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Scholarship or grammar?

(94 Posts)
Mumto2two Mon 03-Feb-20 11:03:07

Our daughter has been offered a couple of scholarships, one of which is quite a generous percentage of the fees, at a good school..although would still be a substantial financial outlay. She also has the option of a good local grammar, so are deliberating whether to take up the offer or not. On the upside, we are thinking that this might offer her a wonderful life opportunity, that is worth far beyond the discount...on the downside; it’s not local, there is still the remaining x% we’d have to fund...and a very different way of life for perhaps us all.... Our HT seemed shocked we were even considering not accepting. Does anyone have any advice or previous experience with making a similar decision? Am already losing sleep over it confused

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W00t Mon 03-Feb-20 11:06:32

Am in same position.
It entirely depends on the child and the schools concerned!
Not all independent schools are the same. Not all grammars are the same.
Perhaps posting in local boards about the schools concerned would let people comment on the specific schools?

FWIW, for my eldest, we turned down the scholarship, and chose the grammar, and it has been 100% the correct choice.
This child is v different child to her though!

Mumto2two Mon 03-Feb-20 11:07:37

Also, for any of you who have had children on scholarships have they fared generally with this ‘accolade’? Has the scrutiny and responsibility been a positive thing, or have there been negative aspects to it? I think our daughter would enjoy being a bigger fish in a slightly smaller pond...but am not sure exactly what the scholarship scrutiny might entail..thank you!

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peteneras Mon 03-Feb-20 11:46:03

I'd say, it depends entirely which two schools we're talking about here and how large is the scholarship. For the record, I was in this position some years ago and the two schools in question - sorry, three schools; two grammars and the independent - were (and still are) super, super schools! We dropped the grammars. PM me if you feel more comfortable talking about it.

Seeline Mon 03-Feb-20 11:50:37

What sort of scholarship is it - academic, sport, music etc? Often sport and music scholarships have more strings attached than academic ones, but generally it will depend entirely on the school. At DDs school a huge fuss is made over scholarship girls, and everyone knows who they are. at DSs school, I don't think anyone was particularly aware until around Y9.

As to which to choose, where do you see your DD being happiest, which has the ethos that you agree with. Are there any specific facilities/subjects/extra curricular on offer at any of the schools that would be of particular benefit to your DD.

SJaneS48 Mon 03-Feb-20 12:24:40

I agree with the PP, where is your child going to be happiest? I personally would go for the grammar on the basis it’s likely to be achieving great results. The children who’ve recently gone from our area to our grammars have by and large been the children you want your DC being friends with! If it is a super selective then I think that would change the balance for me unless I felt my DC could cope with the expectations that brings.

My DD has recently started secondary on a music place at a high performing out of area girls secondary. As above, it will depend on the individual school in terms of their expectations. For DD it is that she takes an active participation in choirs (they have 6) and singing lessons but that’s an expectation not a requirement! It will be a lot more stringent elsewhere I imagine!

I imagine times have changed a lot but from my own school experience (decades ago), I went to a very expensive boarding private where most children either had very wealthy parents or were very posh (sometimes but not always both!). We did know who was on bursaries and not everyone was as kind as they could have been about the perceived poverty of their parents. This was a trillion years ago though and thankfully we’re a bit more of an egalitarian society these days & I would sincerely hope this kind of nonsense doesn’t still go on!

