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Private primary or secondary in London - which way to go?

(19 Posts)
Pinkponk1 Wed 23-Apr-14 15:03:29

We have been offered a good local primary (good not outstanding although they get the best results in the borough) and can only commit to fund private schooling EITHER primary or secondary unless our £ changes alot.

Any views on which is the best way? Private primary and do everything to try to get into a grammar or state primary and then tutor and try to go for a grammar or private secondary?

State primary and use the money towards grammar tuition and/or private school fees for secondary (unless you have a very good secondary near you).

Its easier to support your child at primary age as you can help with most / all of the work yourself.

neshi Wed 23-Apr-14 15:27:34

We've been offered a place in our first choice state school and I was also not sure what to do, since Ds had also had a place in a very good private (also London). We are in the same position, with two Dc we can only afford private either at primary or at secondary, not both. After speaking with other people with kids in state schools we decided to accept the state school place....

What most of them say, and it's true in my opinion, is that for young kids, family/parents are much more important and influential than friends. Meaning with this that the core values come from home! Therefore, I prefer to make sure he's in a more controlled environment (private) when there is more need to it, like teenager years. Also, in Ds foundation state I prefer for him to be exposed to a social and cultural mix, making sure he's raised with good values and understanding and learning to accept all kinds of people. I hope when the time comes to send him to private school (where the core group is less mixed) his values are well settled and he has a broad social view of who and what surrounds him.

What I also heard from different people was that it is easier to work/study/help out your child at home while they are younger, and therefore, if state school means more support at home, then primary school should be easier to support than secondary. Also, you can always get the tutor if needed be.

In the end, these where the reasons that make us decide on the state school, but I'm sure others will have also very good reasons to make things the other way around...

Also, don't know where you are in London, but in our area the grammar schools are almost inexistent!
Good luck!

sixlive Wed 23-Apr-14 17:08:17

I'm of the opposite view. A prep school provides the foundation not only reading and writing, but sports and musical instruments. In my opinion you can't replicate this by extracurricular activities. School orchestras and school teams get kids interested and keep them musical/sporty for longer. Are you really going to save the money now for secondary or have a bigger house/car/nicer holidays, nothing wrong with that of course. Getting into private secondary in London is so tough anyway. Just putting the other side of the story. One of my DC may end up in state secondary if he doesn't get into the local private boys school in the area as the state school is better than the other mediocre privates in the area.

Pinkponk1 Wed 23-Apr-14 18:53:30

thanks. I guess that was part of my worry in if they dont go to a private primary or prep then they may not get into a private secondary anyway, no matter how much tutoring. is it really that tough?

In theory we'd invest the money but what im trying to work out is whether we'd be closing too many doors later if they didnt go to private primary.

sixlive, is the biggest difference you see the sport/music etc between state and prep? i kind of assumed we could do this outside of school

sixlive Wed 23-Apr-14 21:13:23

No small class sizes, anything your child is struggling with is picked upon immediately, less disruption in the classroom, no SATs in some. You can't replicate a string orchestra available from yr2. The fact everybody plays one instrument often 2 or more means it's seen as normal. More PE in the timetable. Before and after school care. Loads of extracurricular in house often at lunchtime, valuable if you have more than one child as all the ferrying and waiting around can be a pain.

pyrrah Wed 23-Apr-14 21:57:39

Having been to a private prep followed by a state secondary, I would absolutely do it the other way round.

Easy to move from state to private, not always so easy the other way round.

London schools aren't going to offer the amazing facilities that some preps outside can, so you're not compromising there.

I was fairly worried about sending DD to a state primary - especially one with over 70% FSM and EAL. However, this particular school got 20% of their Y6 students getting L6 in KS2 Maths and a similar number got L6 in English. Last year they got 7 students into super-selective London secondaries.

