Are people who send their kids to private schools snobs?

I must have read half a dozen articles in the past week about how it’s WRONG to send your children to private school.

Apparently sending your kids to private school means you’re a snob. You’re putting unreasonable pressure on kids to achieve academically, at the expense of them being nice people who can get along with anyone. Oh, and if you like the fact that private schools are strict and focus on manners, you’re just abdicating your parental responsibilities. Seriously?

Imagine the reverse of that argument.

In sending your kids to state school you’re telling your kids education doesn’t matter. You’re being a chav and teaching your kids not to get along with affluent people. You’re not teaching them manners and you’re taking complete responsibility for teaching kids that stuff – because the school won’t.

Silly, isn’t it? It’s just one parent saying to another parent, “The way I raise my children is BETTER than the way you raise your children.” 

I chose to send my daughter to private school. Like most choices I make about my child, I made it based on my own (limited) knowledge and intuition, and with her best interests at heart.

I don’t think I’m someone who’d often be accused of being snooty.

And if you’re one of those people who think people like me send kids to private school because we want them to go to Oxbridge and become Rulers of the Free World, I’m about to disappoint you.

Yes, I want Flea to do well enough at school that she can make choices in later life based on her interests and not be limited by poor exam results – but that’s all. If she chooses not to go to uni – well, I can see a lot of upsides to that, frankly.

So why did we decide to educate Flea privately? Lots of reasons, as it happens.

Our state primary insists children attend full-time, from day one. The private school lets reception kids take half days and days off if they’re tired.

Our state primary has an intake of 35 reception kids and a year 1 class of 30 – sharing a classroom. The private school has reception classes of 12, with a teacher and a nursery teacher in each class.

Our state primary does tests. The private school doesn’t.

Our state school is a faith school. The private school isn’t.

Our state primary is in a small, almost exclusively white town. The private school draws students from all over the world.

Our state primary has to follow the national curriculum. The private school doesn’t.

Our state primary’s day finishes at 3.30pm. Flea’s school can care for children from 8am and until 6pm, if needed.


That said, no matter what my reasons might be – why should I have to offer them up as justification?

It’s so easy to judge other parents. To accuse them of being less than us. But I suspect those people are really just battling their own insecurity – if you’re not sure you’ve done the right thing, the easiest thing in the world is to put down the people who approach life differently, isn’t it?



Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. Vegemitevix
    17th April 2012 / 9:17 am

    I have to say that my kids (now in their tweens and teens) have had experience of both worlds – private school and state school. I can’t say that I am convinced that state schools do provide the best education for my kids. I’ve found there is less personal attention, less motivation to stick out from the crowd, and an overwhelming desire to fade into mediocrity. Provision for special learning styles especially when they tend towards the gifted and talented spectrum, is non-existant in our local state school. The attitude is; if they are so clever they’ll do it for themselves. Wrong. They don’t, they simply give up trying to fit in and being bored and spend the rest of their school life looking out the window. The end result has been college students who perform adequately to scrape by, and a massive deterioration in their self-confidence. If I had the money to send my kids to a private school I would do so without hesitation, and if that makes me a snob, I honestly couldn’t care less. Parenting is about choosing to do the very best for your children, and if I have to lose my cred in order to achieve what they need, so what.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:22 am

      I agree, and it was part of my motivation, to be honest. Flea is bright but also very well-behaved – and I figured she was just the sort of child who’d be overlooked in a large class and large school. She’d get by, and do okay, but nobody would have the time to really encourage her talents, or discover what they might be. At private school, her teachers know her SO well, and she’s thriving as a result.

      Oh, and I never had cred, so sod worrying about that.

  2. 17th April 2012 / 8:42 am

    I totally agree. Our daughter goes to private school and will do for as long as we can afford it. We aren’t rich but her education, and that of her little sister, is paramount to us and we sacrifice things to pay for her schooling. Our two nearest state schools are both failing – one so bad it’s under ‘special measures’. I feel sorry for those people who have no choice but to send their children there. All children have the right of a good education and a failing school in this day and age is totally unacceptable.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:12 am

      Ugh. It must be awful to have to face that choice when the local school isn’t very good. But I agree, all kids have the right to a good education, and if you pay for it, no matter, surely?

  3. 17th April 2012 / 8:44 am

    At last an honest response to a thorny issue. Most of us want the best for our kids. Part of this is a rounded education that produces a confident young adult. No more no less. If the local state school is up to the job I’m sure most fee paying parents would jump at the chance of not spending most of their disposable income on schools fees.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:12 am

      Thanks Richard. Yes, if I felt a local school was the best school for Flea, I’d certainly not be opposed to not spending on school fees!

  4. 17th April 2012 / 8:45 am

    I am with you on all points!! Unfortunately we can’t afford the private school option at the moment, but I am looking at ways to do so. We only have one child and the local schools are not good at all. I know people who live in nice areas who think their state schools are better options and are probably right. Depends so much on where you live.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:13 am

      It’s a lot easier if you have one – we certainly couldn’t afford it if we had two or three kids!

  5. 17th April 2012 / 8:47 am

    Live and let live is my motto. It takes all sorts and I hate the fact that people heap judgement on those who do not agree with them. I have friends with children in all sorts of educational establishments, private and state and so what. Get over it people. It is the perpetuation of these opinions that will do more harm in children.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:13 am


  6. 17th April 2012 / 8:48 am

    I went to a state school, quite a ropey one as it happens. My husband teaches in a state school. My father was an Assistant Headteacher at a state school. My mother was a Head of Year at a state school. That said, I wouldn’t AUTOMATICALLY send my (not yet 2 year old) daughter to a state school. We’re lucky. Our local state primary is a little village school with about 15 kids per class. I say lucky, because if we chose to send her to the private school next door we would probably be bankrupt. But if we could afford it and we lived in a different area with a not so great state school? I honestly don’t know… What I DO know is that we recently made the decision to take a private health appointment for our daughter because the NHS waiting list is 3 months. I never thought I’d do that. But when it’s your kids, you do what YOU think is best and screw everyone else and all former soap boxes.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:14 am

      I love that you say you do what’s best for your kids and screw the soap boxes. Absolutely.