Mumto2two Mon 03-Feb-20 12:37:07

Thank you..yes it is a Major Academic award, so a great HT kept reiterating..while almost sternly adding that he hoped we had no intentions of not accepting...confused
The grammar is a very good well known and respected school..but it’s large and has a reputation for being tough and cliquey..and a lot of self-harm & anorexia rumours abound. Probably suits a strong resilient character..which our daughter is not. Very bright..but would probably fade into the background quite easily..particularly in an elbow pushing environment like that. That’s why the scholarship seems quite an attractive might give her a sense of confident pride and responsibility that perhaps she might not have at grammar. Likewise with sport..grammar has great opportunities for competitive sports..if you’re good enough to be picked, whereas the scholarship school is very sporty, but caters for all. She loves sport..but she’s not A team material...well not yet anyway smile
We also worry music might be less catered for at grammar..she is grade 4 piano..but it’s not a passion as such..just something she has a natural aptitude for, and while the grammar likes to showcase their musicians at open days etc...I’m not sure they do very much beyond that. Meanwhile the facilities at the scholarship school..are incredibly good, and music is a big part of the school.
She’s a great a pool on-site is a bonus too... yes there are so many great positives, not to mention the attention she would presumably be given in terms of ensuring she is academically progressing as well as she should..whereas the grammar seems to teach and that’s’re very much on your own after that. Or perhaps I am very misinformed on that one?!..although the tutor industry for GCSE students at the school..seems to be booming, so who knows. It is such a dilemma. A nicer one perhaps..but one nonetheless.

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SJaneS48 Mon 03-Feb-20 12:40:42

It sounds like you’ve probably made your mind up OP what’s best? On that basis I’d go with it!

AtomicRabbit Mon 03-Feb-20 12:42:16

How much support does your child need? Are they self-starter/resilient?

Or does it strike you they need a more supportive environment and will utilise all that's on offer at a private school?

Locally to us there's no comparison, Smaller class sizes, much more money in the pot for extended extra-curricula activities and highly responsive teachers who aren't worried about budget cuts. The pastoral support is excellent and school goes above and beyond. Not the same for the local grammar which is a much harsher environment and very very competitive. But yes it is free so if you have a resilient, punchy, self-starter, go for the grammar.

For us it was a no brainer to go private and we have no regrets. As for the scholarship, phone the school and ask. Occasionally our DC has shown slight worry about being top academics but DC naturally very very bright so in the end it's more of an external worry than a real intrinsic worry as there's nothing to worry about.

MrsPatmore Mon 03-Feb-20 12:55:41

We had this dilemma and also lost sleep over it! It sounds as if you are keen on the independent school and that it would be a better 'fit' for your dd. Just be fully aware of all the hidden fees; lunches, uniform, school transport if needed, school trips that 'everyone' is doing (even if they're not really) and extra curricular club fees.

We did a spreadsheet with the costs, academic results, sporting, drama and music facilities and made a decision based on that. Was it worth £X for the independent for that particular school.

Also find out what the academic scholarship entails - at one school, ds was expected to stay above a certain level or it would be removed! That felt pressured and also they expected active participation in competitions etc. Not all of his scholarships had that proviso though.

Mumto2two Mon 03-Feb-20 14:23:50

Thank you SJane, it’s easy to convince myself with the positives..also easy with the negatives..i.e. remaining cost, distance and how that might impact length of day and friendships out of school.. I feel like I’m going round in circles trying to convince ourselves one way or another.
Results aren’t a major focus for me; at GCSE the two schools have been broadly comparable most years, grammar slightly has the edge. However at A level the grammar doesn’t fare as well. Of course these overall results only ever really reflect the underlying cohort, and selection is usually going to weed out the less able contenders. So for me, it’s not a huge factor. I’m not a fan of the super-selective schools, and the glittering A* arrays they boast..we decided against Kendrick as it just felt very much ‘all about the grades’..and while our daughter is very able, we can’t see her relishing that kind of pressure. As for the type of girls she’d be mixing with, the grammar has a big prep school intake and lots of perfectly nice girls..however there is always a bit of a relaxed vibe with some, in terms of uniform and general appearance, which while touring the school, has been a thinking that how we envisaged our daughter in years to come.. and much as we embrace individuality and the ability to express oneself...we’re quite traditional at heart, and some of the appearances..were just a little too eccentric for our liking smile
Regarding your comment Atomicrabbit... I would say she is resilient in some ways, as she’s been through a lot...but perhaps not so resilient in terms of confidence and standing up for herself. She’s motivated and works hard at school..but once she’s home, she is away with the fairies. That’s why we like prep being done in school..and she admits she prefers that too, she likes to focus at school when she needs to..but likes to switch off at home. So another positive tick there too...I think they are starting to outweigh the negatives.. smile

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DarlingOscar Mon 03-Feb-20 16:03:06

Couldn't imagine doing a spreadsheet to decide a child's educational future?

