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How do I compare independent schools to state schools?

(34 Posts)
PersonAtHome Mon 19-Mar-18 22:09:47

I'm not sure how to properly compare the quality of independent schools against each other and also against local state schools.

I've used the government compare tool but a lot of the private schools don't have information available.

I'd hoped that I'd be able to find a ranking of all schools both state and private but can't find this for either. A while ago I found something on a local newspaper website that ranked the local state schools top to bottom but this has now been taken down.

Can anyone help?

OP’s posts: |
happygardening Mon 19-Mar-18 23:21:47

if you want to ran them according to exam results most independent schools publish their exam results on their websites, with this info you can then devise you rank them yourself. I'm no maths mathematician but even I could do this if I wanted to. Obviously you have to take into consideration how selective they are, but then you'd have to do that in the state sector. Do look at the actual subjects as well especially for A levels . 89% getting A*'s is more impressive if every subject is a very academic one you could also look at university destination if they are published, although to get an accurate picture you need to know how many are in the 6th form if for example a schools 15 went onto Oxbridge last this is impressive if there are only 90 pupils in yr 13 less impressive if there are 250.
If its value added or % from outside of the UK you want you could look at ISI reports although IMO they are fairly worthless and this info is not always readily available.

happygardening Mon 19-Mar-18 23:22:37

rank them not ran them!

TammyWhyNot Tue 20-Mar-18 04:24:56

Visit the schools. Do you like the atmosphere, the ethos, the behaviour?
Do they do the subjects your Dc wants to do? The particular languages, etc. Do they have what you are looking for in terms of music provision?

Do they have children of the same academic potential as yours? Is there some indication that children of all abilities are being challenged, and supported, do the exam outcomes look ok.

Ranking and meticulous statistical comparison is pointless. 2 students who get overtired and anxious and get (shock horror) B’s instead of As will reduce the % stats. Some schools fiddle the stats: see the current thread where a school is entering a child as an external candidate because she has missed a term for illness. The statistical comparison will tell you that it is THE top girls school!

Your child will do best where they feel happy and confident. A table of comparitive stats won’t tell you that.

stateschoolparent Tue 20-Mar-18 17:08:41

IMO the only sensible test is to look at the percentage of A*/A grades achieved by pupils at A level. GCSE statistics can be misleading in state schools since some of the exams reported as GCSEs could be BTECs and also because a state school's GCSE's results can depend on how many pupils are from deprived backgrounds /on free school meals, how many don't speak english as a first language etc. Independent school results are freely available on their websites and league table are compiled by the likes of the Sunday Times and various others -see eg
The national average of state schools is around 26% A*/A at A level but in some areas it is much higher and there are non-selective state schools which have around 50% A*/A grades at A level . Indeed a surprisingly high number of the local private schools in my area had worse A level results last year than the better state schools. To me this would be a red flag i.e. if a local private school has worse A levels than a local non-selective state school then you would have to think carefully before spending your money...

BertrandRussell Tue 20-Mar-18 17:17:34

Assume that your child will get broadly similar exam results wherever they go. Because they will. And anyway, it is pretty near impossible to compare state/private results because the cohorts are so different.

Look at all the other stuff. It is difficult to match the cultural capital your money buys in a good private school ( I emphasize good because some are rubbish) because there just aren’t the hours in the day. Go and look. Ask loads of questions. Think about what you want to spend your money on. Think about whether private education matches your political/philosophical values. Think about where your child would be happy.

Sunnyshores Tue 20-Mar-18 17:34:20

Is your only criteria for comparison what exam grades students get? Because if so your missing a large part of the point of independent schools.

Without double checking, Marlboroughs exam results arent great yet it is considered one of the best independents in the country (not by me)

IMO its about exposure to a more rounded education and preparation for life, its about opportunities for different subjects, more sports, being amongst different nationalities (our school anyway), different thinking, confidence.....

I dont think all schools suit all children whether private or state, you need to know what suits your own child, not reduce the decision to how many random children got 5 A*s last year.

Traalaa Tue 20-Mar-18 18:09:07

I'm laughing uproariously at the belief that private education offers 'a more rounded education and preparation for life'. How does cutting your child off into an elite sector do that?! And different nationalities are going to be the norm in pretty much any state school in a city and they'll be far more diverse than in the private sector.. <ducks, as I'm sure I'll get shouted at>

BertrandRussell Tue 20-Mar-18 18:15:48

Difficult. In one way a good private school does offer a more rounded education than most state schools, because they have the resources to provide a much richer cultural environment, a broader range of subjects and more extra curricular opportunities

Obviously not “rounder” in terms of mixing with a diverse range of people in socio/economic terms.

