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North London secondary parents - anyone applied for private and ended up choosing/having to go to state?

(24 Posts)
sleepwhenidie Thu 05-Nov-15 16:15:14

First, I don't want this to turn into a private vs state argument bunfight <hopeful>. I also know how lucky we are to have these options available.

We live in North London and DS1 is in Y6, he is currently doing lots of practice for entrance exams to some private secondary schools (eg Highgate, UCS, City). We have also applied for some local state schools because a)we know how competitive it is to get into the private ones and whilst he is bright he isn't great with exam technique b) we would prefer a good state school close to us to a private school that will involve a long commute/boarding and c)with certain private options that we may have (less competitive) I am unconvinced on their 'value added' aspect compared to a good comp.

My question to parents who have gone through/are going through this is what your experiences and opinions are - did anyone almost go to or apply for private and end up in state and if so what are your thoughts on it? Or did you go for a less academic private option and do you think it is worth the money? I guess I am asking if the stress of exams and the cost of the fees are truly worth it?

AgonyBeetle Thu 05-Nov-15 21:38:54

Yes, we were in exactly that situation wiht dc1. Were offered places (including a scholarship) to various top tier N. London private schools, but went state instead. Have never regretted it. DC1 did as well as they could have done anywhere (ended up at Oxbridge), dcs 2, 3 and 4 are doing well too, though would not have been obvious oxbridge candidates even if they had gone private.

I don't see the value-added myself, for my children, or tbh for the many other dc I have encountered. Yes, the private school kids have more extra-curricular on offer at school, but there's so much outside school, and it's actually an advantage for the dc to have to take initiative to do stuff with a different peer group than they see every day at school. Lots of the state=educated kids have a bounce and quirkiness that I don't see so much in the privately-educated ones (though that's not a scientific analysis, just my observation).

sleepwhenidie Thu 05-Nov-15 21:51:00

Thanks agony that's interesting, it's kind of the way I'm leaning at the moment smile

tropicalfish Thu 05-Nov-15 22:15:05

my dd went to a super selective in N London but got an offer of a place at CLSG. Shes done well where she is getting excellent gcse results and is applying for medicine. Im pleased about the money we have saved in hindsight as we can now support her while she is at university.
Teenagers are expensive. When you stop paying for childcare you think wow Im going to have so much more money in my pocket, but then when you have paid for the extra curricular activities, in fact you are not that much ahead. When they get a bit older there are some really interesting school trips they can do which are also very expensive eg School music tours, choral singing workshops etc. Quite frankly, the sum of the cost of these plus private education would be far more than I would want to pay.
My dd would agree apart from the fact she thinks that boarding offers more value for money with greater opportunities for advanced choral singing. I would imagine you have to pick and choose where you go for this if it is your cup of tea.
I think kids are very influenced by their peer group and if they are in an environment with intelligent ambitious kids then they will also excel ( if they are the kind of person that does not mind this type of competition).
Ultimately, it is important that they are at the type of school that suits their individual personality.

Naughtyb0y Thu 05-Nov-15 22:31:50

Hi there
Also in a very similar position living in Islington. I fell in love with City Boys. Of all privates it feels the most worthwhile but the qualities a was seduced by most, beyond academic achievement were the central location and single sex aspect which both my boys prefer. I then discovered Central Foundation which have both these qualities. The demographic is obviously very mixed with a fair share of free school meals which makes their incredible results 84% A* - C GCSEs so much more impressive than those of selectives. DC1 is bright and although city's fees would be a stretch I would make sacrifices (financially and by way of intensive tutoring) if I felt it would make him any more likely to achieve. But I have retracted my decision to sit City on the basis that this brilliant school is a walk away. I would also be happy with Haggerston Mossbourne and Stoke Newington. I am not against privates and there may be a strong argument for them in some areas but North London has such fantastic choices.

AgonyBeetle Thu 05-Nov-15 23:28:10

The people I know who went private did so because they didn't get a state school place that they felt was acceptable, even though lots of other dc were going to those same schools. Overall I would say the outcomes for the two groups of dc were not wildly different, and most of the kids ended up with the kinds of grades and further study options that you would have predicted for them at 11, regardless of which type of school they went to.

