Private Primary - are you glad you chose it?(79 Posts)
State schools in our area are fine but not great. Oversubscribed, large classes, not great wraparound care. A lot of people are SAHM and make up for any shortcomings at home, but that won't be an option as I will be working FT (not just to fund private school - I want to work anyway!) We have found a lovely nurturing independent school for DD. DH salary pays mortgage, bills, - mine will go half on school fees. We will still be better off than we are now (currently a student!) but it feels like a huge commitment. Before we bite the bullet and put our deposit down I wanted to ask for some experiences of private primary and if you are/were happy with the end result. We're not doing it specifically to get into grammar, I don't even know if she will be a particularly academic, but I want somewhere nurturing and where she will be happy and I worry so much she will get lost in a class of 30+ (she is quite timid). The independent class sizes are 14. Any advice gratefully received!
This is such an open ended question. First, you need to do the maths. Could you really afford private education? (It sounds like you can). Remember to factor in fee rises year on year and any extras. IN some schools they are substantial, in some others not so much.
Then you need to look at the specific schools your DD would go to. Go round, have a chat to the staff, and think which one would suit your daughter best. (It may not be the prep school). And be realistic about what state school she would get into. Check the distances from your house that the last child go in for the last few years. I'm always a bit sad to see parents who don't even consider any other options apart from a couple of states schools that they would like, and then are devastated when they get something 3 miles away.
And then finally the state vs private thing. There are great state schools and terrible private ones. You really need to just make the choice between what is available to you.
Personally we went private because although there are excellent state schools in this area DS1 was very shy, and young in the year. After looking round a 'good' state school, and the prep that he is at now, we just felt that he would be happier at the prep. And we made the right decision. He is thriving in a smaller class, he has the opportunity to do activities that would just not have been open to him if he had gone to our local state school, and if and when he goes back into the state system, I feel that he has had an amazing start.
Small groups might be more nurturing within the classroom, but at play time, when the kids are socialising with each other rather than the teacher, then can be quite limiting - if you don't get on with, or simply want to do different things to the few other kids in the class, you're lonely. Timidity may even encourage that even more as she won't be leading the play.
The playground question can be influenced by the size of school. If it is only a one form entry of 14 then that can be tricky, but if there are two or three classes, or if it is single sex, then it is not so much of a problem.
How many classes a year? Just one?
How small are the classes in Y5/Y6?
If it's coed do they keep the B/G balance as you go up the school?
We are nearly at the other end of the school process (teens) and have privately educated from day one. Honestly I would now make a different choice, especially for primary. At private schools the children tend to come from far and wide. My children have never had friends close enough to go knocking on the door to go out and play, I've spent the best part of 13 years as a taxi driver to facilitate their social programme. We tried to get them into local activities eg scouts /brownies but because of the school they went to they were picked on. This lack of "local" friends is a real shame I think and something we could have avoided. If we had gone for the local school even if they had done private for secondary (educationally I think this has benefitted them enormously) they would still have that local base.
How old is your DD? Are you planning to have more DC? I only ask because I was thinking the same things as you when DS1 was up to age 4, and I think lots of parents do feel that way when their DC are so little and often timid and a class of 30 seems huge, but really that stage doesn't last long at all and very often they're fine with it and get a good spread of friends, and they can be fine in a 'fine' school, and might not be great even in a 'great' school because school life always has it's ups and downs.
In our case, DS2 came along and made the financial decision for us as we'd have been too stretched to cover two sets of fees, and I honestly haven't regretted the state option once. In fact, when I'm forking out for the monthly after-school care fees (not at all extortionate), I thank heaven that I'm not burdened with way bigger school fees for the foreseeable.
Obviously some people will be very glad they chose private, not saying they're wrong at all, just offering another perspective. You may think you can afford it, but it sounds like you're looking at projected earnings rather than current and that already adds an element of pressure instead of the release of pressure that comes when they get to school age and if you choose state, suddenly all those childcare fees can be used for the whole family's benefit.
Ds was at a private school from reception to yr4. We moved him to our local state school as it just wasn't working for him - primarily socially, but also in terms of his confidence. They were so much about the A team for sports, the award winning choir/orchestra that it didn't matter how much you tried - if you were B team, you stayed there.
There were great things about the school, but it wasn't working for ds as much as it should have for the price. His new school (middle school area, so all started there in yr5) has been amazing for his confidence and the fact that his social interactions are controlled by the kids being at the park/pool/etc together not the uber mums deciding who gets invited to things is a massive bonus.
