Please share good experiences of state secondaries-having a wobble!(54 Posts)
Dd is in year five and will be going to a state comprehensive in year seven. We're starting to choose and I'm feeling wobbly. Our finances and philosophy both mean that we need and want to send all three of ours to state comprehensives, almost certainly co-ed but we have several high attaining independents near us. Dd has been to a number of activity days at two of them and I am finding it hard to keep my head when the marketing material comes home and dd has had a lovely time.
Please can you share your good experiences of state education. Dd is academically able and enthusiastic, but also struggles in some ways to focus and I fear (dh does not!) she might not be the "she'll succeed wherever she goes" type. We are both teachers, but that isn't helping me stop wobbling.
I should add that we aren't in an area where there are huge worries about secondaries; we have the choice of either "good" or "outstanding" schools and yet I'm still wobbling.
Try not to wobble. If all your schools are good or outstanding, they I'll receive a good education, meet people from all walks of life and have friends that live nearby. What more could you want?!
We actively chose state rather than single or co-ed independent. Coming to the end of Y7 and we are really pleased with how the first year has gone. Its been a varied and busy year with lots of new experiences and a really solid well balanced start to secondary education. Chatting to parents at independent schools we seem to have a lot more variety of sport available but equally happy children. All is good so far!
Both my DDs are at the local comp and are very happy. DD1 is very bright and polite and has an amazingly grown up relationship with many of the teachers - she often spends break times chatting with them in the library. The school has a fairly normal distribution of ability but is slightly short at the top end (because there are grammar schools nearby) so she is a really big fish in a big sea. This has given her HUGE amounts of confidence. She has blossomed.
3 at Uni, one doing GCSEs at moment and hopefully on for A & A* ( although after Spanish maybe not ). And a younger one who loves her sport but also is challenged academically. No school is perfect but it is v possible to go to state school and do well. My older ones found they managed Uni a lot better than some (not all) of their private school friends as they were used to having to do things themselves (as used to less staff), and so were used to having to research stuff on own. Mine know they have to work for anything they want as we don't have the money to support them, whereas some of their wealthier friends know they can fall back on parents wealth. However, my DDs boyfriend went to Eton and is lovely, and his parents are wonderful (& serve the nicest wine), and he says knowing us as a family has taught him more than he ever learned at school (we are a funny old bunch as I adopted my sisters kids). So state schools can be awesome and teach kids lots more lessons then just academic ones. Mine are much luckier than most and they know it.
MY DC2 has an offer for a popular course at Cambridge.he has been state educated all the way through.Really pisses off the indie parents I know!
I've only got experience of state secondary boarding but it has been the best 2 years of my 17 year old's life. He's high performing academically expected A*A*AB for his A levels, but he's also done Combined Cadets, learned to be a lifeguard, learned to sail, has a fitness gym he uses every day of the week, learns to live with others and learns to tolerate others. I don't have any experience of private education other than the school I work in and if I had to choose between the state school my son attends and the private one I work in, there is no question the state school offers more and has less entitled children who have all had to work and have experienced resilience. Those life skills are lacking in a large part of the student population where I work who have no concept of how the majority live.
Of course I might think differently if I had a child who was struggling academically and would perhaps want money to intervene.
This is all really helpful. Thank you. Especially the big fish in the pond, Snookie. That really resonated with me as I think dd would lose confidence being one of loads and loads and that very phrase had occurred to me.
You haven't actually articulated your concerns about state.
Is it just that the private school offers more? If so what exactly is that. And is paying expensive school fees the only way to get that.
Or are you actually concerned with the state options? And if do what is it that concerns you?
The huge advantage my DC have found in their Comp is that it's big enough for them to find people they gel with. There are also huge advantages with them meeting people of all abilities, as they get the chance to try a much wider range of options than the local private schools (none of which offer for example all of: Textiles, Food Tech, D T and Graphics). And Textiles for example is taught by much better professionals than one private that does offer it - having a staff of 3-5 teachers rather than 1 helps a lot.
Also activity days do not give the real picture. My middle DD went on a few, and some were little different to sales pitches. We know lots of girls at the private schools so know a bit more about the reality. One has just had huge building works, and whilst the finished building is very nice, at least one girl there is not at all sure what use they will really get out of the building (other than to compete with the nice shiney new buildings of other schools).
