State versus private - which provides best education?

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twice_as_nice
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State versus private - which provides best education?

Postby twice_as_nice » Thu May 31, 2012 4:35 pm

Hi

I thought it would be interesting to start a debate on this topic.... I suspect lots of mums have strong views (as do I ) so I'd be interested in hearing them.

I went to a relatively ok state school with very mixed abilities across the school. Going to private school wasn't an option financially or practically (no local private schools and no way my parents would drive me to the nearest city for school).

As such, the whole private thing is quite alien to me.

I went to a very good university which had a reputation for getting lots of 'Oxbridge rejects' - and we had a very high volume of privately educated students (or publicly educated - which I was informed about quite rudely by some toff who explained that rather than being state schools, which they sounded like to me, public schools were the most exclusive private schools. Good for him. Idiot.).

I also went on to work for a large company that also had quite a high ratio of privately educated graduates.

Anyway, whilst I mixed with people from both the private and state school system, my better friends were without doubt those who'd come from state schools. Those from private schools just really seemed (TYPICALLY - NOT UNIVERSALLY OF COURSE - I don't want to stereotype) to have a bit of a chip on their shoulders and didn't really seem to have a very well rounded view of life - expecting everything o be handed to them on a plate.

As such I've always wanted my children to go to state schools.

However, now I live in London, I think it's not quite so clear cut as that....there are some state schools where I would absolutely not send my children as are so poorly performing - but at the same time, I want my children to appreciate the meaning of money and don't want them to go to a school where they are in a bubble of highly privileged people.

Of course my husband and I can make sure they learn these values but you can't deny that the children they mix with on a day to day basis, who are going to be (hopefully) their lifelong friends will have a huge influence on their own attitudes and behaviours, and ultimately their values. And my (possibly prejudiced assumption ) is that if those friends come from private schools then they are likely to be extremely well off and from privaledged backgrounds.

I'm not saying that most parents at private schools won't also be keen to instill similar values but reality is, if you have money then your upbringing will be markedly different than if you don't

Plus I want to be able to relate to my children, for them to be well rounded and for me to be proud of the adults that they turn in to. Given that I didn't really respect, like or relate well (IN GENERAL!) to those students who did go to private school, I think this is my biggest fear.

I also think that I personally thrived at school because I was more academic than many of the other people at school - because there was such a broad range of abilities. At private schools this is less so the case - especially for those with selection criteria - but I think even for those where the school is not selective (just look at the results). I suspect if there was more competition academically I would have got lost in he crowd.... And of course ideally I want my children to do well academically so that they have more options.

Of course now living in nappy valley, I suspect lots of the mums I meet did go to private school and I do like them very much!! Though i still maintain that I get on better in general with those who didn't go to private school....

Sorry for long post. Thank you for reading it all the way through ( unless you've just read some the skipped to last para - in which case I don't blame you!). What are your thoughts? Did you go to private school and do you feel the same anyway or think I'm talking nonsense? did you go to state school and have similar fears or think that if you can afford private school then you should send your children to private school?
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supermummy
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Re: State versus private - which provides best education?

Postby supermummy » Thu May 31, 2012 5:11 pm

Interesting topic!

I went state primary and private girls secondary which I think is a great combination ( a good grounding and then academic focus when it really counts).I think with private primary there is areal danger of being in with the pushiest parents who are determined to engineer their child's future (academically and/or socially). I think there is also a real difference between those schools which select on ability at 4 and those which are based on waiting list in terms of the parents They attract.

From my own experience, the girls who came in to the secondary from the prep dept were the lowest achievers by gcse and a levels bar a few exceptions. I think this reflected the fact they were heavily coached to pass the entrance exam but at the end of the day, having started privately at 4 was absolutely no guarantee they were any more intelligent years later. The bright pupils who passed the exam from state schools were the ones with the most potential who generally far outperformed the prep girls.

