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State vs Private...Head vs Heart - Help!

(58 Posts)
OakCat Tue 18-Apr-17 11:09:13

Need someone to talk some sense into me.

One DD just got our first choice primary school so should be very happy and grateful, except I’m not.
As we were not sure if we’d get into a school as the area is so oversubscribed we went to look at a private school and have secured a place.

I just can’t shake the feeling that that we should be sending DD there. It’s a smallish mixed school until secondary where it then goes exclusively to girls until sixth form.

I have written a list of advantages and disadvantages:-


-Small class sizes (DD has sensitive hearing so struggles in noisy environments)
-Access to wide ranging activities – I want her to find a passion in life. Massive emphasis on sport and music, both which is a current interest but appreciate this could change as only 4!
-More school trips so will help her gain independence and love of travel.
-More likely to have lifelong friends if stays until 18 (very important as she is an only child and cousins much older)


-We could afford the school fees but it would mean making things a little tight at home, would need to go back up to full-time work in a couple of years to keep up with fees but it is doable (I just see it that she is getting some of her inheritance now)
-Might need to move house as school is 40 minutes away and too young to take school bus until age 7/8.
-After school club finishes at 5.30 so makes it very tight to pick up in the evening.

Both DH and I went to state schools and did ok, my big overall sadness is the lack of exposure to different activities. Plus all the children I have know who went to private schools just seem to have this extra passion for learning. I’m not really that worried about academics, of course I want her to reach her potential but I want her to find the things she good at (academic, sport or other) and the private school just seems to increase the chances of her doing that.

Please talk some sense into me as it’s been driving me crazy for months and I clearly just need to do the obvious thing and be happy for the first choice state school…but my heart is saying something different.

Hersetta427 Tue 18-Apr-17 12:09:10

Can you not go the state option and use the saved school fees to supplement with various clubs and activities? What results do the state school get?

Constant school friends wouldn't bother be - their friendships are so fluid anyway that one week they have a BFF, then next they aren't speaking anymore.

smellyboot Tue 18-Apr-17 12:12:56

Sounds like you have mind made up to me. What are the adv of the state school? For me its all about being part of our local community and belonging. Our state school does tons of extra stuff, but its not obvious from web site or initial school tour. 60% play an instrument and sport is a big thing too. Almost all go on to the local high school, so they have continuity of friends if they want it.

rogueantimatter Tue 18-Apr-17 12:27:19

Schools are only one way to access extra-curricular activities eg if it turned out that your DD is very musical she could to the junior department of a conservatoire on Saturdays, join regional orchestras etc. More than 60% of children who play in regional orchestras (which audition) get private instrumental lessons.

There must be lots of sports she could access too - eg swimming lessons through your local swimming pool or private leisure centre.

My DD went to a different (specialist state) secondary school from all her friends. She is still, aged 20 very good friends with two of the girls she made friends with at primary school. Actually she sees more of them than any of her friends from secondary school.

RedSkyAtNight Tue 18-Apr-17 12:28:55

You need to put under your "cons" the flipside of lifelong friends - the fact that she may stifle in a small school and being stuck with the same children for years ...

In your position assuming state option is fine (you've not said it isn't) I'd go state (at least at first) and use the money saved to pay for out of school activities/family outings etc. Bear in mind you being about (not working full time) will also be a positive influence. And having local friends is such a big deal when DC are young.

You say that this is sort of like her having her inheritance early, but does that mean you won't (for example) be able to support her as a young adult - e.g. with university fees/through low paid intern type jobs/mortgage?

Do you have plans to have any more children?

PerspicaciaTick Tue 18-Apr-17 12:32:43

As you have got into your first choice school and it sounds like the fees might leave you a little stretched, I would think it would make sense to save your money and either put it towards secondary private education or pay for extra-curricula activities.

Caroian Tue 18-Apr-17 12:34:57

Based on what you've listed, I'd pick the state option. Your "advantages" simply aren't that strong.

Our son attends a independent school with small classes. It makes very little difference to the amount of noise. Reception classes can be noisy even if they are small. The absolute volume may be less, but it is still noise which may be difficult for your daughter.

And there is no guarantee of "life long friends" either. In fact, the disadvantage of staying in one school from 4 to 18 is that it can actually limit the number of children that your child has an opportunity to mix with. Small schools with a single class mean there is no opportunity for children to be mixed up, and this can be problematic if there are are any friendship or social issues. You also mention being 40 minutes away which can make out of school socialising a bigger challenge. Working full time also makes after school play dates more of a challenge too - so worth bearing in mind.