Someone recently said to one of my DDs that part of education is to teach you to get on with people from all walks of life, and state school does this better.
Also state school often has a shorter day, which allows more time for extra-curricula activities outside school. And allows you more financial resources to "top up" if necessary.
That's true, Sally-I'll have a go at saying what concerns me about state. I guess it comes down to the flip side of the advantages of meeting a wider range of peoe at state. My deep worry (and when i articulate it, it might sound snotty and I really don't want it to) is that dd will meet people with few aspirations and will hang out with them and lack aspiration herself. I kid myself that it isn't as much about academic aspiration, but deep down I do hope my children will choose to go to university and do challenging subjects. I know that this is wrong and that I should just want them to be happy, rounded individuals. My fear about state, unfounded as it may be, is that they won't be surrounded by children who essentially assume they'll go onto higher education. If I had more confidence in myself as a parent and more confidence in having produced kids who will plough there path regardless I wouldn't worry. And if I didn't essentially have some kind of prejudice towards an academic path, I guess I wouldn't worry either. I also don't want to have to push dd too hard myself, which sounds lazy and also makes the assumption that a state school wouldn't push and that a private school would. So, by articulating my concerns, I think I reveal myself to be a bit narrow minded, untrusting of myself and my children. Aargh.
I think you're being a bit hard on yourself there, OP.
Everyone wants the best for their child and alleviation (to a certain point of course) of financial worries is a big part of that, and statistically graduates are more likely to end up in highly paid positions and so on and so forth.
With that being said, I would try not to pigeonhole them too young. It's much better and ultimately more productive to play to their strengths and if their strengths do lie in academics, brilliant - if not, it's still all good!
Here are the things I think every parent of GCSE taking children should do in prep:
- encourage your child(ren) to read loads. Read newspapers and magazines with them, read books and short stories, try (!) to analyse poems with them.
- if they have a weakness in maths or English or both, don't be afraid to have someone tutor them.
- find out which examination board the schools are taking and familiarise yourself with the specification
- take them to a university and talk to them about different courses and careers post sixth form
With regard to big fish in small ponds - tentative y-eeee-s - BUT, do be aware this can lead to an inflated sense of position. I had a good friend at school who was a good pianist and a good singer. It was a small and tough comprehensive in an old mining town and she was cast as the lead in every school production and always had a huge fuss made of her - following going to sixth form college (school was 11-16) she dropped out. Her confidence nosedived.
I think somewhere in the middle is what I would aim for!
Another one very happy with their state school - DD doing well academically and a shy girl who was recently voted Form Captain for which she had to give a speech. Don't know how the school persuaded her to do this but full marks to them!
Nor does a private school guarantee she won't have problems :
Don't be hard on yourself though - the media constantly bombards us with negatives about state schools and false statistics about grammar and private schools. But don't let me get started on that.
Both my DC go to state Grammars as that's the system here and both have friends at the local 'comps' as they're called locally and all are doing well.
Their aspirations come from home as much as from the school. Whether at Grammar or Comprehensive as a group of parents we expect our DC to work, get good results and go on into further education. Lots of input from home whatever the school re marking past papers for GCSE, helping with finding resources for homework etc. I don't think you'd be able to sub-contract all of that at an independent, you still need to take responsibility.
Re messing about at school and 'unsuitable' friendships, it's just as possible at an independent as at a state school. There are girls who do that at DD's Grammar. Low level disruption rather than chair chucking, but DD just keeps away from them and has made lovely friends. We make friends with like-minded people wherever we are.
Odds are the majority of friends your DD will make will also be bright and want to go to university. Because people tend to hang out with people like them.
But actually I think things like going to university are far more influenced by your parents expectations than your peers.
So, on the whole, I think you're worrying about nothing . But I think you also know that.
These are all very normal thoughts and worries. Welcome to the next stage of parenting.
Go and look at the local State options. If they are anything like the ones around here they will be full of kids who expect to go to Uni (with a few who don't want to/will not).
I grew up in a very WC area, and very few of my year went to Uni (I can name them in a initial year size of 300). However in my DC's mainly MC school as I said 200 go to Uni out of 300 (the others tend to go on to: military, apprenticeships, vocational courses, parents business, and extended gap years).
