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Please can we have a non-fighty thread about the advantages/disadvantages of independent schools....

(168 Posts)
insertfeistynicknamehere Tue 12-Jan-16 21:42:37

I attended one myself but it was a long time ago.

Been looking round and keep seeing references to "dodgy independents"
what are these?

Where we live there are excellent state schools but I have no experience of this at secondary, it seems quite scary - DC attend a state village one-form entry school

My oldest is only 8 so it's a fair way off yet but still...
Promise am not a goady fucker btw.

I think the question should be what are the pros and cons of the independent schools available to us compared to the state schools available to us. i.e. if all the schools are co-ed then there is no point thinking if single sex is a better option.

Some independent schools are better than state schools and some are not. I only pay because I think the school offers more than than local state schools.
DS1 is doing the 13+ now and what his preferred school offers is:-
Smaller classes
Better equipment and facilities
Good record in exams and university entrance
Great sports
Lots of music options
A wide range of clubs and societies

Cons
Cost
Longer journey

There are state schools that offer some of what the senior school does but none that offer it all.

Bear in mind that private senior schools are also going to seem a lot bigger that a small primary.

insertfeistynicknamehere Tue 12-Jan-16 22:24:55

Chaz - yes thank you - that is what I meant.
Pros and Cons.

I am wondering what the best thing is - I am massively confused.

roundaboutthetown Tue 12-Jan-16 22:28:46

I think you need to look around the options, then you might be less confused!

Lurkedforever1 Tue 12-Jan-16 22:45:20

Personally it's that our state school allocation was likely to be shite, and the independent is excellent. The lessons suit her needs, rather than being pitched to a majority she isn't part of. The subjects on offer are what she wants, and they have the staff to teach them. And they aren't bound to whatever dumb notion the dept of education decides is flavour of the month. School doesn't have to take/ keep pupils that are disruptive.

The facilities are great and it is a million miles from even the very good state schools in terms of the trimmings, although unless I was dripping money that alone isn't that important.

Possibly the biggest thing is that they have the motivation and the ability to help dd achieve her potential. Rather than viewing her as a child that can take a back seat while the majority are catered to. And hugely important that at an independent, she is never bored, or frustrated. She works at a level appropriate to her, not limited by the curriculum or peers.

I also like the fact academic achievement is celebrated. Whereas even in good schools it isn't always, and in bad schools it can be a cause of bullying.

Long term I also like the fact that after just one term, ambition seems to be the norm, whether that be Oxbridge, doing well in a class test, or learning a new sport.

My perceived advantages may not be everyone's, but personally everything about her independent is an advantage.

Twowrongsdontmakearight Tue 12-Jan-16 22:46:35

It very much depends on the schools where you live. We live in Altrincham in Trafford where the local schools are great. Both DC are at the grammar schools and I doubt if they'd get anything better at an independent - in fact it's those that don't pass that tend to go to the independents.

Had we stayed in London or Bristol, where our local schools weren't great but there were several really good private schools, then we would have had to pay.

I think if you start off on the prep route you might need to stick to the independent sector where class sizes are smaller and DC get more individual attention.

Kennington Tue 12-Jan-16 22:55:04

Pros
Small Class sizes
Academic achievement is celebrated ? Not sure on this one but I think so.
High expectations
Zero tolerance to low level disruption

Cons
Spoon feeding so kids can suffer at uni
Not really mixing with a real broad church of people
Competition can be upsetting for some

EricNorthmanSucks Wed 13-Jan-16 08:17:32

It not only depends on the schools available, it depends on what you the parent is looking for in an education.

Schools are very different in both sectors. Indeed, being different is the raisin d'être of private schools. They are independent and can offer very individual experiences.

On a macro level I would say that the main pro of private school is choice.

And the main con is cost.

On a micro level, I could bore you with the pros and cons of DC's secondary schools if you'd like grin.

EricNorthmanSucks Wed 13-Jan-16 08:18:45

Raison not raisingrin

AnotherNewt Wed 13-Jan-16 08:21:11

I agree with the previous posters.

There is no single 'best'. It all depends on which schools are available to you and what they offer.

These two 'cons' always apply though:

State schools: changeable nature of government policy
Private schools: cost

Seeline Wed 13-Jan-16 08:28:09

You need to visit all the schools concerned to see which would be the best fit for your DC. I think gut instinct is still very important - you may decide that a state school does offer the best fit for your DC regardless of results, facilities etc. One of the main things we wanted was single sex, which no state school offered, but we still looked to see if other things they did offer outweighed this - they didn't.

