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Private school vs non-selective super state school - VERY LONG!

(52 Posts)
Hotdrop1 Fri 01-Dec-17 11:00:41

‘First world problem’ alert and also this situation is hypothetical as my DS hasn’t received offers from either of these types of school (yet – hopefully!). My issue is that when my one and only child was born I made a promise to myself that he would have a top-notch education i.e. private. This is based, not only on results, but also on the impression I have that kids from private schools seem to emerge with ‘polish’, confidence and a sense the world is there’s for the taking (in a positive way). On him starting school, I then became aware of really outstanding non-selective state secondary schools. He’s now in year 6 and I’ve applied for two of these. They’re both in the Sunday Times Top 100 state school list and our first choice of these is in the top 20. I’ve loved this school when I’ve been to see it. It seems to have all the passion and drive of a private school but there are no exams to get in and no fees! As well as these I’ve also applied for some carefully chosen private schools i.e. ones where the boys I met on open days were a real delight: bright, ambitious, funny, personable (not toffs and not snobs). The kids in our No.1 preferred super-state school were like this too though. There is every chance that my son won’t get into any of the preferred schools that we’ve applied for (private or state) that we’ve applied to but I’ve already started thinking (worrying) about what on earth I’d do if he got an offer from on of a super-state and from a private school. When I think about him going to a super-state, I feel slightly anxious because the outcomes I’m after (good results plus ‘polish’ etc) is potentially less guaranteed. It also makes me feel that I’m being a cheapskate with regard to my son’s education. When I think about him going to a private school, I feel anxious about the money involved and that I’m throwing away an opportunity for him to get a great education for free in the state system. On the money side of thing, sending him to private school will be a stretch. I’d have to think about money A LOT more, cutting back on some things that we currently enjoy. I may have do more work (my employer says he can give me more although I dislike my job). If we opted for the state school option, there would be no money worries and we could have a really comfortable life (but with potentially a constant niggle that I’ve back tracked on the promise I’d always made: that he would be privately educated). My question is: has anyone else faced this dilemma and if so what did you choose, were you pleased with your choice or did you regret it. All advice would be very gratefully received. I’m thinking about this now, as I don’t want to have to do it in a panic when the offers come out (should I be lucky enough to get them from these schools).

CheapSausagesAndSpam Fri 01-Dec-17 11:06:50

If he were to be offered a place at both, you should in my opinion take the free place.

This is because you could put the fee money away as a gift for him when he's old enough to be responsible.

He could use it to invest in property or start a business. This is a very valuable gift.

If you're lucky enough to live in an area where the schools are excellent then why not take advantage of that and use the cash for another security for his future?

GetMeOut Fri 01-Dec-17 11:59:07

Also think of the future as well. Any fees ‘saved’ now could be used to fund university and post graduate education and living costs. A lot of universities now seem to have to select more state pupils so you might actually be improving his prospects of obtaining a place at a top university if you went with the state option.
Also, a lot of employers are now interviewing on a ‘blind’ basis - they don’t care where you went to school, what your results are - they are just looking at the raw potential. You can’t ‘buy’ that.

nocampinghere Fri 01-Dec-17 12:03:59

with potentially a constant niggle that I’ve back tracked on the promise I’d always made: that he would be privately educated

sorry but that is a silly promise. surely you mean he would have the best education i can provide?
what makes you think that private = superior. It is certainly not as black and white as that in the real world.

just relax. apply for the schools. see what you get. Trust that you will have a moment of clarity when you have the offers in black and white.

Ttbb Fri 01-Dec-17 12:12:07

If you can afford to pay it would've wrong not to. The welfare system is collapsing because wealthy people have no qualms about abusing state services.

Astronotus Fri 01-Dec-17 12:46:45

I have experienced both state, state grammar and independent. If you are wondering whether you will have enough money for indie I would be cautious. With a 5% increase in fees each year and substantial other costs such as deposit (£1,500), uniform, extensive amount of sports kit, more expensive trips (compared to the state grammar) you may find yourself too stretched. If you get a place at the good state school you mention why not take that? Your child will meet hard working and lazy children in all types of school, some confident, some not so confident. You can always opt for indie later on or for sixth form.

BubblesBuddy Fri 01-Dec-17 12:58:44

Go for the state option. You have not promised anything to anyone and you don’t really sound like you can afford Private for years and years without major compromises.

Universities offer to the best candidates not candidates from certain schools.

You need to ensure he is “polished”. Schools don’t necessarily do this for you. My DDs were educated privately and many at their schools were not polished at all! In fact they rebelled against it!

