State v independent for secondary -(49 Posts)
I'm sure this has been done to death but considering secondary options for DSs. We are a couple of years away but would either need to move house to get into an outstanding state secondary OR go private. I looked around the outstanding state and was very impressed but then looked around the independent and was also very impressed, especially with the facilities and pastoral care. I'm not sure though that the huge additional cost is justified. It feels very difficult to chose between schools which are so different as you are not comparing like with like. Just wondered what swung people's decision and whether people feel there is a significant difference which justifies the huge fees for private.
Where are your DS's friends likely to go? I didn't make the decision about my DD's secondary school decision based on where her friends were going and, indeed, she went to a school where she knew no one, but the friendship thing does seem important to many. Even though they are likely to have entirely different friends after the first couple of weeks ........
What would the commute be like for both schools?
Does your DS have any outside extra curricular interests? Which school would meet these best? If you pay for outside tuition, would this be covered by the private school fees?
I felt it was a bit like buying a new house. Sometimes, you know the minute you step into the hallway that this place is right/wrong for you. I felt that instinctively for most of the places I looked round. As well as listening to how DD felt!
We're currently in the 13+ admission process and are hoping to move DS from state to private. We thought DS would be ok in local state school (ofsted rated good) where most of his friends were going but it hasn't really worked out very well for him. Whilst there are things we like about his current school, the pastoral care isn't great and educationally we think he would be better in smaller class sizes and a more nurturing environment (he has mild SEND issues but otherwise very able). You're doing the right thing looking around now because it's important to get it right. We wish we weren't having to move DS because of the disprution but think it will be better in the long run.
DD1 was educated in the state system. We are a grammar school local authority and DD was selected for a grammar school with one mark below the maximum. But.... She found it difficult to make friends at primary school. She has no special needs but children and their parents were in tight knit groups and didn't want other children - especially the parents. We looked at independent boarding schools in Y5 and only those who set their own entrance exams. As soon as DD talked about what she might do, there was a complete change of friends - she was admitted to previously unknown houses and invited to parties. Previously she had never been invited to these children's' parties or even round to play. It was the best decision ever to leave them! This school is now around £33,000 pa so clearly a big difference between that and a local grammar.
We wanted our DD to have friends who wanted to be her friend because she is a great person. When children board, they really get to know each other and parental influence at school is diminished. My DD made very many friends and although she left school 6 years ago, she sees them regularly.
The other big thing for us was that the school was non judgemental. If girls were a bit quirky, so be it. They loved girls who got stuck in to what they had on offer which suited DD totally. Everything she wanted to do, she got to do it. No drawing straws for school trips, no over subscription for school clubs so you went on a waiting list etc. Clearly the local girls' grammar is outstanding and hugemy sought after but it just didn't suit our DD as much as the independent school. She would have succeeded there but she wanted friends. In her school, she got them, for life.
We chose a state secondary over a number of offers to private london schools. We have not regretted the decision and my DD is thriving and happy in an excellent school which caters for children from a huge range of backgrounds and abilities. We love the diversity and inclusive ethos which I didn't see at a lot of the private schools we looked at. The teachers are incredibly dedicated and expect bey high standards or work and behaviour. There may not be huge playing fields etc but for us it's been a really positive choice and one I would not swap.
I think you also have to be hard headed about the cost element. Private school is expensive (I have 2 in day schools) and fees have risen faster than inflation. If paying fees would create stress or would mean you have to make too many sacrifices then you would need an exceptional reason to go down the private route.
If both schools are academically similar which one best meets the needs of your DS. Which one has a character, clubs, facilities that would enable your DS to have a schooling that he would enjoy and hopefully reach his potential. Which school would bring out the best in him.
Be careful of other people's opinions on schools, you know your child best.
I agree with Chaz. We looked at both options for DD, but decided that we couldn't afford to send DD to private school even though she passed the entrance exam. She did very well in her GCSEs last year and I doubt that she could have done much better at the private school. So we have saved at least £80k on fees that can go towards funding her through university.