  7. 17th April 2012 / 8:52 am

    If there was any way in hot and firey hell I could pay for my children to be in private school they’d be there in a heartbeat.
    Sadly, we can’t find any locally that have spaces on full bursary, and with four to pay for it’s simply not an option for us.
    Why on earth would you NOT make the best choice possible for your child?

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:14 am

      Yes, it’s a shame some people who would like private schools can’t afford it, but you make the best choice you can, don’t you?

  8. 17th April 2012 / 8:57 am

    Interesting post. I do not know why mums have to set themselves against each other so much. Individuals make choices and that is their right. I don’t send my children to private school as I cannot afford to do so. I see pros and cons of both types of education. I went to Cambridge University from a state school that had never had anyone else go to Oxbridge so I guess I have a little insight into both worlds. The more mums support each other in their right to choose how to live the better the world will be.
    I have great faith in my children and want them to aspire but what to is entirely up to them.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:14 am

      Amen to that. I wouldn’t dream of criticising another parent for sending their child to state school, so why is the reverse okay?

  9. 17th April 2012 / 8:58 am

    I think a lot of people feel threatened by others choices, perhaps because they’re not 100% sure they’ve chosen the right one.
    I met a lot of opposition when I chose an alternative route for my son and have met it again from the other side when we have gone back into the mainstream system this year – it’s uncomfortable for other people, I think, because it makes them question their own decisions (which for the majority of people is just to blindly follow the norm). In my opinion one size doesn’t fit all and constantly comparing ourselves or our children is ridiculous. Children thrive in environments that suit them and it’s our job to decipher what environment we think that should be for each individual child.
    And what a boring world it would be if we all agreed on one Right Way.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:15 am

      Yes, initially, I wanted Flea to go to a Montessori school but there wasn’t one near enough – but we got a LOT of opposition from people we knew. One (former) friend rather charmingly said to me, “But Sally, you’re raising her to be a freak.”

      Ugh. People suck sometimes.

      • 17th April 2012 / 9:26 am

        My two go to a Montessori nursery school. I didn’t realise they were freaks!

        We’ve had a raised eyebrow or two, but it’s a good fit for them so I don’t care.

        • 17th April 2012 / 12:32 pm

          Ha ha, madness. I’d be jealous if you told me your kids went to a Montessori school, not think they were freaks. My son is in a Montessori nursery, but no school around here. All depends on what you think is a good education, doesn’t it?

          • 17th April 2012 / 7:41 pm

            I know – I’d much rather Flea was in a Montessori school but it’s not an option. But I’m vehemently opposed to testing and pressure and the school she is at was one of two local options with that philosophy – both private schools. You do what you think is best, with what you’re given.

    • Domestic Goddesque
      17th April 2012 / 7:37 pm

      I agree entirely. Those people who feel they need to comment on us sending our girls to private school generally give us the impression that, rather than being critical of us, they are actually unsure of- and therefore defensive of- their own position. Not that this stops them being rude.

      IN fact, now that I think about it, they are being snobby in their own way by suggesting that their choice is ‘better’ than ours. Why do we send our children to private school? Why do you care??? *thumbs nose* (OK, I never actually said that in response to the question, though I have thought it!)

  10. 17th April 2012 / 9:00 am

    My daughters go to state school, but I may upset a lot of people when my son with aspergers starts secondary school, as I am considering spending the allowance I get for him from the State on sending him to the local private school, where they cater very well for children with additional educational needs. So I am in no position to judge anyone!

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:17 am

      I think it’s up to you entirely – if that support is important, why on earth wouldn’t you pay for it?

  11. 17th April 2012 / 9:02 am

    Private school wasn’t really an option for us (after I investigated the cost of the secondary school places …), but if I’d have thought that our local secondary school was not providing a good education for my daughter, I would have gone back to see if there was any way we could afford it.

    And I’ll do the same for my son when we look for secondary school places.

    People choose different schools for different reasons – some are against grammar schools (I am not); others are against private schools (I am not); some are against academies (I am not).

    The main thing is this: if it works for your child and he/she enjoys their school, has good friends, has good relationships with their teachers, the school has good discipline and provides a good education and out of school curriculum, then that is great. That’s all you want, isn’t it?

    We all want the best for our children and if that means making sacrifices to enable them to go to a private school – particularly if you are not happy with local state provision – then that is up to you.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:18 am

      Completely agree – it’s about finding the right school for each child, within your means.

  12. Ruth Taylor
    17th April 2012 / 9:07 am

    I totally agree that it is up to the individual. My sons are grown now (younger one hopefully will graduate this summer). We used both state and private systems, and I have encountered prejudice and support in equal measures in both tyoes of school. There are many people who choose private education and make considerable personal sacrifice to do so: their choice!
    My elder son had meningitis when I was 7 months pregnant with his brother. It took a few years in the early 1990s to get the extent of damage identified (short term memory problems, total deafness in one ear, fine motor control issue affecting ability to control a pencil) by which time
    we found there was a waiting list of 3 years to be assessed for a statement of special needs in our inner London Borough. We were fortunate enough to be able to afford private assessment and school to save him from losing the first vital few years of his education. Even then it was a struggle.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:21 am

      Yes, I think there are probably loads of amazing state schools and plenty of mediocre private schools. In our case, it happened that the best school for my child was a private school- and fortunately I am able to pay the fees. I could have a shiny new SUV, I choose not to. My choice. When it’s your child, those choices become very easy I think – whether it’s education or health or additional support, you want to do what’s best for them, don’t you?

