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?

NcNcNcNc Tue 12-Feb-13 14:46:07

Is it unusual to have special teachers for Spanish/French/History etc then in State? confused I didn't mention that in my answer because I thought it was standard.

CinnabarRed Tue 12-Feb-13 14:47:30

DD seems quite bright so they are focussing on stretching her

Conversely, my DS1 is lovely (of course! grin) but is really struggling with reading. After less than 1 term his difficulties were identified and his teacher started him on extra phonics.

According to MIL (who was herself a deputy head in the state sector for years) his issues with reading may not have been identified as quickly at a school with fewer resources.

Ladymuck Tue 12-Feb-13 14:57:55

Until recently even private schools were tied to the EYFS framework for reception and were inspected by Ofsted. I think that certainly the inspection framework has changed recently, but as private schools could claim the Early Years funding for reception children up to the term they turned 5, they had to toe the line with the required syllabus. You shouldn't therefore see a HUGE range of difference in reception (as private schools tend to want outstanding ofsteds, and therefore have to "tick the boxes" in the same way as state schools), but you may well find a much more significant range of difference in Year 1 onwards, when private schools can ignore the National Curriculum.

ReallyTired Tue 12-Feb-13 15:09:11

I think that this thread is a little daft as children vary so much in ablity. State schools have to cater for the children who speak in grunts, have an IQ of 80 and have disinterested parents. The type of parent who doesn't give a sh!t about education won't send their child private.

In a state school class the top group may well be working several years ahead of the bottom group. The brightest state school children often work at a comparable levels in numeracy and literacy to bright children in the private sector. Parents can pay for outside tutition in music or sport. I agree that foreign languages are completely lacking in state primaries.

Private schools vary considerably with standard of teaching and resources. Not all private schools are good or even that well resourced. State schools do have enough computers for each child. Often state schools have better technology than many private schools.

These threads make me laugh. With DS this sort of thing had me convinced that even though he was doing well in his year group, he must be miles behind other independent schools as they all seemed to be doing so much more - but when we considered a change of school at Y4 he was offered a scholarship - so clearly not so far behind (round here, at least). DC's school really don't play this game - for example, there are no specialist teachers other than for music, drama and PE until Y3 (all subject specialists from Y4 onwards) and they don't start languages until Y3 either (TBH I wish they would but if there is no member of staff passionate about doing it then there is not much point).

Cinnabar has an excellent point though - I have seen difficulties picked up and dealt with in YR/Y1 which I am told by friends would not even have been 'assessed' until Y3 in the state system. Of course the flip side of that is that some super-selective schools may look to "encourage" the DC out of the school at that point sad, and a lot of independent schools will expect parents to pay for private OT's and the like if needed.

DizzyHoneyBee Tue 12-Feb-13 15:13:37

Bonechina, my DS gets a new reading book every day and so did my DD (different schools, different areas) and they were both listened to every day.

1charlie1 Tue 12-Feb-13 15:41:48

From a teacher's perspective (and married to a teacher), I have to agree with ReallyTired. And just to add that at a prep school, within a year level the top group may well be working years ahead of the bottom group. I was chatting to a prep teacher friend the other day about Year 8 at her school- she said there is as much as three years between the highest and lowest sets.

DH is in his first year teaching at a private secondary. He is shocked at how weak and poorly taught some of his year 7s are. All are prep school educated. These students are averagely bright, and should be much, much further ahead than they are. Their levels have been manipulated by spoon-feeding/ 'teaching to the exam' methods of teaching, and subsequently they are significantly behind where they should be - and his measuring sticks are the hundreds of Year 7s he has taught in the State system.

The difference for these children, however, is that they are now in a private secondary where their weaknesses are being comprehensively addressed in tiny classes. Had they been forced to attend his previous comprehensive, his opinion is they wouldn't have had a chance at anything like a C Grade at GCSE, simply because of the general rowdiness and large class sizes.
This doesn't change the fact that they (and their parents) have been failed by their (expensive) primary schooling. All (prep) schools are not equal!

smee Tue 12-Feb-13 15:57:56

1charlie, I'd guess there's that gap in a lot state schools too. I know in my son's class some are working a couple of years above year expected levels whilst others are a year below.

