Confused. Should I move my child to a prep school?

(32 Posts)
Tamster2451 Sat 10-Aug-19 07:02:13

Just looking for some advice. My daughter is due to start Year 3. She is going to start Year 3. We are very confused what to do and would like some advice. She has been offered a bursary at a very small prep school (class of 13). We couldn’t usually afford private school but feel this is an great opportunity. The school is very small and doesn’t have great sports facilities but is good in drama & music. It also has lots of international students. We are unsure whether it might be too constricting as it is small but appreciate the benefits of small classes. Our daughter has done brilliantly for SATs at her current school and got a scaled score of 115...much to our surprise.
To add to our dilemma we recently moved her from a catholic school in Year 2 which has had poor ofsteds. Academically she has done really well with her new school but has struggled with making friends. We were even thinking of moving her back to her old school because she might be happier. We now realise she would do well where ever she is. What should we do?? Any advice greatly appreciated. We need to decide soon. Is if damaging to keep moving school?

OP’s posts: |
AnotherNewt Sat 10-Aug-19 07:09:23

Why did you apply for the prep school in the first place? You haven't really listed any positives for it.

13 sounds rather too small for class size, and will limit potential friendships (for no educational benefit - the research, such as it it, shows benefits at primary age as class sizes go down to about 16ish, but no additional benefit below that). If others are international students, does that mean they board?

Moving schools frequently can be disadvantageous, depending on the temperament of the child and the standards of the school. It is one of the reasons why Forces children (who have to change schools frequently) attract the pupil premium in state schools - some of course are thriving, but as a group as a whole they underperform.

BazaarMum Sat 10-Aug-19 07:35:09

If she’s already getting 115 in her SATs she’s doing well. Are you concerned she isn’t being stretched? And if so, are you certain the prep offers much better academic opportunities?

Moving into a class of 13 could be really hard. Is it single sex, or co-ed? Friendships and the class dynamic will already be formed. I know one girl in a class that size (all girls) who is miserable in a group of unkind girls, and there aren’t enough kids in the class to give her anywhere else to go. Do you know anyone else with a kid in what would be her year? I’d ask a lot of questions first.

You could pay for her to go to excellent music and drama classes after school, and keep her where she is. I’m not sure what the of moving benefits to your DD would be? Private isn’t always better than a good state school.

Tamster2451 Sat 10-Aug-19 08:16:38

Thanks for your replies.

My dilemma is:
1. Move her back to her old school where she was happier especially knowing she will do well wherever she is.
2. Keep her at existing school where she is doing well however she has met quite a few unkind girls. Although they are mixing the classes this year and the dynamics might change. However the year is boy heavy and there is about 10-11 girls in each of the 3 classes
3. Move her to the prep school. Thinking she will get a better education because the classes are smaller and she will get individuals attention.

The prep school is a day school. We entered a writing conpetition & got offered 50% of fees. It’s a girls school. Max 16 in class but more like 13. I thought it would push her academically and if we could afford to send her to private secondary then we would be in a better position.

OP’s posts: |
Solasum Sat 10-Aug-19 08:19:28

Lots of Pre schools have a big intake at year 3, so she is unlikely to be the only new girl.

BazaarMum Sat 10-Aug-19 08:24:06

But if classes are max 16, and already 13 in the class, there won’t be a ‘big intake’?

AChickenCalledDaal Sat 10-Aug-19 08:25:04

I would be nervous that the prep school is struggling. It sounds like they have classes that aren't full and they are offering financial incentives to recruit able children. You've said yourself that it feels a bit small and the sports facilities aren't great. So they aren't investing in improving facilities. Prep schools that don't have enough turnover can close down very abruptly, so I'd be nervous about long term viability.

And can you afford to continue paying fees at secondary? Because the transition back to state at age 11 or 13 could be a lot harder.


BazaarMum Sat 10-Aug-19 08:31:30

Ultimately it depends what is most important to you, and how resilient your DD is.

She’s getting a new class next year anyway, so in that aspect it’s a similar gamble to a new class at prep.

If you are intending for her to go to private secondary then it might be better for her to move to Prep now, as the school will be experienced in advising and preparing for entry.