      • Ruth Taylor
        17th April 2012 / 9:59 am

        We eventually moved out of London to an area where the cost of living was lower and there was still a private school with the right support for eldest. So many “yummy mummies” who could not make me out due to the beat up old Volvo I was driving! And still am driving! The private system did not suit my younger, bolshier son, and he got into university through the state system; and vows he will never send his children to a private school. My eldest graduated from Durham 3 years ago, and is about to get married, and I am confident that the right choice was made for him. We do what we can as parents, and beat ourselves up over it enough not to have to take it from others.

        • 17th April 2012 / 9:27 pm

          Ha! Yes, I drive a regular car and there are some seriously fancy cars at Flea’s school. But having said that, most of the parents are perfectly lovely and it’s a great school. I do agree though, it’s about what suits each child – my daughter is very quiet and compliant, and I think she needs that little extra bit of support while she’s young.

  13. 17th April 2012 / 9:13 am

    Absolutely agree – it’s nobody’s concern. It really winds me up when people feel they can make stupid accusations about the quality of my parenting based on this choice.

  14. Sarah Cooper
    17th April 2012 / 9:18 am

    I completely agree, although I do not send my children to private school I have known people that do and they were far from snooty (in fact, genuinely lovely people). I do not think it is fair of others to judge those that do. It is true that not everybody is going to agree on what they believe to be the best for their children but instead we should respect one another’s difference of opinion and accept that we are all different. Many seem to turn up their top lip and snarl, bearing teeth to those who are different. One of my deepest beliefs is that you should NEVER judge a person based on opinion alone – always take the time to get to know a person before passing judgement.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:28 am

      I think it really is about fear of difference and fear of the very idea the choice you made might not be the right one that makes people so defensive. Tiresome, though.

  15. 17th April 2012 / 9:18 am

    You do what is right for your child I nearly send J to private school but I choose the school where I work. At the time classes were smaller 20 children at a most to a class but now it is 30. So as much as I love where I work I would not send him there now but choose to send him private because of the class sizes.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:23 am

      Class sizes are worrying especially if, like me, you have an August baby – they’re very young to try and hold their own among 30 other kids.

  16. 17th April 2012 / 9:19 am

    I wrote a massive long rambling comment and deleted it because basically all I wanted to say was this – Why would anyone not want to give their child the best start to life that they could?

    Why does it make someone a snob if they choose to send their child to a school that can offer them the opportunities and education that your school offers Flea.

    I don’t think that makes you a snob, I do think it makes people who imply that it does, come across as a little bit bitter that they couldn’t offer their child the same opportunities.

    In the end, we all make the best decisions we can for our children depending on our circumstances. For me, my children are in a good (not brilliant) state school and I work with the school to help their learning outside of school. We read together, I help with their homework and we do lots of activities outside of school to enhance their learning in a fun way.

    Ooops it ended up as a long rambly comment again but there you go 😉

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:29 am

      We love rambly comments, so thanks 🙂

      Yes, it’s about giving kids the best start you can, and I agree I’ve read some posts that strike me as being a little bit bitter, in their vehemence and judgment.

  17. Nikki
    17th April 2012 / 9:22 am

    Gosh, I’d never put down people who choose to go private over public – totally crazy. I like your post but think it’s a bit sad that you’ve had to post it as someone has obviously got to you a bit and now you’ve felt the need to justify your decision by writing this and noting your reasons.

    Be more confident Sally – you’re doing a great job with Flea and make the decisions that are right for you both. Blow anyone else and don’t feel the need to justify it to anyone. A two finger salute to anyone challenging you would do just fine – or take the high road and ignore them completely.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:24 am

      It sort of is a more polite version of the two-finger salute. I know full well the school I chose for Flea was the best fit – for me, as a working parent, and for her, as a younger, very compliant and bright child. It just riles me to think anyone imagines they have the right to tell me I’m less of a parent because of it. Grrrrr.

  18. 17th April 2012 / 9:24 am

    Thank you! I have read a lot of posts about private schools recently too and I really dislike this kind of inverted snobbery. A blogger I follow even tweeted the other day, ‘I really hate private school kids’ which I thought was an astounding piece of prejudice towards a group of children from a grown adult!

    I particularly dislike the ‘my sisters kids went to private school and got xyz poor results’ or ‘the private school kids round here are awful’ type arguments. I’m sure we can all hold up examples of exam results or behaviours that shed a negative light on either system!

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head; people feel insecure. It’s a sad fact of life that some things you can only get if you pay for – like smaller class sizes and flexibility. We might privately educate our kids (only cos daddy teaches at a private school so discount!) but if we couldn’t afford to I know I would feel defensive and upset about the idea that there was something good in life that I was not able to provide for my children (when really there would be no need as most state schools are pretty good anyway).

    Regardless, I am sick to the bloody back teeth of all the Mummy vs Mummy bashing, and being judged and criticised by peers for every decision from the day you fall pregnant, through the how and where of childbirth to the baby raising, toddler taming and now, it would seem, school going days. Enough already!

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:30 am

      Good grief – what’s to hate about 7% of the country’s children?? What an odd thing to say!

      Yes, the bashing is annoying and counter-productive and wouldn’t it be great if more people could say, “I made the choice that suited my family, but your family is different, and your choices might be, too”

  19. FeeHorne
    17th April 2012 / 9:25 am

    People seem to think they have a right to question and judge every decision you make in bringing up your children. We’re lucky to a) have some very good primary schools in our area and b) to live near enough to one to actually get the twins into it. But there are some not very good ones here too and I’m sure had it come to it, we would have considered one of the local private ones. I came in for some criticism for going back to work and putting the twins into nursery from 8 till 6 three days a week. It’s an individual choice, and parents shouldn’t be chriticized for making decisions they believe are in the best interests of their children. Sally, I remember reading one of your earlier posts about why you chose the school you did for Flea and, in your place, I would have made exactly the same choice for the twins who are also summer babies and amongst the youngest in the year.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:30 am

      Yes, thanks Fee, it was a very carefully thought out decision, and not one made on snooty grounds!