We went on the feel. the grammar school felt very grade focused while the independent school offered a more rounded education. We went for that.

BubblesBuddy Mon 03-Feb-20 20:10:58

I like girls to feel free to express themselves! It’s vital they are not put in a “traditional” box with the lid firmly shut. So I would ask that you reconsider your views on that! I can tell you that at both boarding schools DDs went to, there were wonderfully eccentric girls who were a bit tatty or garish around the edges. The schools were all the better for it! Don’t judge a book by its cover.

We did go private although DD had a place at a grammar. In those days the results were similar. Not so much now. The grammar is better. We didn’t get any money off even though DD was an academic 6th form scholar. So lucky you! Go with your gut reaction though or you won’t be happy. Your DD might be happy anywhere!

PettsWoodParadise Mon 03-Feb-20 23:24:02

You mention A level results. There can be a lot of movement at A level and the cohort taking A levels may only be partially made up of those who have been with the school since Y7.

We had similar dilemma except grammar was closer than a top independent. DD now Y10 is thriving in grammar but whilst it just about has a full set of teachers, unlike many schools nearby, there have been patches of no permanent teacher in the odd science class which has not been ideal but hasn’t been long term or damaging. The building is tired and toilets are grotty. However we’ve been able to pay for trips and music lessons which we wouldn’t have afforded if we’d gone the independent route. DD chose the grammar as she identified most with girls showing her round, we never explained the cost issue so it was a pure expression of preference based on where she thought she’d fit in best.

Mumto2two Mon 03-Feb-20 23:32:39

Thanks Bubbles, would you have chosen grammar back then, if results were better rather than just similar? As in, was that the main reason for your choice at the time, or would you have chosen private anyway?
I agree it would be wrong to judge anyone based on general appearance and individual eccentricity...but we’re a little ‘old school’ with what we thought a school would consider acceptable, and some of it was really a bit too much, particularly when showing prospective parents around. Think short skirts and large bottoms..a definite requirement to avert ones eyes grin

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ErrolTheDragon Mon 03-Feb-20 23:47:40

It really does depend, as has been discussed - DD was offered scholarships at a couple of indies but really that was 'please pick us' because they want to attract some of the brighter pupils ... round here, as far as I can tell pretty much no one whose kid gets an offer at one of the (very few) Grammars turns it down.

* Couldn't imagine doing a spreadsheet to decide a child's educational future?*

Oh, my DH did that sort of thing grin- but in the final analysis, the choice (between the GS and the best of the indies within distance, one which awards strictly means tested bursaries we wouldn't have been eligible for rather than scholarships) was DDs. It suited her brilliantly.

Mumto2two Tue 04-Feb-20 00:05:10

‘ no one whose kid gets an offer at one of the (very few) Grammars turns it down’.. Is that because people are drawn by results, or are facilities and extra-curricular good too? I guess most people wouldn’t be turning them down around here either, but some definitely do. I find it odd when I hear people exclaiming x school isn’t ‘academic’ or challenging enough, yet are only offered full fee places...or no place at all. It does seem a bit of a herd mentality, where results are concerned. 99% A*?? I want that one....wink

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sandybayley Tue 04-Feb-20 07:17:00

We turned down a grammar place for DD (one of the really sought after ones) and accepted a scholarship at a top 20 girls independent.

It had nothing to do with academics as we were confident that she'd achieve similar grades at either school. We simply felt she'd have a more enjoyable and rounded experience at her current school. There was a spreadsheet as well.

DD is about to finish Year 11 and is predicted to do extremely well. She's taken advantage of all the opportunities open to her and been very happy. She'll move again for 6th Form, this time for a Co-Ed.