The only reasons I can see for going private are if you are hellbent on getting your child into the most academically selective school available, or are so anxious that you know you will always be looking over your shoulder if you send them to a comprehensive. Or maybe if you really can't get your head round the notion of your child mixing with other children who are not middle-class and may not share all of your values. Otherwise, as long as you have state school/s available whose ethos you like, and from which a decent proportion of the Y11 cohort are getting a healthy collection of A and A* grades, then there's absolutely no reason to assume your child won't do the same.

Dustylaw Fri 06-Nov-15 01:02:06

What a good question. I think there are many parents paying for private schools who would definitely have opted for a good state school (especially local) if that had been a realistic option or been available. It seems to me you are doing the right things. All you need to do is keep a really open mind (which you seem to be doing anyway) about which individual school is the 'best' school given the way the admissions cards fall. No way is the private option always the best option. Conversely of course. It really is all down to the individual school.

Re stress of exams, yes it is there but your son will mainly take his cue from you in terms of context, meaning, importance etc. Working for entrance exams isn't wasted work but is just part of an imperfect mechanism for school transfers - may go all your own way but no shame if it doesn't and only worth is just as one of the things done in order to end up somewhere you like. Do be positive therefore about all the schools you have applied for. Hope everything turns out right for you.

nightsky010 Fri 06-Nov-15 05:30:26

Without going in to the state / private debate....

Having had experience of the North London and non-London system, I'm really shocked at how little value added many N London private schools seem to have. London seems to be all about being very selective at entry, whereas outside of London may private schools don't select and still get very good results.

The state schools in London seem to be very good compared to those outside of London, but tbh I don't know how much of that is lots of very middle class pushy parents hoovering up places? I do read all the time about how well London states are doing though.

I'd conclude that the is probably less difference in value added in London than elsewhere.

sleepwhenidie Fri 06-Nov-15 07:28:40

Thank you, some great points. DS has been at a quirky independent since y3 and it has been fantastic for his confidence and academic progress so far - secondary would be different in terms of what he might benefit from, his tiny classes (8-14) for example have been amazing but that won't be on offer and nor would we want it to be at this stage. We aren't attracted by the 'solely mc' aspect (I went to a bog standard comp and three DC's went/go to a state primary with very mixed cohort). He's also not a kid who likes team sports much so that aspect doesn't interest us, nor are results or even university a huge deal for us. But once in the N London system it's easy to get swept up in the hysteria of exams and the thought process many parents seem to have is that if you don't get your DC into one of the competitive places then boarding is the only other option hmmconfused. The thing we are most looking for that seems to be more likely in a good private school is an environment where he can try and find out about an array of activities/interests that might mean he finds a passion.

I hadn't heard of Central Foundation and we've missed the application deadline! Would be a very long shot wrt catchment for us though. It looks great.

AgonyBeetle Fri 06-Nov-15 07:55:07

Whereabouts are you, sleep? You might find people can give you specific experiences of the state schools you're looking at?

sleepwhenidie Fri 06-Nov-15 08:06:36

NW1, so in terms of state we've applied for Marylebone School for boys, William Ellis, Acland Burghley and Hampstead. I should probably start a separate thread smile

AgonyBeetle Fri 06-Nov-15 08:26:01

Marylebone have a boys school? I thought they were just girls? confused

I know two of the other schools quite well, happy for you to pm me if you want specifics. smile

OVienna Fri 06-Nov-15 08:37:22

Thank you for posting this.

We are in North East London (Essex borders) where the ethos is much the same. We are dealing with families who have two and three tutors for their child. I just found out there is even a tutoring school in a neighbouring town that preps for grammar school entry where you have to test in before they will take you on. It's driving me around the bend. I don't know how DD will fare in January on the tests as we've done next to none of this ; she is in a small indy prep. I don't think the school realises the extent to which parents are propping up their results. I suspect the same is occurring at secondary and when you question value for money ( there is a big jump in price to what we are paying now) believe me I hear you. Not sure frankly what we will end up doing.

Thankgoditsover Fri 06-Nov-15 08:44:50

Gosh, this was us a year ago down to the very private schools in question. I felt very strongly that a local state was better than a less-good private, especially with travel factored in so we only applied for three pretty selective schools. I had no idea whether he'd get in or not as he was at a state school with little history of sending kids to private schools. He did have a tutor, but for one hour a week.