Pros (2DCss at different indies):
single sex education
smaller classes
individual attention and support
amazing range of co-curricular activities
high level of discipline (which may be seen as a con by some in terms of uniform etc)
Celebration of academic achievement (both selective schools), and encouragement of ambition etc

Cons:
cost (although actual cost may vary from school to school depending on what fees cover, and what are counted as extras)
Less of a mix of people (ethnically diverse, but probably not as socially diverse, although will depend on the area you are located in terms of catchment of state schools, and levels of bursary/scholarship support).
Possibly less of a choice of subjects for GCSE (probably a concentration on traditional subjects, seen as more academic).

saffynool Wed 13-Jan-16 08:35:28

I think the 'dodgy independents' trope refers to (usually) smaller 'private' schools, run pretty much as businesses for their owners. They tend to have very few advantages over a half-decent state school. I went to one grin and even when I was there in the 80s we laughingly referred to it as 'an academy for dim young laydees'. There was no real ambition for pupils beyond marrying well, or maybe becoming some rich man's PA if you couldn't manage to bag a husband. I had fun and got a couple of A-levels but I'm under no illusions that it was any better because it was paid for. It closed about 10 years ago, thank god, but similar establishments still exist I'm sure.

I send my ds to an independent school (a MN 'big name') but wouldn't bother if there were genuinely 'excellent' state schools near us. However, the one thing that really stands out for me with ds's school is the culture of achievement. He is a...ummmm... laidback child with regards to school work - bright but essentially a lazy little wotsit - and the small classes coupled with a real feeling of 'it's cool to be smart' means that he is less likely to get away with coasting. The facilities etc are also amazing but for me it's the underlying culture that matters in the end.

I know there are some amazing state schools out there with the same attitude. None of them where I live, though. 31% A-C is more the deal round here and I worry that ds would sink like a stone no matter how much effort I put in at home.

Seeline Wed 13-Jan-16 08:42:03

the small classes coupled with a real feeling of 'it's cool to be smart' means that he is less likely to get away with coasting

Yes -to ^^ DS was very bright and had coasted throughout Primary, getting away with doing very little. The one big advantage of his indie was that they could start in Y6. That was probably the best decision we made. If he had had to go through the boredom of Y6 SATs at state primary, I think we would have lost him. The enthusiasm, and attention given at his new school kick started him. The shock of having to work was huge. If he had gone to state secondary in Y7 I think he would have just got lost in the system. There seemed to be little provision for the able kids at many of the comps.

HPFA Wed 13-Jan-16 08:49:11

I agree with all the people on this thread saying that it comes down to the individual schools available to you. I can't imagine many people are choosing between Eton and Worst Nightmare Community School -unless you're willing to consider boarding and/or a sex change for your DC there will only ever be a relatively small number of schools for you to consider.

I loved one of the state schools we visited and the indie options were basically a very hothouse academic school which she is totally unsuited for temperamentally or what you might term a "bog standard" private school - perfectly nice but nothing better in facilities than the state option and I had no reason to believe better in teaching. So it was no contest really and she's doing great at the state school we picked.

If you visit a range of schools and find an indie is your preference then you just have to decide whether the difference between that and the best state option is worth the money! Can you afford the fees fairly easily or will it mean for instance, not having anything to help them with university costs or not having the money to give them for a house deposit?

I too don't know what people mean by "dodgy independents" - I do suspect that some private schools survive on the belief that an independent "must" be better than a state school.

Suzietwo Wed 13-Jan-16 08:53:50

I went to godolphin which is a west london day school. I've chosen not to go down the private school route primarily because I don't believe it really helps achieve a child's potential. If they are academic then they will succeed with good family support and maybe a bit of tutoring. If they're not they need other life skills and chucking money at them won't help.

Suzietwo Wed 13-Jan-16 08:58:32

Sorry I forgot the point of saying where I went to school. Among my friends and peers from school who went to godolphin, St. Paul's, Putney, latymer, I don't see any greater happiness than people I know who went to non paying schools. And few are doing anything with their education although granted, my school friends all married well. Not sure a good marriage allowing them not to
Pursue a career is what I really want for my kids. Happiness is central

Drinkstoomuchcoffee Wed 13-Jan-16 08:59:40

One of the biggest disadvantages of the flight to private education in some areas is that the articulate, pushy parents of all ethnic backgrounds who would be pushing the local state school to drive up standards are able to walk away. This often means that struggling state schools get even worse results as the kids from supportive home backgrounds are not there to boost results. So its a vicious circle.

saffynool Wed 13-Jan-16 09:27:21

I agree, drinks. It is a vicious circle and I do believe that a genuinely 'comprehensive' system is a better one.

