Curious about differences between state & private at primary age: if your kids are in reception at a private school now, what are they doing?

(103 Posts)
tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 12:44:44

Having a quick look at the coaching thread in this section has made me curious (in a friendly, non-confrontational way!) DD1 is at a state primary. We did look briefly at the private options but not in a really serious way because we were in the catchment for a good state school. I know families who have coached their kids from 2.5 plus but I don't want to probe them too much in RL about the whys and wherefores of how that has worked out because I've noticed that parents (of kids at state and private schools) often get a bit defensive about their choices. Which is understandable I guess. And to be completely transparent, I did post a related thread a couple of years ago (under a different talk name) when we were still deciding but things have moved on a bit since then and now that DD1 is at school I'm interested again, from a slightly different perspective.

So, what I really want to know is what the differences are, particularly in the early years of formal education. DD1 is in her second term of reception, she's reading well (moving up through the levels pretty rapidly), doing basic sums, is curious about the world around her and comes home with surprising facts about what she's learned at school. To me it feels like she's thriving and reaching her potential but when I hear of 3, 4 and 5 year olds being regularly coached to get into x,y,z london school (we're also in London), I do wonder whether 'thriving' is just subjective and whether academically those schools are just in a completely different league. Is it that the kids at pre-preps are reading longer, more complicated books and already learning their times tables? What do kids in reception at pre-preps do? If your DC is 5 and you opted for a private school what do you think they are getting that you wouldn't get at your local primary?

CMOTDibbler Tue 12-Feb-13 12:56:02

My ds is in y2 in a prep/preprep school (not London), and for us the difference was the huge amount of outdoor time, and the specialist PE, language, and music teaching from reception upwards. So not so much the core subjects (although I think ds's teachers seem to be able to be very flexible in their approach, and for maths, ds is in a group of 5 with a teacher, literacy 6 I think), but all the extra things that enrich his life and learning

Pufflemum Tue 12-Feb-13 12:57:59

My Dc are at private and my youngest in reception. Tbh up until the age of 7 I don't think there is a huge difference in what they learn in either sector. They're all being taught how to read, count, explore etc. They do however have a specialist language teacher, art teacher and sports coaches from day 1. They also do a lot more sport, dance and drama than friends children in state.

Although have to caveat that I am not in London and have heard nothing of tutoring at such a young age in our area.

mrsshackleton Tue 12-Feb-13 12:59:21

The classes are usually much smaller.

But ime the main differences aren't in reception but start becoming apparent in y1, which is why I moved one dc to a private school at the start of y3.

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 13:00:17

CMOT thanks v much. 5 in a maths group is amazing! Re the extra curricular stuff, I suppose having a school run that is just a 5 min walk around the corner makes it easier to fit that stuff in around outside school but if that weren't the case I could definitely see the appeal

HormonalHousewife Tue 12-Feb-13 13:00:56

My son is doing much the same as your DD so I wouldnt compare worry.

BoneChina Tue 12-Feb-13 13:01:08

The classes are much smaller.
Emphasis on reading with - a new book everyday - and reading with the teacher every day too.

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 13:01:57

thanks puffle & mrs.

Puffle - it does start crazily young around here because there's such competition for the private school places

Mrs - and what do you think those differences are from Y1 upwards?

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 13:03:48

Hormonal I know I shouldn't grin but it's really hard when I see lots of parents stressing about it around me not to be caught up in it

BoneChina right, we get three books a week but they def don't get one to one every day

NaturalBaby Tue 12-Feb-13 13:09:41

Ds is in R in a private school - he was reading by Christmas and has just started doing spelling type exercises where I read a word and he writes it down. 22 in a class, P.E twice a week...
I'm not really sure there's a huge difference at this age but not sure he would be reading and writing so well in a state school by now. I know it gets a lot tougher in Y1 and the school feeds into a senior school that is in the top 50 in the country (top 10 at one point) so our main reason for sending him is that he will be educated to a high enough level to go through to senior level without a huge amount of extra tuition.

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 13:12:14

thanks natural

Primrose123 Tue 12-Feb-13 13:18:19

My DCs aren't in reception, but went to a state primary, and then a local private secondary school (and we are nowhere near London so I don't know if our private school is like the ones in London or not!).

The state primary they went to was a good school in a nice area, not an affluent area, but a nice place to live. The school was quite small, about 20-30 pupils per academic year. They enjoyed school, but were not overworked and had time for Brownies, ballet, swimming, piano lessons, and friends over to play.

Both my DCs now go to a local private secondary school. We were worried when they started that they would be academically behind the children who went to the prep school, but this wasn't the case at all. They are both doing well and are towards the top end of the class.

We didn't want them to travel a long distance to school while they were in primary school, and now feel that the primary gave them an excellent start.

I would say if you are worrying that your child will be behind if she goes to a private secondary school, then don't. My children are fine. They always did well at primary, and we had the option of tutoring if they needed more help.

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 13:25:59

primrose thanks, that's interesting. I genuinely have no idea what we'll do when it comes to secondary, though there is a good chance it will be private. The main thing for now is that DD is a bright, interested child who (at the moment!) enjoys learning, and I want to be sure she has the conditions to thrive. On the whole I feel she does but I suppose I don't really know what the alternative is, hence the thread).

mrsshackleton Tue 12-Feb-13 13:33:06

The main difference ime is that the state school says your child is doing brilliantly whatever the reality, the private school tells it like it is. Unless you REALLY have your eye on the ball in a state school I think it's easy for a child to flounder and their weaker areas not be picked up on. OP if your child is doing brilliantly, then nothing to worry about.

There are also downsides to private.

