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Final decision: State or private in London?

(44 Posts)
Rabbitsnap Fri 05-Jun-15 13:34:24

We need to make a final decision by this coming Monday as to which school we choose. I am constantly changing my mind, and would love to hear experiences from people who have made the same decision, and are either pleased or have regrets.
The state school is round the corner, and is outstanding, though has a very mixed intake, with some behaviourally challenging children(in words of headmaster)and many children who arrive in reception considerably below the average level. It has an amazing community feel to it, and I already socialise with many of the parents who send their children there. I would feel very sad about removing my son from this local community. My main concerns about the school are focused on what it can offer him relative to the other school.
The private school is a ten minute drive. It is also outstanding, and has a really lovely feel about it. It is non selective, non profit making, focused on pastoral care, yet gets children into great London day schools, and really stretches more able pupils. Our child would be in far smaller class with more support, and specialist teachers in French, music, art etc. My main concern with this school is the practicalities of the commute, and the fact that socially I feel less comfortable with the type of parents there. Some of the children we have met on open days have also seemed a bit irritating, though others have been very sweet.
Our child seems to be very bright (preschool call him gifted, but he is certainlly not a genius), he has very intense interests, can focus amazingly well when he chooses to, is very sensitive, quirky and creative, but can also be difficult to focus on tasks he is not interested in.
Any thoughts or experiences would be gratefully accepted, as I feel I am continually going round in circles. Thanks.

EdithWeston Fri 05-Jun-15 13:39:24

What's the parking like at the school? If it's on street, do a trial run Monday morning rush hour, ideally when wet, and see what it's really like.

You don't sound sold on the private school. In your shoes, I'd be looking seriously at the 'state til 8' route. And you might find you stay put right through until 11.

Rabbitsnap Fri 05-Jun-15 13:47:23

Thanks for replying. The parking is apparently fine, as it is free in the surrounding roads until later in the morning.
I don't feel entirely sold on private, but feel if you removed any social context, the private school undeniably offers a better 'service' for my son. I guess it is just about how much the social context matters.

EdithWeston Fri 05-Jun-15 13:53:11

It's not cost, it's congestion. Streets close to private schools can be absolute bloody mayhem at school run time, and that sort of stress may be a show stopper for some. That's why it's worth looking at what really happens at morning drop off time (evenings not so bad as after school activities stagger it somewhat, but if parking restrictions are 9-5 you'll need to pay then).

Can you get him there without driving?

Rabbitsnap Fri 05-Jun-15 13:57:29

I have been told that the parking is not a problem. People have said it can be congested in the afternoon, but that the mornings tend to be fine, as school start pretty early, so you miss the main school run traffic. I should definitely test this out though.

electionfatigue Fri 05-Jun-15 14:01:26

Can you name the schools? people likely to know them. FWIW 10 minute commute isn't much at all.

cherokeee Fri 05-Jun-15 14:07:50

Does the state school accommodate children with different skills? ie does it set children according to ability for writing, reading and maths? If so, I would go to the state school. I teach part time at a state school and the "top set" of Y6 does very similar work to my child who is in Y6 at a very good private school.

morethanpotatoprints Fri 05-Jun-15 14:15:08

OP, how does a private school not make a profit? I may be being dim here? grin
I think you need to look more long term. Are you looking at staying in the area and what are the senior schools like.
could you afford to go private for primary and secondary.
If only one of them I would choose state for primary and private for secondary as these are the important years.
You can fill any gaps your child may have with a tutor or teach them yourself.
Would your son take up all the extra opportunities that private school offers?
Also look at extracurricular both offer, when these are run and if they fit in with your lifestyle.
Part of me is of the opinion if it isn't broke don't try to fix it.
He is part of a lovely community and has friends which has a lot going for it.

MMmomKK Fri 05-Jun-15 15:11:15

It all depends on your preferred path for the secondary schools. How is your local state secondary? Would you be happy for him to go there?

How old is your DS btw? How long will be spend in the new school?

The plan of staying the state until 7 or 8+ and prepping on your own for transfer to private at that time is not an easy path, especially in London. It often doesn't work as competition from the prep school kids is so intense.

