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Do kids at Public schools get to have a life?

(40 Posts)
lljkk Sun 30-Sep-12 09:58:02

Yesterday we went to Open Day at a top private secondary school (best GCSE results in the county)
It was cozy (too sheltered for my liking, really) with nice quality but still quite small/limited sports facilities. I could see that DD would thrive on the intellectual stimulation, that the school churns out calm wonderfully confident (& glam) girls, but DD's both quite brainy & quite sporty & their sport facilities weren't brilliant for her.

What put me off most was the long day (8 lessons over 7.5 hours), plus she'd be commuting about 2 hours /day. I imagine few secondary pupils wouldn't have at least 1 hour total commute/day. Plus almost an hour/day of homework in year 7. It just seemed like a school experience very focused on high achievement in pure academics, in the Oxbridge mode, I imagine. To the exclusion of anything they didn't focus on.

They mentioned specifically that the girls have "leisure reading" targets: basically they are made to read because otherwise with the heavy study load they won't make time to read.

I know other people local to us who have mentioned how their children had to drop (?all) afterschool & evening activities after starting at this & similar schools. When I voice consternation, saying how much DD would hate that, the other parents look at me like I'm mad (obviously in their minds top quality academics trumps scouts, gymnastics & any other interests).

I was thinking what else do DC do with their time, and some of it is pure drivel (eg, 5 hours of minecraft/week). But it brings pleasure to their lives, it's social (DS has own server), teaches them programming, has its own value, seems balanced to have that in one's life.

It just seemed to me that the public school model was that the school provided ALL education. All other experiences were inferior & to be discouraged if they might interfere.

Is that normal, part of the accepted package at public schools?

Mutteroo Sun 30-Sep-12 10:38:28

Depends on the school OP. You need to find the right fit for your child & if you & she feel a highly academic school will suit her then you may be onto to a winner? My DS is a highly intelligent young man who chose a non selective coed boarding school at year 9 because he liked that all students were allowed to thrive at what they are good at. He left with outstanding GCSEs & is now doing Maths, further Maths, physics & computing at sixth form.

Results are not the be all & end all. Look at the bigger picture & What the school can offer your daughter. After all you will be paying a lot of money!

seeker Sun 30-Sep-12 10:40:42

It sounds ghastly, to be honest. But also not typical.

seeker Sun 30-Sep-12 10:48:26

And I am always puzzled by the emphasis on "top GCSE results". Some kids get all A*s at practically any decent school. Somebody did at my ds's very average high school. Plenty do at my dd's selective state school.

If a well funded, very academic independent has to keep the kid's noses to the grindstone like this to get the results then there's something wrong somewhere. The whole point of independents was,I though, that a great education is a given- it's all the other stuff that makes the difference.

SecretSquirrels Sun 30-Sep-12 12:10:29

A bright well motivated child will get a string of A*s at any school. They also have a life and can socialise with friends who live nearby. This becomes more important as they grow into their teens.
My DS went to the local bog standard comp, 20 minutes away by school bus, has a lovely group of friends all nearby and just left with a clutch of A* GCSEs. He loved his school.
Most 11 year olds faced with the regime you describe would be permanently exhausted and miserable.

LadySybildeChocolate Sun 30-Sep-12 12:20:19

Private schools tend to have far longer holidays than the state sector, which does make up for the fact that the day is slightly longer. Ds is in year 9, he does get a lot of homework but it's not over the top. Each lesson lasts for 45 minutes, sometimes he has double lessons. Good planning is essential, as leaving homework to the last minute isn't the best idea, and he does feel overworked if he's had to take a day off. If your daughter is to spend 2 hours traveling then this will be a problem as she's going to be exhausted. Maybe you should look for a school closer to home?

margerykemp Sun 30-Sep-12 12:38:44

I went to an academic private school. The day was 9-4 then there were after school activities on school premises (some cost extra some didnt) like choir, school play, debating, sport, dancing, guides, photography that took the day to 5-5.30. Then there was a 3hr total daily commute. By the final year homework was 3 hours per night (a lot was done in transit/lunchtime!).

Yes this is a very long day and I didnt have any contact with any kids from other schools. It wasn't exactly a 'balanced' life and I certainly wouldnt want to put my DCs through that kind of commute but I did get an excellent education (and long holidays). But different 'systems' work for different parents/DCs. some parents want lots of time with their DCs and lots of control over that time, others are happy to delegate all but bed and board to the school. There is no right and wrong.

lljkk Sun 30-Sep-12 16:25:05

The Private Girls secondary gets 3.4 weeks/annum more of hols than state. It's more, but not wildly more.

I don't know that I even particularly want her to get all A*s, I mean, could be quite nice for her or could be Hell. Was a case of having a nosey at what is reputed to be best private secondary in the county. And thinking does this fit my child... then thinking how does this elite education fit any child. How does it compare with the opportunities DD would have by attending local state options. She'd get more opportunity for sport in local state, but they get GCSE pass rates that would make most MNers pull a shock face.

I suppose I am coming around to seeing that any education option becomes a lifestyle choice.

I have a hmm feeling about homework after such a long day. Not that I'd want NO homework, but I feel like if the quality of education is so great in their classrooms, then why do they need to do so much work at home, too?

ps: the private school had great school pets, though, a pair of Dumbo Rats. DD & I were in love smile.

horsemadmom Sun 30-Sep-12 16:57:44

DD is at NLCS and very definitely has a life. Does loads of clubs and activities and messes about with friends. Can't think where you looked but I'd be put off.