  20. 17th April 2012 / 9:42 am

    I have always felt very strongly about the state–private education divide – that it’s wrong that some children can get a better education purely because their parents have more money. The more parents with money and a higher educational status themselves who send their children to private school, the worse the state schools will get. If you have the money, why not donate it to the state school to make that as good as the private school down the road?

    But… Now that I have children, I realise that you will always do what you need to do for your child, whether that ends up being against your principles. At the moment Rosemary goes to the local state school, which is pretty good. It’s small. Everyone knows each other. It has decent facilities for a state school. We do have some concerns, though, that Rosemary isn’t being pushed or motivated enough. She’s bright, but she will always take the easiest route. Given the choice of two things – one that she knows she can do with her eyes closed, the other she’s not sure whether she might fail – she’ll always pick the one she knows she can do. She needs to be pushed a bit to progress. And she doesn’t get that. When we’ve asked her teacher about it, she says that she wouldn’t expect them to be doing X or Y until next year. But we know that she is capable of X and Y with a little bit of encouragement and pushing. I have a feeling she’d get that at private school. Or at home.

    We’re watching closely and will make a change if necessary. Hopefully not private school, because we’re actually looking forward to having a bit of money to pay off debts once Eleanor starts school in two years and we no longer have to pay for child care. But if it seemed necessary and we could afford it, then, yes, we would. And I’d probably only feel a teeny bit guilty about it.

    Yes, you do what is right for *your* child. Not anyone else’s. That doesn’t make you a snob. (There are plenty of snobs who send their kids to private school and there are plenty of snobs who send their kids to state school.)

    • 17th April 2012 / 10:28 am

      Yes, my social worker student self would be ashamed of me. Who cares? She was a bit naive.

  21. Pants With Names
    17th April 2012 / 9:47 am

    Interesting post. I haven’t seen any of these articles criticising peoples choice to educate their children privately, but as someone who educates her children through the state system I can also say that I have been made to feel very criticised for that decision.

    It isn’t just state/private though. Round us there is an air of snobbery about which state school your child goes to – one has a reputation for excellence, the other doesn’t. Note the word reputation, which doesn’t mean the same thing as reality.

    We all want the best for our children and we all make the decision that we think is best for them. Sometimes our decisions are different to other people – and hooray for that. How dull would it be if we all chose the same thing. What annoys me more than anything else is that some people seem unable to think for themselves and look to validate their own decisions by having everyone else to do the same thing, scorning those who chose to do differently. Just because I wouldn’t choose to do something doesn’t mean it is the wrong thing to do. It is just the wrong thing for me.

    I suspect those sniping at privately educated children are feeling sniped at too.

    • 17th April 2012 / 10:28 am

      Yes – wrong for me, and wrong are two VERY different ideas.

  22. Emily O
    17th April 2012 / 10:37 am

    I was planning to blog about this after chatting to a friend who’s a teacher this morning. Obviously all parents want the best for their children and the anti private school argument probably doesn’t hold for many people who would send their child to private school if they could afford it. Not many families rolling in money would choose state school education. Personally I went to a shockingly bad comprehensive where anyone who had a hope of getting a GCSE had to stay behind after school for ‘proper’ lessons once the disruptive kids (80% of the school) had gone home. I’ve only just recovered from the trauma of that place ; ) My husband went to private school but on a scholarship. He loved school and I hated it. That said, going to a crap school hasn’t held me back. I still have a degree from a good uni so maybe it doesn’t matter? I want to educate my children privately but as there are 3 of them there’s little chance of us affording it. I think how well your child does at school is mainly down to how much support and encouragement they have from their parents – that shouldn’t be underestimated.

    • 17th April 2012 / 10:49 am

      I agree.

      I suppose my point is I’m not paying school fees for exam results or status. I’m paying for Flea to have a happy school experience. She could go to a state school and get just as good exam results, but if she doesn’t like school, and isn’t happy, that to me isn’t success.

      Rather than focusing on the end point of qualifications and career (I went to a state school and have an MA and a PG qualification) I looked at the day to day experience and thought – the private school will be a nicer place for Flea to spend 5 days a week for the best part of 7 years than the state alternative – and I’m pretty comfortable with that choice.

  23. 17th April 2012 / 12:43 pm

    I think a lot of it also depends on where you live. Where I was brought up there weren’t any good secondary schools. I commuted and hour and a half each day to attend a private school. My Mum couldn’t afford it but I got government grants and scholarships to enable me to go. I have to admit that I hated it, but I probably would have hated any school.

    We are so lucky that where we live there are really good primary schools, two excellent grammar schools and a great state school so we are not faced with the conundrum.

    I hate that we have to justify pretty much every decision we make for our children.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:35 pm

      Yes, the judgment and the justification SUCK. My family is different to yours – so I made a different choice. How is that so hard to understand?

  24. TheBoyandMe
    17th April 2012 / 1:28 pm

    Had to comment before I even read your article. That photo, bloke top right? Chuck Bass. I *so* would!

    And now I shall go and read your highly interesting and controversial post 😉 Just had to point out the hottie

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:35 pm

      *whispers* So would I. In a heartbeat.

      • TheBoyandMe
        18th April 2012 / 4:30 pm

        I am so pleased that you’re a woman after my own heart. (Didn’t have you pegged as a GG fan!)

  25. TheBoyandMe
    17th April 2012 / 1:44 pm

    Right, have stopped thinking about the hottie now so can comment properly.

    I went to private secondary school from a state primary. In primary my results were mediocre and I was the quite child in the class, my teachers probably don’t even remember me. Mum made the decision that both my (elder) sister and I would go to private secondary (happens to be single-sex) because my elder brothers went to the comp, had rubbish results and came home talking about girls in their class who were pregnant. Not that we would fall into that trap but mum decided she wanted to offer her girls more than that was giving, a better start in life.