Thani you everybody for taking the time to respond. I'm in a real dilemma about it all and questions people have raised about the importance of local friends etc does worry me, although as a ft working parent realistically DD will need to do most of her playing at after school clubs as I won't really be able to do play dates except holidays.
The school is mixed with 2/3 classes per year dependent on the year grip it seems and class sizes are more like 18 by the time you get to year 5/ year 6.
There is one state school we are in catchment for . It is well regarded locally but huge - six classes of 30+ per year and is infants and juniors.
I did some voluntary work there and whilst there were a lot of kids doing very well the middling ones seemed to be lost.
I think my main worry as well is that As I won't be around to do the before and after school pick up I worry she will have all day in a bigger class where issues might not get picked up on and then go back to a childminder who has several other children to look out for or get lost in the big after school care club. The independent schools wraparound care seemed a lot calmer when I popped into take a look - less children, more space, nicer facilities if she is going to be spending long days somewhere.
She is 3 now and we have no plans at the moment for anymore. I realise I am probably being very pfb about it all !
I suppose my other option is to send her to the local school , be around to do all drop offs and pick ups and go back to work when she is more like 7/8 and I would feel better about leaving her in a bigger before/after school club but I've been a SAHM since she was born and I find it very hard. I've been working really hard to do my degree and postgrad and get qualified..I want to get back to paid work. Argh !!
From what you say, I reckon the private school may suit you.
Currently a Y5 mum at a fabulous prep school. A friend called our local state school "crowd control" rather than "education" - and that was a class of 30. Our DD has benefitted from the smaller class sizes, but also from specialist teachers, lack of temporary teachers, better facilities etc. Personally private education is working for us.
All depends on the schools, but yes, independent from day 1 here and absolutely no regrets. For us the big advantage of small classes is teachers who don't seem overwhelmed - they give a good impression of having time and energy to plan for every child's needs and still enjoying the job. Though I'm sure it's an act some Friday evenings, just as my own demeanour at work sometimes is...
You will still need to factor in childcare for the much longer school holidays
Don't forget by reception and certainly by Yr1 after school play dates are often with the hosting parent just picking your child up too after school. From school nursery age 4 onwards my DC often went to friends houses instead of after school club if invited etc so it's very handy just popping and picking them up later on way home. They loved it. They also do beavers, sports etc with mates locally ...
Even if I had the cash I'd opt for the awesome local state option
Thanks all, holiday childcare shouldn't be an issue as I will be working as a teache so aside from the odd week overlap which DH holiday allowance will cover we should be ok. Still feel like there is a lot of thinking to do though before we commit... need to look around both schools again really and try and think if there is another way we could manage before/after school care as that is a huge part of the decision.
14 in a class sounds too small to me. I wouldn't be happy with that.
In infants classes will only have 30 pupils. And juniors normally do as well.
You're a teacher? Then why are you asking strangers. You know what a school is like.
Dd has gone from a state reception of 31 in a class to private for year 1.
I feel we made a good decision it's a lovely rural setting with heaps of extra curricular. After before school all included ( I know it's reflected in the fees)
She reads daily as opposed to once a week if that and she has developed in so many areas.
Have as many visits as you feel necessary it's a huge decision.
I'm not a teacher yet Chalk am in training and am definitely not an expert! I wanted some input from parents who have been there and done it.
Thank you onlyone glad your DD is doing well. Do you mind if I ask how your DD finds the before and after school care there? Mine will be in it pretty much five days a week if all goes to plan !
Can't you get a job at the school get a fee reduction ?
Hi green I think that's the eventual aim would be an absolute dream but I realise might not happen straightaway.
both my children in prep school. Absolutely no complaints or regrets very happy with it. They are very flexible with the wrap around care too
Before school at dd's starts at 8 although if you let them know they will take them earlier on the odd occasion and give them breakfast. School starts at 8.20.
After school is until 5.30 but again if we have been held up they have been amazing. We are very lucky.
Dd does after school normally a few nights a week. They play and have toast and have a great time. She scowls at me if I collect her early!!
We viewed 2 schools when we were looking. Dd did a taster day at each. Both had great aspects but I'm glad we went with the one we did. At the other prep the after school was outsourced to an external nursery company and was billed separately.
Good look with your viewings. I was extremely nervous and worried that we were doing the wrong thing. Dd has thrived in a class of 11. So far so good.
Thanks only that's very reassuring. It sounds like you made a good choice. I'm going to go and visit the independent again I think, with a written list of questions this time so I don't forget anything. I so want to get it right for DD and us as a family.
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