You need to stay positive, do the best you can. Save for Private 6th form if you think it is better. However some private schools are way better than others so a top notch 6th form is worth it if it gives your child an excellent education plus extra curricular and good university and careers guidance. An average school is not worth the money.

LetsSplashMummy Fri 01-Dec-17 13:11:14

What is your son like? Unless you think he is likely to end up in the corporate world in the city, I can't see any advantages to choosing the private school. That "polish" is often bluster and the confidence partly due to the fact they have advantages and money in every area of their lives, not the school itself.

Everyone has a baby and vague ideas about what kind of parent they will be, nobody could keep all these promises (I'll never shout, he'll only ever eat organic...) you are hardly letting him down by choosing an outstanding state school, money for holidays and mum working less.

AveEldon Fri 01-Dec-17 13:15:24

Make sure you factor in the private school fee increases which can be up to 10% a year. Plus any extras - lunches, trips, transport

Gruach Fri 01-Dec-17 13:21:06

Very long and not a word about what might best suit your child!

Take a step back. Obviously you will make the decision - but surely he has expressed some opinion or shown some leanings that might guide you to the right choice for him?

happygardening Fri 01-Dec-17 13:21:57

"When I think about him going to a super-state, I feel slightly anxious because the outcomes I’m after (good results plus ‘polish’ etc) is potentially less guaranteed."
No school in either sector will guarantee results or polish. If that's what you're paying for then you could be disappointed. I'm writing as someone who believes in private education and who's DS2 boarded from yr 2 and went to one of the countries top boys boarding schools. I have never regretted paying school fees, and IMO my DS has turned out brilliantly and also got excellent results, but I was always aware that it might not turn out how I hoped it would.
Private doesn't always mean better even at the most famous schools because it may not suit your DS. On the other hand a super state may not suit your DS either.
The only thing I will say is that private schools or independent as I prefer to call them are exactly that independent of much government interference. Secondly money is exceedingly tight in the state sector as it is in all of the public sector and I guess if my children were school age I would worry what impacts this will have on their education. Secondly teachers seem to be totally and utterly demoralised and leaving in droves, my children have left school now so I'm not really in the loop but some may say this is a cause for concern. Having said this not all independent schools have large budgets either and for all I know they struggle to recruit and retain teachers.
If you get offered places at both try and visit both again, look wiht a critical eye, watch what's going on, watch teachers and staff how do they interact? Do you like what you see? Does you DS have a particular interest do either schools offer it? Talk to pupils ideally not the ones who are a "delight: bright, ambitious, funny, personable (not toffs and not snobs)" the normal ones going about their every day lives, ask them about their school, what do they think about it? Don't be wowed by facilities etc ultimately they are meaningless.
If you're going to struggle to pay think carefully about it what will you do if an unexpected bill comes in at the same time as the fees? Can you afford the uniform etc as said above sports kit is usually expensive although second hand shops are the norm in the independent sector and we found trips were significantly cheaper. Check what else you will have to pay for; we paid for every text book, piece of paper, public exams etc. Also as said above fees do rise every year can you really afford this?

BellBookandCandle Fri 01-Dec-17 13:27:45

Tttb. .. really? It is dishonest people who abuse welfare and other services regardless of financial status Education is not part of the welfare state either. It is there for all to access if they so chose to educate their children in the state sector.

Hotdrop1 - I think you are overthinking/worrying too much. If the schools in your area are excellent, try for the state schools first, if you find they are not a good fit then you can consider a move to private education.

DP and I have seen a huge change in DD since we transferred to a private school, she has her love for learning back and is much more confident inside and outside of school.

Austentatious Fri 01-Dec-17 13:29:37

We have a similar choice with a super selective grammar place in the bag. I am looking at it from a class size perspective (32 vs 18) and hidden expenses- I kno one child already at the state school having £700/ month in tutoring outside school to keep up, and apparently at least 50% of the kids have maths tutoring . Also - extras - if I have to pay for all the drama / sport / etc outside school and critically stop working and earning at 3pm to ferry around for them, I'm not in a significantly better position materially. I'm leaning indie as a result but we have no mortgage / 2 incomes which helps

ParadiseCity Fri 01-Dec-17 13:30:23

It's not about what you've promised yourself. It's about what school fits your actual child.

happygardening Fri 01-Dec-17 13:35:00

"£700/ month in tutoring outside school"
Really I find that hard to believe. Thats a hell of a lot of tutoring even if they're paying £50 an hour thats 14 sessions month I think I'd be asking myself if my DC was in the right school if they need that much tutoring to "keep up".