To answer your specific question
We chose DS1's Senior school because:-
They have a good structure of regular assessments, dealing with underperformance or late work. DS1 can be a bit last minute so a structured approach forces him to keep on top of his work which reduces stress (for both of us)
Sport - he is a rugby player. The school is big on rugby whereas most of the state schools around here done play much.
Extra-curricular- The school has clubs that he wanted to join including the CCF
The atmosphere is good and the staff are friendly without compromising discipline.
We choose a super selective boys full boarding school over a "high achieving outstanding academy" which was on our doorstep and one of the UK's top 5 super selective grammar schools which wasn't on our door step (I would have to have given up work to get him to the school bus everyday). We felt comfortable at the boarding school, I believe in boarding and what it offers, I didn't want to wheel my child around the county 2-3 times a week so that he could do his sport (I'm not that kind of parent I absolutely loath that sort of thing) or supervise prep. I understood what their ethos was and it completely chimed with my own. I liked the staff; they were significantly less formal than in the state sector I like that I'm not a formal person, I also felt we were all working as part of an team where everyone has equal responsibility to provide my DS with the sort of education I wanted him to receive, and they took their responsibility very seriously, the pastoral care was what it said on the can; genuinely very caring. The school has nothing to prove hundreds of years of doing what it does, so wasn't smug and up its self (unlike IMO both state options). I liked the few parents we met, Win Col parents are a very scruffy casual unpretentious lot. most probably are very ambitious for their DS's but manage to hide it well, unlike the parents at the grammar school their ambition for their DC's was I felt frighteningly palpable. We don't all want the same things, I know parents at both the state options who are very happy with their choices Im delighted for them. But as we could afford it so it seemed like a no brainer. I never regretted our choice, frankly I doubt his exam results would have any different where ever he went, but my DS got exactly the sort of education I wanted him to get I know he wouldn't have got it in either state option.
Assuming you can afford to pay and therefore that is not a significant consideration, choose the school that best fits with what you believe in and want from education and where you feel the most comfortable.
Meant to add I've personally never been impressed or even that interested in facilities, I am totally unmoved swimming pools and theatres I could definitely have found independent schools with much better facilities and round here in rural wealthville many of our state schools have pretty impressive ones as well. Again you have to decide what matters to you.
"I didn't want to wheel my child around the county 2-3 times a week so that he could do his sport (I'm not that kind of parent I absolutely loath that sort of thing) or supervise prep."
You talk about what you wanted for your son. What did he want?
Why [sceptical]? I absolutely loath that sort of thing, I admire parents who clearly enjoy doing it and seem to gt a lot out of it but I'd rather fill my pants with grit frankly. Also due to my work commitments/our location in relation to the nearest decent club I don't have the time or energy to do it.
He knew and understood well what his choices were although he didn't know Id have to give up work if he choose the grammar option. He also has a place at SPS which would have been weekly boarding and a complete nightmare for us in terms of getting him back on Sunday evening. We gave him the choice between the four and he choose Win Coll, but I guess we would have had accepted his choice what ever it had been.
I think if you're finding it difficult to chose then you should go state.
We went private for a lot of reasons. DD needed to avoid a group of girls from primary going to the local, outstanding, school. If the issues from primary had continued she'd have been miserable. At primary her SEN was largely ignored because 'she was doing so well', after talking to several schools we felt the small private ones was best.
Its worked for us, daughter is a very happy child and her academics have improved massively. But really, it's a lot of money so you have to be sure.
I really don't like the way the choice is always presented as an affordability issue as if the private option is always better and lucky you if you can afford it and poor you if you can't.. My DD had a very strong preference for her state option as she felt it was a better fit for her and she was absolutely right. She has a couple of years on a bursary in a private prep school which did not suit her as well and I felt the teachers were rather complacent and the parents feeling that because they were paying fees and the classes were small that it was better than any state options. In fact we have found better teaching in her state school. So don't always assume that just because you are paying it will be better!