I loathe the sense of entitlement that comes from certain schools/ upbringings but that is a much wider issue! It may sound hypocritical as I was privately educated but it was up north and essentially a really good academic girls school with a very mixed intake in terms of wealth. Parents were teachers, doctors, high street solicitors not investment bankers and so in. My parents worst fear was that we would turn into complete snobs.

I think the key is in choosing the right school and to go with your gut feel. Not all private schools are the same. I know from looking at primaries round here there are some where I would just not fit in and that's fine, it's right for someone else! I for one will be very very careful when looking at the social mix of schools!
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NorthcoteLuvvie
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Re: State versus private - which provides best education?

Postby NorthcoteLuvvie » Thu May 31, 2012 5:49 pm

I have close experience of both so I also have strong opinions :lol:

This is how I see it:

1) The academic education in most modern private schools is significantly better than state. Class sizes are smaller. Teaching resources higher. To be even clearer, bright pupils are stretched and the middle ground all tend to do better than they would in a state. The league tables bear this out.

You can also see this with the percentage of kids from the excellent local states who then fail to get into the private secondaries. I am not saying those children are less able, just that when the test comes around the private kids know more.

2) For some children the sporting activities at private schools are worth their weight in gold. If you have a sporty boy or girl (but mainly boy) they will play games every day with swimming clubs, cricket clubs, rugby clubs, tours and the like and that is in PREP school.

However, and this is the big kicker, I am not convinced that all of this coaching and conditioning actually matters in the long run.

I am a big fan of private schools but for A Levels, when the drive and natural intelligence of the child is the over-riding factor, I am not sure that it makes a big difference.

There is one caveat to this, however.

If a child is in an environment where it is not cool to learn (big city state school?) then they will end up being REALLY damaged by a state education. If they shy away from reading and it crushes their natural curiosity, then the child is in deep deep trouble.
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Vives09
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Re: State versus private - which provides best education?

Postby Vives09 » Thu May 31, 2012 6:01 pm

This should make a good debate, a lot of people seem to have very strong feelings one way or the other!

I had a very mixed school career, having gone from a state primary school to a really snobby prep school (more interested in where your parents went on holiday than how happy we were at school :o ), then going on to an all girls independent school which was amazing and I loved, followed by an average-ish comprehensive which I also really enjoyed and did well at because I guess I just enjoyed learning. The only one I wouldn't have recommended was the Prep school - I was bottom of the class and they wrote me off - I would have loved to send a copy of my MSc certificate but they had gone out of business by then!

I think schools are very different, and you can get disastrous independent schools just like you can get rubbish state schools, just paying money doesn't mean you get a better school! Having said that, the good independents have more freedom and can potentially use the time more effectively, and they do better on clubs and after school activities from my experience.

State schools have a mixed intake, which I personally prefer and if a child is bright and has supportive parents they'd do well anywhere. If money was no object though, I would have a hard time choosing between the two sectors, but I don't have the luxury of that choice so for me it makes things much easier!
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Writerlady
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Re: State versus private - which provides best education?

Postby Writerlady » Thu May 31, 2012 6:55 pm

I went to a private girls school and my children both go to single sex private schools. For me it is several things.

1. I have come to realise that boys and girls learn very differently and at very different rates. Both schools have such a different atmosphere and methods are different and work very well. The teachers are experienced in which tactics to employ in order to capture the interest of the children.
2. Class sizes are small. My children are in classes of 15. This means they have built a strong relationship with their teachers and are unlikely to be allowed to slip through the net.
3. The little things, that ultimately help you get on. Things like shaking hands, eye contact, talking to adults and holding conversations, learning to listen. Call it snobby if you like but all these little things are very important and set you apart in later life and give you the confidence to achieve.
4. Aspirations. I want my children to reach for the stars, and to have teachers that will help them do that. I do not want that whole 'that's not for the likes of us' attitude. Obviously a lot of that is down to the parents as well of course.

