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The Big Choice: the State school or the private one - are we thinking with our wallets??

(204 Posts)
scampadoodle Fri 01-Mar-13 13:19:24

Ok, just to add to all the other threads like this today.

DS1 got into the private school he/we liked, but no scholarship. We will also almost certainly have a place at the local state school.

PS is lovely, not super-hot house, but high-achieving. Fees are a lot though & would have an impact on our family life (and we'd really feel it if DC2 went private too). It's about 45 mins, an hour journey each way. He would probably enjoy it there & hopefully it would polish him off a bit. I'm slightly worried that it leans more towards humanities than sciences (not good for DS1) BUT I could be wrong about this as it was just an impression I got on Open Day.

SS is great. Streaming. Latin. It has a very mixed intake but those who do well, do well IYSWIM. It's only been good for 2-3 years though, before that it was awful. If he knuckled down DS1 would do well (that is a big 'if' BTW). I do like the idea of sticking within the local community though, & we could afford tutoring if we felt he needed topping-up.

But are we just being stingy at not taking up the opportunity for the private school? The thought of not having to worry abut school fees is very very tempting...

seeker Thu 07-Mar-13 08:45:18

I think only offering double science is a bit rubbish. But the fact remains that it is all that's required to go on and do science A levels. The people saying that are right.

And why just Latin? Why shouldn't every child be offered the opportunity to learn Greek? Or Hebrew? Or archaeology? Or silversmithing? There's a private school near here that does beekeeping. Ds's school does horticulture. I really don't see why Latin is this touchstone of excellence. There are thousands of interesting/useful subjects in the world- choices have to be made.

wordfactory Thu 07-Mar-13 09:00:29

seeker offering all that is required and no more is crap. Really really crap.

As for Latin, we could debate all day, why it's an important choice. The fact is that the vast majority of private schools offer it. Certanly the academic schools all offer it. I suspect most gram,mar schools offer it. So it is widely valued (as opposed to bee keeping ).

So essentially what you have is the wealthy having the choice to do it. Everyone else...not so much.

So the divide grows and grows.

If we excuse schools from offereing these things, aren't we just colluding?

Or perhaps we're not. Perhaps the majority don't want triple science. Perhaps they don't want Latin. Perhaps I am part of the band of outliers, and the currrent divisions simply reflect the desires of differing communities?

seeker Thu 07-Mar-13 09:07:16

If I could take things from good private schools and give them to all state schools, it wouldn't be anything academic. It would be the extra curricular opportunities. Privileged/well off parents can give their children the same artistic/cultural/sporting opportunities whatever school they go to, but disadvantaged / poor parents usually can't/won't. So privileged kids get the opportunities wherever they go to school, disadvantaged kids don't. That's where the real divide lies. School is supposed to open the world out to you, not shut it down.

wordfactory Thu 07-Mar-13 09:28:14

I completely disagree.

I think triple science, Latin, setting etc should be available to all students whatever their parents bank balance and whatever their post code.

And while these things remain optional, parents like me, who do think they're important, will go private.

exoticfruits Thu 07-Mar-13 09:38:51

Private schools win on sport etc because the parents pay for it. The state system can't offer the same for free. e.g. teachers are not going to want give up weekends and after school for sheer goodwill-they have homes and families and a life.
They used to do far more when I was young but the work load wasn't as heavy. It isn't even as if parents appreciate that it is goodwill and not part of the job. There is a current thread where a Beaver leader has been shouted at by a parent because her DC didn't get given a badge-(never mind the fact they didn't get the badge because they didn't do the work)and I think that she was told that she was doing a crap job!!! The sort of thing that makes you think 'really-why on earth do I bother?'.
There have been threads where parents have got upset when a primary school has cancelled an after school club because the teacher is off ill-forgetting (or not realising) that it isn't part of the job, it is goodwill and other teachers can't just step in, they may be running their own, have a meeting etc. It isn't childcare like the actual After School Club run for that purpose.
State schools do get experts in, but they have to be paid for and then parents say that it isn't fair because they can't afford it. There have also been massive threads where parents hate the fact that expensive trips are offered because they can't afford them- and they don't like anything out of the ordinary as in dressing up because it costs money and if not money it takes effort.
There was also the very weird thread where teachers were supposed to have short holidays and give childcare and activities as part of their job. This was all supposed to be free in the state sector but it seemed OK that the private sector provide it all, at a price (and a high price).
The PTAs do a great job at raising money for all the extra activities and then they get vilified on here and are jealously supposed to do it so that their DC gets the star part in the play!! You have to wonder why anyone gives up free time and makes any effort.