Fluffysparks Fri 01-Dec-17 13:43:12

Ttbb if they’re offered a place it is not abuse. The state system is there for everybody not just those who can’t afford private shock hmm

ChocolateWombat Fri 01-Dec-17 14:14:53

You need to look more carefully at what both of these schools can actually provide and what really matters.

You also need to realise that paying for education doesn't make you a better parent and nor does responding flexibly to situations as they arise, rather than rigidly sticking to an idea you had many years ago when not I. Receipt of all the info.

As you say, you may not get places in either school so it will all be academic anyway. However, if you have the offer of a top state school, then seize it IF it suits your child - and this is key - the school has to suit your particular child and not just be a great school theoretically on paper. If both would serve him well, then go for the state option and save yourself the worry of fees which it sounds as if would be a stretch for you, especially with the guaranteed increases well above inflation.

Independent schooling can be great - but you need to see it for what it is, rather than some kind of magical thing which will create this polish thing you seem to seek. In the end, it will be the experiences you give your child and the character you help him build which will mean he is polished or not, whatever that means - schools don't magically instill this in all who enter their gates.

FanDabbyFloozy Fri 01-Dec-17 14:23:45

We had a similar dilemma - super selective grammar versus highly selective independent. We decided on state for social reasons - being able to mix with kids from all walks of life will stand to them later in life. We had the money to afford private but they can have the money towards uni/first apartment etc.

FanDabbyFloozy Fri 01-Dec-17 14:27:15

@Austentatious I've heard similar about two North London schools recently - one highly sought after private, one super selective.. Surely the only ones who need that tutoring are the kids who were pushed too hard and got into a school too academic for them?

Austentatious Fri 01-Dec-17 14:38:21

you'd think so, but when it's so prevalent in maths (and these are kids being tutored to get from a 6 to an 8 or 9, not to pass) it's possibly competitive parenting / mass hysteria. The one child I know is being tutored in several subjects, hence the vast sum per month (& it's just for this exam year that it's cranked up a notch, but they've been tutored since getting in - very much a culture in the SS that it's not about coping, it's about getting A*s / 8s and 9s)

MrsPatmore Fri 01-Dec-17 14:47:09

We also had this dilemma. In the end we opted for a super selective grammar. The Independents we considered were wonderful but I couldn't quite see ds fitting in - there were a lot of city banker types at a couple and ds is shy and quirky. Make sure the school is a good 'fit' for your son and not just because you were impressed with the 'product'. We were blindsided by this but realised that ds might be crushed by the alpha boys atmosphere. The school we really liked best was £10,000 a term so that was out financially unfortunately. But would have been a great fit.

I suppose the grammar was 'second best' in some ways but it suits his personality and our circumstances and I'm confident he'll come out with the same qualifications (but may have to work harder for them- there is no spoon feeding). If the independent is a stretch, you will be miserable as they pile on all sorts of hidden costs on top of the basic fees (which can go up annually). Are you certain your job/health will be maintained over the fee paying period. Have you looked into bursaries?

SoddingSoda Fri 01-Dec-17 14:48:09

Firstly ask your son what school he prefers.

But my recommendation would be go for the state and use the money what you would have used on fees for extra-curricular, camps abroad, DofE gold to Peru, language conversational lessons, extra tutoring, skiing trips, sports tours etc. That's what gives these kids that polish of the confidence, social skills and the feeling that the world's their oyster.

EssentialHummus Fri 01-Dec-17 14:52:30

What soda said. Have you actually considered the likelihood of getting a place at the state school in question? Looked at last distance admitted data etc?

DivisionBelle Fri 01-Dec-17 19:15:46

Have you applied to any regular state schools?

You have put a hell of a pressure on yourself, and huge expectations on any school. Of course schools choose the outgoing ambassadors for the school to show you round in Open Day: the shy awkward kids don’t put their name down. A school cannot change a personality, just provide the right input and atmosphere to enable your child to fulfil their potential.

The biggest factor in ensuring a child’s success is their home environment, not school, and even that is not guaranteed.

Do not choose a school you really cannot afford just because you have made some daft pact with yourself. You can support your child better if you are not stressed, miserable and spending every hour in a job you hate.

DivisionBelle Fri 01-Dec-17 19:17:11

And State schools not in the top 100 etc also turn out well educated, confident young people with long lists of A*s.

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