    Class numbers weren’t that much smaller, 25 possibly, but we had excellent quality teaching, resources, ethos, care and friendships. I had opportunities from that school that I would never have had in state school. I was allowed and encouraged to flourish. Yes they failed when it came to me being bullied, but I had six years of quality education that I wouldn’t have had in our specific state secondary. Not all secondary schools are the same.

    Oh and I am from a working class background (dad a car mechanic, mum a SAHM to 4 & part-time cleaner) and went there on a scholarship. I had second hand uniform and minimum school trips. With all of that taken into account, for me, it was the best option and I am grateful to my mother for taking that stand.

    • TheBoyandMe
      17th April 2012 / 6:26 pm

      Quiet not quite.

      • 17th April 2012 / 9:37 pm

        That’s a really interesting perspective, thanks for commenting. I suppose I hope for (some) of that for Flea – the support and being allowed to flourish. Flea is the quiet, well-behaved one and I don’t mind admitting I was really worried she’d be overlooked in a large, busy class where teachers are forced into giving attention to the kids who demand it most loudly.

  26. Martin Jones
    17th April 2012 / 3:53 pm

    Thank you for this post! It’s such a ridiculous argument in my opinion. My 6 year old is in a state school, as the state school nearest us is actually a really good small village school. I’d like both of my little ones to go to a private secondary though – simply because the state secondarys around us leave a lot to be desired (to say the least). It’s just about sending your children to the best school you can, whether it’s state or private.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:37 pm

      I agree – I don’t know any parents out there who don’t try to do their best – so why criticise them?

  27. Nikkii
    17th April 2012 / 5:44 pm

    It says Speak Your Mind up there so I will take that as an invitation… even tho you are probably well aware of my views regarding private education since I have banged on about it before (I can remind you…

    But you sum it up so well yourself Sally (and you know I love you and that’s not passive-aggressive btw!)….

    “… fortunately I am able to pay the fees. I could have a shiny new SUV, I choose not to. My choice”.

    The vast majority of people in this country have nothing even close to that choice.

    You sound like a true child of Thatcher today, it’s all about choice, your choice, and your right to choose. Yes you sure have come a long way from your Socialist Worker days… and when you dismiss those days as naive, you dismiss people like me who still hold those principles.

    I don’t consider myself naive.

    Having children didn’t suddenly make me dismissive of all the other children who are equally deserving of an excellent education and nothing in this world would ever make me PAY for mine to receive a privileged education when excellence should be a right for every child.

    Now my perspective is a Scottish one, we don’t have Free schools, Academies, Grammars and what-not – we have schools. Fee-paying ones and state ones. It’s pretty easy to see the inequality when you have two sets of schools doing the same thing but one of them has brilliant resources and 100% pass-rates (it’s not as easy up here to get that pass-rate since our exams are still failable). But demand hasn’t soared in the same way it has down south – we never bought into that “choice” thing in huge numbers and remain culturally suspicious of anyone who thinks they can pay their way to the top. By remaining committed to the state system we (and by we I mean parents) demand the best we can get from it. The “we’ll just go private” option is exercised much less up here. Thankfully. Because the end result is a state system that is, on the whole, supported and invested in.

    I live in fee-paying school heaven, we are SURROUNDED by them… Kilgraston, Glenalmond (yeah the one on the telly), Dollar, The High School of Dundee, Strathallan, Morrisons and QV for services kids. I know, by sight, only about 10 kids who go to any of these private schools.

    I don’t judge the parents who send their kids to these schools, it’s not like I bang into them, I doubt most of them even live in Scotland. We are talking about a whole different world.

    I DO judge the system of inequality that allows these schools to exist.

    • 17th April 2012 / 6:46 pm


      First, I really was very naive at 18. I’d lived in one town, as a child of social workers and seen relatively little of the world. It’s easy to make black and white choices at 18. That’s not to say people who hold certain principles as adults are naive – you misunderstand me.

      Absolutely I agree there shouldn’t be the inequality between private and state (although actually I believe in diversity. I think there should be mainstream, faith, montessori, Steiner and all sorts of schools – different kids have different needs, after all. I do think universal, comprehensive education is a flawed idea).

      I don’t believe primary school children should have to start school full-time a few days after turning four. I don’t believe children should be put into a classroom with 60+ other children. I don’t believe politicians should have the ability to affect the education curriculum. I don’t believe SATS should be allowed in primary schools. I don’t believe we should have league tables. I do believe education should be a right not a privilege.

      But I’m not prepared to sacrifice my only child’s happiness (and I DO mean happiness, not success or a place ‘at the top’) to those principles. So yes, I made a choice to send her to a school I thought would make her happier. And she’s happy. And she’s thriving.

      Maybe that does make me a child of Thatcher. But I’m good with it, I really am. I have a very good friend who sent her children to a failing state school because her socialist principles meant she felt it was the right thing to do. I applaud that – but it’s not the choice I made.

      Ultimately, I suppose my family’s position is – you do what you can, when you can. I help out with community groups, I support charities, I exercise my democratic right to vote, and I’m engaged in the process. But am I going to turn over my child’s life to political ideology? Absolutely not.

  28. 17th April 2012 / 4:46 pm

    I totally know what you mean about feeling you have to justify your choice. After 2.5 years of exhausting unsuccessful job-hunting in his field (university professor), Husband finally decided to start widening the search. We want to return to the UK before our kids see out their childhood, and with a nearly-15-year-old, time is running out a bit. Within a few months, he had a great job offer, as chaplain at a private boarding school. It will be a wonderful education for our kids (based on – as you say – limited knowledge and intuitions, because, heck, none of us has a crystal ball). So why do I feel the need to tell everyone that he applied for jobs in this sector only after 2.5 years of angst and disappointment looking for a job which would have entailed our kids going to a local state school? Why? This totally works for us, and I shouldn’t feel the need to explain, but I do.

