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Moving from state to private school - any question you would want to ask the private school?

(28 Posts)
Trafalgarxxx Tue 31-Oct-17 12:26:04

Dc is in Y9, bored and unhappy with his school.
Albeit very able, he is starting to looose interest in learning as well as his curiosity for the subjects that used to really excite him. Not where I want to see him.

So we are thinking about looking at private schools.

What sort of questions do you think are worth asking?
I’m thinking
- how do they give feedback to children so they can progress
- are the children set in all subjects
- cost pov, other cost involved (lunch, after school activities etc)
- any test to go in

Anything else you can think about?

RedSkyAtNight Tue 31-Oct-17 12:40:27

I think I'd work out why he is bored first (and possibly see if his current school can address the underlying issue). Otherwise he may move school and you see no difference.

Seeline Tue 31-Oct-17 12:45:06

Just moving him to private won't automatically solve the problem. If he is able, then the school will need to cater for able kids. If it is selective, then they are likely to be catering for the very able, so check how you DS would fit into the range of ability at the school.

If your Ds is currently Y9 are you looking to move straight away? If so has he already started GCSE courses and/or will the new school already have started theirs? How will your DS fit in his previous learning with that of those at the new school eg what exam boards/syllabus etc?

Trafalgarxxx Tue 31-Oct-17 19:12:15

The current school isn’t going to be able to cater for him. He is very able, top of his class and still nowhere near stretched.
Unfortunately, they only set in maths and there is no grammar school where we are.
So really, the only other solution is private.

Good point re GCSE.
They are choosing their subjects in the second half of the year so not yet but they might have chosen already at the schools we will look at.

2014newme Tue 31-Oct-17 21:10:07

What % do the fees increase by annually.
Whats included in the fees.

bingolittle Tue 31-Oct-17 21:16:36

What do they do to stretch the very academic kids? Is there an extension programme - if so, what is it and would he be on it?

BubblesBuddy Tue 31-Oct-17 22:34:12

I would check the results of the private school and the destinations of the pupils. Some private schools have very few bright children but do well with averagely bright children. He could find he is an outlier at the Private school too.

Most fee and extra costs can be gleaned from the fees info the school gives out. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it! Not exactly, but I wouldn’t waste valuable time on this. I am assuming you can afford it.

Look at the demeanour of the children. Are they engaged, happy, chatty etc. Who shows you round? A child? A parent? A member of staff? Talk to them about the brightest children there and how they are engaged? Don’t forget Private schools can have less than engaging teachers too so lessons may also be boring!

What extra activities can he do that he might enjoy? Sport, music, drama, clubs etc. Life isn’t all about Work. Will he fit in? How do they encourage children to learn? What feedback to they give?

Is he up for going there? What about leaving friends behind? Don’t be wowed by facilities, just find out if they have enough clever children for him to work with!

lljkk Tue 31-Oct-17 22:39:40

Class size
How do they support kids like mine (anxious, high achiever, plodder, better with hands than pens, whatever my kid is)

Is your son completely happy with everything else in his current school? Is it really only the low academic challenge that annoys him?

Ttbb Tue 31-Oct-17 22:51:29

Lunch and most after school activities and field trips are included. You will occasionally be expected to pay for a trip or a camp of sone sort. Then there are lots of optional extras like ski trips or music lessons. You may want to enquire about bursaries, many schools are very generous in this respect. You can also save money by buying uniforms second hand for example.

The number one question as far as clever students are concerned is do they have a G&T program and what exactly do they do for more able students (e.g. Steaming, taking them out of class for regular G&T seminars, exclusive enrichment days etc.) I was sent to a private school and, while I was less bored than I would have been elsewhere due to some really interesting teachers, I don't think I would have been able to cope with being at school without being taken out of class for various activities in the G&T program.

Mantegnaria Tue 31-Oct-17 22:56:36

You need to check what the children and parents of the private school really think. Only way to do this is over a cuppa in their kitchen.

Are the children happy and engaged ?
Is the academic level right for your child ? Many private schools are better than the local state comps but really aren’t all that good.
What will your DC need to do to fit in? E.g. play rugby, play the clarinet, play tennis, play dumb.

Ojoj1974 Tue 31-Oct-17 22:57:20

Is your son musical, sporty, interested in DT etc? This is where some of the private schools can really excel. My children’s school stretches the bright children in so many ways outside of the classroom. My DD for example plays 3 instrument (grade 5) and has music theory classes ages 11 plus she plays an awful lot of sport. She not at a pushy School at all and we certainly aren’t pushing her either so it’s amazing to see.

