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Oakfield Prep - urgent advice sought

(65 Posts)
UmmH Mon 11-Jan-16 14:17:55

My daughter has been offered a place at Oakfield Prep for Reception 2016. We were impressed with the environment and staff and my daughter really wants to go there. Although it's a big financial commitment, I would happily undertake it if I were confident it would be the best place for her. However, a friend who's a primary school headteacher and whose children went to both prep and state told me that in her professional opinion and her opinion as a mother PREP SCHOOLS ARE A WASTE OF MONEY particularly for reception. She noted that in addition to the school fees parents had to engage PRIVATE TUTORS to get their children into the desired senior schools. Is this true??? I'd like to hear from anyone whose children went to any prep school, but Oakfield in particular - did your children need private tuition or was the tuition at the school adequate? I know that there are 'top' prep schools where this might not be necessary but unfortunately I cannot afford those. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

horseygeorgie Mon 11-Jan-16 14:21:55

I think it depends a lot on where you want your DD to go for her secondary years. If you are intending for her to stay in the private sector and go on to a school with a serious entrance exam, then yes, you MAY need additional tuition.

steppemum Mon 11-Jan-16 14:23:44

well, my 2 eldest went to a state primary. It is good, top 200 in the country, but it is also in a deprived area and very poor intake.

They both passed for super selected grammars, with no external tutoring. (I helped them, but we were usually revising what had been taught in school)

UmmH Mon 11-Jan-16 15:03:13

This is the dilemma. I could send her to a good state school and tutor her myself as Steppemum suggests. I'd definitely prefer private secondary (or grammar), so I hope that this would be enough. I suppose it's just that in the environment of a prep school there's a general expectation that children will progress to private senior schools, and so the children don't get distracted or lose focus. Horseygeorgie, it's the 'MAY' that is worrying me! Thanks both for your responses, though. I hope some Oakfield parents will chip in.

innocuoussocks Mon 11-Jan-16 15:06:01

Firstly I'd say be wary of friends' opinions (even and possibly especially those who work in education). Education is such a personal and emotionally charged choice and you'll rarely come across anyone who says that anything other than the current set up they've got for their own kids is right.

In terms of private turoring it does happen in prep schools but based on my own experience it is much more common in the central and north London preps than it is at the south London schools. It is to some extent a self perpetuating phenomenon and people tend to employ tutors because they think everyone else is and they fear being left behind - this oddly seems to make it more common in the pushier preps with their more competitive atmosphere.

Certainly in the two local preps my kids attend there is very little tutoring and I know a couple of families with kids at Oakfield who are very happy with it and neither of them seems to have tutors.

Good luck whatever you decide.

LentilStew Mon 11-Jan-16 15:13:25

Sorry, I don't know Oakfield. Whereabouts in the country is it? Mine have been through prep and I disagree wholeheartedly. If anything I think it's the opposite. Lots of people think paying at primary is a waste of money but if I could only afford one I'd pay for primary as the foundation it gives them is fantastic. It really inspires a love of learning and sports and music opportunities just not available in the state sector. I teach in a very high achieving state school but we simply don't have the facilities or resources to provide the education my children get.

However, all prep schools are not equal. Some are poorly equipped with little financial resources. Just rubbish primary schools with hats basically. But as I said, I don't know your school.

As for tutoring, it really depends what you want at secondary. If you're looking at duper selective or very selective grammar or a top school demanding top CE results or a very high achieving day school such as Habs, NLCS, or WGS or the like then tutoring may still be necessary. It really depends on your child and the school you want at senior level.

queenofthepirates Mon 11-Jan-16 15:15:03

If you can afford it, I would go private-the benefits like better sports and music facilities will easily outweigh any state school.

That said-what's the outcome you want? Is it good GCSEs then onto Oxbridge or do you want your child to mix with other private school pupils and establish networks? Or a bit of everything? In that case, go private from an early age.

There is of course another option, to enter your child into private education after a few years of state school. Several of my friends did this to good effect.

It's always hard to know if your investment will come to anything! My parents made no financial investment into a private education and my brother has a PhD and well, I've turned out fine. My friend was privately educated and it did her few favours emotionally. You just never know. I'd do what you can afford comfortably to do.

LentilStew Mon 11-Jan-16 15:15:57

Ok, I guessed it must be London as people always post about London schools without saying where they are in the assumption that everyone knows London schools. wink grin

UmmH Mon 11-Jan-16 15:22:39

Sorry, LentilStew, yes, it is in Dulwich, South London!

