as well as I could probs have done anywhere, really. I’m the anxious sort of person that would have found something to worry about wherever I was!

On the subject of paying for literally everything though- I remember a funny time during the school’s big anniversary celebrations. Some lovely old FP biddy had written a book all about the history of the school. Honestly it was as boring as you could imagine. Full of tedious quotes and dull anecdotes from old women. 100s of copies were printed and everyone was invited to buy copies for friends, family, anyone who would have one, basically. It was a terribly boring book for everyone but the purist and soon, boxes of these unsold books began to stack up all over the school. They were in the thrift shop, in the common rooms, stacked up in people’s offices, everywhere. It got to the point where, by the end of the anniversary year, they were going to make a huge financial loss. We were therefore all informed that each girl was to be presented with their own copy to keep as a gift from the school. The invoice for the book would be added to the next term’s fees. grin

That’s private school for you- you even have to pay for the added extras that you really don’t want added!

Amc90 Tue 19-Feb-19 14:25:51

She already does Brownies and Explore Learning at the moment. She has riding lessons twice a month and wants to join a drama group, so she's generally quite busy and well socialized. I just don't feel she is being nurtured properly. Her teacher just left too so they don't have one at the moment, classroom assistant is following suit in a couple of weeks.. disruptive children, very airy fairy head teacher who speaks to everyone as though they are six (me included). Find it difficult to get acknowledged as I'm not and never have been around the school much as I've always worked full time, the only person I really have much of a relationship with is the administrator! it's not like there's even another class she could get moved into or anything as there is only 1. CM drops only at her school. Would have to quit my job and studying to get her any further in the mornings!!

I would just hate for her to go to school to be the 'poor girl' as it could be so damaging I imagine. If she is going into private education it has to be so she can have the best possible chance in life, not to ruin her! I know state education can be good, I had a fantastic primary education from p5-7 but that was because of an outstanding teacher who pushed and pushed me and I've never had the fortune to meet another like her!

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GregoryPeckingDuck Tue 19-Feb-19 14:30:30

It depends. Some schools are full of rock idiot families who are only there to flaunt wealth. But in many the children will come from less affluent families and will have their fees paid by taking out debt/grandparents/trusts. If you send her to a proper prep school it won’t really matter that much. A good idea might be scoping out the car park/gate around drop off time. If the majority of dropper offers are mothers in head to toe joules/hush driving flashy cars avoid the school like the plague. If the people dropping off are a mix of grandparents/nannies/parents of both sexes in professional clothes, parents not wearing ott obviously branded clothing then it will probably be fine.

Amc90 Tue 19-Feb-19 14:39:51

Haha what a funny story Brexit!! I suppose that's the thing hindsight is wonderful but I suppose you'll never really know what shoulda woulda coulda been and all that! I don't suppose they were going to let the money go down the drain without a fight hmmgrin

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RomaineCalm Tue 19-Feb-19 14:42:04

GregoryPeckingDuck has good advice.

You could also have a look at the school website and see what events are coming up that you and DD could go along to. There may be Saturday sport matches, talks, productions etc. This would give you a feel for the school outside of the guided tour and open days.

Amc90 Tue 19-Feb-19 14:46:07

I did consider a prep school as I heard really fab things about the one here,, but since she's nearly 8, it would obviously mean moving again at 13, and I'd never in a million years have the money available to send her to Fettes senior school which I think is where a lot of kids from the prep go to and 13 is quite an awkward age for moving to any other school state included as high school starts at 11!

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Amc90 Tue 19-Feb-19 15:02:40

Thanks for the advice ladies! That sounds like a good idea re the car park! Is it a reasonable question to ask them for the amount of bursaries etc they have on an annual basis? I guess that would give a bit of an indication if there are many other people in a similar situation but I'm not sure if it would be considered as rude to ask. I worry if I voice the concerns to the school's they'll just tell me it's nothing to worry about

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kirkandpetal Tue 19-Feb-19 16:55:36

We send our kids to a well known private school, they are in p5 and p3. We make enough to pay their fees and have a nice lifestyle. We do not, and cannot not (currently), afford a vast summer holiday every year, or go skiing at Easter, or drive 2 cars. The majority of uniform is from M&S, with just a few of the crested/mandatory items coming from Aiken and Niven or the thrift shop, or from a FB selling/buying page, so prices vary hugely. People often hand on uniform if they don't have siblings to wear it to other parents in the class. It doesn't have to cost a fortune, and my 2 are unaware at the moment of the huge divide in wealth at the school. Yes, as a pp mentioned, there are those who have oddles of cash, mums that don't need to work, who have holiday homes and trips abroad.
But there are also parents like you and me, who get by, borrow or are lucky to have grandparents help out...and I would say that makes up the majority of parents at the school. My DH went on a dad's night out recently, and a good handful of the dads there admitted/had a frank discussion that paying fees was sometimes a struggle.

we make some sacrifices so we can send our 2 to this school. It wasn't planned, but a trip round our catchment state school opened our eyes and we faced a decision. Its not one available to everyone, and I appreciate that, but for us, we decided to send them and it was the best decision we have made.

Amc90 Tue 19-Feb-19 17:49:54

That's good to hear as I did have a browse through the school shop and a plain white shirt cost over £15! I think I'd struggle to pay that for one school shirt even if I had the money, lol.

I worry a lot about her having friends round, our house is probably the size of most of their lounges, but I know this is probably more in my head and not in hers at all. Id hope by the time they got old enough to notice that kind of thing, friendships would already be formed! But I also know how bad kids can be sometimes. In my state high school there were a couple of boys who came from a really rough estate and they were bullied and slagged off through the whole of high school, and not even by people whos families were much better off than his!

Uniforms and school trips I know her grandparents on her dad's side would help out, as they are quite well off and most of the other grandkids go holidays with them etc but it's really helpful to know it doesn't have to be eye wateringly expensive, thank you! Its encouraging to hear you feel you made the right choice!

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