W00t Tue 04-Feb-20 07:33:47

I know our grammar choice has genuinely excellent extra-curricular activities and sports. Obviously the facilities at a state-maintained school could never dream if coming close to those at the independent he's offered (which is v long established with huge foundation of alumnae money for assisted places, new pools etc).

Do not be fooled by A* pass rates- independent schools do not have to enter a candidate for an exam if they think it will blemish the totals for the school. State schools have to include all pupils, even those not sitting any exams. Off-rolling is pretty difficult, despite what journos would have you believe.

coelietterra Tue 04-Feb-20 08:25:42

From what you've said, it sounds like you would definitely go for the independent if money were no object. In which case, it comes down to trying to pin down exactly what 'extra' you feel you would get and, crucially, how much that extra is financially worth to you. We chose a scholarship/ partial bursary over a place at a 'nobody in their right mind would turn it down' grammar. I absolutely believe we made the right choice and that it is worth it. We thought very long and hard about the extra we thought we would get, and the school has lived up to that and more. But the financial uncertainty is not to be underestimated (we're absolutely fine now, but if something went badly wrong then we wouldn't be), and you have to be prepared to put faith in your choice. I strongly believe that DS's experience at school is much better than if we had made the alternative choice - but I will never have any actual evidence of that.

boredorboard Tue 04-Feb-20 08:57:38

I think you are probably a little bit scared because DD has been at prep and the state Grammar feels a bit alien to you. Whichever school you choose will be a big change. The Y7 transition can be very tough both state and private. I know a DC who has received a substantial 50% scholarship at an independent. He is constantly stressed that he is not missing homework deadlines (he isn't) and is throwing himself into all the extra curricular stories show he is the right sort of chap to warrant the scholarship. He knows his parents couldn't afford to send him there without the scholarship and this is constantly on his mind. If you DD has this sort of personality. It is a big pressure to put on her. Good luck!

GaribaldiGirl Tue 04-Feb-20 09:05:46

I’ve done grammar and independent. For me the massive bonus of a grammar (apart from the fact it’s free!) is the shorter day if your child likes non-school sports and activities plus the opportunity to mix with a more varied range of people from a cultural/wealth perspectjve. The girls at my daughters super selective grammar were perhaps the nicest and most motivated girls you could meet.
If your daughter has any pastoral issues you will find the independent has more staff able to support though. And if she likes competitive sports the independent will have more facilities.

BubblesBuddy Tue 04-Feb-20 09:32:39

We only looked at independent schools that, at the time we looked, had similar or better results than the grammar. We are a selective county. So the Grammars take quite a spread of ability. Not all come out with glittering results. Exactly the same at some independent schools. We chose a school that was ideally suited to DD. The indie was a better fit.

However even if the independent wasn’t quite as good as the grammar academically we may well still have chosen it. The girls at the grammar did well academically but the competition to get into sports teams was huge. 90 girls tried out for the under 13 netball team. The site was very cramped. Very. 1300 girls in the school. The indie was 450. We didn’t see much evidence of the “extras” you get at top independent schools. Both in terms of facilities and out of class activities. The broader education was available at the indie for all sorts of reasons.

We also knew lots of parents who loved the grammar school and they were very results focussed. They didn’t have the money to go private so the grammar was the ultimate goal. We had already found these parents and girls to be ultra cliquey and decided another school with them and DD being shunned wasn’t what we wanted. She would have used the same school bus. We just didn’t want the whole scenario. It had nothing to do with short skirts and big bums. Which, incidentally, were on show at the indie we chose! Trackies worn a lot too. Again short skirts and bottoms don’t prevent intelligence shining through. Both my DDs rolled their skirts up!

BubblesBuddy Tue 04-Feb-20 09:34:58

Few schools have 50% scholarships. Bursaries are the way most schools operate and these are jeans tested to meet charitable status rules. If parents cannot afford it, it’s probably a bursary.

Hoppinggreen Tue 04-Feb-20 09:36:08

When we faced the choice we went for the scholarship but this was purely based on the 2 schools we were considering. The reasons for our choice were
Size of school
Which one DD preferred

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