I agree though, it does v.much depend on the school. Purely anecdotal this, but a friend was teaching in a private school, so has her daughter in the prep school for reception and year 1. She left the school, so transferred her DD to a state primary for year 2 and was horrified to find she's been assessed as at least a year behind. The new school are having to give her extra help to catch up. This was highly respected private contrasting with so called inner city, deprived primary. Said friend thinks the teaching in the state school is far more imaginative than the teaching she saw in private too, all of which has amazed her.

1charlie1 Tue 12-Feb-13 16:57:19

Absolutely, smee, my comment about differing levels within a single year group was just to add to ReallyTired's point about this being the case in state schools. I would imagine that this is the case in many schools.
I also want to add - there was a comment upthread about private schools 'telling it like it is' to parents. I really don't agree with this. For example, I think the preps that DH's students have come from have seriously misled parents as to their childrens' abilities and achievements, and left it up to the secondary schools to pick up the pieces. DH has had some uncomfortable meetings with quite devastated parents, and has had to explain what has gone wrong. (He teaches bottom set.) A small number of his students have been previously assessed for SEN at their preps' insistence (more ££ for expensive Ed Psych reports etc), when in fact these children had just been subjected to very poor teaching.

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

shock, that's awful charlie, though does sound very similar to my friend's experience. She's so, so pleased she moved her DD.

ChiefOwl Tue 12-Feb-13 17:17:05

NcNcNcNc - In all the state primaries I saw, no one had specialist teachers for French, music, history etc - but that may have been our area.

I woud think it is standard in all secondaries.

smee Tue 12-Feb-13 17:50:37

We have specialised Spanish, music, sport, dance coaches. Two class entry inner city state primary. smile

SocietyClowns Tue 12-Feb-13 18:12:14

Most of the differences for us are mentioned above but one that hasn't been mentioned is the excellent wrap around care. We have no family and without it I could not hold down a job in our area. Our school offers breakfast club from 7.45 and after school care/clubs until 6.
And OP, this IS our local school 5 minutes walk away grin

tiredaftertwo Tue 12-Feb-13 18:23:09

All prep schools are definitely not equal, nor are all state primaries.

My children are now at a selective private secondary in London. They were at an inner city state primary. They had specialist sports coaching, lots of trips into London to do cool stuff, good art, some patchy teaching, good bits and bad, most mostly pretty creative. They both got into selective independents with no trouble with a bit of tutoring (filling the odd gap in maths, exam technique).

They have friends who went to prep schools where the teachers seemed to be working in the 1950s, with a terribly dull curriculum, house spent on coaches doing the same trip every year, stupidly long spelling lists, and oh my goodness the exam materials they supplied were so out of date and dull. You could do better in five minutes on the internet. And teachers who yelled at them. I had to bite my lip. I know another prep child whose dyslexia was not diagnosed or even discussed till he was 12, by which time he was convinced he was stupid.

All anecdotes, you just cannot generalise.

Karoleann Tue 12-Feb-13 19:00:58

My DS2 is currently in reception at a private pre-prep, DS1 attended a local "outstanding" state primary school for reception 2 years ago.

So far they have gone at the same pace for phonics and slightly slower for maths. But, their all round education is more better, they have swimming, PE (with a proper PE teacher), their topic work is much more interesting and full. For example they have had the topic of chinese new year this week a chinese dance company came in to school for assembly and they have done some lovely artwork.

The pastoral system is much better, they have much more individual attention, DS1 read with the teacher every 2-3 weeks, DS2 reads most days.

Clawdy Tue 12-Feb-13 19:44:21

Surprised by the post saying if you are at a state primary,you will be told your child is doing well regardless,but you will be told the true picture in a prep school. I think the opposite is true,as many prep schools are desperate to keep their numbers high. My friend's mother teaches in a small prep school,and was told in no uncertain terms not to put negative comments on a school report because "they are not going to pay to be told their child isn't doing well...."

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 21:05:47

Sorry, been away from desk for hours (extra curricular music, spot the pushy mum wink) you're all brilliant for posting, I really appreciate the considered feedback.

wraparound care is a good one that a few people have picked up. DDs school has a breakfast club and after school club so that is covered, which is a huge bonus, but I know that can be quite patchy in local primaries.