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 13:40:49

mrs thanks. 'brilliantly' would be stretching it grin But I don't have any particular concerns, I just wanted to make sure I knew the implications of the choice we've made and I think the responses have helped with that. FWIW, agree with your point about a tendency towards overwhelming positivity in all circumstances in some state schools – that does irk me a bit

I suspect the difference in work isn't that great in YR, I think the differences emerge further up the school. DS1 is now Yr5 and has had specialist subject teachers in maths, science, French, music and sport for a couple of years. He now has specialist geography, RE and history & English teachers too.

Some of the reasons I chose the school
1) Small classes - both of mine are summer born so I thought they would cope better in a small class ( 15 children to 1 teacher and 1 TA)

2) Prep for Senior School entry

3) Much better music and sport provision than the state offering in our area. (We are in London and our local schools didn't have much outside space at all)

LittleChickenLicken Tue 12-Feb-13 14:05:24

In literacy and numeracy I think my DD1 is doing much the same as yours, although she is getting a new book every day and 1:1 reading every day. She is getting specialist science and music teaching, though. This isn't a massively academic pre-prep (it's not selective at all) although it does well at 7+ and 8+. We sent DS there largely for personality reasons because we thought he'd benefit from smaller class sizes, and DD1 has followed him partly because we just really like the school and partly because the only local state school we'd stand any chance of getting into (the other nearby schools being faith schools) has been dropping quite quickly on almost all measures over the last few years.

Orangesarenottheonlyfruit Tue 12-Feb-13 14:13:17

Mostly what other posters have said;
1. DD in a class of 16, with one teacher, two TAs and four GAP year students that help out.
2. New book everyday, reading with teacher everyday.
3. DD seems quite bright so they are focussing on stretching her, such as extra spelling, reading writing etc.
4. Separate teachers for sport, IT, Art and just starting French.
5. Free before and after school care.
6. Organic hot meals, cooked on site, really great food.

It may not be all that much more than a good primary but our choice was quite stark. A really not very good primary or fabulous prep (and no holidays for us, ever!)

Similarly to Puffle - my DC are in an independent prep/pre-prep, but not in London, it's not academically selective (although you wouldn't think so from the results) and I do think it's a different world.

In my world, I don't think there is any difference in what they learn up until (say) Y3 - and even then only because smaller class sizes and more resources (TAs) mean that teachers have more chance to differentiate (don't eat me - I know this happens in state schools, but any teacher, no matter how brilliant, can do less of it with a class of 30 than they can with a class of 12). My DD is Y1 now and was doing pretty much what the OP describes in YR, but with 2 teachers and 2 full time TA's for a year group of 22.

The other difference at this level is facilities - because of the prep school facilities DD can do lots of sport (no matter what the weather), music, drama, forest school....

The thought of these super selective schools makes me so glad we don't live in London (sorry OP)

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Tue 12-Feb-13 14:25:46

we are just moving in september from state t private, DS2 is in Yr 1 currently.
he has done very well in state system, is a fluent reader, joined up handwriting beautiful and can do his 2 5 10 3 4 and 6 times tables. he is 6.

However, when we went to look at the private options, they were learning spanish with a specialist languages teacher, pe with a pe teacher, and computer lessons in a room with a computer for each child to design his or her own christmas cards. (not very technical but just not possible in his current school)

it was a no brainer.

With DS1 aged 8 the difference was much more obvious!

MrsMelons Tue 12-Feb-13 14:29:33

DS2 has only been in private school since September (YR). I agree with some of the others - languages, music, they go out every week, lots of PE (including proper sports and every day from age 7). There are only 14 in his class with a teacher and a TA.

Its not academically selective but they do seem to get the best out of the children. All the YR children were reading by Christmas. They don't get a new book every day unless they have finished it and he is not ahead particularly, fairly average IMO but it does seem they get a lot more attention in a positive way.

Although when DS1 started state school when he was in YR he was in a class of 17 so was pretty lucky too and has done very well there.

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Tue 12-Feb-13 14:31:55

forgot to mention class sizes, DS1 is going from 32 into 15 and DS2 is going from 30 into 14

NTitled Tue 12-Feb-13 14:34:11

Mine are no longer in Reception, but have been in the private system from the start. The big advantage to my mind was that they were in small classes, and everything they did was tailored towards them as individuals (one of mine was reading chapter books fluently when he started in Reception; the school devised a reading scheme specifically for him, rather than waiting for everyone else to catch up etc). One of my others wasn't reading until Year One; again, the school went at her pace the whole time. Dropping her off even now is like leaving her with extended family...

ChiefOwl Tue 12-Feb-13 14:37:51

Not in London....I don't know there's much difference workwise in R really, but

Small class sizes
1-2-1 Reading with teacher or TA every day til end of yr 2, new books every day
Specialist teachers - i.t, music, p.e, French, drama, art, history, geog, maths, English, science, r.e (lots of these from R)
P.E every day (inc swimming once a week) as they get older hockey, netball, football, rugby, cricket, gymnastics, cross country

NcNcNcNc Tue 12-Feb-13 14:44:15

Answering the question asked re the differences we see, obviously there are good and bad to both private and state so these comments contain no judgement on which is 'best' at all.

very small classes - dd's was 12 but is now 16.

She's being learning Spanish and French from reception. They have their own pool so swimming every week and galas with other schools (apologies if this is common in State too, I've spoken about it with one state school parent and her dc don't go swimming until Yr4)

A friend who has seen dd's maths homework(yr 3) says it is miles ahead of his dc at State same age - fractions, percentages, quite complicated stuff - and 'tricksy' questions

Lots of homework - 20 spellings a week (things like 'ecstatically'), French, Spanish, Science, Maths each week plus a 'project' such as build your own aquarium (with fimo/paint/shoebox etc) and write about all the creatures in it.

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