Decadence in London fee paying secondary schools(57 Posts)
Is there a culture of decadence across the independent sector secondaries?
There are children in my daughter's Y3 class who have iPads AND iPhones as well as Wiis, DSs, their own laptop, their own flat screen TV (in their bedroom), the list continues. They are only 7 and 8 year olds. It is a state primary hundreds of miles from London!
I think this is what a lot of people with a bit of money believe is the right thing to do for their children, ie buy them tons of "stuff".
I am always surprised at these stories of wealthier children being so nasty. I went to school (in a different country) with very very wealthy people (sons and daugthers of ministers, famous journalists, royalty) and was by far one of the poorest by a huge stretch and never once had a comment or made to feel different. Maybe this is the legacy of the "new riches".
We're an hour out of London and get a lot of this in year 8 - eg one delightful child told my daughter's best friend (who later had to leave because the fees became too much) "isn't it funny how you're the only person in our class with a small house". Nice.
And higher up the school, there are some hideous children too, although thankfully once they get to senior school, the nicer ones do seem to learn how to stay out of their way, or else just laugh at their ridiculousness.
My DS has come from state primary to independent school in London - grandparents paying. He started Year 7 in September. He is aware of the wealth -the ipads, iphones, the cars etc. but definitely still very sober, and realistic about what we can and can't afford, so far. He loves his new school, but I think coming from state primary has really grounded him. He actually said to me, "don't suddenly buy me a surprise birthday present of an iphone mum."
My DS has come from state primary to independent school in London. He started Year 7 in September. He is aware of the wealth -the ipads, iphones, etc. but definitely still very sober, and aware. He actually said to me, "don't suddenly buy me a surprise birthday present of an iphone mum."
We are the people our parents warned us against.
I look back at how I carried on with the gang of Yah's I was friends with doing my A's and its NO WONDER we were glared at by every sane person.
But we had a blast and grew out of it. And edited our CVs
Some state schools ,esp the grammars, in affluent parts of London and SE have significant numbers of pupils who have very decadent lifestyles as parents can pay for exotic holidays, parties, possessions,second homes, cars as they're not forking out for school fees. There are private schools where the main focus is academics so partying is not such a big focus of pupils lives and other schools which attract the rich and famous and the accompanying lifestyle.
It is angst because you care so much about doing the right thing for your son! We just went through it at 16. At 11 we made a totally right decision for our first daughter who knew exactly where she wanted to be, and probably a wrong decision for our second. The second daughter's decision was too much influenced by sibling rivalry (to be where her sister was) and results, but then the main issue was that she was ambushed by a particularly notorious cool group in the year, it wasn't so much the worry she would be influenced by them as all the mind games and low level bullying. However in making that decision at 16, with big sister involved, we decided that you had to put aside worries about the cool crowd, or "strong characters", or unpopular/boring teachers, you get those anywhere. So we focused on curriculum, extra curricular, facilities, transport etc. We even did a decision tree, DD1 being a geek, weighting all the relevent factors according to how much they mattered to my daughter and how well she scored each school for each. It was a thing of mathematical beauty but my second daughter went for the school that scored least (and which my gut feel has always felt, at 11 too, was right for her) .
I think you are right. As with any school, how you and your children deal with this is all down to parenting, and hopefully we have laid the groundwork for him to tackle things sensibly.
I think there is a lot of "secondary school angst" at play here, with all the choices and all the decisions.
Quint I think it is more important to understand that you get these pupils who for whatever reason are intent on setting themselves up as an attention seeking "alpha" group by establishing exclusive norms of behaviour, decadent, risk taking, pushing the boundaries, call it what you will at every school. The cool kids network across school and private / state boundaries and go to the same parties, binge drink in the same parks, experiment with drugs, wind up in the same clinics for rehab, eating disorders etc.and broadcast it all on Facebook. Snobbery is an element, some may differentiate themselves as "sloaney"or "chelsea set" but the basic behaviour and values are the same. They are in every state school, including Catholic Schools (where the nature of the boundaries may make them even more attractive to kick against, and parents may have sent pupils whose behaviour or susceptibility to influence was already a worry) and every private school.
Just as importantly they do not represent the majority. So unless your son is an attention seeking risk taker or will do anything to be cool he isn't going to want to get involved and there will be plenty of other friendship groups with values he is more comfortable with to be part of. If he is, then unlike some of the parents of these cool kids, you need to put in place some very firm boundaries. In fact as parents we all need to take responsibility, be aware of what goes on, talk to our children about it and put in place firm boundaries because otherwise we leave our children open to real risks.They are still learning but one small mistake now will be broadcast across London and possibly remain on the internet for the rest of their lives. When gossiping about one incident involving a 13 year old with my daughters recently my older daughter pointed out that with friends now emerging into the job market she is now hearing of employers routinely checking the internet and finding this sort of thing.
