State vs Private secondary school education

For parents all across the UK, the question of their children’s education has always been a burning one. Over recent years, private school tuition fees have risen significantly, while in the same period the salaries of many middle-class jobs have actually decreased. This financial mismatch has put increased pressure on parents, many of whom consider state schooling as a means of saving money. But is this really a sensible option when it comes to a subject as important as the future of your children?

Below are a comparison of some of the key areas to consider when it comes to choosing a school for your little ones. Of course, the final choice will ultimately depend on your own unique circumstances and preferences, but any decision should take into account the following points regarding the state vs private debate.

The cost

The not-so-subtle elephant in the room when it comes to private schooling is the cost, which has been spiralling almost out of control over the last decade. Having a clear picture of the breakdown of these figures is essential prior to making your decision, since you need to know exactly how much you’ll be spending on your children’s education. As the linked article points out, fees at certain private schools have risen by almost 50% over the last decade, while the wages of some jobs have actually decreased during that time. However, governmental help is often at hand to subsidise costs, and there is always the option to only commit to private education for the secondary and formative years of your child’s life.

The quality of teaching

One parent and teacher writing in The Huffington Post has taught in both state and private establishments and is a firm believer in the superior quality found in the latter. Citing statistics which show that only 17 state school teachers out of 400,000 have been dismissed in the last ten years due to incompetence, the teacher is adamant that children are guaranteed a higher class of education in a private school.

But perhaps that gap is narrowing. Analysis from August last year showed that the top 500 state schools in the country were actually outperforming the top 500 private schools, demonstrating that the underprivileged can sometimes outdo their more advantaged counterparts. Of course, this doesn’t tell the whole story, since only 7% of all children are educated in private schools across the UK, but it certainly highlights the fact that a state education doesn’t have to represent a compromise in quality.

The ethos

Last year, an ITV programme named School Swap investigated what happened when teachers and pupils from two schools at opposite ends of the spectrum exchanged schools for a week. Roughly 50% of the 700 pupils at Bemrose School do not have English as a first language, while more than half take advantage of free school meal incentives. Conversely, Warminster School has a budget of £10 million to account for just over half of the pupils at Bemrose and parents must pay £27,000 a year for the privilege of their child’s attendance.

However, the biggest disparity between the two, as noted by both teachers, was the ethos of the school itself. Warminster encouraged self-confidence and community spirit among its pupils by devoting much time to sport, music, drama and networking activities. While the headmistress at Bemrose admired such an approach, she regretted that her school did not have the time, resources or contacts to offer children a similar experience. When it comes to down it, such little things might be the difference between an adequate education and a life-changing one.

*This is a collaborative post*

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