Massively first world problem but need your thoughts

(77 Posts)
CFeatherstone Tue 26-Nov-19 19:42:14

Hi. I’m completely torn up and stressing myself out over a big decision. I also feel totally ridiculous for being this stressed out about it when most people don’t even have this luxury choice

I live in the catchment area (probably!) for a vg state primary. It’s not guaranteed but it’s looking probs 75% likely. It’s ‘outstanding’ and has a great reputation locally, and all my neighbours send their kids there. It’ll be Nov 2020 when we have to apply for it.

At the moment DD is at the nursery part of a v v posh and expensive prep school. She absolutely loves it, and I do as well. We are seriously considering it as an option instead of the state primary. However, it’s just such a ginormous expense, and I’m not sure it’s the right decision. We could use the money for a much nicer house, with a garden and space for friends and family to stay, which would enrich DCs life in other ways.

Education means everything to my family. It’s our number 1 priority. If I could guarantee this private school would be substantially better than the state primary I would totally just pay up and be happy with the decision. But I am just not sure how much of a difference it will make to her and DS in the long run when there’s a good free option round the corner. I can be flexible on working hours ie work full time and send DCs to private, or part time and send them locally. I was privately educated - amazing, sweet little prep school which was the making of me, and then big all girls boarding school which I absolutely hated. I really want to get this decision right because both my schools had such a big impact on my life and personality. I know either option is not a guarantee and I’m so worried I’ll regret my choice in future.

A lot of my privately educated friends are sending their kids to state school because even in decent high earning jobs they can’t afford the fees. The only reason I can afford it is because my parents passed away and I can use my inheritance to pay for the fees. We’re definitely not in the same income bracket as most people who send their kids there.

I also worry about the politics. DH and I both hate the current polarised system and how unfair it is, so we’d feel a bit hypocritical choosing an elite private school when in an ideal world we believe everyone should have equal opportunities in education. The problem is there’s this totally amazing option (or so it seems) for my kids and it’s just staring at me, and I feel in my gut it would be wrong deny them this opportunity when I could afford make that choice.

Also - I feel the tides are changing slightly - in 20 years time will they be at a social disadvantage having gone to private schools??

So sorry for the essay but to anyone who has got this far...what would you do??

OP’s posts: |
Lllot5 Tue 26-Nov-19 19:44:41

If I had the money I would have paid for mine to go. Always every time.

Pollaidh Tue 26-Nov-19 19:54:02

We had the option of an excellent prep or local outstanding primary in a very nice catchment. We looked around a few of the local good private schools including the one we liked the most, top in the region, and ultimately we felt the education and experience on offer at the state primary was as good as the top private, and better than the other private preps we considered. We are far from the only parents to have made the decision, and we haven't regretted it. In fact DD's state primary class has received about 5 pupils from the other preps in the last few years, and those parents have since rated the state school better.

We're looking at both private and state for secondary, but leaning towards private.

RolandOnTheRopes Tue 26-Nov-19 19:55:11

You plan to pay for it with inheritance money which will presumably run out at some point (maybe?) therefore I would be pondering - Do you plan on having any more children, can you afford it for more kids? Will you then feel the expectation to send them to private secondary, if yes, could you afford this for all children? Could you still afford to support them through university if they wanted to go? Maybe state primary then private secondary could be an option?

Teachermaths Tue 26-Nov-19 19:56:10

Could you afford it until she's 18?

If you can only afford a few years I'd go state primary and private secondary.

BeanBag7 Tue 26-Nov-19 19:56:32

Bear in mind that the independent school fees may not be the only costs - does it include food and after school club for example? Also there may be expensive uniform, sports kit, school trips etc. and could your budget stretch to this?

MustardScreams Tue 26-Nov-19 19:59:21

Can you afford it for her entire education?

If not I’d go state and private secondary, with an idea to look into bursaries.

Dd is going to the local prep, but the fee works out less than what I’m paying for nursery and I have a tiny mortgage so I don’t notice the expense that much. I wouldn’t put myself into a financially tight spot with outstanding schools around for prep though.


PlanDeRaccordement Tue 26-Nov-19 20:00:26

Since the state school is just as good, I would send your DD there.
Then see how secondary goes...maybe a grammar school nearby? Or a bursary to a private school? Or a good state school?

I would eat mark that inheritance for her university tuition. The best gift you can give her would be a degree with zero debt.

