Private Schools: Does Your Child Fit?

Posted on June, 2024

This blog addresses whether a private or independent school is the right choice for your child.

Only around 7% of children attend private schools, so what drives parents to choose this route?

The choice to send your child to a school can seem overwhelming.

Many considerations factor into this decision: lifestyle, quality of education, curriculum, ease of transport, cost, pastoral care, facilities, etc.

With VAT likely to be added to school fees, parents ought to consider whether private schools are the right option.

I also hope that this blog makes you consider the real costs and benefits of attending a private school and whether it is a worthwhile investment. This isn’t just a matter of it being a “gut-feeling”.

Prajay and I attended a selective Independent School in East London, so I like to think I know what I’m talking about.

What are Private Schools?

Private schools are educational establishments which do not receive direct funding from the government. They rely on fee-paying parents to fund the cost of each child’s education.

The average cost per child is now £6,944 a term for day pupils, and £12,344 a term for boarders.

As a parent, you also need to consider that there are other costs which could include transportation, school uniforms, textbooks, music lessons and instruments, stationery, lunch and exam fees. These extra costs can add up. In fact, on average, these extra costs amount to around £6,500 a year (Williams, 2023).

Although private schools do not follow the national curriculum prescriptively, they often do, and if they are selective, they will learn more advanced material earlier.

Benefits of Private Schools

Private schools usually benefit from smaller class sizes, and better facilities (especially the large ones). Smaller class sizes are correlated with many academic and social benefits.

Students in smaller classes have a greater share of the teacher’s attention. Furthermore, they become more reliant on a small number of their peers which allows them to form close interpersonal bonds.

In my experience, it is certainly the case that I formed very close bonds with my friends at Forest School. We are still friends now.

My dad actually said to me that I would “meet and associate with a better class of people” in private school. Now maybe he was being a bit blunt, and unfair with this assertion, but he was right that background plays a significant role in why parents send their children to private schools.

Elite private schools such as Eton, Harrow and Winchester are certainly more

If a private school is selective, then private schools give students the chance for most of their peers to be around a similar level of ability.

Students who excel in certain subjects are often allowed to develop their expertise further, and there may even be the chance to compete.

For instance, students who excelled in the maths challenges could go onto the mathematics olympiads. This is possible in state schools too, however, private schools are often able to provide more support.

There were exceptions to this rule, however, in the main, I noticed a huge difference between the students at private school and the state school comprehensive I hailed from.

Private schools are also able to offer a large range of extra-curricular activities that can give students a rich experience (no pun intended). I remember even joining the chess team for a brief period.

Choosing the Right Private School

All schools have a certain set of values that run through the institution.

When I was applying for secondary schools, my dad was impressed by the Forest School website and this ethos is transmitted from top to bottom – from the leadership, the rest of the staff and finally to the students.

Aside from just checking out the school website, there are always school open days. Parents and students should take advantage of these opportunities to get a complete picture of the school.

There are also plenty of forums discussing students’ and parents’ experiences of the schools. Your local network also should provide some information about schools. My mum knew many parents who had sent their children to different independent schools, and this no doubt informed her decision.

Practical considerations are also significant factors.

For instance, distance when commuting is extremely important. You should regard your child’s time as an asset.

If it takes “Timmy” two hours to get to and from school, he would waste at least 380 hours travelling. That’s almost 16 days in total!

My mum mainly sent me to Forest School, as opposed to the other grammar and independent schools as it was close to her work.

Another aspect you should consider is if your child has any special educational needs. It is always worth talking directly to the school about how this can be managed.

Financial Aspects

Probably the most important consideration is financial.

You must have a stable and relatively high income to send a child to a private school unless you are able to secure a generous scholarship or bursary.

No matter what form of education you pay for, the cost and return on investment should be always taken into consideration.

Education is an investment with a wide-ranging impact – it develops your child’s confidence, academic development, ethos, and network.

Although private schools can deliver great returns, investing that excess cash into some funds or property can potentially deliver far greater financial returns over a lifetime, and give your child a platform on which to build.

There were so many sacrifices my parents and others had to make to send us to private schools, and even now, my mum thinks that perhaps a wiser option could have been to send me to a state school, and then have me tutored.

At one of the top private schools, you might be able to see a greater financial return on investment.

Just imagine the circles in which students can mix at Eton or Harrow! The network benefit could amount to millions in value.

With VAT likely to be added to private school fees, the financial costs are likely to become even more burdensome over time.

Making the Decision

Choosing the right school for your child is a significant decision. Here’s how to determine if a private school is the right fit:

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Personalised Attention: Smaller class sizes mean more individualised instruction
  • Enhanced Resources: Superior facilities and technology
  • Academic Rigor: Higher standards and challenging curriculum
  • Values and Philosophy: Aligns with family values
  • Community and Networking: Strong personal and professional relationships

Cons:

  • Cost: Significant tuition fees
  • Pressure: Higher academic demands can lead to stress
  • Accessibility: Potentially Longer commutes
  • Diversity: Potential lack of multicultural environment at certain schools

Checklist

  • Does the teaching style match your child’s learning needs?
  • Are there support systems for different learning needs?
  • Does the school offer programs that align with your child’s interests?
  • Are there extracurricular opportunities?
  • Do the school’s values align with your family’s?
  • How is discipline handled?
  • Can you afford the tuition? Are there financial aid options?
  • What are the long-term benefits?
  • Will your child feel accepted?
  • Is the community supportive?
  • Is the school conveniently located?
  • What are the transportation options?

By evaluating these factors and using the checklist, you’ll be better equipped to decide if a private school is right for your child.

If you’re interested in applying to a private school, check out our independent schools course:

Independent School Course (Year 6)

Conclusion

Deciding if a private or independent school is right for your child involves many factors: education quality, curriculum, transport, cost, and facilities. Private schools offer smaller class sizes, better resources, and rigorous academics but come with significant costs.

Consider the school’s values, your child’s learning style, and practical aspects like location and special educational needs. Thorough research, school visits, and talking to current parents and students are essential.

Use the provided checklist to evaluate the pros and cons and make an informed decision about whether a private school is the best fit for your child.

Bibliography

Green, F. (2022), ‘Private schools and inequality’, IFS Deaton Review of Inequalities, https://ifs.org.uk/inequality/the-stubborn-persistence-of-educational-inequality

Stevens, W. (2023) The true cost of private school education in 2023. Available at: https://killik.com/articles/the-true-cost-of-private-school-education-in-2023/ (Accessed: 20 June 2024).

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