All these fee paying schools will support you in this. They have firm boundaries and an ethos of making sure their pupils appreciate their priviledge, and the responsibilities that go with it, of community involvement, bursaries (28 full bursaries and 128 being given financial help at LEH, ScaredySquirrel) and will lay on talks etc to make sure that parents understand the demands of modern parenting in a decadent part of London too. Secretly I know many teachers, state and private, dispair of the naivity / unwillingness or inability of some parents to set boundaries and the risks they expose their children too.
I know they look frivolous and expensive (and hence decadent) because that was my initial reaction. But they really are not any kind of sign of intrinsic familial decadence - on the contrary, most Jewish families I know are
Ashkenazy and very worthy and dull serious-minded and attach incredible, overriding importance to academic achievement and professional success. Albeit with large discos on boats etc for 13 year olds!
Well the ones we've been to have all got kids at Habs and NLC...so pretty selective.
Year 8 in North London, gotta love it .
We pay 3 sets of school fees so our bat/bar mitzvahs were very low key. Gotta say, not much 'decadence' amongst my childrens' friends. Probably because we taught them values. They steer well clear of the handfull of brats. It does help that they go to very selective schools.
You're probably right .
To be fair, I'd be the last person to lecture anyone on extravagence/decadence, but it struck me that the type of things that money was being spent on were hugely frivolous...
It may be that BMs are slightly more tasteful in Paris .
DH just thanks his stars that we are not Jewish. I just don't think I could reign myself in !
You are looking at it from the prism of an English goy: we have no tradition of a big religious ritual and huge party at 12 or 13, so it seems like a huge unnecessary expense. But compare it to the average English wedding (cost adjusted for socio-economic norms) and it really isn't a big deal.
Believe me, I didn't feel especially happy about the EUR 100,000 that two Bar Mitzvahs in two years cost our family. But it just is. There is nothing unusual about it. I have been to some shockers, just as I have been to some shockingly extravagant weddings (four days in Greece, three days in NY etc). But most of them are just a party on one night and maybe a lunch the next day.
Well the BMs I've been to have mosr definitely been decadent .
And in the Jewish community year 8 becomes a veritable arms race of outdoing the last party.
The last one I attended was compared by the guy who does the voice over for The X Factor!
Bar Mitzvahs are the same budget as weddings but it doesn't mean the family is decadent. It's just a Jewish thing.
IMVHO if the school is highly selective then although there is decadence (these things being subjective), there is also a culture of academic rigour. The former is not allowed to outweigh the later.
So friends of ours have just spent 40k on their son's BM, but because of the school he goes to he will still be excpected to work extrmemely hard and obtain excellent results.
I suppose most couples have a "lottery conversation" every now and then. We have a "what if we weren't paying school fees" conversation!
Not at ours, there's a culture of crappy old cars, crappy holidays in wet French caravan parks, dreams of conservatories and basically sacrifice for the children's future.
Love this post Brycie! And yes to dreaming of a decent haircut!
"I am more concerned about the "bling side of things, that my dd (who was previously at a state primary) is now seeing everyone's parents driving 4x4s and holidaying in the Maldives."
Isn't "bling" just another manifestation of decadence (drugs, parties etc)?
There are celebrity parents at DD's school. They are not necessarily the ones who promote the culture of decadence.
I have direct experience (as a parent) of two fee paying schools - one of which is very much more expensive than the other. As you would expect the family income/circumstances appear to be significantly wealthier in the more expensive school. However, the range of behaviours is pretty similar - and the most common factor in my experience is the degree of parental involvement - those children with interested, involved, concerned parents all seem to turn out pretty well rounded whereas those with a degree of dysfunctionality are more likely to experience problems. And wealth is no guarantee of good or involved parenting.
So I think you should think about choosing a school that you as parents feel comfortable with, where you think that there will be a consistent set of values between your family and the school. There is no right and wrong here - it's what feels right to you. And then you should relax and know you've done the best for your son and rely on his intelligence and common sense to steer the right general path through life, providing an interested oversight as and when required.
My experience has tended to be that like attracts like.
Most children seem to be most comfortable with children from similar sized houses, etc. Our two certainly seem to mix with people who don't always drive new cars, have expensive holidays, etc.
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