Should I send my child to private school?

“Mummy, I need to watch this because I need to learn everything I can about Dinosaurs to be a palaeontologist.”

 This has been going on now for months, possibly even a year, and I have never known a child be so determined to be something so… obscure at the age of 5. He’s determined to learn about geology, dinosaurs and what this child hasn’t taught himself about dinosaurs you could put on a pin head. He just knows so much!

 I decided to google a bit more about how one becomes a palaeontologist, after all, it’s not your every day to day career now is it. In order to become a palaeontologist you have to have a strong focus in science and maths, field experience, biology, geology and higher maths from a university that specialises in the sciences and then you have to find a university in the world that offers masters in palaeontology… once you’ve done all that? You’re looking at becoming a professor.

 All achievable, sure but I can’t help but wonder how much more achievable; how much of a head start Toby would have if he were in the private school system.

 Hear me out before you gasp.

Our school is phenomenal, the teachers are amazing and the children are all super happy however there are things that having had both a state and private education I can say for certain. Firstly, state education levels are very different to those in private education. Elitism in this country (and indeed around the world, I knew so many girls from Asia and Mexico in my time at The Mount Preparatory School) means that you can indeed buy your child a better education. It’s a simple fact. When I was at The Mount in year 7, I was learning biology, physics, chemistry as separate subjects, yet when I had to leave that school system because my mum couldn’t afford it any longer, I was placed in (what was at the time) one of the best state schools in the area and they learnt “science” until year 10, only then being told there was a difference between the three branches that I had known. I later discovered that my year 7 tuition in science was a match for the state systems year 9. It’s a depressing thought isn’t it? Our state schools are so bogged down with government standards that I genuinely think our curriculums are lacking.

 It wasn’t even science. At The Mount I learnt German, French, Spanish and Latin from 11. Admittedly I already knew a lot of French because I’d been doing it from the age of 4 in private junior school. That isn’t a requirement in most junior schools. At The Mount, they took 3 extra GCSEs to my equivalent. THREE. There were no SATs at Year 9 level, you had equivalent exams but no pressure to jump through a hoop that basically meant nothing other than to tick a government box.

 I mentioned a second thing. The doors that seem to become unlocked, swing open like you’ve just whispered Alohamora under your breath, all because you say or put that elitist school on your resume for college, university and then that job. It’s not something that *should* happen, the leg up because your education was paid for, but I can tell you from personal experience that is does happen. Often. In my own personal experience I can see a marked change in the way that people treat me when I say that I went to The Mount vs I went to Norton College. I went to both, neither should count for more than the other because ultimately both comes up with GCSE results and both comes up with an education level that you can use to go to college, yet the difference is there, in all it’s shining glory.

 If I sent my son to an elite school, a private school where his education is (in my experience) going to be to a higher standard than that of the current curriculum in state schools, and could afford him that door opening ability… should I?

 Well there is a question. A part of me screams YES! Another part of me isn’t so sure. Should this level of elitism be there? Should the current curriculum not be in line with the higher level of some private schools and the snobbery surrounding it all be banished?

 I don’t have the answers to that, I really don’t.


  1. Ellie Bilton
    April 16, 2018 / 12:47 pm

    I think it depends on the child and the school. I also went to The Mount (year above ;)) after having 2 years in a state school (which I loved) and as much as I hate to admit it there is no doubt I did better (results wise) for having smaller class sizes and one on one extra tuition (I’m dyslexic and have NO attention span!). Being ‘creative’ I was really able to cultivate my drama and art there. It was the right pick – a more acedemicly focused private school would have been entirely wrong for me (not that I would have got in) and possibly in the state system I would not have had the self discipline required to do well.

    As a general rule I do feel that they breed elitism, entitlement and do not give a realistic view of what life is like (All girls… really?!?!). I would not think to send my children to private school unless they had certain needs that needed catering to and supporting that in the large state system they might get lost. It would have to be ‘the right’ private school.

    This is all theoretical as there is no chance I would ever have the money! Luckily the comprehensive schools here are top notch so it is not a problem. I know this is not the case across the board…

  2. March 31, 2018 / 9:19 pm

    Out of interest what did you decide in the end? My brother went to mainstream state schools, but ended up getting a double degree in vet science and zoology from Cambridge. He made COO by the age of 28 (graduated at 27). Which shows that talent & determination are also huge factors, especially since he studied along side a lot of under achieving etonians who parents could buy their education but not their brains or drive! But I’m also aware that as a southerner who’s been priced out of her home town markets and pushed up north in order to survive the cost of living that there are huuuge discrepancies in levels of education not just between government and privately funded schools but from county to county & town to town.