UmmH Mon 11-Jan-16 15:34:53

Very helpful replies from everyone so far, so thank you all. About sport, for sure the prep has better facilities and I can happily picture my daughter running about outside at break times as well, as opposed to the asphalted enclosed spaces of most of our local primaries. Then again, I thought maybe a local sports club could supply that need. Oh, I wish someone could wave a wand! I didn't really consider networks, as neither my brother nor I kept in contact with school friends. But from an academic point of view, I do have a preference for those that LentilStew mentioned. Many Oakfield children go on to Royal Russell and St. Dunstans, which don't rank very highly in the league tables...any views on those schools?

KingscoteStaff Mon 11-Jan-16 15:51:50

Did you try for JAPS or Alleyns Junior? Which primary do you think you'll get?
If you will get a place at the Hamlet, I'd take it. There is so much extra-curricular stuff going on around Dulwich that you could spend your money on music lessons, sign her up to do hockey and cricket at Spencer once she's in Year one, not to mention all the choirs, dance classes and art classes around. Don't forget that all the preps have an (admittedly smaller) entrance in Year 3, so you won't have burnt your boats altogether.
Just for your peace of mind, you could ask JAGS and Sydenham High what percentage of their Year 7 girls come from state primaries.
Can you hold the Oakfield place until the state reception places come out, or do they want a deposit?

innocuoussocks Mon 11-Jan-16 16:08:49

If you are going to be pushing for the super-selectives at secondary e.g. SPGS, CGS etc... then I agree with Kingscote that Oakfield is going to suit you.

The leavers' destinations aren't in that league and I don't think they get very many into nearby JAGS either. Although, my friend tells me that part of this is because Oakfield has a lot of parents who have committed to pay prep fees but would be stretched to fund private secondary too. So about a third of the kids go into the state secondary (incl. Grammars) and lots of others choose 'safe' schools where their kids stand a good shot at scholarships.

innocuoussocks Mon 11-Jan-16 16:14:10

Sorry is not goinng to suit....

writingonthewall Mon 11-Jan-16 17:08:23

I'm N London not S but as a general rule most kids at preps are also tutored for the 11+ and most parents deny it...

UmmH Mon 11-Jan-16 19:10:00

They want the deposit by early Feb. State school places are offered in April. I'm sure the preps do it on purpose to pressure parents into paying the deposit, fearing they won't get a place if they wait.

KingscoteStaff Mon 11-Jan-16 19:32:04

Do you think you've got any likelihood of getting your first choice state primary?

TC13 Mon 11-Jan-16 19:34:21

I went to Oakfield and now my son is in the nursery being taught by the same teacher who taught me. smile

It is a wonderful school an excellent representation of London (multi cultural).
Do your research and please make the right decision based on your child's individual needs and qualities. My son is in a small class and is thriving.

Not every child will be right for the top of league secondary schools


UmmH Mon 11-Jan-16 21:23:34

My local primary is Sudbourne. It's OFSTED outstanding, and the only state school I visited which says it will support any child whose parents are thinking of a selective secondary. It's also oversubscribed as you would imagine. TC13, do you recall the leavers' destinations of those in your year group? People say my daughter is bright (though obviously I am biased!) so if Oakfield can offer her the best chance to realise her full potential then I am happy. If Sudbourne can do that, then I am happy too. So perhaps I should take a chance and wait until April...

namechangedtoday15 Tue 12-Jan-16 10:24:39

There was another thread quite recently about the benefits of prep over state schools. There is no justification in my opinion for sweeping statements that preps will always offer opportunities for music, sport or whatever that easily outweigh any state school. Thats just not true. You need to look at the individual schools, what your chances are for getting into the preps (if there are entrance tests), your chances of getting in to the preferred state schools (catchments etc) and what other opportunities there are.

Certainly in my area (albeit not London) I would say 99% of parents tutored for the senior schools entrance exams, irrespective of whether their children went to prep or state primary. Parents are very cagey about admitting whether they're using a tutor.

Just one other point in response to tutoring - I too thought I would be able to tutor my DC myself. My view now having just done it is that it is much better to have a private tutor, away from the house, at a set time, with a set programme of work. Tutoring at home (unless you are steadfast in your plans) can be affected by other children / interruptions / the parent-child relationship and all sorts of external factors which can undermine what you're trying to achieve.

