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What are STATE schools in London like?

(381 Posts)
TeenTimesTwo Fri 23-Feb-18 11:41:39

I've been reading with mild interest the issue of exploding offers for CLGS.

But it made me wonder. From what I see in media (TV news, and papers), I have the impression that state schools in London have made great steps forward over the past 10-15 years and are now considered very good.

Is that true? Not just for schools with convoluted admissions criteria (like Grey Coats?) but on average for your ordinary run of the mill local secondary?

If so, why so much angst over applying to so many private schools? And the willingness to set up your 11 year olds for such long commutes? Is the education really so much better? Or is it 'snob value' or fear of the unknown, or 'because that's what my social circle does' or old reputations?

thewhitechapelfatberg Fri 23-Feb-18 12:04:03

Exactly as you say in your last sentence, @tenentimestwo.
The schools are fine. Classes are large, money is short and extracurricular activities are limited compared to what would be on offer at a school like CLSG, but the actual teaching is probably pretty similar. The biggest hurdle to a bright kid in a big-standard comp (in my experience) is poor behaviour / time wasting from other students and lower expectations (they’re already in the top 50% of achievers if they listen in class and actually bother to do, and hand in their homework).
If they can overcome that and still get top grades, those top grades are worth far more than those belonging to someone coming from a top few-paying school. Clearly not everyone can.
My DC’s mixed comp in inner London is Ofsted outstanding but extremely socially mixed with a very high proportions of free school meals and English as a second language, with many students coming from some of the most deprived areas of London. The long and short of it is that by paying, you are removing your child from these “obstacles” to learning and planting them in a like minded social circle.
Most of my friends and family have chosen a different route to me, but I see the well-rounded people my DCs are becoming, accepting of everyone, and have no regrets at my choice.

marytuda Fri 23-Feb-18 12:55:38

I've been following the exploding offers thread and thinking the same - why do London parents put themselves through that for the privilege of paying out however many thousands a year it is now for the next 7 years?
I think you have some of the answers OP - family habits and snobbery . . Racism also in the mix I fear; London state schools are, like inner London itself, surprise surprise, virtually all majority minority-ethnic . . . . Many indeed 100% minority-ethnic (though usually far from mono-ethnic, unlike (so I've heard) in a place like Bradford.)
That means they have no white kids at all! Imagine that, if you are from a posh or poshish all-white background yourself (bar the servants . . .) My poor little darlings!!
I've also gathered (from exploding offers thread) that the only type of state school any private school applicant would conceivably consider is a grammar school - apparently it's only the grammar results they are hanging on for as their private offers explode.
As parent of Y6 child I am also awaiting state school offers day with keen interest, but not desperation: all our 6 chosen inner London comprehensives are impressive in different ways, and my uncomplicated, able DS will be fine I am fairly sure at any of them.
What they are really like I'm not yet in a position to report first hand, obviously, but I am optimistic; the teaching, the kids, even the facilities many have access to (sometimes borrowing from the privates) are impressive - as are the academic results achieved Without Selection at 11!
In London - newsflash! - you really don't have to pay out a small fortune Or subject your 10 year old to a battery of 11+ examinations to access a top class education! Most parents desperate to do so are in my view either so moneyed the cash is of no consequence, or deluded. Or both.
The only thing that worries me a bit is state funding cuts, meaning it may be necessary to supplement extra-curricular stuff a bit more than a private school parent would.
I am, just about, from a generation where all state school kids in the country were pretty much forced to pass or fail (mostly fail) the 11 +. It was frankly cruel, even for those of us who passed, for reasons I won't elaborate now. I naively thought all that went out in the 1970s (except in Theresa May's constituency, and Kent, so I hear) so was sorry to find my 10 year old facing it again for privilege of applying for Any (including non-selective) state school in one of our neighbouring (Traditionally Tory) London boroughs.
Unprepared as he was, it was the only one of a series of "special aptitude" assessments I put him through (a means for even state comps to select a bit on the side, another story) that he minded. "Don't ever make me do another one like that, Mum," he said afterwards. I absolutely promised not to.
Incidentally, that 11+ day was full of prep school kids, some of whose parents are probably now agitating about exploding offers as they wait to see if their DC has got into, um, Graveney it would be. You could tell, partly, by how white everyone there was in comparison to our usual cohort.

notmyredditusername365 Fri 23-Feb-18 13:00:04

Yes, London state secondaries are now considered overall to be among the best in the country.