I would do a lot of research on results and speak to ex parents to be certain of the academic credentials, and where children go next. We have a small prep locally and I can tell you for certain that the teaching is much better at all three of our local state primaries. A friend’s daughter moved in the hope of better academic standards, and did markedly worse at the Prep than her similarly able peers who stayed at the state school. The teaching simply wasn’t that good.

BazaarMum Sat 10-Aug-19 08:32:51

Achicken I also wondered about them needing to try and up class sizes with incentives.

BazaarMum Sat 10-Aug-19 08:35:55

Also worth bearing in mind that many parents supplement Prep education with lots of tutoring, paid for in addition (either arranged by school or privately). I know this has been a shock to many joining the system at Yr3.

Blankscreen Sat 10-Aug-19 08:39:13

The other thing to be wary of is with lots of international students their parents are often here for work and when the job contract ends they return home. You may find that the class os very fluid and her friends leave.

I would also say that a school offering 50% from a writing cometitiion sounds like it is desperately trying to recruit new pupils.

Their accounts/end of year report should be available on their website or through companies house have a very careful those as private schools in financial difficulty csn close very quickly and it is then a bun fight for places elsewhere.

MsTSwift Sat 10-Aug-19 08:44:14

I am very wary of small classes and see it as a disadvantage not an advantage. If there are friendship issues (very possible with late primary girls) life is better if there are lots of other options. My poor sister trapped with a troubled bully for 7 years as no other friendship groups to move to. I would also be put off by lots of international students as they likely to move away so more transient friendships.

growlingbear Sat 10-Aug-19 08:48:00

Keep her where she is. 'Winning' a bursary on the strength of a writing comp suggests they are desperately trying to drag in new pupils.
She's doing well academically, which is great. Give her a chance to settle and make friends. It can take time.

Tamster2451 Sat 10-Aug-19 08:56:24


The pupils at the prep seem happy. I’ve met a few mums who love the school especially the one to one help the girls get. They say it has helped encourage the kids love for learning. Last year they had offers from a lot of good private secondary schools so I’m assuming the teaching must be good.

I’m nervous because we moved her once and socially she has struggled but we are unsure why has she’s never had a problem. In hindsight, we shouldn’t have moved her and left her where she was happier. I’ve thinking we would be better sending her back to her old school which seems a more kinder environment. Although the ofsted isn’t great, they have done better with their SATs this year.
My head is whole over the place as really need to decide soon. To confuse things, my daughter really likes the new teacher in the new school and says she wants to stay even though she may not have any friends!

OP’s posts: |
CruCru Sat 10-Aug-19 10:35:18

I’m quite shocked at the idea of a school approaching parents to offer places on the basis of a writing competition. Unless the writing competition was put on by the school and it was made clear that the school are looking for talented writers?

AChickenCalledDaal Sat 10-Aug-19 12:31:21

If she's doing well and wants to stay, I wouldn't rush into moving her. You aren't certain it will help, so err on the side of keeping things stable. Give her a chance to try the new class and establish some friendships. Can you also give her as much support as possible with making friends - have kids round to play, make sure her new teacher is aware of the issue.

Hoppinggreen Sat 10-Aug-19 12:47:43

If she’s happy and doing ok then I would stay with State Primary and go for Private Secondary
13 is a very small class and friendship issues will be magnified
I’m also a bit surprised that a school would offer that on the basis of a writing competition, that coupled with such a small year group suggests financial difficulties

BazaarMum Sat 10-Aug-19 14:25:42

What if you move her again and she doesn’t get on socially, will you a third time, back to school 1 or 2? What would it take for you to ‘settle’ at a school?

It sounds like your DD has the potential to be happy where she is, given time and support with friendships. I echo the poster above in thinking you need to put energy into playdates, getting your DD into the same after school clubs with classmates, and generally picking 2 or 3 kids she likes and helping her to cultivate the friendships. If she moved into the current school in yr1 then kids may have already fallen into pairs/groups? Have you spoken to the school about helping her make friends?

Bol87 Sat 10-Aug-19 14:45:10

Perhaps a big question is can you keep affording private education? You have 4 more years of primary at a 50% reduction but that’s still probably quite pricey. And that doesn’t include the cost of school trips etc.