The focus on sports and extra curricular activities is great, but as above the money that you save can be used towards out of school activities which you can truly tailor to your daughter's skills and interests, rather than just what the school happens to offer. You mention travel too - think of the trips and holidays you can afford with the saved fees (not to mention that a lot of trips through school are not cheap either).

I'm obviously not against private education, as we made the choice for our (also only) child and don't regret it for a moment. But out reasonings were different, and fortunately we can afford to do it with no real changes to our lifestyle - we work the same we would if he was at a state school and have the same trips, holidays etc.

EssentialHummus Tue 18-Apr-17 12:39:52

Can you not go the state option and use the saved school fees to supplement with various clubs and activities?

This. I'd also do my damnedest to avoid a 40 minute commute (four times a day, in practice) or the costs of a house move unless the local school wasn't good.

Are there future DC in the pipeline? Are you financially prepared to put DC2, 3 etc through 13 years of paid education?

In your circs I'd go state, review things over time, and save to send her private at secondary if need be.

BroomstickOfLove Tue 18-Apr-17 12:44:25

Your list of advantages doesn't really look all that good to me. The 'lifelong friends' part is something I would consider a disadvantage. DD is in Y5 and all the friendships between the girls are becoming quite fraught, especially as their different interests are becoming clearer as they get older, and I'm really looking forward to them getting a chance to meet new people without the baggage of everything they've done since they went to nursery. And the extra money and free time you would have if she went to the state school could pay for a lot of music, sport and travel opportunities.

Traalaa Tue 18-Apr-17 12:45:48

Small schools can be good, but remember it will give her a narrower choice of friendships. I was worried about my shy son starting at a 2 class per year primary, but he thrived. There's a lot to be said for local schools, local mates, being part of the community and you can spend the money you save on whatever extras you want.

cantkeepawayforever Tue 18-Apr-17 12:46:43

I think the other thing to think about, specifically for a smallish school, is that what seems perfect at 4 (small, nurturing) can be absolutely stifling by secondary age. Especially if it is only mixed to 11 and then becomes an all girls' school.

How many girls actually do stay from 4-18? What are their results like compared with other 11-18 options? Are they selective at 11? What other schools do children transfer to from this school, and at what points - 7+? 11+? 16+? Does the school provide any support for transfer at that point, or would you be on your own with finding e.g. 11+ coaching? What are your local secondaries like?

Also, how genuinely high quality are these extra-curricular actvities? Is it big enough all the way through to run e.g. multiple teams, progression through orchestras etc? We have gone the other way - state, with high quality extra curricular in the community, because tbh except for rugby, and choral singing, the really high quality extra curricular stuff is in the community anyway. Dance provision in-school is NOTHING like DD's community dance school, nor does any school match DS's county music ensembles, especially because he is primarily a jazz musician.

I suppose what I'm saying is that '1 stop shops' can be a compromise between convenience and quality - yes, it is convenient to have education and extra-curricular provision under 1 roof, but it can mean that one, the other or both an be sub-optimal compared with choosing the two separately.

SoupDragon Tue 18-Apr-17 12:49:31

My three have done state primary and then transferred to private secondary (the last transfers this September actually).

Both DSs have made a really good group of friends at secondary and I imagine that more solid "life long" friendships would be made at university so I would take that off your perceived list of advantages. I really don't think it will make any difference. Both DSs have moved onto new friends despite transferring to secondary with good friends f on primary school.

IHeartKingThistle Tue 18-Apr-17 12:51:29

40 minutes is too long I think.

cantkeepawayforever Tue 18-Apr-17 12:51:59

I would also say that small class sizes - and small cohorts - can be a double-edged sword. Yes, they seem lovely and cosy, but if the child is in any way an outlier (in terms of interests, character or ability) then it can be really isolating.

DS's first school was a small, cosy, nurturing, small community ... but as an absolute outlier in a variety of ways, he was MUCH happier in his second primary, a bustling, over-subscribed 2 form entry where he had a group of peers.

Bluntness100 Tue 18-Apr-17 12:52:02

I put my daughter through private education from the age of four onwearss because I wanted her to have "all the options" which I personally believe the private education on offer to her v state she would have got allowed much more easily. And yes for options that could read "opportunities"

It's really a personal choice, and yes it's a lot of money, I've never regretted it and feel it was the right choice. I'd do it again in a heart beat. You just have to weigh it up and do what's right for you and your family and for the individual child.

smellyboot Tue 18-Apr-17 12:57:44

I agree that small schools can be very stiffling esp when girls start getting to Yr5/6 Most Yr6 mums say that the DDs are soooo ready to mix with new people and make new friends by then; and thats in our large school. I also agree that a local specialist club is far better for extra sports and music - be in gymnatsics or music, choir or rugby.. I'd also look at whether there is really the breadth of extra stuff that the local area can offer e.g. Martial arts, drama, hockey's, girls football, tap & ballet, beavers or rainbows, brownies or cubs. You have no idea yet what she may fancy doing.

noramum Tue 18-Apr-17 12:58:20

We looked at some 4-18 indie schools and the numbers who actually stayed for Sixth form are very low. This can impact the number of courses available. Most children in our area moved to outstanding state schools instead.