Why do people educate privately? Of course it is 90% snobbery. There is no other explanation. Maybe 10% of children (of the rich and priviliged) really wouldn't fare well in some of the more rufty tufty comprehensives. Shame for the kids who flounder there who don't have rich parents eh?

TeenTimesTwo Fri 23-Feb-18 13:16:56

I'm not against private education per se. I was privately educated myself. But personally I can't see the point of paying for something unless it is value for money. (I'm not at all convinced it was better for me to be at my school than at the local state option).

Also getting your 10year old to do multiple entrance tests, then in the case of CLGS telling them they have a place, only to have to tell them 48hours later that no actually they don't. It seems so out of hand.

Also, if all the families were to suddenly use the state system, then (apart from the fact the state system won't have the places), you might expect the average behaviour to improve where that is an issue, plus the parents would be active in the PTAs and could donate money to the school etc etc.

I don't believe a child's education should be 'sacrificed for ideology'. But if the London state options are good then I do wonder what people are really getting for their 20k(??) per year for 7 years.

And don't get me started on the occasional coaching for 4+ I see mentioned here

AveEldon Fri 23-Feb-18 13:17:42

marytuda - are you talking about the wandsworth test? Of course it was full of prep school kids - all the local state primary kids had already taken the test in school

eurochick Fri 23-Feb-18 13:25:04

I think you are way off the mark with the racism points, not least because london indies are generally ethnically very mixed.

We have a child heading into reception and are deciding on indie or state at the moment. We just want what we feel will be the best school for her, regardless of sector. Of our local schools my favourite is actually a state one, but due to a shrinking catchment she won't get in there. My next favourite is an indie.

FreeNiki Fri 23-Feb-18 13:29:37

I was baffled at the CLGS thread.

All the years of preparation and planning and pushing to pass exams and the time you have to research and visit these schools and you get an offer and sit on your hands and dither about it only to have it withdrawn as you weren't quick enough

Unbelievable. I guess money doesn't buy common sense.

notmyredditusername365 Fri 23-Feb-18 13:41:10

Are you saying that only children who go to private school know how to behave and only their parents are likely to get involved in PTA/fundraising stuff? confused.

TeenTimesTwo Fri 23-Feb-18 13:44:48

Free But this year the offers exploded within 24hrs I think of the acceptance window being opened. (Last year it was 13 days.) I don't think anyone should have had to anticipate that speed of response being required. That's not 'not having common sense'.

(Though I do struggle a bit with the idea that people won't have mentally made a preference order list the same way that we have to for the state application.)

comeinpax Fri 23-Feb-18 13:47:08

Lots of apparently high performing comps have a high percentage of private tutoring going on which boosts those grades.
Per pupil funding at some of the best schools has been cut in the past couple of years. The results of this is only just becoming apparent in lost staffing, extra-curricula cuts and the total culling of whole subject areas.
Unless your DC is in the top 1 per cent academically and can withstand a hell of a lot, I would beg and borrow to go independent if I had my chance again.

OutyMcOutface Fri 23-Feb-18 13:51:00

Well some of us realise that it's wrong to make the tax payer pay for our children to be educated when we can afford to do it ourselves. It not only puts more pressure on an already underfunded system but also means that we would be effectively taking money from people with far less than we have. I wouldn't send my child to a state school unless I was either permitted to pay for their tuition at the state school or the private options were so abysmal that I would be doing my child a disservice by sending them there. The welfare state only works when it only used by those who need it. Britain has already run out if money, we can only fund the welfare state by virtue of crippling cuts and borrowing. If people don't do the socially responsible thing and start to pay their own way it will collapse and the poor will suffer for it.

TeenTimesTwo Fri 23-Feb-18 13:51:30

notmy Are you saying that only children who go to private school know how to behave and only their parents are likely to get involved in PTA/fundraising stuff?

No not at all!

But on average people who can afford to pay for private education are likely to have more disposable income to throw at fundraising for the school, especially if their DC has an interest in music or drama so they can 'donate' lighting, instruments etc.

And also people who would be willing to fork out 20k per year for education are, I would think, likely to have a higher than general-average interest in their child's education, maybe bring them up to value it more and to expect higher levels of behaviour in school.