I don't know the answer. The state can't provide all the wonderful experiences for free and when parents are so entitled and critical you wonder why they bother to do as much as they do! A simple thing like the teacher telling a child that 'now isn't a good moment to go into the classroom to get his spellings' gets a long diatribe of 'complain to the Head' or 'don't put up with it-barge past with your DC and tell him he can get his spellings'! This is despite the fact they know nothing at all except the teacher's words.

Actually, having written all that it makes me wonder why, if I had the money, I wouldn't just pay for all in the private sector!

MTSgroupie Thu 07-Mar-13 10:05:38

seeker - are you seriously suggesting that your DC having free ceramics class or gymnastics club or karate classes should take priority over in-class learning activities where limited funds are concerned?

I totally agree that we have a responsibility to ensure no one goes hungry but that doesn't mean I want to pay for someone else to eat lobster because everyone should have the same culinary exposure. Likewise with extracurricular stuff.

As for Latin, I've no idea why it is held up as a measure of how good a school is (my DD is doing a GCSE in Latin). If triple science wasn't available I be angry but Latin...??? It's just a subject like photography or sociology ie your future prospects isn't going to suffer because you don't have the choice to study Latin.

Bonsoir Thu 07-Mar-13 10:39:00

Gosh. Latin does not a great school make. In fact, I rather tend to shudder at schools that offer Latin unless it is some kind of tiny sideline that has to be done at 8am or 7pm outside normal class times. Schools that make a big deal of Latin have something to hide, IMVHO.

Farewelltoarms Thu 07-Mar-13 11:22:38

Going back to Scampa - you're so right about our area being so full of contrasts and it's one of the reasons that I'm pro state. I'm so much more relaxed about the 'hoodies' because I know their younger siblings, whereas before I had this ridiculous fear that any teen hanging on the street might want to mug me. Some of the parents who have children in privates are so fearful that's as though they've become imprisoned. One was telling me she doesn't let her 10 year old play football in the square because it's full of 'rough kids'. I think she might have been referring to my children! But it seemed to me that for all this child's privileges, he was lacking in the wonderful privilege of freedom.
PS this is not an anti-private school comment, it's a comment about the particular area that Scampa and I live in which is v mixed.

wordfactory Thu 07-Mar-13 11:27:50

bonsoir well that would mean every top performing school in the UK is hiding somehting grin...

look, I'm not saying it makes a good school. I'm just saying that a good school should at least offer it. As it should also offer MFL, triple science etc.

MTSgroupie Thu 07-Mar-13 11:41:14

But why word? What is so special about Latin? I mean, it's only spoken in Latin America smile

Bonsoir Thu 07-Mar-13 11:57:01

Not really, wordfactory. Latin is not a high-featuring subject in most private schools. The reality is that parents expect to see it there but it is of little use to pupils and schools know it. Managing customer parental expectation is of course also a large part of managing a school.

scampadoodle Thu 07-Mar-13 11:57:29

Farewell, you may find you are in catchment for HG. We're only a 5-10 minute stroll away but I know of some children who have got in on this round who I would've thought live too far away - one lives the other side of New North Road/Essex Road. It's a while away for you yet but do feel free to PM me (not that I know how that works!) if you want a view from inside in 18 months or so.

For those of you arguing about Latin, it was done as an extra-curricular thing at the school I'm talking about but now due to pressure from pushy parents I think it's been introduced as a subject proper. And this school does do triple science.

racingheart Thu 07-Mar-13 11:58:22

Latin teaches exact and logical thinking. The computer industry was built by classicists as they had better programme-building brains than students of maths or technology.

Latin is also the root language of so many languages and so much of our vocabulary. Knowing Latin means your children can understand words they've never come across before, as they can translate the stem words, and can spell more acurately. These abilities are sought after in law, medicine, industry.

Bonsoir Thu 07-Mar-13 12:00:13

No it doesn't! Latin is difficult and was used for a long time as a proxy for intelligence testing. Clever DC were pushed into doing Latin as they could demonstrate their intelligence that way and move ahead. Fortunately these days we have better uses for our DCs' innate logical thinking skills than endless translation of Latin texts...

wordfactory Thu 07-Mar-13 12:00:36

Ah mts others speak for more articulately on the subject than I.

To paraphrase my DS' HT (who I think was paraphrasing Charlotte Higgins): Latin gives us an insight into the mechanics and structure of language in a way a living language cannot. It lest us look at language in its purest form.

Latin gives us access to a lost world. A wolrd that formed the very basis of many of the cornerstones of modern civilisation.

Latin is purely study for study. It won't be 'useful' in the modern sense. It won't help create more little useful consumers. It isn't utilitarian. It simply asks us to use our minds for the sake of using our minds...that in itself is reason enough to study it.