Of the other things people have mentioned, the bits that stand out are as being differences are: one-to-one reading, which I think doesn't happen that often at DD's school and specialist language provision (they get Spanish in Y3 and, oddly, latin for two or three years but no French). Art facilities are great, PE no great shakes. Music isn't bad but we do that externally.

I think whoever said there's no way to compare has a point, standards are so variable across state and primary and every child is different – but it's still really interesting to hear about personal experiences.

Clawdy & others, re the accurate feedback thing, I've been thinking about that again and actually my issue with state schools in this respect is that sometimes the teachers have seemed too easily pleased i.e. provided the child's reading/writing etc is within the target parameters for their year group, they are considered to be doing really well, regardless of whether that represents much progress for them. And there can be such a heavy emphasis on positivity about all that the child does that the praise becomes meaningless. That opinion is partly based on the experiences of others, but I do remember being a bit hmm once or twice towards the end of nursery class when praise kept being heaped on DD for writing the odd letter/knowing a few numbers when she'd be writing her name etc since the beginning of the year. I ignored it at the time because I figured at 3/4 it didn't matter too much, but if that were to happen in later years it would, for me, be a bit of a concern. Admittedly without experience of private, I don't know if the same happens there.

timmytoes Tue 12-Feb-13 21:18:01

In our non selective pre prep in reception DS shook the headmistresses hand every morning, learnt to look her in the eye and say "Good Morning". Every term the entire class had to stand on the school stage in front of their parents and say some lines learnt by heart as part of their form assembly. He read to an adult every day at school, had specialist French teachers, PE and music teachers. The entire class could read by the half term of the first term, by the end of the year they could all write in basic sentences. The entire class was expected to be able to sit still and concentrate for reasonable amounts of time while older boys played musical instruments etc. The differences between curriculum in reception and that of the local very highly rated state primaries are probably negligible but with regard to the above I'm not so sure.

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 21:23:21

Thanks, timmy

The languages thing. I didn't learn start learning any second languages at primary school, and I suppose part of me wonders if it's that important to be learning a second and third language when you're still trying to master reading and writing your first. I have a degree in modern languages btw, so it's not that I don't consider them important, I've just always felt it's more relevant at secondary level.

Virgil Tue 12-Feb-13 21:26:39

DCs are at a selective primary and DS2 is five. He reads very well. He is on stage 10, he has one to one reading every day, book changed as soon as he has read it. 10 in a class with a teacher and two TAs. Joined up writing. A different sport every day with specialist sports teachers. Swimming every week, music every week with specialist music teachers, French and Spanish with specialist teachers, IT with specialist teacher. It's a boys school which is very geared towards boys, lots of activity and active learning, lots of outside time, lots of boy focussed topics.

Very difficult to say whether he'd be at the same point if he was in a state school but all of the above certainly hasn't hurt.

Virgil Tue 12-Feb-13 21:29:52

Oh sorry, whilst Ds2 is five he is in year 1

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 21:30:58

Wow - that does sound pretty amazing, Virgil.

I didn't realise joined up writing was still taught though - I was taught at primary school myself but had dropped it by about 16. You rarely see joined up writing in adults these days, do you?

tryhardrep Tue 12-Feb-13 21:32:30

Seem to have lost the ability to write properly (see last post) so clocking off for the night but thanks again for the feedback folks. Will check back in again tomorrow to see if anyone has anything else to add but has all been really useful

Virgil Tue 12-Feb-13 21:35:15

Really? Doesn't everyone do joined up writing? It takes forever to print.

But yes they only spent a very short time doing printed letters and moved very quickly onto joined up cursive writing. We had whiteboards sent home after about four weeks of reception for them to practice on.

NTitled Tue 12-Feb-13 21:40:43

Virgil, it's interesting to hear you mention boys' schools. My DD is at a girls' school, and has done everything you list - but also benefits in a very different way from being single sex, in that the girls are active and play 'boy' games in a way that they don't/can't in a mixed school (I have another child at a mixed independent school, and the girls stand on the sidelines while the boys occupy much of the physical space). At my DD's school, the girls can take as much space as they like, literally and metaphorically.

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