Also perhaps the people with higher incomes may correlate to people with more confidence and skills and time to organise fundraising events etc.

I could be wrong.

TeenTimesTwo Fri 23-Feb-18 13:54:47

Outy That is an interesting point re paying your way.

I'm pretty sure no state school would object to you donating to them to the cost of the education they give your child. In fact I would expect they would be incredibly grateful.

KHFC2018 Fri 23-Feb-18 13:57:09

First up I only have experience of a normal state primary in London, so I really can't speak for the state secondaries. But the lack of resources in the state system was obvious to me (lack of art supplies, no specialist teachers etc) and while the school tried their best and provided a reasonable education it could be so so much better. I guess some parents, after feeling like that for 7 years, think the private system might be an improvement.

TalkinPeace Fri 23-Feb-18 13:59:27

In some boroughs, fee paying schools pick up such a high percentage that the state schools are effectively local secondary moderns
but most london parents have access to several schools
apart from some of the "black hole roads" that are not in ANY catchment at all
and the big city effect mixed with a LOT more money for London schools over the last 20 years has had a massive impact.

Much of it is snobbery and prejudice and memories of parental childhood .
When I was a kid, the state school at the end of my road was a place to stay clear of.
Now I see it mentioned as "desirable" on threads on here grin

OutyMcOutface Fri 23-Feb-18 13:59:39

Do state schools even accept donations? Ilthought that they didn't beyond small scale fundraisingfor specific things. In that case I would definitely consider sending my DC to a state school and donating the equivalent of the cost of their place. Obviously I would still send them to the best option available but I would feel like a bad person if I chose a state school.

MrsLittle Fri 23-Feb-18 14:01:01

My DH and I were both educated in the state sector and both our DCs attend a state primary schools. We decided on private schooling for our eldest at secondary because of the opportunities for sport and higher levels of academic achievement. Our DD is very academic and often gets frustrated with the general chaos and inattention in her classroom. We have had continual problems with the school responding to our queries regarding bullying, learning targets and a host of other things. My biggest complaint is the school doesn't have the resources for all children to compete in sport. She has labelled herself "bad at sport" and has no interest in trying anything. She wants so badly to learn and DH and I felt if she were able to get an offer in a top private school, why not give the option to excel. If we had a grammar school option, that would have been the obvious choice for her, but we don't.

My second DD is a totally different character and she will probably do well at our local comp. Time will tell.

I agree with the other posters that the life lessons you learn in a socially and racially diverse learning environment are also very important. We accept that once in secondary, she will be in a bubble of west London wealth. Its up to us as parents to keep her grounded and encourage friendships and experiences beyond this. What this thread hasn't really recognised is that unless you are religious or have a good grammar, the local comps in London score quite low in both achievement and facilities.

Needmoresleep Fri 23-Feb-18 14:14:51

OutyMcOutface one simple and practical donation is of children's books. Our local comp was shockingly grateful when we gave a few boxes of Harry Potter/Alex Rider type books. No room in the budget to buy much so duplicate copies of popular books are very welcome.

TeenTimesTwo Fri 23-Feb-18 14:20:07

Outy Do state schools even accept donations?

1000x Yes they do!

MrsLittle the local comps in London score quite low in both achievement and facilities.

This is what my thread was asking about.

Of course facilities in state schools are unlikely to match the private sector. But does it really make a real difference to the education or is it all window dressing? Are the private sector parents getting so het up about which of their 5 offers is the very best really doing this for fancier science labs and options to do <obscure sport>.

And are results in the London comps actually poor, or just reflective of general average standards of children?

I live in Hants. Its a comp system. It gets good results. I struggle to see why people would pay / long commute for something else. So was wondering whether London education really is worse or whether expectations/desires are just totally different.