LadySybildeChocolate Sun 30-Sep-12 16:58:11

It won't be hours and hours of homework, or rather it shouldn't be. It supplements what they do in class. It's not all subjects either, just usually 1 or 2, or on a bad day 3. It depends upon the school though. It's not really a lifestyle choice, ds would never have the same opportunities if he had gone to the local state school, so it's a pay off really. It depends on whether the school as a whole is right for your child.

pugsandseals Sun 30-Sep-12 17:07:31

Most indie schools will offer a wide variety of extra-curricular activities at lunch & after school. Many people find that with all this provided under one roof they do not need other things as well. Obviously there will be some interests that are not catered for, but if you choose the school based as much on the activities being things your child enjoys, then there is no reason why this cannot work to your benefit leaving you less running around in the evenings.

The whole point of private school is that they should focus on the WHOLE child not just the basic lessons.

SecretSquirrels Sun 30-Sep-12 17:38:57

As long as you don't want any family time.
So 7.5 hours at school plus two hours travel plus 1 hour homework. Just time to eat and go to bed then...

Weekends will be spent taking them to friends who live 1 hour in the opposite direction of the school wink.

diabolo Sun 30-Sep-12 18:08:25

We have deliberately chosen a less academic, more all-round and much nearer school for DS, instead of a top 20 academic one with a 2 hour daily commute.

The family time / time to be a normal teenager / local friends and his general happiness means more to me than 10 or 12 A*'s (and he'll still get them anyway wink)

throckenholt Sun 30-Sep-12 18:52:50

If you have an hour travel each way each day then that is when homework gets done !! At least is was what we did when we had a similar journey. Masses of exam revision done on the bus !

I have no real experience of private versus state sector, but I get the impression that private often have better sport and extra curricular stuff than state schools. But if that is after school and you are limited by travelling then you may not be able to access it.

If travelling means you dropping off and picking up each day (as opposed to going by bus) then that would rule it out for me. I know people nearby who spend most of their life sitting in traffic jams taking their darlings to the wonderful private schools in the local city. It would drive me mental and would most likely pick a local state school and make the most of the extra time to live smile

seeker Sun 30-Sep-12 18:55:31

People often forget that the local school with the hmm GCSE pass rate has a lot of children who for various reasons would never get lots of GCSEs. The reason the selectives get pushing 100% is that they only have the kids who will do well at the hmm school as well.

Lilymaid Sun 30-Sep-12 18:59:39

DS was at a "top 20" school - most homework was done on the bus or in the few minutes before school started in the morning.
He spent most of his free time playing computer games or DJing but his results were all A*/A.
Teachers at this school told me that they expected that homework would be done on the bus and didn't make a big thing about it as long as it was done.

EBDTeacher Sun 30-Sep-12 19:02:10

I wandered down into Eton today. It is on the cards for DS because it is literally one of our local schools and the only local, selective, independent school.

There is a 'societies' board in the centre and today it was advertising a club for Eastern European students, a club planning to watch and discuss some classic film and 'EntSoc' advertising an American film director coming to talk about 'what makes good entertainment'.

I did think 'get a life'. grin

Chestnutx3 Sun 30-Sep-12 19:03:29

There are lots of very academic but also sporty schools for girls, you may just not live near one.

I wouldn't want a 2 hour commute a day for a child it is a waste of everybodys time.

I moved for the right schools so do many in both state and private. Keep looking.

MummyBarrow Sun 30-Sep-12 19:04:04

My three have all been to private school and all have a life. Youngest is 13 and is home by 4.30pm. No Saturdays and has a nine week summer holiday.

And it's the top girls school in the county.

So I think it varies from school to school.

panicnotanymore Sun 30-Sep-12 19:06:28

Does your DD get a say, or is it down to mummy and advice from strangers on the internet?

Just wondering as I was sent to a god awful academic girls private school, when I would have much preferred to have gone to the local comp with all my friends, and had the money put in the bank for my future. I wasn't allowed an opinion though.

I went to the local comp for my A levels, and got straight As, which kind of confirms the point that bright kids will do well anywhere.

LadySybildeChocolate Sun 30-Sep-12 20:10:27

Bright children don't do well anywhere! In environments where they are encouraged they do, in environments where it's not 'cool' to ask or answer questions they don't because they are left feeling like nerds and with no self esteem.

happygardening Sun 30-Sep-12 21:14:43

Plenty of children in "public schools" do get to have a life especially those at boarding schools. My DS does at least one extra curricular activity a day CCF once a week and participates in informal activities in house and inter house competitions and attends plays etc. But he also does approximately 2 hours of prep/homework 6 nights a week (hes yr 10) and revision for regular sometimes weekly test and termly exams. If think he has a life as he chooses what to do outside of lessons.
Frankly come exeats holidays he's exhausted but I'd rather this than a two hour commute every day and trying to do prep on the bus!

diabolo Sun 30-Sep-12 21:43:44

happygardening - I think boarding works really well, especially from 13+. It would suit my DS, but we can't afford the extra £10K pa fees.

Many of my friends' older children, who go to the super selective academic day school we have dismissed, get up at 6am, catch the bus from the nearest town at 7.15am - get to their school at 8.30am, leave at 4pm (no extra curricular activities permitted, or the bus has gone), get home at 5.30 - 3 hours homework, 30 minutes relaxation, bed at 9pm (or can't get up at 6am).

No fun, just school and homework.

No thanks.

happygardening Sun 30-Sep-12 21:55:27

I'm at a loss to understand what prep you can do on a bus I get travel sick just reading the headines of someone's newspaper and it is certainly not setting you up for self motivated work habits when at uni.
Having commuted for many years I wouldn't wish to inflict it on my worse enemy let alone my DC.

diabolo Sun 30-Sep-12 21:57:15

Yep - the prep my DS would do on a bus would = crap.

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