    I went to private schools from 5 – 16, then the local state school in the sixth form (unusual progression, I know). I’m often glad for that two years in a state school, because it gives me street cred when I’m feeling defensive about having been mostly privately educated. Why do we feel like that? Here in the US, the gap is much much smaller. School fees are much more affordable (which makes me wonder why, exactly, private education in the UK is SO expensive), and kids go from one system to the other much more flexibly. It’s much less of a big deal. Such a relief!

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:38 pm

      It is odd, but I know what you mean about feeling like you have to justify that you have a ‘good’ reason for going private – I agree it’s good for kids to mix with lots of groups of people but Flea has local friends from all sorts of schools, we have friends in Brighton, she goes to Beavers with the local kids, and swimming classes and stage school. My job also means she’s regularly dragged to meetings and events and concerts and theme parks and meets hundreds of new people each year. If there’s one thing I’m NOT worried about at all, it’s her ability to mix with people and get along.

  29. 17th April 2012 / 7:21 pm

    I went to a private girls school. I hated it, but I got straight A grades. Before I had children I said I would never send them to private school, my view now is that if I had the money I would absolutely send them, at least for secondary. We are lucky here in that all our local primary schools are excellent, and it is lucky as we will never be able to put 3 kids through private school without a lottery win.

    It is wrong that you can pay for smaller classes and a potentially better education, but I can’t fault anyone for choosing that option. We all do what we think is best for our kids, no one can ever tell you that is wrong.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:40 pm

      I went to a girls’ school and hated it too – but as my Mum used to say, I’d have hated any school but at least a strict school meant I had the exams I needed to go to uni, which I wanted very much 😉

      It IS wrong to have to pay for smaller classes – but if that’s an available choice, I find it hard to judge people for making the same choice we did, or a different one. It’s just what’s right for you.

      • Vegemitevix
        18th April 2012 / 4:45 pm

        I went to a private girls school (best in NZ) and hated it, but did ok and absolutely loved Uni where I came into my own. Both my girls were accepted into the girls school in NZ but I chose to send them to another co-ed independent school that was more about learning than prestige and it was brilliant. We miss that school massively, and now that my son is getting ready to go to Uni I feel I made the wrong choice sending him to the local state secondary. Hopefully I will be able to make a different choice before the girls finish their school years. It’s been awful seeing a profoundly gifted kid give up on himself.

        • 19th April 2012 / 11:14 am

          That must be really tough.

  30. 17th April 2012 / 7:23 pm

    Some interesting comments on this blog! I say it’s the parents’ choice to send their kids wherever they please. But I disagree with those who say “why wouldn’t you send your kids to private school if you could afford it?” Personally I don’t feel private school is right for every child. In defence of state schools (where I was educated) you learn lots of life skills you don’t always get at private schools. You also learn to work more independently and, if you’re bright, a state school will never hold you back. I did, however, meet many people who’d been to private school who then struggled at university (as they’d been spoon fed in tiny classes throughout school.) That said, most state schools do not provide well for special needs. If I had kids with learning difficulties (even if they were quite mild) I would consider paying extra for education. My sister struggled with dyslexia but didn’t want to move schools. Extra tuition really helped in her case and it’s something I would recommend to any family who is looking or extra help but can’t afford private school fees. Most of all I think it’s said that every child doesn’t have the right to the same education, whatever the parents’ income is.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:41 pm

      I kinda agree. It’s not that I think private school isn’t right for everyone, but that not every school is right for every child. I looked at lots of schools for Flea – some state, some private – and of all the schools we looked at, I liked one best, based on my experiences and my knowledge of Flea’s personality. Another child could have meant a completely different choice. I think if you have a child who struggles to work independently, then any school that spoon feeds too much would be a bad idea, be it state or independent.

  31. Emma
    17th April 2012 / 8:35 pm

    Gosh, it’s a tough one isn’t it! IMHO, there is no easy answer and one size doesn’t fit all. We’re lucky that the state school system where we live is a good one , pretty much across the board, and it’s just as well for us because with five kids we simply couldnt afford private education! As parents we just want to give our children the best start in life we can – I think we ALL have that in common- and if that means private education then so be it.

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:42 pm

      Really tough! But I think you sum it up perfectly – one size doesn’t fit all.

  32. Beth
    17th April 2012 / 8:40 pm

    My only experience of private schooling is my niece attending one.
    In my sister in laws circles if you can’t afford to pay for private schools you are obviously doing something wrong in life.
    Apparently rubbing shoulders with Hugh Bonneville & Noel Gallaghers ex wife is where it’s at! The fact that our niece is literally shipped off to board there on the days my sister & brother in law can’t be bothered to come home from weekends away is fine & builds character.

    The education part according to them is secondary and it’s ALL about status.

    Of course I am not implying all parents who send their children to private schools are like this, but in some percentage however small I think it is about showing ones status .

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:44 pm

      I think it’s unfortunate – but I’d say at every school you see snobs, and they exist in state schools and private schools. I know some horrible snobs in my town who I know don’t have two £20 notes to rub together who are endlessly complaining about the ‘chavs’ they have to mix with at the supermarket or the GP surgery. You get tasteless, tacky people in all walks of life, unfortunately!

      Perhaps in some schools it is status. I have to say Flea’s school isn’t like that. It’s a small, very family-oriented school and most of the parents are working, or business owners, and just want their kids to go to a nice school where they’ll be really well cared for.

  33. 17th April 2012 / 9:23 pm

    Well, I went to private school (I boarded from 3rd year onwards, for my exams… plus the school I was at was, well, not the best) and I’ve turned out pretty good! Just think… Flea could end up JUST like me! Aren’t you so lucky!! 😉

    • 17th April 2012 / 9:44 pm

      Well, that would be just fine by me, lovely 🙂

  34. 17th April 2012 / 10:06 pm

    We have this same debate a lot within our family. I would love to see how many people would turn down a private school education for their kids if someone offered to pay for it. Bet a few would throw their moral high ground out of the window!