PersonAtHome Tue 20-Mar-18 19:06:08

Thanks for the replies.

To give more context.. we may be too late to apply to private schools. DS2 is year 6. I'd thought he'd get into the grammar like his brother but he didn't. I then thought we'd get our first choice state secondary but we didn't. So I'm now doing a last minute scramble to see if a) any private schools have spare spaces and b) working out how to assess them against our allocated state school (and also our waiting list school) to better understand if they are worth the money.

I did visit a couple of private schools but at the time wasn't heavily invested as I thought he'd get into the grammar.

He went to state primary, then we switched to private for years 5 & 6 so I have experience of both sectors.

I find it difficult to compare our local state schools to the private schools as the open days are not as informative.

I've seen on Mumsnet several times people talking about the best state schools being better than the worst private schools and I suppose at the heart of it I'm trying to work out whether the private schools I'm comparing are good private schools or not so good private schools. As we've only been to one for two years I'm not really sure how to judge this!

OP’s posts: |
stateschoolparent Tue 20-Mar-18 19:20:43

Sunnyshores the Sunday Times most recent league table of independent schools results ranks Marlborough at 110 so I wouldn't necessarily call it a leading independent at present. Indeed its 2017 A level results (48% A*/A) are similar to our local non-selective state school.
I agree with the others that whether private schools offer a more rounded education is open to debate. The problem IMO is that the areas where private schools are stronger (such as drama, sport, music etc) are areas where state school parents-especially in London- can provide opportunities to excel outside school. Whereas many private school pupils -and especially those who attend prep schools instead of state primaries- have no experience of whole sections of society . I wouldn't accept that the wealthy foreigners at many private schools provide a diverse environment and at some schools they keep to themselves anyway. On the contrary the huge rise in school fees means that the types of British families who can afford private education has narrowed leading if anything to a less diverse British student body which has been supplemented by the international rich.

Sunnyshores Tue 20-Mar-18 20:59:25

Im not going to get into the debate of whether private is better than state, and Im certainly not going to be rude enough to criticise someone for the decision they make for their child..

OP if you're looking for a grammar school type education then yes there are certain private schools that are waaay more academic than others. Mostly they are selective, with entrance exams and have waiting lists. They wont necessarily be the more expensive ones, youre not paying just for results.

Get a copy of the Good School Guide, they get remarkably good insights into school life and ethos and dont include schools just for their results. That said if your son is motivated and bright he should be do well in any 'good' school, so is it really worth £15-20k a year for maybe one grade higher results? Or do you value the other private school advantages too?

Have you asked the Prep school which senior school they think would suit him?

You my have more luck naming the private schools youre considering and asking for any knowledge of them.

TammyWhyNot Tue 20-Mar-18 21:04:43

You can’t even generalise on things like music. Our local comp has a music offer that way outstrips many private schools. Every child can have 121 tuition, it is £50 a term, the orchestra and choirs are top notch...

I would say that the difference is not in quality of education, but things like class size, amount of communication parents get with the school, quality of facilities.

OP: sorry you got a knock-back over the Grammar and first preference school, and hope your DS is holding up through the uncertainty.

Bekabeech Tue 20-Mar-18 21:06:37

I looked at private schools for my eldest. A key aspect for me was commuting time, and how long the effective school days was - and balancing this against advantages. It's worth while also considering time that might be spent on sport, music or extra tutoring.

Also where are you on the waiting list for your preferred school? How much movement is there usually? Do you have any grounds for appeal - hobbies or interests of your son which this school meets?

PersonAtHome Tue 20-Mar-18 21:51:42

Bekabeech we're currently at position 17 on the waiting list and the council won't tell me how many children got in from the waiting list in previous years, though they did say that in the past they have seen children at position 17 go through (but every year is different and they didn't say whether that was just one year out of many).

I haven't asked the prep school about suitability of next schools because I feel a bit awkward and embarrassed to be seriously considering state schools and don't think the head is geared up to advise on those - all the other parents are just looking at private schools. Also the prep school wants to persuade pupils to stay until end of year eight.

I'll have a look at the Good Schools guide, thank you.

DS seems ok at the moment with the uncertainty, his main concern is that the children at his prep school all say that his allocated school is terrible and so he's finding it hard to get excited about that (even though he actually liked it when he looked round). It's hard to stay enthusiastic about the allocated schools when all the other parents and children talk of it with horror (it used to have a bad reputation but has really come up in recent years).

