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Done to death but... value of private VS good state in primary

(41 Posts)
tostaky Thu 12-Nov-15 11:35:35

Just been on a tour to our nearest private and although the facilities are great, I can't see the added value of private education at primary stage.
Is the value really only about the networking opportunities, the alumni network?
Because when you compare the actual work the children are doing - (it is the same, children in Y4 in my sons state school had the same topic homework to do as Y4 kids in private school). Also when you compare 30 children, 1 teacher, 1 teacher assistant and often 1 Sen teacher per classe VS 22 kids, 1 teacher, and 0.25 of a teacher assistant... To me the private school looks similar if not worse. (Without going into the exposition to SEN children in state school which I find is very enriching for my children).

It is hard for me to find one thing that makes me go "yes, that's where my money will be going and that's exactly what I want for my kids"!

brokenmouse Thu 12-Nov-15 12:01:24

The SEN teacher doesn't really count as they will be for the SEN children only. All the private schools I know have a teacher and teaching assistant per class. A good state may be better than a bad private. On average private will give you smaller classes, more facilities, more specialist teachers, more computing equipment.

DSClarke Thu 12-Nov-15 12:35:21

I don't think that you can really generalise. However, I"m about to do just that...

We have some amazing state primary schools in our town with fantastic academic results. The kids seem happy there, and people will pay huge amounts of money to get a house near enough to get their kids in.

However, we have chosen to go private because the particular school suits our children. They get a LOT more support when it is needed. I think that I can particularly see it in DS1. He is doing well, although he is not classically 'bright'. However, he does benefit from a lot more teacher attention. They also have a lot less homework than their friends at state school as more is done in the classroom, and they have far more opportunities than their friends outside school in terms of sport, drama, trips, music, after school clubs etc. I really feel that he has a very balanced life (at the moment. It may all change as he gets further up the school!)

TBH I don't think that my little boy is going to make any business contacts in prep school, and I don't think for a minute that the kids are nicer than his friends outside school. But there is far more discipline, and a far closer eye is kept on the children in the playground and there seems to be a much lower tolerance of any bullying behaviour.

Leeds2 Thu 12-Nov-15 12:37:02

I would go and have a look round a couple more private schools, so that you can make a comparison.

Kennington Thu 12-Nov-15 12:49:10

Depends
Our local private has one teacher per 9-12 pupils so the class is likely to be quieter if nothing else.
Slightly better facilities - swimming pool and separate science classrooms.
They are slightly more strict with children's manners but not dramatically so.....
Main selling point for me is the after school care! Otherwise you are right I don't think the differences are worth the cash.

Mrbrowncanmoo Thu 12-Nov-15 13:03:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

silversixpence Thu 12-Nov-15 13:10:29

We just moved our DS from state to private (he's year 3). We visited 4 or 5 schools before we accepted the place here. We have no interest in the network (in fact we are practically excluded anyway as culturally and ethnically different to everyone else hmm) but felt he would benefit from the small class size of 16, better sports and swimming including competitive team sports, and better standard of teaching. There are much higher expectations of good behaviour, organisation and hard work which have already helped him to improve in those areas. He is also very shy but has so far enjoyed the work although it is a big adjustment.

Jhm9rhs Thu 12-Nov-15 13:18:18

I send my children to a state school but have lots of experience of both school sectors.

To me, the difference in independent (depending on the school) is in behaviour management, sports provision, IT provision and just in attention to detail - better handwriting, more depth expected in topic work etc. I would say the children in the schools I know well are 'ahead' in maths and modern languages...but not noticeably in social skills. I also feel the children are more spoon fed at school so there can be less homework and less need for parents to watch how their kids are progressing at every step.

Of course, these are by necessity massive generalisations.

I am very happy with my children's state school.