The social aspect of seing your local friends doesn't have to go away. And 10 min drive is nothing for London.

Madcats Fri 05-Jun-15 20:43:17

Apologies for reading between the lines but it sounds as if you are trying to weigh up the merits of:

Sending your DS to a school that will cost you virtually nothing where you can mix socially with a group of parents you already know and like.
vs
Fee-paying, which involves a drive and quite a few kids you have met and taken a dislike to (and don't know the parents), but think it might be a good place to send DS.

So you probably need to think about:
1) Are you still expecting to be in London when DS is 7/11/13?
2) Is it probable that DS is bright (at the risk of offending other M'netters if the parents are fairly bright and engaged....)
4) Can you afford 1(+) children from 4-18 school fees or are you planning to switch at some point?
5) Are you comfortably in catchment areas for goos state junior/secondary schools that you like/could afford to move to?
6) If you need wrap-around school day care, is it available? Also can you manage extra school holidays in private (and longer school days) versus state?

For me there was great merit in going to the local school from 4-7 so we knew plenty of families within staggering distance of our house (great for babysitting and playdates). Oddly enough I enjoy the longer school journey (15 mins) to private 7+ school as we have far more time to chat/talk about plans/day at work or school). We are still good friends with many of the infant school families (who probably disapprove of/envy our choice of £ school)

Rabbitsnap Fri 05-Jun-15 21:07:37

Thanks for your replies. It is helpful to think these things through.
Sadly, I would definitely not send him to the local comprehensive. I have taught in one similar, and I would rather move out of London than send him there, even if private wasn't an option. He is 4, so will be starting in reception. The private school sends many children to the couple of independent day schools we are hoping he may go to at 11. A few children each year (10%) also go private for secondary from the state primary, however, many families either move out of London before then, or send their children privately earlier.
Part of me thinks that if we are going to send him privately eventually, which would entail intense tutoring by all accounts,we may as well just do it now. I am fairly sure that from an academic viewpoint the private school will be better for him. I think my doubts are basically about the social implications of moving him from a community school, to a socially relatively homogeneous school a commute away.
Thanks for all your thoughts and suggestions.

Morethan- some private schools have charity status(rightly or wrongly), and are therefore not run for profit,but managed by a board of governors/trustees. I have been told by friends who have worked in both types that this makes a huge difference to the way the schools are resourced, especially in terms of staff.

Rabbitsnap Fri 05-Jun-15 21:14:30

Madcats, I saw your post after I posted mine. You have summarised the dilemma. It is interest what you say about the school commute, I have not heard that before, only the shorter the better.

IsItStupid Fri 05-Jun-15 22:36:57

In any other city I would probably encourage you to go with your lovely community school. But in London the competition is so fierce and if you really won't send your child to the state secondary school, it's probably best to get a place in the private system as soon as possible. I would say go private but make sure any co-curriculars are with the local community.

You said the independent school "gets children into great London day schools," which is probably the deciding factor.

"My main concern with this school is the practicalities of the commute, and the fact that socially I feel less comfortable with the type of parents there" - the commute is the only real issue. It is actually very easy to give your child a social life whilst not interacting much with other parents grin

To summarise my opinion, if this is a decision you have to make at reception that will carry through to year 6, go private.

On the other hand, if it is easy to transfer at year 3 or 4 to the private school, go with the state school.

IsItStupid Fri 05-Jun-15 22:37:36

Wait, is the private school you're looking at a pre-prep or a prep school? Does it go to year 3, year 4, year 6 or year 8?

Because that would be a major factor in my decision!

morethanpotatoprints Sat 06-Jun-15 14:31:09

Thanks Rabbit ah, my dd future school is the same, this is why I asked.
I didn't think there were many.
I don't want to derail your thread but would love to know of some of the differences as I have no experience of either yet.

How long would your child need to go to state primary if you considered the move to the private school?
If you would go private at say y4 it would be a huge change and new friendship groups.