    • 19th April 2012 / 11:15 am

      Well, I’d abandon LOTS of principles in the face of a better alternative, I’m sure. I often feel like that about private healthcare for my family- would I queue jump to save the life of someone I love, or give them better quality of life? I think I would. In a heartbeat.

  35. 18th April 2012 / 9:48 am

    I went to a state primary school but a private secondary school. It was the fashion then in the 1970s and not such a big expense as I benefitted from the direct grant system. However, I don’t get along with anyone and I am not a nice person. Luckily the school taught me manners though as my parents obviously couldn’t be bothered.

    • 19th April 2012 / 11:16 am

      Snort. I assume you’re joking because I’ve met you and you’re perfectly easy to get along with!

  36. 18th April 2012 / 10:29 am

    When choosing schools for my kids I try to think about what’s best for the child and look at schools with an open mind. I’ve found over the years that some state and private schools have reputations based on what they were like years ago which are no longer true. We’ve sent them to State schools so far, as we are lucky that there are excellent options available locally. Depending on finances I would consider private schools if my kids weren’t happy or progressing at their schools. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about our school choices, we just have to try to do what’s best for our particular children.

    • 19th April 2012 / 11:17 am

      Oh absolutely. We have a state school in our town that has an AMAZING reputation based (in part, imo) on snobbery. But it’s changed and expanded and there are lots of issues – and I think it’s easy sometimes for schools to coast. For me that’s why it’s important to visit each school and really get a feel for how it suits your family before choosing.

  37. purplemum
    18th April 2012 / 7:51 pm

    I would love to send my children to private school. The class sizes alone worry me, as I don’t see how the teacher can possibly be giving each child what they need in a class that big. However since I don’t have the money (made the choice admittedly to have three children) I feel slightly better knowing that research shows that home life is the biggest influence in a child’s life.
    I also think that most parenting is done out of love. This means whatever you are doing you are doing what is right for your family, and that has to be the right choice. Lets stop the judgement shall we.

    • 19th April 2012 / 11:17 am

      Oh yes – I agree, in terms of outcomes, the family (and the Mum in particular) are by far the biggest influencers on any child. But I have to say, personally, my school choice was more about quality of life, than life outcomes, if you see what I mean?

  38. Insomniac Mummy
    18th April 2012 / 11:27 pm

    Sorry, I got completely distracted by Penn Badgely up there…

    *Scrolls back up to stare some more*

    • 19th April 2012 / 11:18 am

      Tsk. Honestly. Everyone knows Chuck is hotter.

  39. 18th April 2012 / 11:39 pm

    I am a bit ambivalent about private schools. My mother went to one in the 40s and 50s, and absolutely hated it. I also believe that some of them ride along on a wave of propaganda from the right wing media that schools are failing children. They are not necessarily. You can actually send a child to a failing school and they get good outcomes. A well supported child will do well anywhere. The jury is also out on whether large class sizes is as bad as it’s made out to be. In Monkey and Missy Woo’s school, they are in classes of 28 and 26 but both teachers have a teaching assistant working in class with them pretty much most of the time. When I have had concerns that they aren’t being pushed or need some kind of help, I’ve expressed them and the teacher has done something about it and the children are both ahead of where they should be for their age. The school has a philosophy of “enjoy the challenge” and do not stop seeing if they can push them a little further. Monkey’s teacher even told us that she wouldn’t give him top marks for effort as she doesn’t want him to sit back and wants him to keep trying.

    Believe the press tho, and you’d think that any of those things only happen if you send your kids to private school. I think a lot of private schools capitalise on this, without necessarily proving evidence that they are that different.

    I guess I personally have a problem with people who have closed minds. The people that make a choice based on nothing than their own prejudices. Who automatically assume that a school is the best because they pay money for it, that it will be the best for their child and make a decision without researching their options and visiting all possible schools. And then have the cheek to look down on people who send their kids to state school. I guess the articles are also people with closed minds, but with a different view.

    When I chose this school for Monkey and then Missy Woo, it was not a “fashionable school”. As it’s not a faith school, it’s still not and a not particularly glowing Ofsted from a very difficult inspector has not helped this, although people are starting to choose it more because it sells itself well in the local community. Other parents pulled faces when I said where I had chosen to apply, and one said “Why did you choose THERE?” to me. Another told me she didn’t want to apply there (even tho she lives around the corner) because someone had told her the whole school was open plan and refused to go and see it on that basis (it’s not!). But then, this is the woman who refused to consider another because she disliked the look of the children from that school who walked past her house!

    That said (and I know I’m rambling), I see nothing wrong with a well-considered decision that is right for your family. I do love the thought of the flexibility of the wraparound care, because that often causes me a problem and I don’t want afterschool care on a daily basis. We are not in a position to pay for school and there aren’t too many private schools close by (I know there are some in Blackburn, Bolton and Preston but I don’t fancy the travel right now , for me or the kids) although I really don’t know if I would send my children there if the opportunity arose. Thankfully, the local schools are generally good and I have every faith that the system will not fail my children. I guess I wouldn’t be a school governor if I didn’t believe that.

    Sorry for essay. It’s late.

    • 19th April 2012 / 11:18 am

      Ha! Don’t apologise.

      I think what’s important is you went to see the school and it’s right for your kids. End of discussion. I saw all the schools in our area and honestly, they were all FINE – but there was one where I thought Flea would be happier, and for me, that was the clincher.