Peanutbutter is absolutely right. It is a lot of money so you do have to sure you're getting something that you particularly want, that something has to be a big something and something that you believe your not going to get in the state sector. Personally I wouldn't pay for most of the independent schools I've looked at/been involved with over the years however stella their exam results are or impressive their swimming pools and bathrooms. But this not because there's anything wrong (most have got loads of very happy parents in fact quite a few I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to others who I think might suit their DC's), I just didn't feel they'd suit my DS or us as a family.
Funny in my now very extensive experience neither sector has the monopoly on good bad or indifferent teachers. I've met crap teachers in both sectors.
Secondly a particular teacher may suit one child and not another. DS!'s best ever teacher was in a small rather uninspiring pre-prep school, he really thrived under her he even seemed to be able to do math, but two of his friend's really struggled to learn anything. Sometimes what is a good teacher for one is a rubbish teacher for someone else.
Unhelpfully, the answer is it depends OP.
It depends on what you want from your DC's education.
It depends on what is realistically available to you.
It depends on how much $$$ you have and your attitude to spending it.
For us, what we wanted for our DC could only be achieved in the private sector.
We had what we wanted within a reasonable distance ( we didn't want boarding).
We have plenty of money plus a willingness to spend it on things that aren't necessarily tangible.
My DC are in upper sixth now and we're at the end of the road ( indeed today may be DD's last day at school ever ) and I'm happy with the experiences they have had.
I wish I'd had them!
I think pastoral care is really important. If your child needs support at anytime or is just encouraged by staff and other students then they are a part of a culture that supports one another and the school will naturally grow their students really well.
Yes academic, music, arts and sports is important but without good pastoral care I think the school experience isnt as good. We have a state secondary that does pastoral care really well.
Oh I'm also someone not impressed by facilities. But if the private school had better pastoral care yes I'd choose it.
See this is where it's up to you and your child OP to choose what you want from a school.
As we have moved our DC through the school system (we are in Paris) it has become ever more apparent to me just how very different the selection "criteria" are from one school to another and that a school that suits one family may well not suit that family's friends. The values and ethos of a school are incredibly important to your and your child's well being.
Not read the rest of the thread sorry, but dd attends our local comp. Comps are the only option available to us here. I attended a grammar. I'm sure I'd probably have loved private schools had I looked round them. Anyway dd (year 8) is really happy at her comp. Comes home full of beans, has had no grief from anyone, despite she and her friends being quite geeky. Her friends are a lovely, good natured, drama free bunch. I really like the teachers at her school, they work their socks off and run the school really well from what I can gather. Dd is doing well. Lots of clubs available. Other parents i speak to say their children are happy too. So a positive from me, but I'd likely have been happy had she gone to a grammar or private school too.
It's not the choice between the state and independent school for OP. It is the choice between moving the house to get to an outstanding school or stay to go to an independent school.
We faced the same problem with the OP with DS1, I was happy for the outstanding secondary and the local independent school. I don't think the local independent school are much better than that outstanding state school. The background of the students in boths school are similar(as this state school is in a very rich area), both school provide very good education. The difference would be the independent school is more academic pushed, with termly exam, revision reminder etc. And also it is selective, so the whole ability range of students are higher, so the final GCSE score are higher. But for my DS1, I think he will be fine in both school. As he is bright and also willing to work hard.
However, we choose to stay, as moving house is a big trouble, also it will mean DH has to change the way to work. He now rides bike to his office for 20 minutes.But if we moved, he had to drive for 40-60 minutes in the busy traffic. Of course, it is also a life style change, as we like to live in a small city rather than rural quieter area.