However, independent schools do exist at the moment and I will hold my hands up and say that my principles went out of the window when it came to secondary education for my pfb! I saw an opportunity to get him a much higher standard of education and much greater opportunities than were available for him in the local state sector, and I went for it (fought for it, in fact).

I know it makes me a hypocrite. I try to rebalance the scales in other ways.

ScottishBarbie Wed 13-Jan-16 09:36:44

My dc go to a private secondary school and I work in one of the (average) state school that I might have chosen (although we were returning from overseas and were only offered the lowest achieving school in the area. So private it was).

One of the worst things I see at my state school is the constant disruption to lessons by a small proportion of the children, which the teacher has to spend a large amount of time dealing with. It seems to be an accepted part of school life. I really feel for the students who do want to work, as it's very hard for them to concentrate and get any help they need from the teacher.

I've spoken to my dc about this and they've informed me that this never happens at their school. The culture is very much geared to working hard and achieving. The work they do and the homework they get is of a much higher level than the equivalent years in the state school. I never really understand when people say that children in private school are being 'spoon fed' as mine work really hard and are very independent learners, more so than in the state school where a lot of work the children do seems to be filling in sheets or online work, rather than essays or projects.

I've not regretted going down the private route.

minifingerz Wed 13-Jan-16 10:14:30

"and say that my principles went out of the window when it came to secondary education for my pfb!"

As such a high percentage of people who may be in a position to lobby for and support change in the state sector do the same, the unfairness and inequality of our education system will remain entrenched.

I'm not sure that those who gain a competitive advantage from this state of affairs have any motivation to actually challenge the current set up.

<wonders about moving to Finland>

HPFA Wed 13-Jan-16 10:45:33

Saffynool, I will admit that the hypocrisy can work both ways - I can find myself pontificating on the merits of state schools and forget that not everyone has access to an Outstanding comp as we did. Although I do think Grange Hill Nightmare Academies are less common than they were.

littledrummergirl Wed 13-Jan-16 12:16:17

When we were looking at schools for Ds1 we had a choice of crappy catchment school, nearer bigger good comp, local outstanding grammar, top 10 in country grammar or within walking distance private.
Due to bursaries the cost of private or transport to best grammar was the same. We chose grammar.

Ds2 is thriving at the non catchment comp.

We went for the school we thought was most suitable for each child and as they are both happy I think our approach has been a good one for us.
Still have Dd to go though...

roundaboutthetown Wed 13-Jan-16 13:00:16

Most state secondary schools are not actually scary, btw! grin Sometimes when the unknown becomes known it is perfectly agreeable. I would say the worst reason for spending lots of money on a private education would be fear of the unknown. Do your research, think hard about what is important to you and your child and choose the best realistic fit. Also, remember that what looks good in a prospectus is not always best in real life.

I neither found serious low level disruption to be a feature of my state school experience, nor the denigration of academic achievement. I find sweeping generalisations to be mildly offensive and unhelpful. Look at what is on offer and use your own judgement to fit your very particular circumstances, rather than hoping other peoples' experiences of different families, different children and different schools will do anything more than reinforce your own pre-existing, unsubstantiated fears.

CallMeACynicBut Wed 13-Jan-16 13:07:30

Nobody ever explains what these parents would actually be doing in their "pushing the local state school to drive up standards". It always strikes me as horribly insulting to the other parents, and even more to the teachers, that people would assume I had some magic dust I could sprinkle over my local state school if only I would.

TheSkiingGardener Wed 13-Jan-16 13:56:07

I think if you can afford the fees then you need to take that out of the equation. Forget you are paying and look at each school your child could feasibly get in to and decide which is best for your child. We came down to 3 schools we would have been happy for DS1 to go to.

We didn't get our first choice state school, but did get our second choice school which would have been fine, we liked it and DS1 would have done well there. However, the private school did pip it to the post on its ethos of respect and discipline which we felt would benefit DS1. It also has smaller class sizes and larger grounds but not particularly better facilities as it's not a rich school by any means. It also has a real cross section of pupils which we liked. Funnily enough the state school intake was probably a narrower cross section of society.

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