I don't think offering Latin makes a school outstanding. But I don't think a school can conside ritself outstanding if it doesn't value it IYSWIM.
In the same way I don't think triple science makes a school outstanding, but I don't think a school can consider itself outstanding if it doesn't offer it.

But I am clearly in the minority. Which is fine. I can afford to send my DC to schools which do value Latin and do offer triple science...I can afford to be an outlier. But it's a bugger for those DC whose parents can't afford it.

Bonsoir Thu 07-Mar-13 12:01:38

If MFL are properly taught they give pupils far more insight into language than Latin ever can...

seeker Thu 07-Mar-13 12:04:01

Latin is a marker of privilege. Like spongebag trousers, funny hats and kilted skirts. And in extreme cases, mustard coloured knickerbockers.

Parents love seeing Latin on the syllabus- it's reassuring for them. Like spelling tests in primary school. Both equally ineffective for teaching anything except Latin and how to pass spelling tests..............

racingheart Thu 07-Mar-13 12:04:52

Talkin - comps and comps? Seriously? Are you truly judging Milliband for having gone to a successful, thriving, highly aspirational comp?

Do people need to go to schools that aim low but are full of nice ordinary people in order to qualify for understanding fellow members of the human race?

Bonsoir Thu 07-Mar-13 12:05:01

And, wordfactory, the HM of your DS's school is an Anglo-Saxon classicist and I very much doubt he has any meaningful grasp at all of MFL...

seeker Thu 07-Mar-13 12:07:36

Actually, Anglo Saxon would be a good thing to do at secondary school........all that sex and violence. Maybe state schools could do Anglo Saxon and private schools Latin, to keep the demarcation.......

<disclaimer- that was a joke>

Bonsoir Thu 07-Mar-13 12:10:13

Unfortunately, those who uphold the teaching of the Classics in English schools very rarely have any grasp of MFL and so, when they compare the educational value of the two, they do not have a frigging leg to stand on!

As someone who toiled her way through Latin (most important subject in my bac) and four MFL before giving up on languages to be an Excel sort, I have pretty strong experiential data for the value of Latin!

racingheart Thu 07-Mar-13 12:20:45

Actually, I truly hate this attitude to Latin. Not because I'm an old crusty who thinks it's a lovely posho subject for Racing Moniors to have on their cV. But because I teach children who hate school, who refuse school, who come to me absolutely down trodden by the way literacy is taught.

One of the first things we study, from day one, is etymology. I teach them the Latin and Greek roots of words and their spelling rapidly improves. They suddenly spot connections between words. Their brains start sparking in ways which interest them. Latin isn't dead at all. It's embedded in our language. But (the way I see it) little chavlings aren't meant to know such things. When I was at state school, we little chavlings had no need of grammar either. Now it is being reintroduced, thank goodness. My DC at state primary have a far better grasp of grammar than I had aged 16.

I don't quite think of it as a conspiracy theory, but not far off, this educational shift towards the notion that ordinary folk don't need a solid education, nor one that underpins their knowledge, grounds it, gives it structure. Itty Bitty learning in little bite-size chunks that don't link up - that's all the masses deserve. That's how this attitude comes across to me. I've never taught a child who didn't adore etymology and learning Latin stems. They love how it opens up their own language and demystifies it. These are the children who are dismissed as low average but reaching targets (ie not thriving but not going to cause the school much grief) in class. I've had entire classes of low achievers running into their form teachers gleefully spouting ancient Greek and seen the teachers eyes roll and glaze over. The kids were proud and excited at what they could do. the teachers squashed them.

I get angry about this hatred of deep learning, dressed up as "ooh ain't you snobby" if you try to challenge it. I'm not pro or anti state or private schooling. I am pro great schooling and anti complacent, pursed-lipped mediocrity. Like wordfactory, I think state schools could offer more of what academic private schools offer in the way of an educational grounding.

hardboiled Thu 07-Mar-13 12:22:21

Ditto everything racing has said on this thread.

Bonsoir Thu 07-Mar-13 12:26:24

Latin and Greek are not the best ways of teaching English spelling or grammar, however. They are the traditional ways of doing so (which explains why, in the past, little English spelling and no English grammar were taught to DCs who didn't study Latin).

It's like teaching morality. If Religion is the traditional vector for the study of morality and you stop teaching Religion (with good reason), you need to find an alternative way of studying morality, not revert to Religion.

MTSgroupie Thu 07-Mar-13 12:28:58

racing - Gates, Jobs, Dell, Ellison were all classicists? I didn't know that grin

50 years ago only posh kids went to university where they inevitably studied
the Classics. So you be hard pressed to find a great thinker of that time who wasn't a classicists.

But fast forward to today, the innovations are being made by science or business trained people. Even MI5 are looking for linguists and political science graduates as opposed to English Literature graduates.

The era of the gifted generalist has passed.

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