Jhm9rhs Thu 12-Nov-15 13:19:24

I think much of the 'added value' probably comes from smoothing the path for entry to selective secondaries.

namechangedtoday15 Thu 12-Nov-15 14:25:26

There was a very similar post a couple of days ago. I think you need to consider education as a whole - i.e. where you live and what options you have at secondary school. I can't imagine that anyone makes lasting contacts at prep school (maybe the parents?!!) so its not about that, and as you say, it depends what your state alternatives are.

brokenmouse Thu 12-Nov-15 16:36:13

yes the preparation for state private/grammar is important

also agree that very poor behaviour just won't be tolerated - one disruptive child won't be allowed to spoil things for everyone else

Millymollymama Thu 12-Nov-15 17:26:32

Sorry, but behaviour tolerances at private schools can be just as bad as state schools. Worse if the parent of a bully is offering up huge sums of money for the school's latest project!

Quality really varies from school to school and what type of child is at the school. State and private! Many state schools get children with level 6 maths, so private school pupils are not necessarily ahead. I have seen shocking teachers in the private sector that would not last for one minute in a state school. I have also seen some average state school teachers, although they are becomming a distant memory. Do not assume that smaller classes mean better teaching. A poor teacher will still be poor with a smaller number of children and the TAs will be poorly used in the classroom.

The best thing to do is look at what you value in an education. One of my DD's stayed in her state school all the way through to Y6 but I had some reservations about it. She loved it and refused to move! My reservations were around quality of teaching and leadership. Her class size was only 22. Other DD was in great prep school but some of the teachers were also less than great. However, there were amazing clubs, school trips, sport and hot school lunches! She is still friendly with some girls who went there. However, this was a school that prided itself on the large number of scholarships the girls won to senior schools. It was the creme de la creme of girls' prep schools. Therefore, prep schools with stellar destinations are different to local preps feeding local so/so schools. Private schools are very different and not all the same: the same as state schools!

namechangedtoday15 Thu 12-Nov-15 18:08:58

It really does depend on area - my children's state school also have hot school lunches (I thought all schools did?!), great school trips and a myriad of teacher / professional coach led after school activities. It was in the Top 10 schools nationally in the school league tables second with a significant number of children achieving level 6 in maths.

Having seen local children through sports clubs etc I personally think the children are better behaved generally than other schools (state and private) but that is down to the staff rather than a differentiation between state and private. It comes down to the ethos of the school and what values they foster within the school.

The % of children passing into the very competitive local grammar schools (again top schools nationally) is similar to the local preps. So for us, there would have been absolutely no gain by going private.

You will only tell from visiting the school and observing things on the ground and speaking with other parents / children.

Sunflower123456 Thu 12-Nov-15 18:56:38

In some areas, the competition to get into free state secondary grammar schools is fierce, so parents are forced to send their DC to private prep schools and enlist private tutors.

We don't have grammar schools in our area, but we sent our DD to both private and state schools, and ranked them the following (1 = best)

1) State rated outstanding (class size 30), where DD is now

2) Private girls school (class size 25)

3) State rated good (class size 30)

The private girls school was certainly not worth the money we spent, and there were some outrageous costs, eg £25 for an enprint size class photo taken by the class teacher using a cheapo camera.

We also found private schools are not answerable to any one, and they can do anything they like, eg hire inexperienced teachers, lack of care etc. Their complaints procedure and the Independent Schools Inspectorate are just trash.

State schools are answering to the government, so their staff are kept on their toes. However, the frequent changes of school curriculums is not wonderful.

Our DD is now at an outstanding state school, and there's no way we would be going back that private school even if it's free.

JenniferYellowHat1980 Thu 12-Nov-15 19:56:41

If I could dream of affording a private secondary I'd do it, but it would have to be the right one. Through my own professional network I'm aware that the Engliah dept in a local private secondary is shocking, but as an examiner I see work produced by students who've had the benefit of wide ranging, challenging literature which can only happen where resources we available and the motivation is there. I've yet to come across a state secondary that manages behaviour effectively. I'd possibly wait until age 11.

JenniferYellowHat1980 Thu 12-Nov-15 19:57:09

Excuse one-handed phone typos.

smee Fri 13-Nov-15 09:46:18

Jennifer, lots of state schools manage behaviour well. DS is at an inner city comp - there's no tolerance of classroom disruption and the motivation to do well/ thrive/ teach in an inspiring way is most definitely there. Purely anecdotal this, but he's doing as well as his cousins in a v.well respected academically selective private school. My brother was looking through his homework and school books and and said a lot of it was far more interesting than anything his kids get and a fair bit of it more demanding too.

