Private school at primary or secondary - which is the better option?

(370 Posts)
Reastie Mon 01-Jul-13 12:37:25

I live where there's the 11+ in an affluent area where essentially secondary modern/comprehensive schools are mainly people who fail their 11+ and their parents can't afford private education and are generally rough and not very high expectations/behaviour (I work in education in the area at all types of secondary schools so know this).

DD is only tiny but I'm looking at preschools for her and thinking about primary schools (ideally she'd go to the same preschool as primary).

DH and I have accepted that if she fails her 11+ we will pay for her to go to private school. We will be in a better financial position then to pay for it as we will have paid off the mortgage on a second property and have a monthly rental income (we sound better off than we are in that sentence!).

However, talking to people today and looking around various primary/pre schools I'm now wondering whether we aren't better off paying for private school for her primary on the basis they will give her more individualised care and stretch her better so that she will be more likely to pass the 11+ and so go on to grammar school at secondary (and so we spend money now to save money later IYKWIM). There's always the possibility DD still won't pass it but at least we will have done all we can for her to get there and so I'll feel happy that I've done what I can.

I'm not a pushy parent (although realise I probably sound like I am!) I just want the best for DD and want her to flourish as much as possible.

So, are there any thoughts on paying for private primary on the foundations hopefully it will help get DD through the 11+ and give her more of an individualised education? Is this common? It is worthwhile?

nostress Mon 01-Jul-13 13:03:41

Why not send her to a state primary/infant school, then move over in year 3 for junior education(key stage 2)? (save you £7k a year!). I know plenty if people who did that and now the kids go to grammars. Some secondary indi schools are very difficult to get into - similar to grammar. Going to a indi primary lets them know you can afford it and also there may be limks between the indi primary & secondary.

Abra1d Mon 01-Jul-13 13:06:01

Secondary. We found our local primary excellent until about eight or nine, and acceptable until the end of year five, where lack of resources became more obvious (languages, sport, music, etc). It was in a small village, though.

mrsravelstein Mon 01-Jul-13 13:07:28

we used to live in an area with grammar schools, and parents put their kids into private school to prepare them for 11+, however the huge majority of parents at ds1's school (i would say 80%) ALSO had their dc tutored extensively in order to ensure they passed it. we looked at moving to bucks around the end of ds1's primary school time, and found exactly the same situation - massive amounts of tutoring at private and state primaries. so you may be as well to send to a state primary and spend the money on tutoring rather than private primary.

mirry2 Mon 01-Jul-13 13:09:47

Private primary schools are a mixed bag so don't fall into the trap of thinking they will always be better. I would always go for a school that has an excellent record of getting their children into top secondaries or top private schools - so look at the league tables first.

night1971 Mon 01-Jul-13 13:15:27

Independent prep school will give your DD the best start.

Have excellent longterm experience of both.

Small class sizes, specialist subject teaching, high academic standards, better varied sports and extra curricular opportunities. Gives a child the best start no questions.

At 11 you will have choices then, grammar, independent or state. Don't need to bother with tutoring at a good prep and you don't have to move your child mid-primary career.

Of course there are excellent state primaries, but they have to make compromises that many independent schools can avoid.

Reastie Mon 01-Jul-13 13:58:55

Thanks, the private prep we are looking at has a pretty much 100% 11+ pass rate and excellent reports and a lovely family feel to it (also is nie a small).

State primaries closest to me - one is terrible and going through many problems at the minute, the other one I'd be fine with DD going to in an OK but not exceptional way IKYWIM. We are likely to ask for this school but unlikely to get a place as it's popular.

HabbaDabbaDoo Mon 01-Jul-13 17:09:15

My friend went the prep/GS route. His logic was that their prep had a near perfect pass rate for the outstanding local GS.

With 3 kids, the £3k pa. difference in fees between prep and secondary is quite a saving over x years

lottieandmia Mon 01-Jul-13 17:11:55

The formative years are very important so I would say independent primary schools certainly give children a head start.

lottieandmia Mon 01-Jul-13 17:12:12

because of the small class sizes that is.

Elibean Mon 01-Jul-13 17:39:48

I would look around my local primary schools, OP, and think about where your dd will flourish the most. Where are the children happy and excited about their work? Where are they running up to adults to talk to them confidently?

We did this, and out of two independent and two state primaries chose one of the state primaries. No regrets at all.

Reastie Mon 01-Jul-13 18:31:23

Thanks all, very interesting reading and always good to mull things over and get different thoughts and perspectives.

Wuldric Mon 01-Jul-13 18:34:27

Give me a child until he is seven ...

A decent prep school makes a world of difference. There are children who get into the DCs school from state schools at years 5 and 6, but they have to go into remedial (assisted learning) for a year or so to catch up. Children are like sponges in the early years, and state schools simply do not cater for the brighter ones IMHO

Pyrrah Mon 01-Jul-13 18:35:15

Is your GS area somewhere like Kent where it's a normal 11+ or is it a super-selective GS area?

If it's the former, then go for the prep and hope for the GS for secondary.

If it's the latter, I would do state till 7, then move to prep and go for the grammar and indies.

