Private Schools –
My DiscoveryPhoto Credit Kelli Tungay
Making decisions about your children’s education can be a very stressful and hugely time-consuming process. Going down the private schooling route can be quite daunting if it is your first experience.
Three of our children have been educated in private schools. In fact, our youngest is still at a private school and so far, it is going well. I have found that without a doubt, there is good and bad in every school. However, some unusual things, that I have discovered over the years, I wish I had known sooner. It would have enabled us to make easier and potentially better decisions for our children, at a time when they needed to be made, instead of rummaging around for information and learning by numbers. The fact is that people don’t always share some of the private school knowledge and for the first timers, you have to dig around to find out about some of the lesser known stuff.
If you are new to the world of private schools, which we were, as not many of our friends knew much about it, and our families certainly didn’t, because we were all state school educated. Although, my Mum started privately educating my older brother, then, five children later, educating six children was too big a financial commitment for our parents. I wanted to share some of my personal findings, some have little consequence, but they might be worth noting, depending on your own circumstances.
I would add pushy parents to the list, but there are pushy parents at every school. I would steer clear of the pushy parents if you can, as it can escalate competition and there is enough competition in our schools as it is. I should also mention results, in the list, but the league tables will give you that information, and of course, that can change from year to year, depending on the pupil’s achievements.
I have added a little more info re results below. As a note, these are based on my own experiences and not all of these are applicable to all privates schools. As you will see, some are not to be taken too seriously, but some findings can actually be quite revealing. If your child plays the French Horn, chances may increase with them getting a scholarship later, as it is often a more infrequently chosen instrument to play, which puts it in demand. If you work at the school, you often get a discount on your school fees if you have more than one child at the school. If you happen to chair a ‘PTA’ or ‘Friends Of’ the school, it is likely that your child will not be overlooked, often because the children are doers just as their parents are, or to make an acknowledgement and a thank you for the parents hard work on the PTA. It is not always fair, but It does happen at some schools.
The costs can vary from £10,000 a year for a day school to more than £25,000 per annum. In some schools of easy influence, your family history can matter. If you have more than two children at the same school, you often get a discount for the third child. If your child does well at school, you might be able to have an award created for future prize days, under your family name. Lamy ink pens go down very well.
You will be expected to be happy about any uniform changes and take the extra costs on the chin. They are not just for the privileged, they are for all sorts of children, including many parents who work extra hard to pay for the school fees. Sports and extra-curricular activities rarely get cut.
They offer financing programs to help pace out the fee-paying. Many private schools will often mirror family life. Most private school teachers are well qualified, but not all, so ask questions. Most private schools are diverse Most private schools have excellent supervision. Most have zero tolerance policies they offer great educational environmentsMost private schools require admission tests, but it is not as scary as many think, don’t allow any preconceived ideas to put you off.
Special educational needs is an area that many private schools have not got fully covered as yet, but they are working on it.
There are so many other pros and cons to private education, and you will find that it is a voyage of discovery, but with a little bit of knowledge upfront, it can help you choose the right school for your children and also it can help you navigate your child more effectively, along the way. My advice to parents looking for the ‘perfect school’ is that is just doesn’t exist, but you can get pretty close. So ask questions, be really nosy when you are choosing a school, ask the staff, parents and pupils, ask on parent forums etc. You can find out a lot about a school from other parents, but you have to try to read between some of the lines as everyone has a different experience and if the school is going through staff changes that can make things a little unclear.
Asking questions is essential and you have a right to know how your money is going to be spent.
It’s always good to find an open board of governors, at a school, as those that appear secretive or elusive, are probably being ruled a little too heavily by the head of the school, which is not ideal unless the head is particularly amazing. As an extra note, regarding results, they can be misleading, as a school’s results are only ever as good as their records, or only ever as good as their last student’s set of exam results. If the school has mixed results from the past, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not worth considering. They may be giving a true reflection of the school’s achievements over the years and not just presenting what they want everyone to see.
It is natural to get a mixed set of results over the years, no matter how good the education is, not every child will perform in the same way, as others have in previous years.
Private schools can be amazing, just as so many state schools can be. In my experience, private schools can minimize the risk of things going wrong, but of course, there is no guarantee, nothing is ever certain, and each child is unique and absorbs education in a different way. What I have found is that a school that actively listens to the pupils and parents, is a school that is definitely worth looking at. A school that just pays lip service to everyone, is rarely going to work with you. If something goes wrong at school, and let’s face it, children spend many years at school, so there will undoubtedly be times that you will need to speak to the school, you will want them to proactively listen to you. You have a right to expect them to listen, as it should be part of their customer service that you are often paying a lot of money for.
And finally and so importantly, in addition to a school that listens, look for passion in the teachers and look into the ethos of the school? Look for happy pupils, good pastoral care, and choose somewhere with a happy vibe. Happy teachers make the world of difference to their pupils and happy pupils make a world of difference to their parents and more importantly to themselves.
Mandy Dineley 2019