Private v state(35 Posts)
DH teaches at well known public school where our DCs will go at 13 thanks to discount on fees. We also aim to educate them privately from age 11 subject to funds. We would love to start them off in private schools from age 4 but as the state primaries near us are pretty good we aren't certain it is worth it. What do people think are the benefits of private from age 4 other than the obvious ones like more discipline and smaller class sizes. DH and I were both educated privately so have no experience of the state sector but have been pleasantly surprised by the ones local to us.
Why do you think there is more discipline in the private sector? In a good state school you will definitely see children working and being on task. Apart from slightly bigger class sizes and a less strict uniform, I doubt you could tell the difference. If the local primary schools are good, I would use them. You only need to worry if they are poor. We educated DD in a state primary and were very happy. We went independent at 11 and she was well up to standard, in the top 10 in the year. She just had not studied French. After a few weeks they put her in the top set for that too. Languages tend to be the missing link in state primaries, but you can catch up from 11 to 13. DD did school's own exams and not CE but your chosen prep school will prepare your DS for whatever is needed. Save a bit of money. You may need it later for those wildly expensive sports trips abroad!
I think by discipline I mean regimented, which is what my DD needs. My impression of state primaries (from the few we have looked around recently) the atmosphere is far more relaxed, freer and less regimented and I can see the benefits of that but I am certain she would benefit more from the old fashioned desks in front of teacher type arrangement (as in local private preps we have looked around). You are so right about the expensive sports trips as they get older - that worries me sick, not to mention the extortionate uniform costs and so on!
DD is at private prep and DS is at an outstanding state primary.
Both schools are great and both children are doing well, the discipline is actually the same at both schools.
DD does get more one to one support lessons wise than DS does and subject lines are clearer with weekly Science, French and Music lessons, plus Drama, Geography and History further up the school where as DSs school lump all of these together in topic work (they still cover just as much of each subject, they just don't label the subjects iyswim). They also do far more music/drama/making things/creative stuff than DSs school.
DSs school group classes by ability which DDs school don't do but then there is only 1 class per year in DDs school and 3 classes at DSs. DSs school are much better for sport. They are also much better with additional needs and supporting children who are having problems outside of school/are upset about something not school related.
DSs early years were far less structured than DDs and involved more learning through play, choosing their own activities and no homework other than reading once a week where as DD got homework sheets from her first week and reading everyday, DSs school even in year 5 still do very little homework, DSs schools way works well for DS but would of been a disaster with DD.
If you can afford it then it's worth looking at both and seeing which will suit your DC best but private school is not always better than a good state primary so unless the state schools in your area aren't brilliant then I wouldn't stretch your finances to do it.
Oh and the uniform at DDs school is really expensive, as in DDs blazer cost the same as 3 full sets of uniform for DS!
You think your 4 year old needs a school which is "regimented"?
Well my local schools private and state (including a top performing Girls school) are not what I would call regimented! They are all lovely to 4 year olds and allow them freedom to learn through play, yes the girls school has a dressing up box.
I think it's more important to choose a school that reflects your values at 4, than at 13. That is when the foundations for learning are set. Get it wrong, and it doesn't matter what happens at 13. I don't agree with what I would be looking for for a four year old, but I don't understand parents who wonder if primary is 'worth the money'. If I were interested in private education and money were an issue, I would prioritise those years.
That said, I think you should keep an open mind about state (to put it mildly).
I think it greatly depends on the schools in question. some private schools I don't think you get anything really for your money other than smaller classes, others I think you get a much better experience all round.
If you have a very bright child and it is a selective primary then I think it is probably worth it because they would GENERALLY be able to challenge the bright children better in a selective school. A private school that is literally just a pay to go there but open to all (who can afford it) can face exactly the same problems as any state school where they are catering for a wide range of ability.
Some private schools are very elitist in attitude and people can miss out on mixing with the population as a whole, others don't have that at all and have bursaries for other children to go and have families where they mix happily with people from all backgrounds.
At the end of the day I think it comes down to
can you afford it?
which schools and what are they like?
and personal preference
My DS is in a prep school which is most definitely not sit at the front where the teacher teaches. He is in year 4 and they still sit at tables of 4 or 5 as they did at his state primary. The main advantage of his prep school is that the teacher knows each child individually and work is tailored to each individual child. There is far more emphasis on core skills than in my experience of state schools. Since he joined in year 2 there has been far more emphasis on handwriting, correct spelling and the core skills in the 3 r's. The other advantages are far more emphasis on sport, art and music but at primary level I feel that these are nice to have rather than need to have. Essential extras such as trips are about £30 a term, lunches are included in the fees and the only additional extras are optional clubs and music lessons which are competitively priced at about £50 a term for each club and about £120 a term for music lessons but they are entirely optional. My extras have never exceeded £200 a term.
Most private schools are selective at 11 (11+) or 13 (common entrance). A private prep school will prepare them for this and advise which school is suitable for an individual child, I think that is a big part of a why people go private early on. Do you have guaranteed entry as the child of a teacher and if not have you factored in tutoring?
Table, we don't have guaranteed entry to DH's school but as far as I am aware no teacher's child have ever been refused a place but possibly because they all meet the entry requirements.
We would struggle hugely to pay for prep school fees for all 3 DC even with grandparents helping, and possible bursaries but it would be do-able if we spent nothing on anything else.
The problem is really getting to the bottom of whether your local school is truly outstanding or not.
We thought we'd done our research really well; school outstanding in all areas, high L5s, 100 L4s, spoke to local parents...but when you have children going through the school you realise that what the school deliver in terms of teaching is fairly laid back and that the parents take the initiative to top up and do a hell of a lot at home. This may be fine and dandy for some but less doable and very stressful for others.
