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State vs private schools in St Albans

(9 Posts)
Fitnik Thu 10-Jan-13 20:50:45

My head is spinning because of this! :-(

We live in St Albans and are within the catchment areas for both Sandringham and Beaumont, both excellent state secondaries.

What if any benefit would there be in forking out for a private school for our DS instead of the 2 state options? Is there any real benefit in sending DS to St Albans', St Columbas, Aldenham or Haileybury instead of Sandringham or Beaumont?

Has anyone been in this position and still chosen private over Sandringham or Beaumont - or done the opposite (ie opted for state options over private)? Also, extra tuition is needed for the private schools' entrance exams, not to talk of the crippling fees which we can afford but will mean making a lot of sacrifices for the next few years.

Any help or advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks :-)

ReallyTired Thu 10-Jan-13 21:52:00

A former boss of mine sent both his children to Sandringham and both of them did really well. Both children were straight A students. Sandringham has an outstanding OFSTED. I don't know much about the private schools, but I doult its worth half killing yourself financially to send your children to a private school.

A lot depends on how painful the sacrifices are.

The money saved could help your children through university or pay for tutors if you thought they were struggling in a subject or you can pay for extra curriculuar activites or pay for interesting holidays or help your child with a mortgage.

NoNonsenseNoddy Fri 11-Jan-13 12:30:42

I agree with ReallyTired. Sandringham, especially, is an excellent school.

As far as I understand it there has been research to suggest that boys do better in mixed schools, where as girls do better in all-girls schools. That might effect your decision. If you've got access to a really good state school, I don't believe there's many benefits in forking out for private education. The only thing that might vary, is the attitude of the kids and their peers. I.e. it might be perceived 'cooler' to study and do well in a private school. That was my own experience. (I went to a private girls school). A lot of that will be effected by encouragement from parents as well though.

Lots to consider though!

Fitnik Fri 11-Jan-13 12:45:57

Thank you for the advice :-)

QueenofHerts Fri 11-Jan-13 12:59:37

Beaumont and Sandringham are both excellent schools, both have pupils who have strings of A/A* and go on to Oxbridge and Russell group univs. You'd be maaaaaddd to go private tbh, particularly if it's going to be a struggle financially.

You might also want to consider Verulam which is boys-only comp and has a dynamic new head and has gone from very average to high amibitions. I think the head sees St cols and STABS as competitors and is very much trying to persuade parents that their boys would do as well at Verulam.

Another option is entrance exam for Parmiters in Garston (north watford) which is effectively a grammar school and very competitive entrance. However, with excellent secondaries on your doorstep there isn't much advantage but you could check it out.

Fitnik Sun 13-Jan-13 15:24:24

Thanks QueenofHerts.

He would need to do exceptionally well in the Parmiter's exam to be offered a place as we live in an out of catchment area - only 3 places available each year for those out of catchment, and those who live closer get the place if there's a tie-break. Also a real pain to get him to and from the school given where we live, even with the bus service on offer. And the entrance exam would be this September where the private school ones aren't till January 2014. He could get a musical place at Parmiters based on his piano grade results, singing etc.. but again a long shot as we live out of catchment. I would rather not put him through another earlier set of exams when the odds of being offered a place are so slim.

Verulam got exceptional results in 2012 and are improving constantly - better results than Aldenham and St Columbas. Verulam also has great extracurricular activities. My neighbours' 2 sons are doing exceptionally well there. And comparable results to STAGs and fast-approaching Sandringham's results.

Makes me really question why we would want to throw money on fees at all really.

His dad is also now coming round to this view. At the moment, paying fees would only be for snob value so not worth doing.

We both went to top private schools, more because state education was not an option for us (we didn't qualify for it).

It has been really helpful reading the advice - thanks a lot.

fairylightsandtinsel Sun 13-Jan-13 20:48:46

have you gone to look round the schools yet? OFSTED is a useful guide but you really need to get a feel for a place, - you'll likely be shown round by students which is often a good way to see what kind of child goes there. I have taught in co-ed and single sex boys and actually do believe the boys do better in a single-sex environment. There is a lot less "distraction" all round and less showing off. There is more childish giggling at farts and general immaturity but they work well together in groups and it certainly is cool to be clever at our place (independent, and one of the ones you've named). Even uber-geeks may be a little socially awkward for a while but they find kindred spirits and become well respected for their knowledge.

Fitnik Tue 15-Jan-13 21:17:30

Yes, we are doing the rounds of the various schools now. I agree that OFSTED reports only tell part of the story.

blackice Tue 15-Jan-13 21:37:56

I don't have secondary age children yet but do live locally. Based on what I've heard and seen, my personal feeling is that it IS worth sending your DC to St Albans School as it offers many, many opportunities (including academics, sports and music) that schools like Sandringham and Beaumont do not. I think STABS is a different class/level of school and that's what you're paying for. At STABS I believe your children would be known by name to the Head and would be in much smaller classes. At the comps, they would be much more anonymous/one of the crowd. This is from a few teens I've spoken to at several of the secondaries in St Albans.I also worry about what will happen to S'ham should the current Head leave (just a few short years ago, the school had a very average reputation and wasn't viewed as outstanding at all. Just shows how quickly things can change.)

Personally, I would not pay vast sums to send my children to the other private local secondary schools that frankly do not achieve better results than the local comprehensives.

Good luck, there are many different views out there!

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