  40. 19th April 2012 / 11:38 am

    We lucked out w/ Squidge’s school. We moved into an area with a good school and by the time we put in our choice (moved in July so after the “official” timeline and we got bumped to the top of the list) they had a new OFSTED report where they were judged to be outstanding. The rush to get kids into the school now is crazy. We think the school is fabulous and although the class sizes are large (30) they have 1 teacher, 2 TA’s and a slew of volunteers that come in and help throughout the week. When we were looking for house to buy we seriously considered private and would have put her in private had the local school been crap. I think that in primary school isn’t not such a big deal but do think that we will be putting her into private for secondary. I will do whatever it takes to make sure Squidge continues to love learning, is a good person and most importantly has dreams and aspirations. I admit that her current dream of becoming a clown isn’t what I had in mind but if she’s happy I guess I’ll have to learn to love my daughter, the clown.

  41. 20th April 2012 / 11:10 pm

    I don’t think its anyones business which school you send your children too or why you choose that school.

    But it is intresting to see peoples views, I don’t even know where the closest private school is around here, to be hoenst I am not one of them mothers who worried about it all that much (is that bad?!)

    however the first school my eldest two attended was a very small school not far off a private school, set in a tiny village and I sware the parents genuinely thought of it as private and were all very much snobs! my eldests year group had only 5 children, the PTA funded the school with everything it needed with the families being on the wealthy side, ofstead couldn’t praise the school higher… did they thrive? No.. not really, I didn’t mind the school but it was a long shot from perfect… then last year we moved house… now the local schools are VERY different, the school my eldests now attended is huge its just juniors and has over 300 pupils! it was deemed to be not good enough on its last ofstead (prior to us moving here) and was put in ‘special measures’ I don’t know what it was like to merit this, but since my children have been I can only praise the school.. the support for the children is great, there are by far more diversity and much less singling out, My youngest goes to a different school which is a really lovey school, slightly smaller just down the road.

    none of the schools are perfect as parents I doubt we would ever be 100% happy with the schools our children attend, placing our childrens lives into the teachers hands is a daunting prospect. I do not know if I have made the right choices in their education, I chose to send them to the small village school thinking that was best, when we lived between two villages and the alternative school was more average in size, in hindsight would that have been a better start? now they are in the ‘special measures’ school when I could have sent them to the other local primary state school which my youngest is now at (simple due to the places they were given no choice on my part)… which school is better? I do not know… I don’t like to second guess, I hope they will come out the end of the school system happy thats all. but I do believe that no matter which school, private, state, damned by ofstead or praised, happiness is not a given because of a schools status… as parents as long as we look out for the childrens happiness hopefully the rest will fall into place.

  42. 22nd April 2012 / 8:42 pm

    I would love to be able to have OPTION to send my children to private school. I’ve been researching the local schools since my daughter was about 4 months old, and the one I liked best is simply not an option for us, as it would cost more money per year than we actually have coming in. At the moment, Jas is three and goes to our local preschool for 15 funded hours. She is a bright child, it’s pretty obvious to anyone who meets her, but even at this age, I feel that if we could afford to send her to a nursery rather than having her attend the preschool, she would be supported so much more. I don’t look down on those who can afford to send their children to nursery/private school, but I do envy them the choice. I just think it’s such a shame that there doesn’t seem to be the funding to make state schools as brilliant as they could be. For me, the key area for change would be smaller classes and more staff so that every child has the opportunity for one on one attention, should they need it, rather than potentially getting lost in a class of 30+
    Oh, and not so much testing, because it’s clearly all about hitting targets rather than nurturing the individual child.

  43. Kate
    26th February 2013 / 10:40 pm

    Having been through the private school system but with older siblings who went to a state school (there is a big gap between me and them and by the time it was my turn to go, the school was failing big time) I can say that I saw a lot of parents who give up huge amounts to scrimp and save to send their kids for what they saw as their best shot at a balanced education in a nurturing environment. There is no right or wrong decision but the assumption that all private school kids are from a privileged home is complete nonsense. It is completely up to parents to do what they see fit – the only sad thing is for those who no matter how much the save, don’t have the finance to choose and with the reduction of academic scholarships and bursaries, this only widens the divide. My only criticism of private schools is that their fees mean there is pressure to get kids into the top universities and rise up the rankings. Parents need to choose carefully to make sure that the school they choose nurtures children of all abilities and talents, not just the very academic – it’s time everyone opened their eyes to the fact that academic excellence might make you a good candidate for life as a professor but it doesn’t necessarily equip you for the wider world!

  44. Helen
    7th March 2013 / 8:32 pm

    Interesting… as a teacher in a state school, I know we do a fantastic job, with what we have… we all work more hours than is sane and put the kids at the centre of what we do… but we have 30 kids in the class… i have also worked in a private school overseas, with a cap of 25 on class size and a full time classroom assistant. I work (ed) with the same dedication in both jobs, but know the private school class size meant that they got more personal attention and I knew them better… currently looking for a school for my daughter and the only thing making me hesistant about private school (class size of 20, to adults full time) vs state school (class size of 30, 2 adults in the morning, 1 in the afternoon) is that it’s all girls…

  45. Rupert Poncenby Wallington
    15th November 2013 / 10:18 pm

    “Flea” what a dreadfully pretentious name to inflict on a poor child

    • Sally
      16th November 2013 / 10:46 am

      Yeah. Except it’s a nickname. On account of all the odd people on the Internet. *cough*

  46. 16th June 2016 / 7:27 am

    My year7 daughter goes to an Indy on a massively assisted place – we honestly could not afford it otherwise – but it’s perfect for her. She’s just like flea – bright, well behaved, wants to get on – and my experience of state school told me that it was certainly worth trying private while we had the chance. It’s an amazing place. Yes sometimes it seems like another planet but she’s thriving. The children are polite and considerate, genuinely lovely children. I could not ever criticise anyone for wanting this for their child. In my opinion every child should have this opportunity but it’s not possible and actually far too many children (and parents let’s be fair) would waste it. But let’s not take anything away from those who choose it and are willing to put their money where their mouth is.