It's a conundrum though. I didn't want the state options to be the place he ended up in if he 'failed' the privates - I wanted them to a positive choice. On the other hand, if he got into one of the privates, I felt we couldn't then turn round and say 'oh right, after all your hard work, you're going to the state school after all'. We went round and round with this and had to hand deliver our private school applications we left it so last minute.

In the end he did very well in the tests. Although we'd sold it to ourselves as just giving ourselves more options, once we'd done them it became a given that he'd go if he got in. So I think you have to be sure what you want before you find yourself in that position. He's happy and doing well, but then so are all his friends in the lovely state schools.

However, I do other people who got private school offers for very good schools who turned them down in favour of local comprehensives, so maybe it's just us.

sleepwhenidie Fri 06-Nov-15 09:07:15

agony Marylebone Boys is a v new free school, I believe 'sister' (brother? confusedsmile), school to the girls one. I would imagine in time it would be very like Central Foundation but there are similar admission criteria so again, a long shot!

ohvienna we haven't tutored but I know it is the norm, even for kids already in prep, it's madness.

thankgod you've summed it up perfectly, if by some miracle DS does get an offer to one of the 'good' private schools I think there will be a huge element of feeling like we couldn't turn it down, which is one reason to try and get clear on what it is we want/would be right for him. My overwhelming feeling is that he's too young to be going through the exam stuff (August born and immature to boot, not that I'd change it) and it's too early to predict what secondary environment would really serve him best!confused

Naughtyb0y Fri 06-Nov-15 09:39:17

Hi Sleep
Re Central; I think I t's worth putting your name down on the waiting list. Being a boys school, it's catchment is relatively wide and its often off the radar of Islington parents who (at my primary) are focuses on Highbury grove despite shockingly bad results (39% compared to 84%). Central is in Islington borough despite being so close to the heart of the city which I don't think some realise.

sleepwhenidie Fri 06-Nov-15 09:46:55

That's interesting naughty, thank you. Any idea if we should do it now to try to get DS into the banding test in December?

Another option is to leave him where he is for another year or two and try for occasional places...that may be even more nail biting though!

Naughtyb0y Fri 06-Nov-15 09:51:50

Hi Sleep
Why don't you call the school? And chat to the admissions lady, she was fantastic. Also, go and have a look. Jamie Brownhill, the super impressive head, gave my partner and I, a private tour. He is very passionate and has done the same for a few of my friends. Good luck

sleepwhenidie Fri 06-Nov-15 09:57:54

Thank you, I will!

Thankgoditsover Fri 06-Nov-15 11:56:33

Agree that it's worth talking to Central though I think the catchment might be getting smaller due to it becoming less and less of an undiscovered gem. It's a very impressive school and I think had it come down to City v Central, we might have made a different decision.

OP, I found it very hard to disentangle my fear of ds 'failing' (for his own self esteem) from the whole process. i couldn't be sure that I was veering away from doing the exams because of that or because I genuinely knew that the privates were a bit of a con (which a part of me still thinks). You have to try to imagine that all of them, state and private, were ringing you up tomorrow saying 'we've heard about little sleepwhenidle and we'd love to offer him a place tomorrow' - which one would you go for?

Cafeconleche Fri 06-Nov-15 12:00:21

Hi Sleep - UCL Academy in NW3? Catchment area v. small tho - 0.5 miles

sleepwhenidie Fri 06-Nov-15 13:34:10

Thanks cafe, yes, we are too far from UCL.

thankgod - I know exactly what you mean, although so far, for better or worse, DS doesn't seem to have any self esteem tied up with the exams (could possibly do with caring a little more but I'm reluctant to push it!). If we were offered any school for next year...hmm - tricky question! It would probably be King Alfred's or City, two extremes I know but he might go either way (more or less happy and thriving in an academic/light touch environment) in the next couple of years! confused

sleepwhenidie Fri 06-Nov-15 13:36:25

He didn't get offered an assessment for KA...350 applicants for 8 places and non selective, who knows how they pick 80 to assess then whittle down having a sleb parent probably doesn't hurt <cynical>

nightsky010 Fri 06-Nov-15 13:57:14

I've heard Marylebone is getting v popular?

Is the quirky Indy with small classes you're at one of the less pushy ones? Is it NW1? Maybe you could give me a clue which one it is / PM me? I'm looking for that type of school for my DC (as you can see from my other threads).

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