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Secondary choice dilemma - local state/out of catchment state/private! Help!

(21 Posts)
Poppyella Thu 06-Oct-11 09:41:59

I have a ds in year 6 so by 31st October we have to make a choice as to where he goes next.

We live in a very rural area so have only one state comprehensive in the local town. It's good, getting better, feel ds would get a good education there (if he worked hard enough that is!) and most of his friends are going there. The bus is free and they do lots of afterschool stuff that he could go to. Brand new millions of pounds science block and good sports. Open evening tonight although I did go last year too.

Then there is another state comprehensive 15 miles away (the second nearest to us) which is outstanding. I love this school. I went to the open evening last night and was so impressed with the facilities, teachers, results, everything, the whole ethos of the school impressed me. DS might have a few friends go there. The bus is £1000 a year as it is out of catchment for us and afterschool stuff would be difficult, although they do do a late bus twice a week. I feel this school would offer him a fantastic education.

And finally there is an independent school, again about 15 miles away. Selective but not really, really selective or academic. Results good (but not fantastic considering it is selective) Beautiful grounds, small classes, good pastoral care and real family ethos about this place which I love. Brilliant sports facilities obviously. BUT £5000 a term, plus school bus fees, plus uniform. (ex dh would pay all in the beginning but when dd goes too, we would help with fees) DS knows a few kids who are there already but nobody from his school his going there in year 7. And obviously he has to get in!!

And I seriously cannot make up my mind. I am swayed by what other people say,what ds wants (which changes day to bloody day) and dh. My dh is SO anti state and pro private, it is really difficult to have a conversation with him about it. He doesn't even think the independent school is good enough!!! I was state educated and am fine!! He went to boarding school from 7year old(!) and loved it and thinks it's the only way!!

I guess I think I 'should' send him private but am battling with the 'why?' - when there is a brilliant state school down the road a bit!

Help. I know it's my decision, but any opinions REALLY gratefully received!

Thanks for reading the essay!

slavetofilofax Thu 06-Oct-11 10:21:34

Why does you DH get to voice such a strong opinion about going private when it's your ex that will be paying for it? confused My dc have a very involved step Dad who loves them alot, but the parenting descisions are up to the parents - me and my ex!

I think you should get your ds to sit the test for the private school, and apply for the others as well.

If you prefer the out of catchment state school and it's really that good, put it as your first choice but bear in mind that there is a good chance you won't get offered a place there anyway.

Then if it gets to allocation day, and it turns out to be a choice between the private school and the state school that you are not so keen on, you may find the descision is easier to make.

MammyT Thu 06-Oct-11 10:50:32

I would second slavetofilofax - put the best state school first (the one you are out of catchment for) and the perfectly fine one second. If your ex-DH is willing to pay for independent school fees, I'm sure he'll help with the £1,000 for the bus. Has he been around it to see it too?

Presuming your child gets into the better state school AND the independent school, then you'd have a lovely dilemma. But he mightn't get into both so consider this as hedging your options.

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret Thu 06-Oct-11 11:14:44

second comprehensive, it sounds great

Unclear if dh is your ex, or your second husband - either way if he lives with you, it's ultimately up to you

Remember universities are looking more favourably at state school pupils than private school pupils, it's a long game ...

CecilyP Thu 06-Oct-11 11:29:17

I am assuming that your ex DH is your children's father who will be paying for their education and your current DH is the one who is very much anti state school, although he is not the one that will be paying for the private school. What does your ex DH actually think? Between you all, do you have plenty of money to pay for school fees, or will it be a struggle?

If money is no object, go for the private school. Otherwise put the preferred state school as your first choice and the local school as your second. The cost of the bus fares does not seem so great in comparison to school fees.

Poppyella Thu 06-Oct-11 11:38:46

Sorry for the confusion. DH now is my second husband the ds's stepdad. He does have a really strong opinion about private education, but absolutely knows it is not his decision at all. It's just that as my husband, I talk to him about all this stuff.

Ex DH will be paying at first because we can't afford to contribute atm, but in a few years we will have had some inheritance so can put in money too - especially as by then dd might be there.

But dh is SO keen for the children to be privately educated that even if ex dh couldn't afford it now, he would sell some shares he owns in order that they may go. (So really we could afford it, but as ex has said he would pay, and can, we feel it should be down to him, rather than the kids stepdad to pay atm).

God, I'm confusing myself!

We have thought about him not getting into the 'out of catchment' school, but when we asked the head about this last night, she said that in the last 5 years, nobody has been turned away, just hold fire, jump through hoops and expect for it to go to 3-4 appeals before being offered a place.

I guess the question is really, what can the independent school offer that the outstanding state can't, and is it worth paying the money for what this might be.

VivaLeBeaver Thu 06-Oct-11 11:41:38

What does your ds think?

Poppyella Thu 06-Oct-11 11:48:54

For ages, the independent, then 2 days ago he broke down in tears saying he didn't want to go there. He wanted to go the the local comp - 'because all my friends are going there' and after a day visit at the indie, he thought they were a bit unfriendly.

Last night, I said he had to put the friend issue to one side and concentrate on the school and what it had to offer. So he went back to the indie.

Tonight we have a visit to the local comp so I am half expecting him to change his mind again!!

He also really liked the school last night, but again, has issues with no friends going there. Although we did look around with 2 of his school friends whose parents are also in the same dilemma as me wrt the 'state' decision!


redskyatnight Thu 06-Oct-11 11:51:14

I'd take the cost and the state/private aspect out of the equation. and then consider:

Which school do you prefer? Can you write down pluses and minuses for each one?

PrincessTamTam Thu 06-Oct-11 11:57:01

Personally I would go for the outstanding state school every time.