It's tricky to unmuddle all the strands - I feel a bit 'spoiled' having done two years of private and seeing how good it is to have small class sizes and lots of opportunities that weren't available in the state primary (learning an instrument, sports fixtures for all, drama opportunities, languages, individual subject lessons). But the private school hasn't had space to put him in the top stream (despite his results being the same as others in that stream) which is disappointing (and may have contributed to him narrowly missing the pass mark for the grammar). Plus some of the teachers haven't been as good as at the state primary (based on my 10 year old's view).

OP’s posts: |
DollyDayScream Tue 20-Mar-18 22:00:54

It's a bit like comparing 4* and 5** hotels.

Just don't have the same expectations, it's not comparing low for like.

DollyDayScream Tue 20-Mar-18 22:01:28

LIKE for Like.

Bekabeech Wed 21-Mar-18 07:30:18

Okay - my eldest got in from starting at at least 25th on the waiting list.

To consider how realistic try to find out: is this a "low" or "high" birth rate year (if you can find the present furthest distance and what it was at round 1 in previous years, this can help)? Are there any new developments? Is it a school used as "back up" to private or more desirable schools? How mobile is the population (eg. near Universities there is often a churn every year)?

I have friends who were shocked that at one private (very highly thought of) school near me, a lot of the teachers are trainees. Most DC I know seem to come out with very similar grades regardless of which school they go to. There are differences with some students and some schools, which is why I had a preference for the school for my DC.
But for very high ranking sports people the State schools might be better (more flexible and less sport in school gives time for training with clubs out of school); but for an average sports person the private schools might be better.

I just wouldn't panic into a private school you are less than happy with, as it might be a mistake. Especially as without "other people" you seemed okay with even the school offered.
Do remind your son that if parents are paying a lot for private education, then they have a lot invested in seeing it as superior.

CallYourDadYoureInACult Wed 21-Mar-18 07:38:24

You need to get over yourself and talk to the head. It’s a major part of his job to advise on next schools and any head worth his salt should be able to say: “this school will suit your boy, this one won’t”. There is no point getting yourself tied in knots over schools that are not right for your DS.

He will also know the local state schools. He will have seen parents like you before as there is a lot of movement from private To state that you might not know about.

You are throwing away the greatest resource that you have if you don’t talk to him.

titchy Wed 21-Mar-18 08:01:35

So your kid has no school because your embarrassed to ask your head, whose job it is. hmm

To be blunt every day that goes reduces your choices. You won't presumably have much choice of state anyway so get him on lists TODAY. And ffs talk to your head.

TammyWhyNot Wed 21-Mar-18 08:06:40

If your Ds liked the allocated school when you looked round, and it is ‘on the uo’ It sounds like a good bet to me! Go and see it again, talk to your Dd about prejudice and reputation and get him out of this snob-pit!

This is why parents should not slag off schools in front of kids. What do they think they are doing? angry

PersonAtHome Wed 21-Mar-18 08:23:27

Titchy where did you get the idea that my child has no school and is on no list from? As I said we're applying for state schools and have a school allocated. Looking at private places last minute is a response to not getting our first two choice schools and has nothing to do with our headmaster.

I should have said before - my husband and I had an appointment with the head in year five and at that point we were focussed on the grammar. He didn't know our son that well as we'd only recently joined. All the schools he mentioned were private. When we said we'd keep our options open re state / private he still didn't say anything about any of the local state schools, just the private ones. He looked at us with surprise that we were even considering the state schools.

He ran an evening for parents on next step schools with lists of local schools - no state school was on this list. His office is full of brochures for private schools.

So I feel he's given a very clear message that he advises on private and not state schools - this is why I'd feel uncomfortable and awkward to set up an appointment now to discuss. Especially as I know they struggle to fill their year 7 spaces so I don't see how he can impartially advise me to go to the allocated school or not when he's trying to sell his own school.

OP’s posts: |
PersonAtHome Wed 21-Mar-18 08:27:21

Bekabeech thanks for your info, it's very reassuring to hear of a place from position 25 on the waiting list.

Thanks to everyone for posting.

OP’s posts: |
CallYourDadYoureInACult Wed 21-Mar-18 08:29:18

Of course he is not going to put out info on state schools at an information evening!
You are at a prep school, the majority of parents will stay to Y8 and he has to cater for that. But that does not mean that he will not be able to help.

Stop trying to second guess him, go in and ask!

I cannot believe that you are allowing your feelings of embarrassment to stop you getting the best outcome for your child.

TammyWhyNot Wed 21-Mar-18 08:49:51

I think it is unlikely that he will have info on state schools, I don’t think that is what Prep Heads do. But he should advise on 11+ private schools.

The problem is, it is in his interests to keep your DS til 13, and afaik the
CE curriculum is different from Yr 7&8.

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