UmmH Tue 12-Jan-16 12:03:24

Actually TC13, if you wouldn't mind sharing, what were the things you really loved about Oakfield? You must have liked it a lot to send your son there smile

LentilStew Tue 12-Jan-16 18:14:07

namechangedtoday, I disagree. As I said, I teach in a state school. We offer a very good education with a good number of extra curricular stuff going on but no we could we compete with what a good prep can offer. My 'sweeping statement' did say it excluded twee little preps housed in Victorian detached homes with little outdoor space and 8 in a class. But a good prep? State simply cannot compete. My children have weekly swimming from reception. Netball, basketball, rugby, cricket, football, golf, hockey, athletics. They have the outdoor facilities to support these and take part both in school and as after school clubs. In terms of music they have piano, woodwind, drums and a separate singing lesson each week. On top of this, as after schools clubs they can choose gardening, science, IT, Latin, chess, quiz club, French, contemporary studies and drama or Lamda. So each term they probably have 15 or 16 after school clubs to chose from including a wealth of sport and music. That's on top on the 3 or 4 hours of sport a week and 2 hours of music each week with opportunities for extra music tuition on top. This is fairly standard for a good prep. We simply can't compete in the state sector however good we are.

* just to be clear, I'm talking about sport, music and extra curricular stuff. Academically, a good state primary is certainly able to hold its own against a good prep.

TC13 Tue 12-Jan-16 19:35:55


Oakfield is a really good school to develop the whole child and nurture their giftings -not just the academic side. I feel Oakfield students are supported whatever their good at. If a student has a desire to learn an instrument they don't offer they'll get a teacher in to teach it. If a child is naturally bright they'll push that child to move onto the top tier schools and prepare them accordingly, but that's not right for every child. I had LOADS of attention whilst at the school and left feeling I could do whatever I wanted to do. My elder sibling and cousin also went to Oakfield and we have all done very well for ourselves. One's now teaching as head of department in a local highly regarded private school (mentioned in this thread) my cousin represents England in Cricket (which was really encouraged by the school) and me well not to blow my own trumpet but I've done very well in business and don't need to work again having purchased many assets (didn't go to uni) I really believe Oakfield played a huge part in making me who I am today. smile we are all confident Adults who know what we are gifted at.

There are other local preps that have very selective entry systems whereby they cream off the top 10% meaning their leavers tend to go to the best schools and they only take the best of the best kids. The children are pushed hard to get the results, some kids thrive others get really stressed out if their not performing against their peers.

Oakfield kids who attend nursery are automatically given a place in the school and you can't really tell what 2 year olds are academically gifted can you?- Also a lot of pre preps make kids sit exams at 7 to again select the best children ensuring they get their kids into the best schools- Oakfield don't do that.

My son's very happy- and is very intelligent (although I'm biased) and I'm really happy he doesn't have exam stress on the cards at 7, he can just enjoy his schooling supported by excellent teachers/ small classes and an array of students at different levels who are being nurtured to be the best they can be.

I have no doubt my son could go onto the top tier schools if it seems right for him.. However I didn't go onto a private secondary and that was right for me! My sibling however did and that was right for her.

Not sure if that's helpful but hope you make the right decision for you smile

namechangedtoday15 Tue 12-Jan-16 20:01:26

I understand your point Lentil but that's just your experience, your DC's prep (which does sound great) in comparison to the school you teach in. Unless these are 2 of the schools the OP is considering, then it makes little difference. The objection was to the generalisation that a good prep always has better facilities than a state school.

What the OP needs to consider are her choices on a school by school basis, combined with what is available in her local area, not a generalist view one way or the other.

For what it's worth, my children do all of the sports you've listed bar golf, plus lacrosse, at their state school. They don't do Latin but can do Spanish (aswell as French). No piano on site but of course we can do that locally, this term the whole year group is learning the Ukulele. No singing lessons but choir twice a week (plus 3 times a week before school at the moment because they have a performance coming up). I don't know what Lamda is but other than they they have similar after school clubs, including a craft club, an art club, cookery club and a book club. Plus we're in a very family oriented area and there are heaps of extra curricular activities going on.

So whilst I know that every state school isn't as great as my DC's the decision is surely based on the individual choices available rather than always prep or always state.

LentilStew Tue 12-Jan-16 20:14:21

Not just my prep and I've been teaching in the state sector for 20yrs including 3yrs as a link tutor for a university which required me to visit countless schools to observe students. Most preps offer what ours does and my current state school offer more than a great many others I have known.

But yes, you're correct. I know neither the prep nor the state primary the OP is referring to.

LentilStew Tue 12-Jan-16 20:17:33

And yes, we have all the art clubs too. If your state primary is genuinely offering all that sport (3hours a wk) and music within school hours and as after school clubs then that is exceptionally rare. And I teach in an affluent area that is falling over itself with family activities.

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