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Anyone else struggling with whether independent is financially feasible?

(68 Posts)
pembelimum Mon 15-Feb-21 21:47:59

DS has been offered a secondary place at a selective London independent school. I put him in for the 11+ in the autumn following a bit of a panic after lockdown disruption to end of year 5 and because going into year 6 he seemed quite unhappy in his state primary - which is the main feeder (same site and overall principal) for the local secondary where he’s sure to get a place. Seems he was being picked on for not having a mobile phone/games console like some of the other kids and was getting called ‘swot’ and ‘nerd’. He’s pretty bright and curious but I think he really feels he has to hide it currently. He’s very quiet during his online lessons and seems reluctant to put the camera on or contribute even though I know he’s interested in the subjects. In short, I’m worried local secondary is going to be hard for him. I went to a state school where it wasn’t cool to be clever and had a pretty awful time. I’d really love to be able to avoid that for him. DH is on quite a low income - which has turned into almost no income since the start of the pandemic. I’m in a professional job with a good salary (so probably just put of bursary territory) and so could just afford the fees (though with next to nothing leftover). We also have a younger child who will start secondary in 5 years (when DS will start sixth form) and who has additional learning needs. I think I could just afford the independent for my DS, and from what I know of the school I think he’d absolutely love it, but can’t see myself being able to do it for both of them when younger sibling starts secondary. My DM has offered to help out when we get to that point but I’m nervous about relying on that and wonder whether she has underestimated how much she’ll need for her retirement. I’m really struggling to decide whether to accept the place or not. I want it so much for DS but can’t quite see how I can make it feasible.

OP’s posts: |
Cloudymornings96 Mon 15-Feb-21 22:13:59

I wouldn't put yourself under so much financial pressure. School fees will rise from 2021 as there was only a small rise or freeze in 2020. The costs for schools keep rising especially teachers' pension (it's a long boring separate subject).
Ask yourself about how you feel about paying the deposit in a couple of weeks and then having the fees taken by direct debit 3 times a year straight from your bank account (not all schools operate in this way) plus all the extras and annual increases.
When your ds goes to secondary it is a chance for a new start and he will meet new classmates etc. You can always look at a private sixth form place instead.

Ploughingthrough Mon 15-Feb-21 22:14:39

I would like to use private for my eldest DC as I think it would suit her for a myriad of reasons, but I cant afford it for my DS too so I'm not going there. It isnt really fair if you cant afford a similar opportunity for both.
What is your state option like? Remember that most kids find their feet in high school, there is a bigger pool of friends and they usually find their crowd within the first year. Dont let your own experiences in one school influence your thoughts too much, your DS is a different person and it's a different school (I presume).
Also, I hadnt been particularly happy in primary. I was bullied for being quiet, studious and unusually tall and I only really had one friend. I absolutely loved state secondary school, loved my new friends and really blossomed in the new environment and wider bunch of people.

Thecazelets Mon 15-Feb-21 22:28:06

I wouldn't do it if it was going to be a real struggle. We did a mix of state and private for ours, and the burden of private wasn't just the fees - it was the extras and the lifestyle expectations that came with it. Unless the state school is awful I'd think very hard about it. Children often 'find their people' at secondary compared to primary, as there is a much bigger pool and there are bound to be more like-minded souls.

Having said that, are you completely sure about bursary eligibility? One of my dc's schools set the upper eligibility limit for bursaries at a household income of £120k, which seemed generous to me.

clary Mon 15-Feb-21 23:23:09

When you say "next to nothing left over" OP, do you mean after all bills, mortgage, food, basic clothes, transport etc are paid?

In other words that normally you either save £20k a year, or spend that much on unnecessary things like holidays and meals out (or a combination of the two, obviously)?

If that's the case, then I guess you can afford it, as long as nobody minds not going on holiday or any of the other nice things.

Bit miserable if you ask me tho.