marytuda Fri 23-Feb-18 14:24:30

I think that's pretty extreme thinking, Outy. It's only one step away from accusing state school families of being "scroungers" . . . Especially those of us who could perhaps partly afford to pay . . . If we gave up everything but food . . . . Like I believe some private school parents do, virtually!
Good public education benefits everyone, whether we have kids in it or not. So it is absolutely a good investment of state funds, a no brainer to me frankly.
Where I was growing up virtually all middle-class people sent their kids private (it was a bit cheaper then I believe.) My, also middle-class, parents got a lot of looks from their friends for not doing so -
but there were 4 of us so they couldn't have afforded it. But their friends' biggest outrage (I remember) was reserved for "having to pay for Your Children to take O levels!" (Yes it's that long ago). You see, my siblings and I were entered for our exams at taxpayers' expense. While THEY had to pay entry fees - ON TOP OF regular school fees! A scandal indeed!
Yes Avedon I mean the Wandsworth test. I wasn't aware of that not being in Wandsworth myself. But it's still interesting to me that so many prep school kids were motivated to take a state school exam (effectively old-fashioned 11+), and I'm assuming it's just to do with Graveney (25% of whose intake is super-selected for those who don't know, hated the place myself!)
But there were also a lot of out of Wandworth state-school kids there that day including half my DS's class . . (the only non-white kids, just about!)
And while I'm back there . . Yes I know eurochick that London private schools nowadays are quite ethnically mixed . . . maybe 25% non-white? Less probably if you don't count the Russians??! You tell me, I expect it varies from school to school.
My point is, inner London state comps are 50%-100% non-white almost without exception. In most cases closer to 100% than 50%.

Traalaa Fri 23-Feb-18 14:24:47

Well some of us realise that it's wrong to make the tax payer pay for our children to be educated when we can afford to do it ourselves. Really?! hmm

All children are entitled to a free education. Giving your child a state education is one of the things your taxes pay for. Obviously lots pay higher rates based on income. If you do that, you're subsidising others who can't. That's fair and just how it should be. You can't kid yourself that you're doing good by paying for private education. You're removing your child from a huge swathe of society and buying something that is irrefutably elitist because you perceive it is better than whatever locally the state offers you. People choose private for all sorts of reasons, including sadly bad state schools, but it makes me so cross when people say they're sending their kids private to do us all a favour! Sorry.. I will duck as the responses fly...

fwiw, my son's in an inner city London comp. It's deemed 'good', not outstanding, but from all I've seen, he's having a great education, has a lovely group of friends and lots there do incredibly well, so straight A's and A*. I agree with others about the social values. He's meeting people from hugely diverse backgrounds and learning lots about life from being part of such a school community. You can't buy that.

TalkinPeace Fri 23-Feb-18 14:30:30

Donations to State schools :
Periodicals (New Scientist was always gratefully received by the school, it and the Economist by the college, the Wildlife magazine by the primary school)

"Comps" in London are all - every single one - within reach of selective schools
so there is much more sorting than her in Hampshire.
Many "comps" are much more like my local school than the one my kid sattended.

londonista1 Fri 23-Feb-18 14:36:25

Our Y6 has generally thrived at a London State Primary and there is no way we would have considered Private secondary if we hadn't seen how much it's struggled with resources (clubs closed, huge teacher churb, one TA per two classes, no homework, no trips) over the last couple of years. The head and teachers (the ones who are left) are excellent, but I'd hate to be a Y2 parent at the school now, I feel we've had the best of it.

The funding is only going to get worse, and it's going to get worst of all at London secondaries. Unfortunately, the lesson our kind-hearted country and their elected representative learn if London outperforms the regions is not how to make the regions better, but how to make London worse. So even less funding for London secondaries and a running-down of all the initiatives that have seen them improve.

We took the decision to go for a very selective independent, the one with the most bursaries and the biggest ethnic/social mix (I'm selling it to my conscience here... it's nowhere near local state level as a "representative" school, but it's the one with enough academic and atmospheric "pros" for our particular child to outweigh the "cons") because the probability is that there will be four more years of Tory government and four more years of cuts to London secondaries. Even after that it'll be a fair few years before rehabilitatory policies take hold. That's his entire secondary education, and I don't want it to be like the last couple of years at Primary or worse.

So, yes, most London secondaries have improved out of sight, but there's a natural fear that this state is not permanent.

MrsLittle Fri 23-Feb-18 14:36:43

A quick search through the league tables shows you that most London comprehensives (non-religious) are well out of the top 500 schools. There are a few exceptions, including Camden School for Girls, Fortismere and Waldegrave, but not everyone lives in the tight catchments for these few schools. There are always DCs who will thrive in any environment and go on to do very well, but a large comprehensive definitely would not suit my socially awkward, introverted and non-sporty child. For parents like us who can afford fees, it makes sense to offer her the best opportunity for learning.

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