I've been thrilled with what DD has been doing this year and the progress she is making. I have friends with children the same age in private schools and frankly they're neck and neck and I see little difference in terms of extras. I'm probably fortunate that the high FSM has meant lots of PP money and DD's class have 2 teachers and a TA for 30 kids and that may well make a difference.

We're saving our money for secondary, plus I am now much more open to the idea of a really good comprehensive if the option is there. A year ago I would never have believed I would think that way.

So my vote is to at least try the state primary - you can always move them later, and London schools have high mobility so a place will probably crop up if necessary.

tiggytape Thu 24-Apr-14 09:29:30

There's an expression at London schools, and probably elsewhere, "state till eight"
I have only really come across it because of the implications it has for admissions lower down in some schools.
It is something London parents get very cross about: some schools are ridiculously oversubscribed in reception making it very hard to get a place but then go on to lose a lot of those children at the start of Year 3 to private schools.
It is seen as selfish because it blocks admissions sometimes to those who would have stayed all the way through. In the recent austerity years though, state schools are seeing it happen more at the end of Year 5 than Year 2.

I have always assumed that it is because the popular London private schools are hard to get into and people don't feel confident that a child can go from state to private in Year 6. I have no idea if that is actually the case or just part of the general London mania about schools though.

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret Thu 24-Apr-14 10:55:38

I have one at a state primary and one at a prep, so can compare. If the choice is between primary or secondary absolutely go for the secondary. The prep does deliver little extras like the music (but if your child plays 2 instruments it's going to cost you!), but nothing you can't replicate yourself out of school or that matters significantly.

I agree that the cohort children mix with at secondary is really important and that, in the main, is what you pay for - though obviously nothing is guaranteed and comprehensives are getting better and better, especially in London, so can't be ruled out.

I think it's a myth perpetuated by prep parents and prep schools that you have to go to a prep to go to a private secondary, I know plenty of children from state primaries who've got into very presitigious private schools, just had a year's tutoring from y5 mainly to familiarise themselves with exam technique. At my dc's "good" primary, quite a few have gone on to private secondaries (admittedly not the a-list ones but perfectly respectable ones) without any tutoring at all

Can I just add that some senior schools have entry points that are more geared to state pupils (especially boys schools where the prep schools run to year 8 so boys from preps come in at 13+ via the Common Entrance or similar exams).

City of London School for Boys
65% of their 11+ entry is state school
13+ tends to be prep school

Pinkponk1 Thu 24-Apr-14 19:10:49

thanks everyone. its such a hard choice especially in this city where we all get caught up with the competition. My son loves music and performance which i know arent strong points of the state school however i think we can do alot of this in spare time so hope he'll have a good rounded experience.

does anyone know how you find out the difference in curriculum for state vs private (in the hope that maybe you could supplement some of it...well some of the fun project stuff anyway)?

neshi Thu 24-Apr-14 20:49:48

Have you visited the state school already? The reason I'm asking is because you can be surprised...I surely was when I visited the one I'm sending Ds to next September. They had a lot of artistic and musical choices included in their curriculum throughout the different years and on top of this they also have third parties coming in for after school clubs covering thins from music, drama, arts and crafts, gardening etc. The things you mention, like music and performance are truly well covered, I risk saying, better than the private school where he is now...
Regarding finding out about the curriculum...for the private school I guess you would have to visit and ask. As for the state school, is it not on their website? If not guess only visiting also...

pyrrah Thu 24-Apr-14 21:27:54

neshi is totally right - definitely visit the schools and ask about the music, performance opportunities. You might be very pleasantly surprised. I would suggest visiting a number of different schools - I saw 5, four of which were Ofsted Outstanding and the difference between them was huge (my 3rd choice was actually a Needs Improvement school).

DD does an hour of ballet and an hour of musical theatre with a private company that comes in once a week after school and works towards taking the RAD exams (cost is £10 a week for both classes). Gymnastics is also available and the school competes in pan-London competitions.

