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Independent school - the poor kid

(74 Posts)
amicrazy2017 Fri 03-Mar-17 11:55:55

Hello

I am currently pondering a grammar vs independent school place for my daughter and wondered what people's experiences are of being the 'poor' kid?

To place this in context, my DD does to a local small prep school where all the parents are of a similar financial background to us. I.E. home owners with mortgages, dual income, university educated but not privately educated ourselves. Modest holidays either at places like Centreparcs or visiting family in Dubai.

She's been offered a place at a top 10 independent school and while we can (just about) afford the fees, we would be doing so out of employment income and with big lifestyle sacrifices. We think it might be worth it as this school does seem like the best fit for her and is her preference over the grammar.

However if she went she would likely be one of the poorest students there. So my question is this; how do you find it if you are one of the poorer families going to a top 10 independent school? Is it alienating to be working parents around trustafarian parents? Do you find it impacts your DC's social lives?

Thoughts / experiences / comments apppeciated!

CruCru Fri 03-Mar-17 12:04:32

Without knowing the school, it is difficult to know the culture there.

I would be very surprised, however, if your daughter is the only child there whose parents need to work. Plus, she will wear the uniform, which should eliminate quite a few differences.

When working out whether you can afford the fees, have you allowed a margin for school trips and uniform?

Blossomdeary Fri 03-Mar-17 12:13:17

If you have got a good grammar school nearby then why look elsewhere?

Putting all your financial eggs into her education will make her feel under pressure - you do not want that.

One of my DDs went to a famous independent girls' school because she asked to and she was 1 mark from a scholarship when she took the exam. We have always regretted this decision. She was a very bright and confident girl; but rapidly lost her confidence as she felt like an "also ran" - the others, in her eyes, were so much better - members of the National Youth Orchestra etc, so she saw her musical skills (which were and are considerable) as worthless. This is just one example of the way she felt "put down." We took her out of there for the sixth form and she went to the local sixth form college where she was as happy as could be.

Sending her to the private school was the worst decision we ever made. Her self-awareness and assessment became seriously skewed. She also suffered the sort of catty bullying at when teenage girls can excel. The competitive atmosphere was very destructive indeed. And she was a very bright lass.

We always regretted our decision.

Bluntness100 Fri 03-Mar-17 12:17:43

My daughter went to a school renowned for churning out " Surrey princesses" and the reality was that although there was a lot of wealthy parents, there was also a lot making sacrifices, teachers kids, bursary kids, scholarship kids etc and even some apparently very wealthy didn't have big disposable incomes. I think it's fairly similar at state school that you see that spectrum , albeit more diluted.

Of her close friendship group, four girls she's been joined at the hip with since early teens and now at uni still is, two come from incredibly wealthy back grounds, with entreupreuneurial parents and two really don't have two pennies to rub together, their education was paid for by parents work. For them it made and still makes no difference and they happily stay at each other's houses. They have never given a flying fuck about how much money the parents had and when one of them got gifted a cat the others thought " bloody brilliant...lifts!"

I would say the upshot is my daughter is non judgemental across all spectrums of wealth. An example being I go into a huge house and think "holy shit" she genuinely doesn't bat an eyelid. Same if it's a bit run down and tiny.

i think we as parents sometimes put our own concerns or prejudices against the scenario, where as the kids themselves tend to take each other based on each other only, not their parents.

homebythesea Fri 03-Mar-17 12:21:41

back in the day I was the "poor" kid (fees paid by HM forces), we have been able to educate our kids privately and they are probably the "rich" kids amongst their peers. I can honestly say for me and for them they honestly don't give a hoot about their friends cars, houses, holidays. It's just not something that gets commented on. Its the parents that tend to compare themselves against others. If she can cope with (and get the most out of) everything the private school can offer academically and otherwise your perceived financial shortcomings should be way down the list of considerations.

bursarylady Fri 03-Mar-17 12:23:12

I have a DC at a top independent school. Most parents in the school work and work truly hard. Meaning they have money but they earn it in well paid professions. I don't know any trustafarians. Everyone I know pays fees out of employment income. There are also several children with bursaries and your DD's school will probably be no different. Some girls will be coming from a state primary whereas your DD is coming from prep school. She will not be the "poorest" by any means.
All that said, my DC has a great group of friends who don't judge kids by their financial means, size of house or holidays destinations. DC has no skiing stories to tell and they don't care.
A different issue is whether you should go for the grammar. That's a choice your family has to make.