Autumnsky Fri 13-Nov-15 13:46:25

If the choice is between a really good state school and a private school, and you are thinking if the fee is worth it, then I think the state school is better. As the difference between a really good state school and a private school wouldn't be so big, you'd better save the money and doing extra activities with you DC youself.

If you have lots of money and no need to think about is the fee worth it, then maybe private school is better.

For most parents, if they don't have lots of money, but still choose private schol, it is normally because they don't have a good state school to choose.

tostaky Sat 14-Nov-15 14:19:31

Thank you for all your input.
My husband is worried the state school is not challenging the children enough.

neuroticnicky Wed 18-Nov-15 13:24:33

I think that-as long as a state primary school is reasonably good- there is not much difference between it and a private (prep) school in terms of the education provided. There is a strong link in state schools between academic achievement and the level of entitlement to free school meals and it can be interesting to compare the performance of state schools in wealthy areas (i.e. low FSM percentage indicating a middle class parent body) with those few private schools which still do SATs. So for example in this year's SATs (see last weekend's Sunday Times) one of our local state primary schools (Fox) which has a very middle class catchment area in Kensington/Notting Hill performed just as well as (indeed slightly better than) some of the best girls independent schools in the country including JAGS, LEH etc.

neuroticnicky Wed 18-Nov-15 13:34:31

I guess what I was saying is that middle class kids will generally perform at the same level in both the state and private sectors and research shows that genes and family background/parental support play a much larger role in determining academic achievement than the actual school attended.

uhoh1973 Wed 18-Nov-15 13:40:59

Our neighbour has been a teacher for more than 30 years. She said there is 1 key thing which has the greatest effect on how well children do - its not how clever the kids are or how clever the parents are but how interested / engaged the parents are. She has seen smart kids and smart parents not do that well because the parents (smart or otherwise) are not interested / do not have time to be interested. Interested means turning up to parents evening, helping them learn to read, helping them with their homework etc being enthusiastic about school. I think she is right..
If you are spending some £15k per year on school fees per child you may or may not be smart but unless you are seriously loaded you will be interested in your child's education (that is why you are paying!). Therefore most likely (but generalising here) you will turn up to parents evenings and help them learn to read etc. I think at the private school the biggest difference is not the IQ of the children or the size of the classes (though this may help) but the expectations and commitment of the parents. Some (city?) state schools will also have this effect where there are many committed parents but where we are at a state school most of the parents are not that interested...
That's my theory anyway.

neuroticnicky Wed 18-Nov-15 13:57:41

uhoh1973 I would agree with you on the importance of parental commitment and both DH and I had friends at private schools who failed all their A levels (harder to do these days) due to lack of parental involvement .However I also think IQ is underrated and it is not uncommon to find one of your DC is a lot better at a subject (such as maths) than their sibling despite identical schooling/parental involvement etc.

Gruach Wed 18-Nov-15 14:54:24

Is the value really only about the networking opportunities, the alumni network?

Alumni network? In primary school?shock

No. If you care very, very much about having the email addresses of some other parents who may never do more than drink coffee with you at a children's party then perhaps ...

The main benefit of a particular prep school is where you have a clear idea of which senior school you wish your child to aim for. Or if you genuinely believe the school offers something particularly needful for your child which can't be accessed elsewhere.

But to sign up for a fee paying primary school purely out of a vague idea of superior socialising - that would be a complete waste of time.

Alastrante Wed 18-Nov-15 15:01:03

The number one thing that'll make you happy with any school is if you are on a similar wavelength to enough other parents that you can enjoy your children growing up together.

Whatever that means to you - similar income level and jobs, most likely - it's going to be a strong indicator of your child and you being happiest with the school you choose, private or state. Shared experience. Primary education varies a bit but in the early years, not enough to expend so much energy on thinking about it. Wait until late primary/secondary and then really lie awake at night grin

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