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Fees aside....

(63 Posts)
StewardsEnquiry Fri 10-Nov-17 16:43:05

My head is going round and round with this and I need some advice here, please!

Can you explain why I might want to choose a grammar school instead of an academically vigorous selective independent school?

The child in question is very academically able, but no particular talent for sports or music - although enjoys participating in all of these activities.


Kazzyhoward Fri 10-Nov-17 16:54:55

More "normal" range of pupils?

happygardening Fri 10-Nov-17 16:55:57

We chose a super selective big name full boarding school over a top 5 super selective grammar (day). Logistics i.e. travelling aside which was a big issue for us, I felt the grammar was an exam factory and I just didn't like its ethos and that the boarding school offered a much broader curriculum (fairly obviously they have the time and resources to do this) and I loved its ethos. Last year through work I was at the grammar for a couple of days I was right it is an exam factory and I I hated the ethos!
My DS isn't overly sporty and is certainly not a team sports player but he was exposed to things at his boarding school that the grammar never could with all the good will in the world. He's very science/math orientated but this exposure meant he took art and science based subject for Pre U (A level equivalent). I think if he'd gone to the grammar he would have become a science nerd.
also preferred the staff at the boarding school very relaxed and informal and most of the parents they like me are totally hands off. I found the parents at the super selective grammar scary (and I'm not easily scared) ambition was bristling out of their every pore.

happygardening Fri 10-Nov-17 16:58:47

"More "normal" range of pupils?
I guess it how you define normal

Kazzyhoward Fri 10-Nov-17 17:08:53

I guess it how you define normal

It all depends which grammar you're talking about. There's a massive difference between a "normal" grammar in a "normal" town, as opposed to some super selective in a leafy millionaire area of Kent.

AnotherNewt Fri 10-Nov-17 17:14:03

If the academic level is the same, it's down to your DC's personality and how well you think they would fit in to school - ethos, pastoral care, co-curricular opportunities.

Also availability of subject options, willingness to run courses even when take up is only a handful of pupils. Availability of equipment and materials, number of practical lab sessions

Convenience of school run.

CamperVamp Fri 10-Nov-17 23:56:47

Surely it depends on the respective schools. Grammars are not all the same. Selective Independents are not all the same.

Hoppinggreen Sat 11-Nov-17 10:04:06

We made the decision based on facilities, class sizes and distance

AveEldon Sat 11-Nov-17 16:36:07

Language choices
School trips
How far people travel to each school - some have a wide geographic spread

Bekabeech Sat 11-Nov-17 18:13:11

It really depends. I know inEssex lots of parents who could afford fees would instead send their children to the Grammars if they got in. (But if they didn’t would pay to give them the next best chance.)

BubblesBuddy Sat 11-Nov-17 19:27:30

It depends on the grammar and the independent. You should get smaller classes at the independent and the big pull for us, aside from boarding, was the fact that at the independent DD would get a chance to have a go at what she wanted to do and would not be selected out. The grammar was 1300 Girls, the independent was 450.

There were more very bright girls at the grammar but I had heard the competitive parents for years going on and on about how their worlds would collapse if their DCs didn’t get a place it just seemed best for us to leave them to it. The girls grammar is outstanding and results were comparable.

DD had huge opportunities at her school and grasped them. She wasn’t sporty but she spent a term at a school in South Africa and did a lot of music at school as well as drama and House competitions. It was a truly rounded and broad education. We didn’t regret it. DD has the job she always wanted and school gave her the confidence to go for it.

sendsummer Sat 11-Nov-17 19:55:11

The main reason for a grammar school would be shorter days (including possibly no Saturday school) leaving more flexibility for time consuming outside activities. However if your DS would like activities within school day then the independent usually suits better.
I am not convinced by the super selective grammars are exam factories argument. I think some selective independent schools are just as much exam factories (in that their reputation depends on exam results) but masked by a glossier package. Other independent schools do really deliver extra to the syllabus. I don't count EPQs which are a cheap way for sixth forms to get extra points for their pupils and for certain school league tables.
Grammar schools will have less funds for activities and teaching certain subjects and parents may have to be more involved to compensate for the lack of resources.

goodbyestranger Sat 11-Nov-17 20:10:12

My decision - in a world where money was no object - would be based entirely on the individual merits of the two schools in question. My experience (across eight children who've attended over the past sixteen years) is of a super selective grammar which is not and never has been an exam factor and has worked very well for a parent like myself who prefers to stand right back and let the teachers do the teaching. sendsummer sounds a very wise cautionary note about the effect of financial implications for provision, but the ethos of a school and its leadership is vastly more important, ultimately, in a pupil's experience, than issues of funding. That said, grammars, along with the whole of the state sector, are squeezed and that will make itself felt in certain less popular subjects being cut and certainly in the ability of a school to offer four subjects at KS5. I agree that the EPQ is a cheap option. Not without merit but there's no doubt that part of its appeal to state schools is the low cost of rolling it out.

goodbyestranger Sat 11-Nov-17 20:12:04

Grrrr: exam factory etc.

lljkk Sat 11-Nov-17 20:12:41

I dunno, OP. I can tell you why I would choose a school with a big range of society there. That I benefited from being a big fish in a little pond myself. That I don't want my kids socially isolated from other types of people.

but if you don't care about those things then you don't care about things I do, so our best decisions are different ones.

sendsummer Sat 11-Nov-17 20:22:39

Goodbyestranger and llijk make critical points about the importance of school leadership and which demographic you want.