Hoppinggreen Fri 03-Mar-17 12:26:26

Really depends on the school.
I was on a full,scholarship at a Private school in Yorkshire as a day pupil although there were boarders. I was never made to feel like the poor kid, although I'm quite gobby so would have dealt with it myself. Back in those days though there wasn't the same culture of going on long haul holidays a lot so our annual trip to Spain was never looked down on!! I found that the really wealthy people were very subtle about it and the flashy nouveau lot didn't have as much money as they liked you to think.
DD now goes to a local Private school ( also in Yorkshire) and we would not have sent her if we felt that she would be looked down on for her relative poverty. Most parents there have their own businesses or are Doctors or Teachers so no Bankers or Oligarchs and from what DD tells me and showing off about money is jumped on swiftly by the other kids.
One boy who was showing off his Louis Vuitton belt " that cost £200" was quickly dubbed " snobby Robbie"
I'm not sure if being in The North makes a difference as there aren't as many super rich people here but I imagine some of that sort of thing goes on in Cheshire or Harrogate but not that I'm aware of here. DD has a part academic scholarship and nobody has made her feel poor because of it but as I said it really does depend on the school

amicrazy2017 Fri 03-Mar-17 12:28:00

"i think we as parents sometimes put our own concerns or prejudices against the scenario, where as the kids themselves tend to take each other based on each other only, not their parents."

This really hits it on the head for me. Whenever we have visited the school my daughter has got on really well with the current girls; last time i saw her high five the tour guide(!). The girls are as independent, thoughtful and as outgoing as mine. I do see her fitting in socially.

As working parents I do wonder how we will fit in with the school / social scene. We're very working class but work in the city so are always around very wealthy work colleagues but of course, schooling is very different. Far more intimate to see ikea sofas and sainsbury's basics food then it is to hide the label in a primark black coat ;)

Part of the problem is also that my DD would be the only girl going to this school (despite several applicants), wheras most of her year are going to the grammar. Despite this she wants to go to the independent. Gah, v FWP but feels like being stuck between a rock and a hard place!

amidawsh Fri 03-Mar-17 12:29:27

ime there's plenty of "flashing the cash" amongst parents of excellent state schools, those that have been busy saving/had budgeted for private secondaries and then realising they don't need to / decide not to.

Those are the parents in Whistler for Christmas, Barbados at half term, New York at Easter etc etc.

I see very little of that amongst dd's private school friends. Everyone's too busy working to pay the fees.

The question is which school suits your dd best.

unfortunateevents Fri 03-Mar-17 12:30:32

I'm sorry but I really don't think that your DD will be one of the "poorest" students by any means if you already send her to prep school, are both working and consider Centreparcs or family visits to Dubai as modest holidays!

ImSoPretty Fri 03-Mar-17 12:38:56

😂'Dubai' a modest holiday..not Cornwall/Butlins anymore then grin

ZombieApocalips Fri 03-Mar-17 12:39:41

The "poor" students will be the ones on bursaries. If you're paying full whack then you'd be in the middle for income.

I imagine that it's a problem if you have a child who is materialistic. I went to a public school and wasn't on an Assisted Place. I was aware of girls whose wardrobes were from Bond Street stores like Gucci and Calvin Klein but posh clothes have never been a priority so I didn't care.

ZombieApocalips Fri 03-Mar-17 12:46:59

Proper posh people don't give a shit about other people's wealth. They don't worry about whether their choices are classy or chavvy like the angst that the middle classes sometimes have.

user1466518624 Fri 03-Mar-17 12:47:44

I think you will find a real mix of students from wealthy to those with professional parents who work really hard and make sacrifices. Also in my DS school a lot of fees are paid for or assisted by grandparents.

If you are paying for the fees yourself there is no way you will be one of the poorer families as I would have thought they offer bursaries.

If you have been offered a Grammar why don't you give it a go and if it doesn't work out put her in for the 13 plus entry.

amicrazy2017 Fri 03-Mar-17 12:47:46

lol yes i do agree that centreparcs and visiting family in Dubai is quite lucky!

But of course perceptions of income and modesty are relative. I've always worked in the City and it's quite normal for people to go on crazy holidays around the Caribbean, skiing in the Alps and Barbados. Blowing a year's worth of school fees on a holiday shock

It does sound that we'll be in the majority as working parents rather than the minority. Maybe top 10 independent schools arent full of Russian oligarchs?? wink

EssentialHummus Fri 03-Mar-17 12:50:34

OP, I was that child.