Good luck

Messgalore Tue 31-Oct-17 23:02:15

Isi report
Good schools guide
Mn threads on the schools
Check how many start in year 9 - in some private schools this is common as then he won't be a sole new starter in a bonded cohort
Check extra curricular clubs - in many private schools these are very stretching

happygardening Wed 01-Nov-17 06:12:06

I would be asking myself do I like the school? The ethos? The staff I meet? What do I see when I watch the pupils going around the school? Not the ones showing me round they will inevitability be on their best behaviour. Do I like the relationship between staff and pupils? Can I see my DS fitting in there?
All independent schools will tel you they stretch the very able (they want your money), but I'd want to check in what way they do this, accelerating a pupils through the (I)GCSE curriculum is in my opinion not the only way to challenge and stretch the very able. A super selective will have a school full of very bright pupils so will obviously stretch and challenge them across the board, the curriculum is likely to be broader, moving away from the standard curriculum there may be no limit on how far a pupils can take a subject, it is easy to do it in that kind of environment. Look for success in math an d science Olympiads etc. Also many academic schools will have academic extra curricular clubs, personally I cant think if anything worse than the math club but its horses for courses and see if they have regular visiting speakers from the world of academia. A less selective school can also challenge its brightest pupils but find out exactly how they do it and what they offer.
Good luck.

bengalcat Wed 01-Nov-17 07:01:03

I'm sure you've asked him why he is bored and unhappy at school . Some schools can and do provide extra tasks and extension activities for bright kids as do some private schools for their brightest kids in some subjects . Sadly it appears that presumably needing to concentrate their efforts to get a majority to a set level some pupils are less stretched . Your son may be one of these. I don't know where you live but good private schools will usually have smaller classes and set for some subjects so it's likely this will maximise a child's achievement - this is of course only my personal opinion . You need to find out what's bothering him and as others have suggested talk to his teacher / head and see if there is any likelihood of his current school being able to address these issues and turn things around . If not then you need to look around and find somewhere you all think can . Good luck .

Trafalgarxxx Wed 01-Nov-17 07:47:12

Thank you all. All very good questions.

Re dc unhappiness. There is a lot of things going on. The lack of extension work but also the ‘culture’ within the school that means he feels he needs to hide his abilities. The fact only certain things are ‘cool’to do (eg football) when he is involved in totally different things etc.... And the fact there is a very high turnover of teachers plus a lot of illnesses which means a lot of supply teachers (the issue with them being that they do the minimum, there is very little differentiation etc... not a reflection on the teacher themselves but the fact they dont know the class and have little notice so can’t do more than that iyswim).

There are only a couple of schools around us. And as far as I know, only one of them is really selective. (Even though probably not as selective as selective schools in other parts of the country).

Good point about asking how many pupils join in Y9 too.

Needmoresleep Wed 01-Nov-17 08:05:53

I would how they engage pupils who have not previously fully engaged.

There can be a big difference between state and private or between different schools generally). . At a good school kids may be used to putting themselves forward and trying things out. They will be used to trying out for the play or the sports team and perhaps not being selected, but trying again. They may be used to voluntarily sitting the maths challenge in their lunch time, or staying late after school.

Some schools simply make the provision and leave it for the kids to engage meaning that the quieter ones get neglected. (It is a criticism I have heard about Eton!) Others are more nurturing. DD noted in Yr 7 that some of her friends who came from state primaries were aghast at being asked to stay late for after school stuff and simply refused. To her, coming from a prep, it was obvious. Being selecting for a school team was an honour and a duty so you did it.

To make the most of a "cool to be clever" culture, a child needs to take part in teams, choirs, societies, debates, MUN or whatever. This might prove quite a switch at Yr9, but a really useful skill to have before starting University. What do the school do to encourage those not used to putting themselves forward.

LIZS Wed 01-Nov-17 08:09:46

How do they ensure pupils fulfil potential academically and in co-curricular? (there may be fluff about baseline testing and regular reports but it s what they do with the information that counts) ? How do they integrate and motivate new joiners?

bengalcat Wed 01-Nov-17 14:10:26

In a nutshell if you were in a job where you felt you weren't being stretched/ developed or had to hide / suppress your abilities to fit in then you'd likely look for an alternative wouldn't you . On the information you've given it doesn't seem likely that this is the right school for him . The best education you can get generally maximises your choices in life . It sounds from what you've said that he's not achieving his best and that the pervading school culture is not likely to change this but still worth asking . If you can afford private then do so . Is he your only child ?

BubblesBuddy Wed 01-Nov-17 14:11:12

I think some children can hide in a huge school. Eton is huge so some boys will naturally be able to be out of sight so to speak. The Boris Jonson types will be omni-present of course!

A medium or smaller school will know the children better and encourage them as individuals. You may find more children there are self starters and have greater confidence. Trying to get into that mind set is invaluable. How is it encouraged in school?

Senior schools should not all about maths and science and that can be off putting if its not your thing. Look for great oppportunities in what he is actually interested in. It could be art. It could be drama. You know him best, so do not be swayed by the achievements of others if your child really is not going to benefit from that area of school life. If he is not first rugby team potential, then what they do will not be of much concern to you.