FanDabbyFloozy Sat 11-Nov-17 21:24:01

A grammar - regardless how selective - can rarely match the facilities and opportunities of the top independent schools. I see my DC's friends at indies doing sports ranging fencing to zumba while her school offer a paltry selection of sports in comparison. Ditto for subject choices along the way I'm sure.

However the grammar school child sees real life - even the most selective school has children from all walks of life. Several of my DC's friends share bedrooms and are short of treats at home, and boy has it made my DC grateful.
We could afford fees quite easily but for social reasons we went for a grammar. No right answer for all..

goodbyestranger Sat 11-Nov-17 21:35:42

That's good to hear FanDabbyFloozy, I hadn't actually realized I was providing a social service at our school until now (my three eldest girls - DC1, DC2 and DC3 - shared a bedroom, my three eldest boys - DC4, DC5 and DC6 - shared another bedroom and my last two, DS4 and DD4, shared a cupboard). I always thought we were relatively comfortable too.... but very glad to be of help smile

goodbyestranger Sat 11-Nov-17 21:38:51

But come to think of it that probably replicated boarding school conditions without the fees (and admittedly the zumba).

FanDabbyFloozy Sat 11-Nov-17 22:21:04

@goodbyestranger - ha you've made me laugh!

I shared bedrooms myself growing up but it seemed increasingly rare until my DD went to her grammar school. Now it seems normal, plus traveling by bus/tube and generally dealing with real life. It's a world apart from the comfy coach to the independent school we had otherwise in mind.

I don't regret it, bar the zumba of course wink

happygardening Sat 11-Nov-17 22:36:20

The “see real life “ is an interesting arguement. I would be the first to admit that compared with many my DS when at school didn’t see much “real life” although out of school he did see some but Im not going to patronise peoples intelligence by saying he saw lots. It’s inevitable that in our private lives generally we have a tendency to mix with others who are “like us” people who we meet doing the same things and who are interested in the same things we are.
But having said this during his gap year he did four jobs and worked with, socialised with and became friends with people from all backgrounds from multi multi millionaires through to those who are barely able to feed themselves. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wouldn’t make seeing real life or not my main criteria for choosing an school in either sector.
Choose the one you feel most comfortable at.

justicewomen Sat 11-Nov-17 23:15:20

if you are thinking of day schools then geography play an important part. My DS had offers from a selective grammar school an hour bus ride away and an independent a short walk away. He chose the latter and went there (with a substantial scholarship) and really enjoyed it. Plan for a reluctant grumpy teenager in the depths of winter rather than your fresh faced 10/11 year old. Also do you want co-ed or single sex and from how far do they draw their pupils (because you will be ferrying them to friends houses)

Incidentally the social background of the pupils at both schools is very similar; primarily middle class. Hardly any pupil premium kids at the grammar school; and quite a few on full bursaries at the independent .

StewardsEnquiry Sun 12-Nov-17 08:37:58

Thanks everyone for your ideas. Your advice has helped me understand much better.

lljkk - interesting what you say. I too was a big fish in a little pond and actually I don't think it benefitted me one bit. I don't want that for my child.

Rudi44 Sun 12-Nov-17 10:05:23

Re the comment above re more time for time consuming activities if attending a grammar from our experience our small selective independent school actively encourages and supports children in their extra curricular pursuits as it reflects well on the school to have high achieving girls in sports etc. Also lots of very normal children at our school on scholarships and bursaries. For us it was the breadth of subjects studied, the size of the school and classes and facilities on offer

WombatChocolate Sun 12-Nov-17 12:19:30

I think it depends on the quality of both the grammar and the independent.

An absolutely top flight independent can offer more than a grammar - the massive fees and highly able staff (not just academically able, but also in a range of other areas too which a state school just cannot afford to employ - eg top cricket coach) means a truly broad curri ulum of excellence can be offered.
The question is, will your child make use of the super duper opportunities or only those available in grammars or comps?
And will your child be at a top flivht indie or a more middling one which in reality migh not offer much more than the grammar in terms of curriculum, extra curriular or quality of staff.

It is hard to totally ignore the fees aspect because they are a key reason why the experience can differ so much. On an overall experience per £ I think the grammar must win. The question is whether you want to pay lots for the extras which my be very slight or significant depending on the indie in question.

I Actually think an indie can benefit a middling child most. Lots of indies will push and push and really force the best out of a child and get them to over perform of you like. That kind of child may not do so well in grammar with large classes and funding cuts.

Depends on the individual grammar, individual indie individual child, what the individual family wants and values most. Trouble is, when looking at these questions most people don't have perfect information especially about the schools, so its hard to decide.

For most, faced with a middling indie (and most are middling despite glossy brochure and sales pitch) and a child who can pass the state grammar exam for a good grammar, who aren't absolutely absolutely loaded, grammar is a good choice and the extras of indie are not worth it.....notice all the caveats.

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