The Globe theatre staff came in once a week for 6 weeks to do activities based round A Midsummer Night's Dream with the Reception class and they then visited the Globe. They've also been on more than one theatre trip (cost £3).

The school offers individual tuition in a wide range of instruments at very low cost - or free to low-income families. They also have a school choir.

Two years ago, the ROH came in to work with the older children on writing and staging their own opera - the day I went to look round the school, the lighting team were there working with a group of students on making a rig.

I know I'm very fortunate to get a school like this one and not all will have a HT who seems to be uber proactive in grabbing all these opportunities, but hopefully it is an example of what can be on offer in the state system.

Otherwise, there are lots of stage schools and other classes available at weekends around London if you need to supplement.

MillyMollyMama Fri 25-Apr-14 00:08:40

Does the secondary school have to be in a London? Weekly boarding is available in independent schools just outside London and far less competition to get into them! If they are 13+ for boys, then a prep for 2 years will gear up for any exams. My local state schools were way better than the local prep school that mostly took wimpy kids. Hardly any meaningful sport and pretty poor music. The teachers weren't particularly good either. The state schools were better but lots of parents think if you pay you automatically get a better education. You don't.

MarriedDadOneSonOneDaughter Fri 25-Apr-14 07:42:44

Definitely go state primary. We have ahd a great experience and also remember that your contribution to their homework and extra-curricular stuff is potentially very valuable at primary, but at secondary it is less so.

Our lad's teachers have been almost all excellent, despite being closer to his age than mine.

He was at no disadvantage to prep school kids at all when it came to selective private secondary, getting places at both City of London Boys and Colet Court/St Pauls.

I will find it much harder to have the same personal input on his secondary schooling and rely on the school to do it for me - hence, if you're going to spend the money, spend it then.

MarriedDadOneSonOneDaughter Fri 25-Apr-14 07:48:06

On the curriculum point, the admissions tutors for both CoLB and St Pauls said the national primary curriculum was fine and the only thing that gets introduced early is Latin and French/Spanish. That said, they find state school kids joining at 11 have little trouble catching up.

We supplemented their state primary with after school activities such as (not all at the same time):

- Swimming lessons
- Tennis lessons
- Football
- Brownies/scouts
- Ballet
- Local choirs
- Piano
- Athletics
- Plenty of going to theatre productions (mostly small local, but some west end shows)

HPparent Fri 25-Apr-14 07:57:33

Like everything else it depends on the particular local schools. I bitterly regret taking my elder DD out of state primary (bullying problem) and putting her in a private school rather than another state primary. The private school was shit frankly. She goes to one of the super selectives but was years behind in maths on entry.

My DD2 joined a state primary in year 4 and it was fantastic. A lot of kids did go on to private secondaries and believe me I know plenty of kids at private and state who are tutored to get in.

Most areas of London have good extra curricula activities at a much cheaper rate than that charged in private schools.

As for secondary, why grammar? I would not choose a super selective again as the pressure is intense. I think DD1 would have done well at any school and many areas have good comprehensives.

What is your secondary catchment school like at the moment?

We thought we would go state all the way, but our lovely little local primary turned out disastrous for DS1.

He did so badly in his yr2 Sats, they pretty much said he'd never get to a level 4 by yr 6, and unifficially just plonked him in the year below where he was in a class of 36(!)

So moved my kids to a good but non-selective private, and it has been amazing.

Half the kids go on to selective secondaries, the other half go State, as the catchment state secondaries are all very good ( better than the local private ones). The kids going to State end up in the top sets in yr7 and tend to do very well.

So it is worth checking out your local primary AND secondary. Best to keep an open mind and be flexible.

Try the primary, if you are not happy you can probably move ( unless the private primary is oversubscribed? Another thing to check!)

Pinkponk1 Wed 30-Apr-14 21:56:41

thanks so much everyone. we've decided to see how state goes..I think aged 4 its so hard to tell what they'll like, how bright they might be so doing it this way around feels right for now

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