    • Harriet April 2, 2018 / 7:34 am

      We’re still at state school at the moment, I can’t see me being able to afford to send all three children and maintain the lifestyle we all have and want to keep. I don’t agree with sending one child to school in one place and paying for a better education for another child as it feels unfair with mine being so close in age so I don’t think that it would work for us at this time. I totally agree that with the drive and abilities you can overcome any constraints.

  3. January 12, 2018 / 4:54 pm

    It’s a tough one! I remember debating it with friends at uni who had been to private schools compared to my state school education and at that time I didn’t really see it as a positive (I had done just as well as them academically but seemed to find it easier to relate my worldview to others because I’d been in mixed ability classes with people from all kinds of backgrounds).

    And yet, looking back I realise that I’d had a very privileged background (my dad had a good job, my mum stayed home, my sister and I were able to go on any school trips we wanted and had support and encouragement to complete homework/coursework etc) which all helped us come out of the state school system without as much disadvantage as some. And I think that gap between private and state education has only grown over time – our government has made such a mess of it at all levels!

    And suddenly I find myself wondering how we’ll manage when O reaches secondary school. He has ASD and is massively advanced academically (honestly, I was teaching him algebra basics the other day yet he told me his maths at school was focusing on adding and subtracting 1 – say what now?) Already he struggles to fit in with the system, and he’s only in year one – I can only imagine this getting even harder as he gets older. But we could never afford a private education for him… so it’s state school or home education (and as he is very sociable and also struggles with social concepts at times, I don’t want to take him out of school and away from his peers).

    So I’m with you when you say there is a huge difference, but that this is a real problem! Money shouldn’t make such a big difference in a child’s education – not just for the child’s sake, but also our own… how many kids are there who could be amazing scientists (for example) and make a real difference to our futures but who’ll never get that chance as they didn’t have the money to pay for the education?

  4. Sara
    January 9, 2018 / 11:22 pm

    This is a debate we had before having no.2 and it’s a still ongoing discussion while no.1 is at primary school.

    In an ideal world, all children should have access to the same levels of education. Cohort studies have shown time and time again that engaged parents make up for school deficiencies across the board – whether they’re public, private, grammar or comprehensive.

    But in terms of polish, in terms of added extras, extra curriculars, well rounded-ness, private schools still win hands down because they have the staffing capacity and the time to put it in. Longer school days plus fewer box ticking exercises mean that edges are rubbed off and more confidence is generally instilled, as there are so many more experiences offered (in many cases, not all).

    I think that we’re looking at going private for secondary level; the value added seems greater – plus the things which affect your life trajectory are more influenced by the opportunities afforded to you aged 11-18 than 5-11.

    No right answers though. I think you can get most of the way there at home – but as you said, doors do still open for the ‘right’ school.

    (FWIW, my sister and I didn’t both go private, just one of us did. There’s no resentment there – and very little difference in terms of academic and/or career achievements. I think you have to pick the right school for your child).

    • Harriet January 10, 2018 / 12:01 pm

      Ohh that’s really interesting that there is no resentment there. I know a few people who didn’t go to private school but their sibling did and boy, oh boy, do they resent it. H 🙂

  5. January 9, 2018 / 10:00 pm

    We are in EXACTLY the same position and I am leaning towards yes but if you come up with a robust answer please tell me what to do for the best?!

    • Harriet January 10, 2018 / 12:02 pm

      Haha I can’t help you there!

  6. Elke
    January 9, 2018 / 8:44 pm

    Interesting post! We’ve moved from Belgium with our two sons two years ago, looking for some adventure (my husband now works here and I’m a freelance writer). We love it here but the main reason to go back in a couple of years is education. The boys are now 6 and 3, going to a state school and private nursery and I cannot understand the difference that is made between rich and poor people. In Belgium there is no private circuit, everyone goes to good state school, college and university. University for one year costs not more than a few hundred to a thousand pounds, depending on your income. And I understand your concern: you want the best for your kids, so a private education could be that. But my main concern would be that a child only sees ‘wealthy’ people there, it’s not a real, divers public, is it? For a paleontologist it would work, but what about ministers? They have to make decisions for people they’ve never even met?