Exactly Autumnsky. If we were in catchment for an outstanding state secondary then we would go there, no question. I didn't get into issues such as friends, travel time etc as I was trying to judge each school as objectively as possible. The independent school has amazing facilities and great pastoral care but will be a 30-45 minute commute. The outstanding state (if we move) will be very close but facilities not so good and not sure about pastoral care. I would love him to go to a local school where he will know at least a few people and not have to worry about fees, but is it worth the hassle of moving? Noone wants to move, we love our house and the area and would be moving only 20 minutes away but to a less nice area. As for costs, it will be tight but there is a reason why I have been working full time since DSs were born and saving like mad. I can't think of anything better to spend my money on than their education.
One of the advantages of being able to pay for education is that you have more choice and also can have a greater chance of finding a school that suits you and your DC.
But as the saying goes "choice isn't always freedom". I was in Waitrose the other day buying pasta, there must have been 50+ different types, you stand there wondering if there really is a significant difference between a Waitrose Essebtials bag and a £3.95 bag, will it taste any better, all these different shapes does it really matter, why can't you find the one you bought two weeks ago that seemed fine, have they just changed the packet or have you just forgotten what it looked like and is the one in the posh packaging really any better. I said to my DS "all I want is a bag of decent pasta that won't be completely flavourless" and I hadnt looked at the fresh pasta!
OP try and decide what matters to you and your DC, draw up a list of must haves, I don't believe any where is perfect, it's inevitable that you'll have to compromise on something. If for example pastoral care is important to you ask about it, any school, in both sectors, can make grandiose claims on websites/open days ask specific question, how do they deal with X, who do you talk too if you're worried, etc. If facilities matter which ones, swimming pools are impressive but little use if you DC is not an enthusiastic swimmer! If it's swimming you're interested in how often do the children actually get in the pool, DS1 school (above mentioned "high achieving outstanding comp") had a beautiful swimming pool he swam in it for 1 term in three years. A friend sent her DC to a full boarding school, her DC was musical, she sang and played an instrument, she also liked riding, ballet and swimming. My friend was excited all these activities under one roof no more endlessly driving around after school. . But it turned out the choir master wanted her in his choir, the head of the orchestra wanted her as did the jazz band leader she couldn't do all three. Riding wasn't possible because it was on the same day as ballet etc. She removed her DC after two years for a variety of reason but not getting the opportunities that she thought she was paying for was one of them.
Where does your DC want to go? Can you go back to all your options for another visit? Ask a few difficult questions. Observe staff with pupils, observe pupils do you like what you see
How come it's your dd's last day in January Curl?
We agonised over this decision although we never considered moving house. We're in London and the cost of moving is such that it's almost prohibitive and at least as much as fees. Plus I've seen schools shoot up and down in popularity/ofsted reports/results enough to know that it's a risky thing to do unless you've got strong reasons other than education.
In the end we choose a selective private day school for our eldest over a local well regarded academy. I still have a little burst of regret when I see all the children walking to the local school, but I think it's been the right decision for us. The fees were not an issue for us (at risk of sounding like a tosser), but had they been in any way I think we'd have opted for the state school. I'm pretty certain he'd be doing well academically and there are huge advantages to being educated in a proper mixed local environment.
The advantages of the choice we made are that I feel like I can opt out of worrying and intervening in his academic work at all and just enjoy other stuff with him. He also gets his sport in school rather than outside. His school gets very good results and university destinations without being heavy handed and I like that because I feel if he's Oxbridge bound, he'll have a good chance from there, but if he's not he won't feel like a failure.
Dunno what we'll do for his younger siblings though...
OP iif you move would you definitely get a place at the outstanding comp? You often hear of people moving to get into the catchment area of X and still not getting in.
If you don't want to move this sounds like a big factor to take into consideration. I like you love my house and village I'm not sure I'd move for a better school, as you say the stress and hassle of moving is just too awful. On the other hand commuting to school is also IMO a real PITA my DH commuted to school and was saying the other day how much he hated it about a 40 mins journey it makes it such a long day if they do after school clubs etc teenagers get very tired.
I couldn't agree more assuming you can cover the basics of life, and hopefully a holiday once a year, and the odd day out etc what better way to spend your money than on education for your child.
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