From my experience with nannying private secondary school children (who went to state primary) the trips were insane. Several a year to all over Europe costing thousands. Plus, once these kids started socialising with those from richer families than their own, they expected everything to keep up with their friends. Designer clothes, latest gadgets, the summer holidays to match. It was a depressing competition to watch them all trying to one up their lifestyles. I watched the youngest have a meltdown because they weren’t going abroad one holiday.. she eventually confessed someone had asked if her family were poor because they were going Cornwall confused

Can you afford that? That full price private secondary & all that comes with it? Or is there a chance your daughter might feel more alienated if it’ll be a struggle?

Her current school sounds promising, perhaps you could have a chat to her new teacher about her struggling to make friends?

BazaarMum Sat 10-Aug-19 14:56:12

Bol87 makes a good point about the hugely increasing costs at secondary level.

IME the “keeping up with the Cholmondeley-Joneses” factor partly depends on the school culture, and partly on the child’s self-esteem. Parents and kids seem to be ‘flashier’ at the lesser schools. At more established, competitive schools people are in second hand uniform regardless of income, no one would dream of suggesting someone couldn’t afford something.

However, your child also has to have enough nouse and resilience to know that people who look down on them for not going abroad are (1) idiots (2) not worth worrying about!

ElstreeViaduct Sat 10-Aug-19 17:44:47

Mixing the classes at her current school could solve all the friendship issues. I'd be nervous of the prep with potentially high turnover and a small social pool. I think moving her back to her old school would be a huge over-reaction to her not gelling with her current class and her getting a good mark in her SATs. If she were being bullied and staying in the same class, that would be a different issue.

I think in your position I would stick with the current school, continue to support on both social and academic sides, save your money and look widely at options for secondary when the time comes. But I am a bit biased, I favour state education.

MarchingFrogs Sun 11-Aug-19 00:09:07

I would be nervous that the prep school is struggling.

Private 3 - 16 school near us, been there for decades, 'lovely' small classes (of 12 - 17 in the secondary bit). We went to look at it with DD. My first impression was that we had 4 bedrooms larger than some of the classrooms and that the class of 17 must have to remember to sit with their elbows in. Both of us had the thought that with such a small class size, fall out with someone and there is nowhere to hide.

The school went bust two years later.

Tamster2451 Sun 11-Aug-19 06:54:23

Thank you all for taking the time to reply. I’ve apojen to a few mum’s whose daughters go there and love the school. They say it’s a small village like school and they are like a family. The girls do look happy when we looked round and the destinations of leavers impressive. I was a bit sceptical at first but understand they like to help local girls whom might not otherwise be able to go to private school and help from a charitable point of view.

I have tried a lot with my daughters current school. Play dates etc. There has been a few incidents. One where a boy slapped her across the face though he’s known to be a bit like that with other kids. Another where 2 girls from her class were having 2 separate parties and she wasn’t invited to either whereas most of the girls were. I totally understand you can’t invite everyone but the way it was all done was unkind. We didn’t have that at her old school. I thought as the new school was more local she would have local friends. I too haven’t found the parents to be that friendly. However I’m not worried about me. I know this maybe strange to say but I feel her old school maybe being a church school had a friendly, more caring environment hence thinking it would be better for her. We need meet the newish head of her old school and she seemed great and planning to turn the school round.
Apologies if this doesn’t make complete sense. Lots to consider and don’t want to make the wrong decision. I feel sad I moved her to a school and she experienced unkindness. We naively thought we would move her and she would make lots of friends. The easiest thing would be to keep her there and hope for the best, especially as she wants to stay for the new teacher. However I feel sad she says she wants to stay for the teacher but doesn’t mind if she doesn’t have anyone to play with.

OP’s posts: |
MollyButton Sun 11-Aug-19 07:21:51

You seem determined to go for the new school.

Which is your choice. But remember no school is going to be perfect. And you can't keep changing your DD's school, that really doesn't help with friendships.
You can't tell if she would have fallen out with other girls at her old school - my DD went from being very popular in year 2 to struggling friendship wise in year 3 - same school. Also moving her back could be a disaster - a friends child had a year in France and then moved back, but never re-established her friendship group. And another friend moved her son through several different schools (Prep, Primary and then another Prep, then stayed at Prep, then State secondary, and then finally Boarding school), I don't think anyone thinks it was ideal.

You seem far more bothered about her friendship issue than she does. There are unkind people everywhere, but if you can cope with it then you will be happier long term.

Personally I'd be very wary of a school which offers a place after a writing competition.

StarkStarter Sun 11-Aug-19 08:55:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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