Lots of people go on about the other parents. Bugger the parents. There are some truly ghastly ones at our school, and some truly wonderful ones. It's the same everywhere, in different ways. Just avoid them. You don't have to hang out with them!

I massively agree with the poster who commented that there are brilliant state schools and rubbish private schools. That is just so true. I went to a rubbish private school and many of my state educated friends (including my excellent state school educated/Oxford) husband are much better educated than I am!!
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supergirl
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Re: State versus private - which provides best education?

Postby supergirl » Thu May 31, 2012 8:00 pm

" I want my children to appreciate the meaning of money and don't want them to go to a school where they are in a bubble of highly privileged people. "

Well dont send your children to Belleville or Honeywell schoolw then because effectively there is a good chance that your children will be surrounded by children like that... This area is filled with very priviledge children, mine included: we can afford to live here for a start and i can afford to work part time only... But my children so far have not (and will no)t be handed anything on a plate. There was a thread some time ago where someone said that even though Belleville and Honeywell are state schools, they behaved like a private schools and were filled with children who could go to private schools... Knowing a few people who go there, i actually agree.

As for your question, i dont know which provide the best because i think it all depends on your child snd what will suit him. But for me, a place that is a bit more academic suits me better because i am french, the system is very academic so i d like to give my childrn the best of both system if i can...
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MGMidget
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Re: State versus private - which provides best education?

Postby MGMidget » Thu May 31, 2012 9:56 pm

Twice-as-nice, I have similar dilemmas to you, also being state educated but having many private school educated friends and having worked with many private school educated people. I find myself contemplating private school for my son which would not have been my inital choice but given the other options open to me at the moment it is now my preferred choice. I'm not worried about the parents or the influences at the school though - I think whatever school you send your child to around here there will be some people who you would not have much in common with and some children who you would consider a bad influence on yours! I think it is up to us as parents to instill the values we want in our children despite some of the less desirable outside influences they will encounter. I don't think there is a big difference in the social mix of some of the local state schools (e.g. Honeywell and Belleville) and some of the local private schools - although there will be some very rich in the private schools and some very poor in the state schools. Many will be somewhere in between.

My feeling is that bright children may get more stretched in some of the more academically focused private schools than would happen in the state sector. In the state sector they would still do well though but probably not as well as they would in the private sector. However, as NorthcoteLuvvie has already pointed out by the time you get to A levels motivation and intelligence is what counts. I don't know yet how good private schools are at instilling the motivation - I wonder whether having more handed to you on a plate early on (e.g small class sizes, plenty of high quality teacher attention, access to all the best text books for the syllabus etc) means that private school children haven't had to be such self starters to get as far as A levels as some state school children have to be. That may be why some of the more academically successful state school children go on to do really well at A level and university - they have had to do more for themselves early on.

However, what I have observed in my working life is that private education can really open doors. It gives people an easy self confidence, often better public speaking skills, and, in certain fields, helps them to 'fit in' more easily (professions such as law for example, business/professional consultancies, and 'corporate' life the head office of many PLCs). That probably counts for far more in terms of career potential in certain fields than academic qualifications alone. Having observed some of the children from the local state secondary schools I could not imagine them 'fitting in' easily in the business sectors I've mentioned above. They would need to have a big 'make over' in terms of how they present themselves, how they talk etc. All do-able to some extent to turn them into respectable looking and sounding business people with some practice and effort, but they would never have that natural easy self confidence to truly 'fit in' in these sectors in the way that many privately school educated people would! Being state school educated I had to work at filling some skills gaps earlier in my career (e.g. public speaking) which just came naturally to my private school educated colleagues. Also if you have attended certain schools (and I mean the more elite public schools) then you have access to a very handy old boys/old girls network.
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Mrs Contractor Mum
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Re: State versus private - which provides best education?