    • Harriet January 10, 2018 / 12:07 pm

      That’s a really interesting point of view and indeed one of the problems with a lot of our higher tier ministers is that a good 90% (not an actual stat but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was accurate or even too low) have had a privileged upbringing, not just with private schools but with financial means too. I will say that private school doesn’t automatically mean that you aren’t seeing people who are perhaps less well off, people will struggle desperately to get their children there. I’m walking proof of that – my mum did so on a nurses salary. You do see a diverse society, but it is slightly skewed I will admit.

  7. January 9, 2018 / 3:12 pm

    It is a tough one and there will never be the right answer, the only way you can get the right one is by what is right for you as a family 🙂

    Our school is amazing and the kids have learnt so much from it but there is a pressure on the staff to push hard and do more which means something has to give.

    My two have mentioned they would like to become an archaeologist when they grow up however this isn’t something you see advertised in many colleges locally to us!

    However having gone through standard education in what was known as one of the worst schools in the area, coming out of that with decent qualifications and being able to go into a good career plus pushing on as self employed I know lots of the hard work comes from the individual. That is why I always tell our two they can become whatever they want to be, it just takes a lot of hard work and determination to get there.

    Would I ever send them private if we could afford to, to be honest I really don’t know! I hope you work it out though 🙂

    • Harriet January 10, 2018 / 12:08 pm

      Thanks lovely! I absolutely agree that a lot of hard work has to come from within, but I do think that those swinging doors makes a world of difference. It’s such a tough one!

  8. January 9, 2018 / 12:31 pm

    For me it’s a no brainer. Of course it shouldn’t be like this but it is – we do the best we can for our own children don’t we? Surely.
    If I could afford to send mine they would go. My 10 year old is SO bright and held back so much in his state school that he is actually spending his time help his peers with special needs. If I had the 35,000 I need he would be at our local private school. And this is why the 11+ is so hard these days because people can afford to pay for tutors as it is cheaper than private.

    If you can afford it then I would say go for it.

    • Harriet January 10, 2018 / 12:08 pm

      I am inclined to agree with you!

  9. January 9, 2018 / 11:23 am

    Jack is in year one in a private school and Phoebe will follow in September after passing the assessment last month. It’s actually my old school and I am
    So glad we chose the private route. By golly it’s eye watering ly expensive but in my eyes oh so worth it. X

    • Harriet January 9, 2018 / 12:12 pm

      I’m so pleased it’s working well for you lovely!

  10. January 9, 2018 / 10:51 am

    If I could afford it and I thought it would befefit my children then I would – without a doubt. However in our area the nearest private school is 40miles away in another country -we live close to the scotland /england border! I think it completely sucks that there i the elitist gap but in the same respect as mwdical care there will always be a gap between those with money and those without there is no way to fix this unfortunately. Good luck with your decision x

    • Harriet January 9, 2018 / 11:05 am

      Thanks Pam. It’s a tough one isn’t it? I struggle to wrap my head around how I would send all three… so I don’t feel I can send any! x

  11. January 9, 2018 / 10:18 am

    We’ve been talking about this too! My little girl is only turning 1 on Friday but we’d have to be trying to pull savings together soon if we are able to afford it. We’ve been looking more at the Montessori schools, because we know how much pressure state school teachers are under to tick boxes (through no fault of the teachers! I think most teachers are fab) that it results in kids not being kids for long. They start to worry about passing tests rather than enjoying learning. Some children thrive on that and some crumble and I don’t know which our little one would be with that.

    I feel super torn about it all too. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. I know you’ll do the right thing for your family, sending lots of love xx

    • Harriet January 9, 2018 / 11:08 am

      It’s a tough one isn’t it?

  12. January 9, 2018 / 10:15 am

    I really don’t know. I don’t know what the answer is. I could never afford to send my children to private school but would I? We want the best for our kids don’t we and if money can provide that for them then I totally see why people would go for that.
    Apparently my parents considered sending me to private school but at the end of the day it came down to economics… They couldn’t send us both so sent neither – which I think was absolutely the right thing to do.

    • Harriet January 9, 2018 / 11:11 am

      I agree – I can’t wrap my head around how I would be able to afford all three at the moment so it’s highly unlikely they would go. I can’t imagine how I would feel if my parents had sent me and a sibling hadn’t gone or vice versa.

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