Reastie Mon 01-Jul-13 18:44:27

yes pyrrah I am indeed in Kent

wordfactory Mon 01-Jul-13 19:35:55

A good prep school is money very well spent. But they are variable so check what you're getting for your dosh.
Looking back, these are the things I valued highly:

Lots of green space and more importantly, time spent in it.

Small classes with FT TA.

Eraly introduction of decent MFL from a native speaker (or bi-lingual). Not one bloody lesson a week!

Specialist teaching introduced at year 3/4.

Daily sport. Lots of teams from year 3. Lots of fixtures.

Active parents association/class reps etc. Made a community out of DC that were further spread than would be the case at the local primary.

It depends where in Kent. West kent is very competitive with super selectives as well as 'normal' grammars.
Lots of people spend their money on prep schools.

Reastie Mon 01-Jul-13 19:44:06

tough yes I'm there! (hoping not to give myself away here!). I went to a super selective grammar myself but have worked in a 'normal' grammar.

word the school I'm looking at has as far as I know/can remember from the tour pretty much all of those points.

happygardening Mon 01-Jul-13 22:42:28

OP a prep might have a "100% pass rate" at the 11+ but they do this by selecting who sits it in the first place those who are border line or no hopers will not get a look in.
Many years ago my DS1 went to what is known in counties like Kent as a "crammer for the grammar" with a 100% pass rate, by yr 3/4 it it was becoming pretty apparent who stood a good chance of passing the "Kent test" and who didn't, those with out a chance would often jump ship around this time and be moved to another popular Kent school: a prep/senior independent school for "nice children who aren't going too or can't pass the Kent test"

gardener321 Mon 01-Jul-13 22:59:35

A good private Prep school is definitely the best option in my opinion. You can be a great teacher but if you have a big class you just can't give small children the attention they need to flourish so children in small private school classes are generally more confident across the board. Also it's crazy to expect an individual class teacher to be knowledgable and passionate about every subject so a private school which offers specialist teaching from a young age is more able to stretch the bright, support the less able and genuinely inspire their pupils. I have seen how a good Prep school can instill a deep confidence and a positive approach to learning that will last and can be transferred to other learning environments later in life.

Reastie Tue 02-Jul-13 06:49:16

hmm happy interesting. Didn't know that happened.

happygardening Tue 02-Jul-13 09:02:30

OP thinking about it by the end of yr 4 50% of my DS's classmates had left the "crammer for the grammar" prep and moved to a "nice children who cant pass the Kent test" school instead. These are preps usually attached to senior school with virtually automatic guaranteed entry into the senior school. Most moved because they said that realised the DC was not going to pass the Kent test and wanted a "less pressurised" "more nurturing" environment. Those that remained were of course the strong candidates for it or were unlikely to pass it thus wouldn't be entered and also were not able to afford fees at senior level where fees increase considerably and were hoping for a scholarship, music, art, academic or all rounder and attached reduction in fees, into the senior schools that takes nice children who cant pass the kent test. You might want to think about that too.
Many also joined at the end of yr 4 from the state sector (this was when the Kent test was sat in January) these were usually strong candidates for the Kent test whose parents thought this was better than private tuition outside of school for yrs 5 considered by all to be the essential yr and the first term of yr 6.
"Active parents association/class reps etc."
I personally cant stand those things I would rather go potholing and I am terrified of confined spaces but in most crammers these are very active. Many parents were quite open about their enthusiasm; they were currying favour with the head hoping that when the time came the head would feel uncomfortable not letting their child sit the Kent test or put in an extra good word at a senior independent thus increasing their chances of getting a scholarship.
I was also flabbergasted by the number of parents who felt that more homework should be given, who didn't want too much of the curriculum taken up with games etc and also regular complaints to the head when slower children were taking up more teacher time than their more able classmates! Many also had elocution lessons oh and the final nail in the coffin for me ours after a couple of terms changed to a hideous pretentious uniform to satisfy the desire of many parents who wanted others to instantly recognise that they were paying for education when they took their DC's to Sainsburys after school. I accept that many crammers wouldn't be this bad although I have lived in different parts of Kent and I am not the only one who would tell you this but you do need to be aware. Im sure many parents were happy the school was either preparing their DC very well for the Kent test or working really hard to find a suitable school where a scholarship could be won.

Reastie Tue 02-Jul-13 21:09:20

Wow happy very interesting

vintagesewingmachine Tue 02-Jul-13 21:34:21

Our DC's (DD7, DS5) are off to Pre-prep in September as they need more than the village primary has to offer and are becoming fed up with the constant colouring-in and word searches they are offered when the class work set is finished and they are waiting for some of the others to catch up. The teachers and TA's need to spend their time with the less able children, and rightly so but because it all unstreamed, everyone must progress at the pace of the slowest so, accepting the inevitable and thankful that we are in a position to afford it, we are girding our financial loins and hoping that we might not have to pay for independent secondary...ouch!!

Chandon Wed 03-Jul-13 13:28:28

I would say, go private in yr 3 or 4 and keep them until they do Gcse, then state again for a level.

It is what lots of people do here.

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