QuinoaLenghi Sat 06-Jun-15 14:44:32

He's a boy so I would send him private as he will have to transfer at 8 anyway due to ridiculous mismatch between boys' private school entry ages and the State system.

I have girls and went for the local outstanding but mixed primary. I have no regrets and I Contest the idea that entry to a good private school at 11 requires "intense tutoring". I've yet to find a bright state primary kid who didn't secure a good private place at secondary when they wanted to and could afford to. Literally I've never met such a child. The 8% of girls who leave our state primary for private secondary each year all get their top choices, the reason it's only 8% is because only 8% pursue this route.

thankgoditsover Sat 06-Jun-15 18:07:09

Not true re boys' schools - most have significant entry at 11 (eg city, highgate, ucs etc in my neck of the woods). In fact, lots of prep school parents look rather enviously at the relative simplicity of the 11+ in comparison to pre-tests, ce etc.

I also think it's much healthier to go to big school at 11 rather than 13.

toomanywheeliebins Sat 06-Jun-15 18:21:40

Many many state schools have turned around in London in a short space of time. So the comp that might be terrible now, could, under new leadership be a different kettle of fish in five years time.

I am about to send my PFB to a school that was until four years ago was in special measures for about 10 years. It has been federated as a basket case and was is now outstanding (and not just OFSTED outstanding was truly amazing) despite a v mixed intake.

electionfatigue Sat 06-Jun-15 22:08:51

FWIW my daughter goes to a private school that is 10 miles away - half an hour in the car. It has a lovely parent community, we all try really hard to keep in touch despite being spread out from Swiss Cottage to St. Albans and she has loads of playdates in the holidays. It does involve rather a lot of ferrying her around though....

Mopmay Sat 06-Jun-15 23:21:02

State. There are huge advantages and life skills gained from being part of local community and walking to school. Diversity, tolerance, understanding etc are vital - as are self motivation, independence etc

remodelling Sun 07-Jun-15 08:12:30

either will be fine, one will be cheaper.
walking to school and a short school run and no homework in infants does mean a lot when they are little.
i would try out the state school and transfer into the private system later if you feel uncomfortable.

MMmomKK Sun 07-Jun-15 10:13:32

If it is a matter of principle (fairness, community, etc) than you need to decide on what feels more right to you.

However, if it's a matter of education - than its about the quality of education. So - which school would give the best one to your child; which would prepare him best for the secondaries; how the school results compare, etc.

Over the past two years I have observed a sad example of a friend who chose state, thinking that prepping for 7-8+ (in Central London) can be done at home. I felt very sorry for her, but mostly for her bright boy who had endless hours of tuition to close the gaps between the National Curriculum and the (totally unreasonable) expectations of the top boys schools. And he didn't even get interviews.

But the point here is that, had he gone to the prep school, all of that would have been avoided.

stripedpenguin Sun 07-Jun-15 13:46:33

I recently asked on here about private school fee increases. On the back of that (possibility of compound rises of up to 7% a year) we have decided to give up our selective prep place and go to our local outstanding state. We are in London.

There are lots of advantages for going state as well as cost: local community, we know lots of families going, diversity of ability (tiny catchment of our primary means very little additional social diversity tho hmm), walk to school, and it's a fab place. I also personally know lots of bright children who went from state to private at 7 and 11, albeit with one hour a week tutoring for a year before the exams. There are also children I know at local preps who have the same regular tutoring for the 11+ in London.

However, if money absolutely wasn't an object then we would have chosen prep instead. It is a better education o offer (in our case at least).

Luna9 Sun 07-Jun-15 14:11:00

From your post I will go for the state option; lovely community which you will be sad to leave and convenience to get to. No need to stress yourself without reason; even if they are behavioural issues with some of the kids on the school your child will make friends with kids he gets alone and share things in common. You can reinforce his academics through tutoring and also do extra curricular activities to get him in a good secondary which is more important.

Roseotto Sun 07-Jun-15 14:53:18

State, largely because of the judgmental comments you made about the parents and (my goodness) even some of the young children at the private school. If you have a bit of a chip on your shoulder you will just beat yourself up for selling out if you go for the private option.

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