It is perfectly possible to get an A/A* in third set in English and Maths.
And in my town it's not the only Comprehensive like that, the others are smaller but two are just as high achieving. Even the least "desirable" school sent more students to Uni last year than my school did in my year, and that cohort entered the school when it was still "failing".
My middle child is on a course at present with a lot of students from very different backgrounds, and she said recently that she realises how privileged she has been to grow up knowing that "going to university" was always a possibility (and a probability).
If you take your DC on educational trips, visit universities, look out for interesting lectures and open days, talk about your Uni days etc. you are giving them a huge advantage. You don't have to be a Tiger mum to do it.
We are in Scotland so provision is different (no academies for example) but my 13 year old is thriving at the local state secondary. He is an academic, geeky child who never fitted in at Primary, but is loving the stimulation of the different subjects, enthusiastic teachers and motivated students. The exams results the school gets are always within the top 10 state schools in Scotland, and pupils regularly get places in Oxbridge or into competitive courses like medicine and law.
We're very happy with the school and wouldn't consider private even if we won the lottery!
My DD is currently come to the end of Y10.
She is a quiet girl who left primary as a 'good average'. She has excelled at secondary. Got herself into top set for Maths and English by working hard. She is constantly getting awards for her effort AND progress. She has been selected for school sports team. She has made a really lovely group of friends. I couldn't be happier with her or the school. This is a large comprehensive with 240 kids per year group. I think she has been more recognised there than she was at her Junior school.
You've made me teary! All good. This stage has made me feel more wobbly than any other. Six years in one environment is longer than any other I've had since having dc and primary didn't really seem so much of a choice-essentially, school at end of road or move house.
I'm starting to sort out my prejudices from very valid points of view and realising that there are lots of like minded people choosing like us. In our area, there seems to be a lot of "shopping" for schools as there are lots that you can realistically choose rather than one that you go for or don't. I'm never great with choice at the best of times but it seems to matter loads more when the dc are concerned.
Private isn't an option; dh earns too much for bursaries and we would feel too compromised with three sets of fees. Plus, dh would never entertain the idea even if a big pot of money landed on the doorstep. Me? I'd have to look carefully at it, so probably best its bit an option.
I'm looking at my dd now. She's fun, loves learning even though the focus is a struggle, and achieves well. She has two parents who attended university and did well, plus an aunt who took a less academic route but is happy and financially secure. She has hobbies, which we support and also nag when it's the dull bit in the middle. Being in characteristically positive, id say she'll be okay.
There are students who go to private school and then don't go to university. And I know at least two girls who went through selective private schools, then Uni, only to then decide they totally wanted to change direction and study for a very different career. I don 't think either had really had time to stop, think and consider what they really wanted to do.
I've just looked at the results fr the local independent girls' school and to be honest, I'm not convinced by the value for money. Yes, they provide lots of extra opportunities, but with that level of financing (at least £12000 per year) we could provide so much.
I mean, if we had a spare £12000! Not that we have!
My oldest dad is just finishing year 13 at her comp (last ofsted rating was good not outstanding)
We've been very happy with the school and that's with me coming from a grammar and dh coming from private day school. She's had lots of opportunities and also has had a real social mix of contemporaries. She and two others have medicine offers. The school also has some Oxbridge candidates.
We have experience of both state and private, including boarding.
We have seen no discernible difference in results between our DC. All have obtained a string of good results - fingers crossed for the last.
By far the greatest determinant of how well a child does at school is family background. A clever child from a supportive family will do as well academically in (most) state schools as they will in (most) private schools.
The extra curricular offering in the private sector is (usually) much better than in the state system. But if you have the time, and live in a big city, you can duplicate much of this yourself. More difficult if both parents are working full time and/or you live in the back of beyond - but if you are thinking of boarding from 11- 18 for two or more children you can spend part of the c £500,000 + you save on employing someone to chauffeur them around! There is much talk of ethos, confidence and networks in the private system. There is an element of truth in this - but much stems from the family background. Once your DC get to university - and the majority of students in top Universities come from the state system - these differences evaporate.
Your DD will be absolutely fine in the state sector.
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