Ttbb: Sadly lunch, most after-school activities and field trips are not inlcuded in fees at all schools. That is why any prospective parent should look at the fee schedule for the school they are interested in. Not all schools have second-hand uniform shops either.

Trafalgarxxx Wed 01-Nov-17 14:49:54

bengal no dc isn’t an only child. We also have dc2....

If we are going down the route of private school, his will be for both dcs. Which might make things trickier because they are so different in their temperament and what they need form the school.

Dc1 will thrive in a competitive environment. Challenge is what makes him tick. Things come very easily to him wo much effort.

Dc2 needs nurturing but will put his head down and get on with things, even when he is really struggling. He is also bright but not in the way Dc1 is. So I’m not sure he will thrive in a very competitive environment.

So finding something that will work both of them might be fun.....

Trafalgarxxx Wed 01-Nov-17 14:54:52

Need my biggest bug with the current school is exactely that. That it’s never cool to be clever, let alone actually going the extra mile. They do try tbf to do some some sort of STEM club but none of my dcs have ever engage with that despite both loving that aspect of things (dc2 more with the hands on approach, Dc1 for the intellectual challenge). Because it’s not cool to be seen as ‘clever’ sadsad

There is no nurturing and trying to get the children out of their comfort zone. Instead, they usually choose the children who are the loudest/most visible and forgetting about the quiet ones. Even in sports etc.... and despite some of those quieter children actually being good at that sport.

lljkk Wed 01-Nov-17 19:35:36

So you want to ask about staff turn over rates, also staff sickness rates, too.

You'd like a list of the student societies or structured activities, and see if your DS like any of them.

You can ask about what clubs are active & what activities they've done or trips outside of school / away from school premises (like maybe there's a chess club that has gone to inter school competitions). You want to ask how compulsory exC sport is, too, sounds like. Some schools are a bit pushy about kids must do a sport.

I guess in terms of checking if it's cool to be clever, you want to ask around among parents with their kids at same school.

lljkk Wed 01-Nov-17 19:38:01

DD was moaninge last night that she gets this conversation a lot.

Friend: I got 70% on the test. What did you get?
DD: I got 99%.
Friend: You Show off!
DD: Why am I showing off? You asked me a question & I gave a simple answer. Should I have lied? How am I supposed to truthfully answer that question without you calling me a show off? I don't work hard to get good grades to impress you or anyone else except universities.

millifiori Wed 01-Nov-17 20:49:48

If the private schools near you are not especially selective, I'd ask what unis/careers the pupils go on to, what, if any, openings or enrichment programmes they have in any sectors your DS might be interested in (medicine, business, politics, finance, the arts etc.)

If they are single sex schools, it's worth asking what the school does to ensure they mix socially.

The religious ethos of the school if that's important to you. The pastoral care attitude. You get a 'feel' for a school from the chat with the head and staff showing you round. Not foolproof, but it's a bit like buying a house. You know when you walk into the right place. It doesn't blind you with bling. It just feels right.

happygardening Thu 02-Nov-17 06:19:51

I’d want to know why they have a vacancy in yr 9? Are they struggling to fill their vacancies if yes why? Or is it an over subscribed school with a one off vacancy because someone left unexpectedly.
Less selective independent schools like very bright children it improves their results, and they will probably put a lot of effort into ensuring he gets top grades but I personally believe that educating very bright children isn’t just about how many (I)GCSE’s you can stuff them through or how many A* they can get it’s about providing an all round intellectually stimulating environment/education. This is IMO harder and therefore less likely to occur in a school in either sector where there are only a tiny handful of the exceptionally bright and able. Let’s be realistic most schools selective or not cater for the majority.
Also if for example your DS is a math genius then he really needs other like minded students to spark off, I’m afraid paying doesn’t guarantee this will happen, the school has to be very selective. IME (for what it’s worth) schools have a box, at a super selectives in both sectors to fit that box, be happy and thrive you are going to have to be very academically able because that is what the school is geared up too. Those who aren’t may struggle. At a less selective but none the less selective school to fit the box you need to be bright and able but the super bright may not stretched sufficiently and you might not get what your hoping and paying for.
It is a common view on here that an alternative to paying is spending your money on intellectually stimulating and other extra curricular activities out of school and that this compensates for lack of stimulation in school. I’m not convinced myself but other will put a good case for this. Only you know if this is possible for you.
Finally you say he’s bored and unhappy and loosing his interest in learning. It may also be his age, 13/14, kids can loose their curiosity around this age although hopefully it will come back. As parents this can be hard to see and accept because inevitably it’s a sign that they are growing up and we often still see them as wide eyed 10 year old where even the smallest bug intrigues them smile.

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