Not sure how you would get this feedback as it is not one you get easily from other parents unless you know them very well. And even then they might not want to share it.
I do believe there are some truly fantastic schools but just looking at the Ofsted and the results sadly isn't always a true reflection..
I would agree with others here, it really depends on your children and the individual schools. Our DD is at a prep school despite an outstanding state school locally. I dont deny that the state school gets excellent results and is a good school for some children but not my DD. They have a 2 form entry and in reception it is a
free for all free flow play/learn system, my DD was so upset by the environment in that room that I couldn't physically put her down!! If she had gone there I know my quiet child would have become totally withdrawn and wouldnt have learnt a thing or come out of the corner where she would have barricaded herself in with a book. On the reverse her prep school is all about learning through play but it is structured play, children are always calm and polite etc and she had flourished there.
They say that if your children lose the love of learning before 7 it is very hard
neigh on impossible to get it back and so when looking at primary schools I focused, not on academics, but on where she would be happiest and would bring her out of herself.
But I am not sure I would make my life as financially difficult as you suggest above! You dont want to just be paying for education and not have anything else fun or nice, children dont need big holidays but you and they do need a break and to get away sometimes. I would become very stressed and upset if I was working all the hours and had nothing nice at the end. Also have you factored in the yearly fee rises? because if you would struggle in the first few years, it only gets harder from there.
There is no reason to suppose that state schools are automatically bad schools. In some inner-city areas certain schools suffer from an inability to be good, for a thousand different reasons. But similarly-sized state schools elsewhere have done brilliantly.
If the school is good and you're supporting your child at home with all the things you should be like reading etc, to me the only negative/difference with a state school is the class sizes.
You really need to clarify the entrance requirements, do teachers kids get in because their parents teach there or because they are well prepared?
If you go down the private route just don't sit in your laurels - sometimes pupils still slip through the nets.
It does depend on what kind of child you have as others have said. My younger two dds go to a girls prep school where the class sizes are small. The 9 year old is doing very well there and has really blossomed both socially and academically. My youngest dd has just started reception there and she is a child who becomes withdrawn easily and sometimes finds it hard to concentrate. She is still quite 'babyish' for 4 and I felt that in a class of 30, she may not learn very much as it's very hard for the teacher to keep on top of all the kids who aren't listening in that situation. In her prep school the boundaries are very clear and there is nowhere to hide. I always remember a tutor of ours saying she noticed a child in a state school she worked in who did almost nothing all day and the teacher didn't seem to realise.
my DD is a funny little girl. She can be mega shy, for example at her nursery/pre-school she will never join in at circle time, when they do dancing etc etc unless someone really helps/encourages her so I do feel in a class of 30 she will be overlooked and then become bored. I also want her to have the opportunities you get in the private sector with things like music, drama etc (our local prep school is amazing for things like that).
My dd sounds a lot like yours, often too shy to join in at parties and toddler classes, so we put her in a private school. I didn't think she'd be happy in a class of 30 and I couldn't imagine her being confident enough to ask to go to the toilet or answer a question.
She's now in year 1 and is thriving, she gets plenty of attention and I can tell from the reports and parent teacher consultations that her teachers really know her well and can find the best way of learning. So she has access to several reading schemes to best suit how she learns and I feel that we've been given good advice on how to encourage her. She also has access to after school clubs so this year she wanted to learn French and might do modern dance and swimming.
If money might be a problem you need to think about all the hidden extras, for example parties and fundraising activities. Whole class parties are normal and I would imagine many cost £500 sometimes more (yes honestly!). For school fairs we're expected to donate prizes, cakes, bottles, toys etc, many of these are brand new and some of the committee members pay quite a lot for things with their own money. I have no idea if all private schools are like this but it's worth finding out.
Jonny- that sounds exactly like my daughters prep. There are a lot of hidden costs, especially the birthday parties, and agree that they tend to be £400-£500 a go. There is also a lot of socialising amongst parents, including the annual ball which will easily cost £200 a couple plus drinks etc. Teachers donations are also another £20 a time. Plus uniform £400+. We have made some sacrifices to send our daughter, however we feel it has been worth every penny as our daughter is thriving and really happy.
I think it entirely depends on how good your local state schools are. If we were in a good catchment (we are in Scotland, so they are very strict) we would definitely have used them.
One of the main advantages for us was the smaller class size. I think the max in state is 30 and in the school DS1 goes to it's 20. It doesn't sound like a huge amount less, but I do think it makes a difference when they are first starting out. They are very hot on discipline too, but so are good state schools.
I would take a good look at the state options available and weigh up the pros and cons. A fair number of our friends have gone the state route and are extremely happy. Most plan to move to private for secondary which is a fairly common thing to do where we live.
I agree that there can be a lot of hidden costs. Whole class parties are the norm in the first couple of years, so on presents alone that's around £200 per year. Then there's your own child's party too. That's not to mention the socialising for the parents. Fund raising balls etc all add up, but of course you don't have to go to them.
At DS's school there are some very wealthy parents who seem to stick together as the majority of wives don't work and they socialise a lot during the school day. However, there are very many who like us are dual income households too. We make every effort to attend evening/weekend functions and help out where we can, although we can't do much during the working week.
It depends on what you think will suit your child. DS1 and 2 both have friends who left their good state primary for a supposedly amazing local prep school only to return 1-2 years later after an awful experience.
Also, have a think about just how 'regimented' you really want life to be for a 4 year old. They are still very young.
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