The little independent school sounds ok, but a really good state school will give your DS opportunity to learn in a lively exciting environment which is far more representative of the real world he will eventually enter.

The thing about private education is it doesn't tend to prepare you for life in the real world IMO. My uncle is a professor at LSE and says that the state educated students generally cope far better with independent learning and the many distractions of student life than the privately educated ones who have been spoon fed in small classes all their lives.

Having said all that it really is a very personal choice and it's also horses for courses, some children just don't cope well in a big state school. TBH you are very lucky to have all these choices. Put the good state 1st, enter him for exam for the independent one and see if that narrows your choice down... Good luck! Isn't year 6 a nightmare!?confused

Poppyella Thu 06-Oct-11 11:57:19

Good idea redsky. Maybe something to do after tonight's open day, with ex dh. I really wish he would come tonight so that at least he could offer an opinion on the local state too.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 06-Oct-11 12:07:39

We had similar choice for DD - perfectly adequate local comp, out-of-catchment GS, private. Its difficult because you're comparing apples and oranges. One thing (if you've not already done it) is arrange a visit during school hours, not just do open days. You get a better feel for what its really like, plus the chance to really talk to whoever is showing you round.

Definitely take the existing friends out of the equation.

In the end we went for the GS - academically superb (which suits DD), good feel to it - in the end DD had the casting vote, it was just where she felt she'd fit in. That's ultimately what matters - what suits each of your children the best.

(Not having to pay fees means we can spend more money on other things for her benefit, which is lovely but wasn't the deciding factor)

Curious exactly why your DH is so pro-private - is it just because he loved his own time at school? (my privately educated DH was totally neutral, as his school was mediocre - he knew you had to look at each school on its merits, not generalise)

PollyParanoia Thu 06-Oct-11 12:09:28

I wouldn't take the money out of the equation necessarily. People never like it to be a consideration but if you view it not as cash but what alternatives it could be spent on for your children then you might feel differently. It's over a 100k - can you pay for university tuition? Would you like to be able to afford for your child to work unpaid post university to get their dream job? Would you like to be able to help them with a deposit on a house? Have you sat down and honestly worked out how much your ex will be paying, how much these shares are worth and what you'll do if fees go up?
But then, I'm alone in thinking the first comp sounds like a good option!

PollyParanoia Thu 06-Oct-11 12:10:02

BTW that's over 100k per child...

Poppyella Thu 06-Oct-11 12:23:51

Grimma - yes he did love his time at boarding school. Although his brother didn't quite so much. I think it is his upbringing, he was 'threatened' with the local comp (same one, we live in the same area) whilst at prep school, basically told that if you don't work hard enough, that is where you will end up - fate worse than death type of thing! And that view has kind of stayed there.

He thinks the opportunities are so much better at private school, sports, subjects, old boy network hmm getting into good uni's, smaller classes, better teaching of 'middle of the range' students, who would otherwise be overlooked in the bigger state school, ethos, being pushed more to do your best. He believes that a state school genuinely can't offer all that a private one can, just by the nature of the beast. He's not denying that there are some good state schools, just that they will never, ever be as good. It is impossible to change his mind. He would sacrifice holidays etc for 'the best education money can buy'. I on the other hand wouldn't.

But ultimately the choice is down to me and ex dh. Which is fine. Cue another few years when the 3 year old dt's hit secondary age however - OMG, dreading it!!

Polly - very good points, and ones I shall share with dh tonight!

GrimmaTheNome Thu 06-Oct-11 12:38:22

The choice of subjects at each of the schools is a very important consideration - which is 'best' obviously depends on your DSs interests and aptitudes. For instance, my DH is a born scientist - he was forced to do Latin and Divinity (that dates him! grin) at O-level at the expense of Biology. Latin is (wrongly in his view) seen as a desirable subject by many but it could be a complete waste of time for a particuar child.

Poppyella Thu 06-Oct-11 13:29:03

What on earth is divinity!!?? grin

Sounds fun!

GrimmaTheNome Thu 06-Oct-11 14:10:22

Some sort of forebear of RE - but I think more like RI - Religious Instruction.

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret Thu 06-Oct-11 15:08:02


I went to an awful state primary and then two very good private schools, so used to be a bit like your dh with a "fear" of state education. However, I decided I'd be daft not to at least investigate the state school on my doorstep (this is primary) and much to my surprise my dcs have now spent a total of five years between them there and - even though every year i have a wobble and wonder if I should take them out - they stay on and stay on. Admittedly this is at primary level but now I'm losing my prejudices I can see them going on to a state secondary. So your dh may be converted if you send ds1 the state route.

I don't agree with the oft-trotted out on here adage that private school pupils don't do so well at uni because they've been "spoon fed" blah balh, my dad was a professor at Cambridge and he said the cleverest pupils did best regardless of their educational background. I remember one year he taught where an old Etonian and a girl from a northern comp that had never sent anyone to uni before got equal top marks and he was very chuffed with tem both.

Haiving said that, however, more and more unis are desperate to recruit more state pupils. When it comes down to a choice between two equal candidates state will always be given priority over private.

More pupils from private schools go to uni because their parents are affluent professionals who also went to uni. I am pretty sure if you look at state school uni-entrants, the majority will also have uni-educated parents. So on that front your dh is talking crap. As for old-boys' network, what century are we living in? Again, if your ds goes to a good uni he'll end up with just a good network.

AnyoneButLulu Thu 06-Oct-11 15:16:47

What does ex-H think? Would he be prepared to put the cash in a trust for DS if he didn't have to stump up school fees.

I'm not sure that outside of the well known public schools there is much of an OBN.

I would list the pros and cons of each school and your DS's strengths and weaknesses and preferences and find the closest match.

I send my kids to a private school because I wasn't happy with the state provision where we are but not all private schools are better than the local state options.

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