Postby Mrs Contractor Mum » Thu May 31, 2012 11:03 pm

I really think it's down to the encouragement given to and natural aptitude of the child that will determine where they get to in life. I'm state educated and my earnings outstrip the people I know who were privately educated and most of the people I know that i would consider truly successful went to state schools and worked hard to get to the top. I think their success is down to ambition and drive which is partly given by parents, partly by good teachers but also down to the individual. I wasn't given the right encouragement at my state school as coming from an Indian background, the school expected you to get an arranged marriage at 16 or be a doctor/ accountant!
It took me to enter work to actually find out what I was good at and wanted to do. Would I have done better at a private? Maybe academically I might have gone to a better university but other than that I can't see what would have been different.
For me, the key problem with education at state schools now is the over emphasis on assessments and judgement of the schools against others. It feels as though the focus is getting a school to perform for measures sake rather than the children and therefore everything a child does at a state school is to pass an assessment to judge the school rather than learn anything. For that reason, I would prefer my boy when he is old enough to go to a private school.
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schoolgatesmum
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Re: State versus private - which provides best education?

Postby schoolgatesmum » Fri Jun 01, 2012 11:29 am

Goodness - I'm not sure where to begin here as there are so many points made that I want to comment on! This will probably be a bit random but I feel that I need to comment on a few of them:

League tables - of course private schools outperfom most state schools as they select the children in the first place!

Sport at state schools - at Belleville my son does extra-curricular cricket and netball. My daughter does extra-curricular gymnastics. If they wanted to there is also a running club, tag rugby and football.

Belleville full of priveleged children. There has certainly been a change in demographics since my son started (he's now 10) but there is no way you can say that a private school is as mixed as Belleville (can't speak for Honeywell). The FSM (free school meals) measure for Belleville is about 15%. That means that the parents of 15% of the children at Belleville earn less than £16k a year. There are many children with SEN (special educational needs) and many whose first language is not English. There are many races and many faiths. In other words, there is a broad spectrum. Granted there are some from wealthy backgrounds but that's great too as it gives a true mix.

Bright children get more stretched at private school - not true for Belleville. Children with high aptitude for maths for example get taken out of the class for extension maths.

State schools are all about measures - not true. If that were the case, they wouldn't accept children with quite severe SEN. There is never any pressure on the children when they sit the SATS. Parents are only told just before the SATs and the children are very relaxed about it. There is no extra tuition for SATs! Can you say the same for children at private schools sitting common entrance etc?

Private schools prepare you better for a career in law, consultancy and corporate life. Not sure what to say here - maybe they do but I would be much happier for my child to want to enter a profession such as teaching, medicine, social work, arts, youth work, local politics. So they won't earn as much but so what? They'll be contributing to society.

I was state educated and so are my children in case you hadn't guessed!!
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Re: State versus private - which provides best education?

Postby BalhamMumWorkingFT » Fri Jun 01, 2012 11:59 am

What a hot topic. And yet, what is best for one family is a completely different story for another...

I have my kids in private school only because we couldn't get into state school. It is benefiting my son immensely. This is mainly because he is young for his year and the low ratio helps him out. He's only little so I am not really concerned with anything other than him having fun, growing socially and physically,etc... I am happy with the teachers and the school.

I also am quite happy about my kids having sports as part of their curriculum and I don't have to run around with after school clubs, swimming, etc... because it all happens at school. But I have no idea if the same applies at state schools. I work full time so having my weekends totally clear is fantastic.

Consider yourself really lucky that even the not so good schools are good around here. We live in a fantastic community and people are generally nice. I love it.

x
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Re: State versus private - which provides best education?

Postby Mrs Contractor Mum » Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:51 pm

Thanks SGM - if you look at admissions policy criteria, schools have to give places to children with statemented SEN and looked after children so by law are not allowed to discriminate which could be why there are many children with SEN at Belleville. Only after these applications have been considered do the rest of the applications on siblings and distance etc get considered.