CherryPavlova Tue 26-Nov-19 20:01:53

My eldest was offered a scholarship from the lovely, lovely nursery into the pre prep of a good independent. We turned it down for the Catholic primary school.
We did it because
- we wanted to remain part of our local community and not give any suggestion we thought our child was too good to mix with our friends children.
- we had children following on and couldn’t guarantee that we could put them all through.
- we felt quite strongly that the state primary offered opportunities that the independent didn’t.
- the teachers in the state primary were better teachers.

We have never regretted it. She went all the way through the state comprehensive system and had a fantastic education supported by varied extracurricular opportunities that we could afford because we weren’t struggling with school fees. Academically she’d be hard to beat on exam outcomes.

ooooohbetty Tue 26-Nov-19 20:04:50

If you really do hate how unfair it is I don't know how you can even consider it.

MustardScreams Tue 26-Nov-19 20:06:09

@CherryPavlova I wish the local primaries were as good as yours! I’d love dd to go to the one a 5 minute walk away, but the OFSTED has been consistently awful, and the second closest one is grim.

mumdom Tue 26-Nov-19 20:06:39

I do have the money to go private, easily. Sorry to be naff, but there we are. I’m also organised and sharp-elbowed so the DC were down at the likes of Wetherby and Pembridge Hall. Then a neighbour told us about our local church state school, and we fell in love with it.

The return on investment at infant and junior school level is so marginal I don’t think it’s ever worth it if you have already have access to a top state school.

We have invested the saving we have made in the hope the passive income will make the children’s lives easier in the future.

The story changes around 10 when you start looking at senior school entry. We will definitely go private then, and augment our state school’s excellent provision with exam-specific tutoring.

DH and I went to a mixture of state schools and elite academic public schools and I am a big supporter of both. Keep an open mind.

SummerintoAutumn Tue 26-Nov-19 20:09:21

We did primary at the local school and then moved them to private school year 3 onwards.
We weren't happy with the local junior school though that made the decision easier.

OrangeZog Tue 26-Nov-19 20:14:02

If you can comfortably afford the private school and all the extras that go with it, then it’s a reasonable consideration.

What is the state secondary school like in your area because, whilst lots can change, that’s an important consideration as well.

What does the private school excel at and is it where your children’s strengths are? After all, no point going to an ok school they has a strong empathise on sports or music if that’s not what your children are interested in.

Academically, is the private school better than the local primary and secondary or is there really not very much in it? What’s important to you for them to get out of private education?

mumdom Tue 26-Nov-19 20:25:03

Another thing to think about if all your neighbours’ children go to one particular school and yours go to another - especially if it’s a private school, with all that implies - is social isolation. You might think they’ll stay friendly because of sheer proximity, but they won’t.

Don’t forget diversity has to include economic diversity too. The children in my extended family who have only attended private schools are very gauche and extremely ignorant about the value of money and particularly how hard it is to earn it.

Namenic Tue 26-Nov-19 20:27:15

Went to good private school, DH went to state. We do home ed and if the kids want to go to school then it’d be state. I had a great time at private school but fees have gone up and me and DH think that we’d be able to supplement stuff by teaching them outside as we have some experience with tutoring.

We think they’d benefit more from travel opportunities, external courses, help with uni fees or house deposit. But each family is different with different situations. You could always start off in state and transfer into private if it doesn’t suit?

CherryPavlova Tue 26-Nov-19 20:46:00

MustardScreams I can’t remember how they were rated by Ofsted - the criteria is such we didn’t use it to judge the school . I think it was just a good school with very experienced teachers.

PlasticPatty Tue 26-Nov-19 20:49:35

Go private.

BubblesBuddy Tue 26-Nov-19 20:52:53

What are the destination schools from the prep at 11/13? If they are schools you cannot afford then you are putting your DD in a difficult situation. She will be different if you are out of alignment.

Yes, you would be ultra hypocritical in choosing the prep. You are already hypocritical by choosing the nursery and pretending you hate the “unfair” education system but you are doing nothing to improve the education for others by escaping from it. It just isn’t true that you care that much or the prep wouldn’t be on your radar. You care about education but only for your DD. That’s fair enough but be honest about it.

If you go to the local school, be a governor. Give something back. Better still, be a governor at what you consider to be a crap school and actually do something about inequality.

There should be a big difference between an expensive prep and a state primary. If you cannot see any difference, what on earth will you be paying for? You should get no Sats, an enriched curriculum, sport, music, drama and arts all taught well. You should see labs, a sports hall, specialist teaching rooms, a myriad of clubs and great destinations for DC. If none of this rings true then you’ll only be paying for a posh uniform.