DD goes to a state primary and the school offers lots of activities. They have two orchestras, lots of musical lessons during lesson time (paid by parents), varies sport clubs, some with external trainers where you pay, some provided by two teacher. She goes on trips twice a year plus residential in Y5 and Y6.

The secondary she will move to also has tons of clubs, drama, offers trips and a good selection of courses to choose with a focus on classical education.

DD also does most of her activities outside school:
brownies (soon will move to scouts)
Gymnastics (just stopped to allow more drama time)

cantkeepawayforever Tue 18-Apr-17 12:59:42

I would say, though - with regard to extra-curricular - I have been lucky in that, for a variety of reasons, I have always been able to be 'taxi' (and have made this a priority) and thus the community-based provision has been accessible to us.

If you know that your personal circumstances are such that you simply can't get your child to community-based extra-curricular provision, then 1 stop shops, in the form of school-based extra curricular provision, may well be the best 'available' answer for you - as in 'no extra curricular' vs 'school-based extra curricular' is a very different question from 'school based activities vs community based activities'.

7to25 Tue 18-Apr-17 13:10:17

Unusually we did state primary/private secondary except for the youngest who has been private all the way.
I think that a limited amount of money is much better spent at secondary. I think that the "friends for life" thing is not true, especially for girls who can often do with a friendship shake up by 11. My son has had an exceptional musical education and I am really grateful for that but has also missed out on local friends. I cannot fault his education but there are disadvantages.

GetAHaircutCarl Tue 18-Apr-17 13:16:46

Yesterday DH and I paid our last ever school bill smile.

We don't regret the money spent at all. Both DC have had an amazing education ( though not in a 4-18 one).

With hindsight these were some of the most valuable things ( to us) for the prep stage.

Four class entry - fifteen kids in each so plenty of choice for friends and a large cohort for sport/music/drama etc

Excellent on site extra curricular activities. No one wants to spend their evenings schlepping about to find a choir for a 7 year old ( though you may have to do some schlepping when they're older to access specialist stuff).

Early introduction of subject specialist teachers. iMHO year 7 is too late for this.

Well resourced music, drama, art departments.

Lots of different sports teams with weekly matches.

Decent MFL by native speakers.

Beautiful environment with acres of green space.

Assistance with choosing and accessing secondary school - I had zero desire to tutor anyone.

Zodlebud Tue 18-Apr-17 13:19:04

Your gut reaction is always the right one.

cantkeepawayforever Tue 18-Apr-17 13:19:26

"Assistance with choosing and accessing secondary school - I had zero desire to tutor anyone."

In a 4-18 school, this is likely to be lacking, because the school will generally want to retain as many children as possible - so in the OP's case it is unlikely they would receive this help.

OakCat Tue 18-Apr-17 13:19:47

Thank you for all your replies, very much appreciated.

Sadly DD will be always be only but that does at least provide some clarity on the fees (we couldn’t afford if we had more than one)

The private school is small but does expand at the key entry stages so by the time year 7 comes about there are 60+ girls per year.

I had not factored in about making friends at Uni (both DH and I didn’t go) so that's a very good point. It seems I should be focusing on secondary maybe rather than primary.

Yes I agree 40 minutes is too long (don’t want her falling asleep in the car on the way home every night) which is why we would look to move if we took the private option.
DD is very attached to a couple of her friends at nursery (they won’t be going to the same state schools) but moving away would make it difficult to keep these friendships going and I am really keen for her to have non school friends and we would have to start again with moving.

The problem with the after school activities is how do you get access to them when DD would be in after school club 4 days a week? At least at private she can do them after school, I cannot be there to ferry her around to clubs except one day a week and at weekends. How do other people manage?

Dozer Tue 18-Apr-17 13:22:47

I am personally anti very small class sizes,for social reasons. Private schools with tiny year group sizes can also have financial problems, affecting resources for DC. Many single sex private schools go co-ed for financial reasons.

GetAHaircutCarl Tue 18-Apr-17 13:23:36

cant that is true.

My DC's prep went up to year 8, so we got a lot of help. DD left in year 6 and although they initially tried to convince us to keep her there, they still gave lots of help when we confirmed that it wasn't gonna happen.

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