The FSM measure is often distorted as it only tells you the number of parents that have applied for FSM, the number entitled may be significantly higher but the parents may not want their child to be discriminated against because of it. This distortion works against the school as they get extra funding for having children who are on FSM. So Belleville may have more than 15% of children with parents earning less than £16k.

Personally, I'm really against young children being tested whether its for EYFS (over 100 individual assessments), Key stages 1 & 2 or common entrance exams as it means the focus becomes on teaching to pass a government assessment. Finland manages perfectly well without assessments and private schools achieving top scores in worldwide results.

I am also against the reporting of the number of children receiving FSM or for whom english isn't a first language. Does it automatically mean these children will bring the overall assessment results down? Its statistics like these that mean schools get discriminated against during the application process (by parents) in the first place.
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supergirl
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Re: State versus private - which provides best education?

Postby supergirl » Fri Jun 01, 2012 1:39 pm

It is very interesting what you are saying contractormum.

Also i d like to say that in a lot of schools around here and particularly at belleville, there are yes a lot of children for whom english is not their first language. But that doesnt mean that the mix is wider than at a private schools. You find at Belleville a lot of french kids with expats parents or not but which are from very privileged families/backgrounds.

Children living in council housings get priority for school applications so state schools get their positive discrimination snd keep their mix. But i zm convinced that the majority of kids at belleville are from privileged backgrounds.

Some private schools have a wide mix too, i know 2 children who are on full bursary at a private school nearby. No way their parents could have ever dream of putting their at a private school otherwise and they never ever go on holidays... There are always exceptions everywhere. If you want a true mix, take your place at High View for example?
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schoolgatesmum
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Re: State versus private - which provides best education?

Postby schoolgatesmum » Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:11 pm

I'm not sure why you think that children from council housing get priority at state schools as that is definitely not the case. The demographics for Belleville school have changed since my son started 6 years ago but there still is a pretty good mix of backgrounds in the lower years as well.
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Re: State versus private - which provides best education?

Postby mungomuffit » Sat Jun 02, 2012 12:03 pm

In my experience it's more complicated (and interesting!) than saying all families private schools are rich and all at state schools are poor. I just find that attitude really snobby and inaccurate. Many families nearly kill themselves paying for private school fees while many state schools in the area are very well off indeed.

We opted for state primary because we were lucky enough to be in the catchment for a very good one. It's great! Lots of bright, well mannered, interesting children (some little horrors, but you'd get them in private schools too), wonderful teachers and it's free! Parents are doctors, barristers, actors, CFO's etc. However, I agree with previous posts about it being more difficult in London to go from a state primary into a selective or other good secondary school. I too want my children to reach for the stars and be able to enter top professions (if that's what they want) like my husband and I did. We are conscious that a long-term state education in London might hold them back academically so we will be looking carefully again at the whole issue in a few years (groan). But for now, we are happy with the state primary.
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Re: State versus private - which provides best education?

Postby NorthcoteLuvvie » Sat Jun 02, 2012 6:25 pm

Its a good point MM.

There are a lot of parents who say things like "state school X is like a private school" because they're equating strong parental support and middle class parents with an independent education.

However they couldn't be more wrong.

It is the links between the prep schools and the selective private secondary schools that show the distinction between private and state.

Basically the overiding objective of a prep school is to get the child into the next school.

Thats it and that is what they are judged on by both parents, govenors and other schools.

So they coach the child for the exams, build up a relationship with the most popular destination schools and then once the exam results are in the head and the teachers will be hitting the phones to ensure that any surprise under or over achievers are sorted out.

Some good friends of mine have a child at one of the top local state schools and when they enquired about how the children are prepared for entrance exams they were told "they're not". They will all go to "school X" as that is where the council has decided they should go. So there is no preparation for private school exams.

Contrast that with one well know prep school where all the children are mock-interviewed by the head so they know what to expect in the exams!
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