Remember that secondary is a much bigger pool than primary, and most kids will find their tribe, whether that is nerdy techy kids, smart bookish types, gamers, actors, singers, musicians, footballers - I could go on. I taught in a deeply non-fancy secondary and there were friendship groups for all those and more.

Bringonspring Mon 15-Feb-21 23:31:11

I think you might swap one challenge for another with your DS feeling inferior to others due to wealth. The ski holidays/Caribbean. I’m the root cause is your sons confidence, it’s not the school. I don’t think the private school will address the root cause

pembelimum Tue 16-Feb-21 08:01:24

clary that’s right, at the moment we have enough each month for some luxuries and a bit of saving. Things like summer holiday abroad, family car (we live in London so as the kids get bigger it isn’t essential), trips out and any savings, would get cut right back so we would feel the impact immediately.

OP’s posts: |
OnlyFoolsnMothers Tue 16-Feb-21 08:09:33

I wouldn’t accept it, I wouldn’t want to be the “poorest” kid (I appreciate this isn’t poverty) in a rich school, all the extras would surely add up, plus I couldn’t send one child and not the other.
I don’t think your son being shy on a zoom call is unusual so I wouldn’t panic that he’s going to play dumb for 7 years.

pembelimum Tue 16-Feb-21 08:13:26

Thecazelets that does sound high for bursary eligibility. This school is saying £70k which we’re just outside of so I didn’t bother applying.

The secondary school DS will go to is best of a bad bunch locally. It’s a very strict MAT. It’s oFSTEd outstanding and GCSE results in core subjects are okay but there’re very few opportunities for sport, drama, art and other enrichment. The A-level results are not good. Although the intake will widen, 50% of the kids at secondary will be those in his current primary so culture very similar.

Thanks everyone for your comments on affordability, especially on fee increases and extras which I think could make me feel under a lot of pressure.

OP’s posts: |
Porcupineintherough Tue 16-Feb-21 09:11:28

If you are prepared to pay a large amount for education then would you consider moving? Plenty of secondary schools around where hiding your ability is not necessary .

clary Tue 16-Feb-21 09:29:42

Remember the money you save on private school will pay for a lot of sporting clubs, drama groups, music lessons as the years go by.

All my DC had all they could want in that line, some of it (not all by any means tho) outside their state comprehensive.

How big is his primary if it makes up gals the year at the secondary! Don't worry about sixth form, there are great options in London as I understand. A teen I know went to an amazing post-16 maths-orientated destination.

clary Tue 16-Feb-21 09:30:29

half the year, sorry!

MarshaBradyo Tue 16-Feb-21 09:35:10

We’ve done a mix of private and state.

I think it comes down to comparing the specific schools rather private v state.

For instance we are accessing Dulwich schools which have a mix of academic selective and good state. We have offer now from academic one, which is more valued than just paying for non selective. But you may feel the state you have is not so good which is another consideration.

kindlyensure Tue 16-Feb-21 09:41:10

I would not choose private if I could not EASILY afford it.
It will not get any cheaper.

Honestly. It will be exhausting and worrying and add to the stress of life which will put pressure on your DS.

I agree, save the cash for 6th form. Or let your DM help out then.

(If he has been offered a place you can always ask the question of the fees office - what are my chances of a bursary? If you think you might be able to easily afford it with that assistance).

teachocolate Tue 16-Feb-21 09:48:54

If I couldn’t do the same for both children, I would not accept the place because it is so much unfair.
Your local comp sounds not bad at all to me. Your DC can do extracurricular outside of school.

crazycrofter Tue 16-Feb-21 10:08:27

Ditto what everyone above has said, but I'd add - all the kids at the private secondary will have mobile phones and consoles. I understand why you might not want ds to have these now - although I think a console can be great at his age for socialising and developing various skills - but he'll definitely stick out if he doesn't have them at secondary. I'm not saying you should just go with the crowd if you really don't want to, but just that those issues are the same whichever school sector you're in (my two have been to grammar and independent schools for years 7-11 and dd is now in a different grammar school to ds for sixth form).