My two cents: if you go with the private school, please don't allow your DD to feel that your decision is causing the family financial difficulty / that you're going without anything because of her. My parents did, inadvertently - every time we couldn't go on holiday / dad had to work / whatever else, it was always attributed to my school fees. (In reality I think they just didn't like each other enough to go on holiday together, but that's a different thread.)

If you can afford it, and you and she both think this is the better school for her, do it. If you as the parent feel the grammar is better, and you have even the slightest concern about affordability (keeping in mind fee increases, uniforms, trips), go with the grammar.

bursarylady Fri 03-Mar-17 12:50:38

OP I know the son of a Russian oligarch who gives his chauffeur the slip because he wants to take public transport with his mates smile

amicrazy2017 Fri 03-Mar-17 12:53:27

haha! Bursarylady that's fantastic!

horsemadmom Fri 03-Mar-17 12:57:47

I can't answer the question as I have no idea who's poor at my DD's indie. Maybe that answers the question.

llhj Fri 03-Mar-17 13:04:16

Schools have very different cultures so it's very difficult to answer if you're unable to name the schools. Then you'd get more astute responses.

oldestmumaintheworld Fri 03-Mar-17 13:04:29

At every school - private and state - there are girls who are nasty. I don't know why it tends to be girls, but it is. So, if your daughter is confident about who she is and what she can do then she'll be fine and make friends with lovely people. If she isn't very confident or shy then to be honest she might find any secondary school a bit of a struggle at first. You sound like a very thoughtful and caring parent and I'm sure will be able to equip your daughter with the social skills and confidence she needs to do well and thrive.

For what its worth my two were scholarship kids and didn't find it an issue at all. They said that they felt sorry for some of the other children because their parents were rich but 'absent'. Using their money to avoid being parents.

BbddpP Fri 03-Mar-17 13:23:35

I just commented on this on another thread as it happens. I'm with those who say it hasn't been an issue in my experience (though you do see people sometimes on these threads who say it has been, so I guess it depends on the school; otoh I think you'd know it by now if it were going to be an issue at the school you're considering).

One thing I've noticed is that even if most of the other parents are rich compared to us (mostly perfectly nice, but it can feel a bit like a glimpse into another world sometimes), the teachers tend to feel like very normal people! Having more in common with the teachers than with the other parents is not so bad, for you or for your DC.

tinkerella1 Fri 03-Mar-17 13:25:23

My DD started at one of the top London girls schools this year after attending a prep. Like you we're not from a privately educated background ourselves and we rely on income to cover fees. We don't take them on exotic holidays every break they get; and that seems to be the case with about 90% of her form class. At our school there are a good number of girls who are on bursaries so I guess in the scale of the independent schools sector we're about average income. I'd say thats pretty standard for any of the top indies. I always think of her secondary school as being more 'normal' than her prep. Yeah, both had working class parents but there seem to be more at the secondary school and with none of the Oligarchs!.... I guess the oligarchs kids can't buy their way through the exams! That said; if the fees are going to cause endless money worries go to the grammar. Its wouldn't be worth the years of stress and either way you'll probably get exactly the same kind of parents!

Ta1kinPeace Fri 03-Mar-17 13:35:29

I was the poor kid at my junior school
(church mouse poor - my fees were paid other than by immediate family, long story)
I was always aware that I was poor - my house had a coin meter for electric
BUT
it really never bothered me as I was aware that my circumstances were unusual even when I was 4

If you can afford holidays abroad, you are not poor.

NotdeadyetBOING Fri 03-Mar-17 13:38:12

I think EssentialHummus gives some good advice upthread.

I was that child too. I still feel lucky I had the opportunities I did - but I was aware of my relative lack of money. I don't remember finding it a big deal, but my mother says I used to long for unaffordable clothes! I definitely don't think the children judged each other on that basis at all. Really no interest. My DCs did state primary and are now at(different) private secondaries. One has some very rich and frankly vulgar fellow students, but he seems to barely notice. In fact he often makes fun of them for making ridiculous/materialistic comments. The other is at a school that is less central (we are in London) and that school seems far less 'monied' IYKWIM. Lots of parents working their socks off to pay the fees, happily snapping up the second hand school uniform etc. I prefer the vibe at the latter school, needless to say.

I agree with PPs that it is impossible to comment on how your DC would feel without knowing the school. Even among the top indies they vary enormously.

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