My DD2 went to a posh boarding prep. DD1 went to local State primaries. Both DDs went to a smallish girls secondary boarding school. They thrived and I knew I was getting a lot of extra breadth and quality for my money at both private schools. DD1 lives her state education.

BubblesBuddy Tue 26-Nov-19 20:53:27

Loved not lives.

CFeatherstone Tue 26-Nov-19 21:16:25

Thanks so much for the replies. I honestly do feel like such an idiot having this dilemma especially when loads of people are faced with bad school A vs bad school B

I have 2 kids and not planning any more. We could afford to do private primary, day school private secondary, and university for both and that would be that, inheritance done. We have some really good grammar schools nearby for secondary so maybe they would get into those which would mean not everything we have would go on education. Everything else (uniform, trips, etc) would come out of our income which is really not a lot...but then once they are both in school I will be going back to work properly and hopefully contributing to all those expenses.

@Pollaidh - how did you know that the education on offer at the state school was just as good? That is what I am dying to work out but we can't go and see the school, and although the results are good most of the kids there have a lot of tutoring which is also a big spend

@ooooohbetty I know. I genuinely feel like shit about this whole thing. And also I realise what I sound like (oh no, poor me, how shall I spend my inheritance) It's basically one of those moral dilemmas about who would you save in a burning building etc etc. When it's your own kids, your idealogical / political viewpoint kind of goes out of the window and you just want the best possible option for them.

@CherryPavlova interested to know what opportunities did your state primary offer that the private one didn't? And what kind of clubs did you go to? We are musicians and would love DD and DS to be able to play in music groups / sing in choirs etc but I have googled it and can't really find anything nearby. Btw I would also absolutely hate it if my neighbours thought that I was sending DD to private school because I thought I was in any way better than them. yikes.

@mumdom interested to know why you think the return on investment is so marginal at primary level. I think this is such an important, character forming age when they have the freedom to enjoy learning and soak up opportunities without the pressure of GCSEs and A Levels. I totally agree about economic diversity however everyone at the local state primary is pretty well off middle class tbh due to the house prices for the catchment area

@OrangeZog really good questions thanks...I think I need to answer these to make this decision. For me it's definitely not just about the results, altho that's v important of course, it's about experiencing the best of what life has to offer and having the opportunity to try out stuff that they might absolutely love (drama, music, sport) which they might never have got into otherwise

OP’s posts: |
Velveteenfruitbowl Tue 26-Nov-19 21:24:49

A good state school will only ever provide a good academic education and a nice environment. A good private school will provide a good academic education, a nice environment, a good cultural education, good manners (including teaching children how to dress and speak well), good soft skills and, a good network. The question is just how good this private school is. If you truly value education the choice is pretty obvious but your weighing up the chance at a bigger house against a better education would suggest otherwise. There’s nothing wrong with picking a big house if that’s what matters to you but I would always choose an education. Big houses, flourishing business, wildly expensive jewels etc have all been taken from my family but no government could take away their education. That’s why my parents prioritised my education above material gain and why I prioritise my children’s education above material gain. There is no better investment than one you could never loose.

CFeatherstone Tue 26-Nov-19 21:27:22

@BubblesBuddy really appreciate the straight talking - not least because that's probably what everyone else will think if I make that choice and that's good to know - but actually, you're wrong, I'm not pretending I care, I actually really do care about the polarised system and I wish I didn't have to make this choice and there were just equal schools everywhere. But that's life and tbh the state system is full of inequality as well. Our local primary is full of privileged middle class families who spend a fortune on SUVs and luxury holidays and houses in the catchment area, and then have a problem with people like me choosing private education. And no matter what I believe, it doesn't mean I want to deny my kids an amazing education so I can avoid people calling me a hypocrite. And I don't see how taking them out of the state system and thereby freeing up 2 places at the oversubscribed local primary is doing anyone a disservice.

OP’s posts: |
CFeatherstone Tue 26-Nov-19 21:28:28

@Velveteenfruitbowl everything you just said speaks volumes to me thank you so so much. I think I have just made my decision

OP’s posts: |
Pipandmum Tue 26-Nov-19 21:39:10

I'd pick state until secondary if as you say it's an excellent school. The state school is in a good area and if your demographic is affluent the kids there will most likely come from well educated parents and so some of the non academic advantages mention by @Velveteenfruitbowl will be there too. If you feel your children aren't achieving as expected or some issues arise that mean a private education would be beneficial then you have that option later.

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