We sent dd to the selective independent school on a good bursary and I still found the fee burden stressful.

MGMidget Tue 16-Feb-21 11:03:51

You could do private for secondary school until 16 and switch to state sixth form college for 16-18. Then you pay one set of private fees at a time and they get the benefit of the most difficult years in private. By sixth form they are more established in their study habits and although they may not get as good A level grades as they would in private this may not matter if you are hoping they will go on to higher education. This is because the grade expectation from a selective secondary will be higher for the same university course.

On the other hand, if money is tight and causing you stress take a good look at the state options.

cakecreator Tue 16-Feb-21 11:18:59

We are in a similar position. We can just about afford private but would have to give up some stuff to do so.

At the moment my children are in state and do get exra online lessons that we pay for, music and sport (well did get sport apart from covid).

I think we are coming to the conclusion that we send our eldest to a state grammar and keep paying for extras in the way of fun stuff, then we may also save for a private sixth form. So in effect we do what MG Midget suggests but in reverse. Ofcourse the the sixths form grammar is up to scratch we could just stay with it.

cakecreator Tue 16-Feb-21 11:19:31

I mean that if the sixth form grammar is up to scratch we just stay with it.

dipdips Tue 16-Feb-21 17:28:32

I don't think there is a stigma to being bright at comps these days - children are very different to when we were young. At my DC's comp, it is cool to be a 'geek' (my DD was DESPERATE for glasses for this very reason but sadly her eyesight was too good!) They have never once mentioned being looked down on for being bright and they have taken their studies seriously and been really self motivated. I have been so impressed with the school and glad we didn't panic and go for the fee paying option we considered. They are really aware of the real world, they are self starters, they haven't had too much hand holding, and their friends are lovely as well as impressive and interesting.

Blankscreen Tue 16-Feb-21 18:47:54

My dss went through a state comprehensice and his experience was pretty dire

- not cool to be clever
- only set in maths and science this resulted in him having GCSE English lessons with children that could barely read the text let alone discuss and analyse it How children are able to get to GCSE and hardly be able to read is beyond me and how on earth is a teacher meant to stretch the brightest kids? Which didn't happen
- not cool to be in the school sports team
- constant disruption in classes - if teenagers can't do the work theybecome the class clown and mess about .
This is obviously just our experience of one school but it is OFSTED rated Good and it was anything but IMO.

MarshaBradyo Tue 16-Feb-21 18:53:13

I think comps can vary quote a bit and both experiences in last posts can be true

Makes sense to ask on specific schools when comparing as it be a big range

Blankscreen Tue 16-Feb-21 19:08:24

I would also add DSS school finished at 2:45 it was "sad" to stay after school for clubs and we never knew of any sports practice offered and again it would probably be "sad".

DSS went there after literally smashing his SATS in year 6 and he just deteriorated year on year.

It felt as though because he would meet the quota of 5 A-C's there was no pushing for him to try and do better. He ticked the box job done

We felt at his school the emphasis was all about getting as many children as possible to get 5 A-C's as that is what they are scored on, as opposed to pushing each child that little bit more.

user1497787065 Tue 16-Feb-21 19:35:40

My children both went to an independent school and we are not affluent by any means. There were a few children who had skiing holidays and extravagant overseas trips but the majority of parents were ordinary people working hard to pay the fees. If you think it is the right school for your son do not be put off by others saying it is hard to be the poorest in the class.

Also, be sure to complete the bursary forms. You may be pleasantly surprised.

thewinkingprawn Tue 16-Feb-21 19:41:17

We’ve just come out of private junior. Forced hand in the end due to a failing business but when they were there we were in the camp of just about afford it and my goodness it was stressful. Absolutely no money for anything outside of school, always extras to fund plus expensive uniform, any loss or reduction of income meaning we’d have to take them out of somewhere they were happy. I would not do it again unless we could easily afford it with money left over. There will be a good state option if you look.

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