*sigh* private school/parenting/guilt/not being a millionaire yet

So, some of you more regulars here may note that I use this blog for a variety of things, but often for working out stuff in my head, whether that be work things, or sometimes more personal. So don’t read this if you hate the personal stuff.

I know for sure that I will get bashed a bit for sending my children to private school. They didn’t always, it was only when I moved to Guildford and could not get them both into the same State school that the local private village school seemed a nice and not too pricey alternative, I had made some savings on my move out of London and I was working all the hours God sends.

The problem with a lovely, not exclusively expensive junior school, is that then it gets you into the not so nice and cosy private senior school, that costs an eye-watering amount of money – but you feel compelled to make that happen, somehow, in order for your child to have the best education – because what could be any more important?

So I have spent the last year scrabbling and stumbling my way through paying fees that I simply couldn’t realistically carry on paying, unless I ditched all morality or suddenly became a millionaire – something that I had always hoped would wonderfully happen one day (the millionaire thing not the morality ditching).

Truth be told, I was never completely sure what exactly I was paying for anyway, as we never really did fit in a grand private senior school and our lifestyle and values were sometimes in direct contrast with those of the school. But yes, you could say this is all very well in hindsight.

Anyhow. The savings stashes and ebay-able items eventually ran out and I had to throw myself on the mercy of the school, to hold on to my eldest for the next term – or until I could find her a place at a local school that would also work for my youngest – who enjoys a multi-coloured variety of educational variant needs – for when she ascends into the dizzy heights of senior school.

Today I find out that said educational business – and I was reminded that it was a business (fair enough – although they give themselves a charitable status officially!) won’t actually fathom having her there without the fees for any period of time, and so it was goodbye and good luck. I left the bursar’s office with advice ringing in my ears such as: ‘Use this to your benefit, cry to the Council to get her into a school’.

And so I have a week to find a school that my daughter can go to – much to her utter delight, I have to say (with some relief).

I am writing this as I am experiencing a myriad of confusing emotions:

  • relief that I no longer have to fear the beginning of every term and the massive bill
  • relief that I no longer have to send my child to a school where she feels ill-at-ease socially
  • horror that my dastardly decisions have got us to this point
  • disappointment that I can’t make a choice about any education in the land for my lovely daughters
  • fear that I may have no option about what school she goes to now
  • fear for her future – she has had to go to a total of seven schools because I have moved so much – can she cope
  • social horror at my own attitude – wishing I could relax about this
  • disappointment that was not the perfect Mum – gifting my offspring with security and stability at school and home

And so, I suppose, whilst I work through these things (helped along by the skipping joy of my eldest) I would say one thing to any young parents out there thinking they would ever one day be in my position: choose the safe option with education, go for the security and stability. Be as playful as you like with your own lives and living, but make sure your children get the good stuff, regular friends and regular education.

Playing the rags and riches thing with education will really do your head in – even if it is not necessarily as big a deal as we think.

Right… go ahead with the mauling *hides*

22 responses

  1. Great post Emma – from the heart, as always
    all I can say, for what it’s worth,
    what children need more than anything is love, care, a listening ear and support when they need it most and you score am A* on that IMHO!
    Go you!!


  2. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You have done the best that you could and you still are.

    Kids are bendy and they are way more adaptable than we sometimes give them credit for.

    You will find a school and it won’t be perfect – they never are. But it sounds like your daughter is going to be much more relaxed and that will be a huge help to her education. Possibly even a greater help than going to the “right” school.

    You are also going to have a huge pressure lifted. That will help you and it will feed back into that massive feedback loop called ‘life’, be amplified, and bring unexpected good things.

    New school, new challenges, new excitement.

    Now stop beating yourself up for doing the right thing! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. don’t feel too guilty it comes across that you made decisions that you thought would best serve your children at that time and life has a habit of not being straight forward so plans change……good luck to the children in their new school…..

  4. I feel for you – we only ever do what we think is the best for our kids. A friend of mine was in exactly the same situation and had to pull her kid out of private school.
    The bad news? It was a bit unsettling for her.
    The good – she is loving it now and has had the opportunity to see what life is like on both sides of the fence.. and in my experience that’s always a good thing for her future.

  5. we’re near the beginning of that decision making process now – a useful perspective. But still horribly torn – especially with a little boy who is bright but not very good. The private school with the endless sports and boy centred education is looking awfully tempting

  6. Very brave and heartfelt post and big hugs heading your way.

    We’ve ummed and ahed and looked at this school and that school for Sam including posh private ones where we felt out of place at the open evening and in awe/fear of the children’s prodigious talent (we felt they were training a collection of art forgerers).

    It’s so hard, but at the end of the day I think we all cope fine and the home environment is such a key one and from all I see and know of you, you do a brill job of that one.

    p.s. just don’t watch The Inbetweeners. Or if you do, learn a lesson and don’t send her to school with a briefcase (I had one at school and was teased mercilessly).

  7. Crikey… bit blinky at the lovely responses, was totally expecting a barrage of contempt for having tried to go down the fee-paying route.

    To those of you who have said they are on the edge of decisions about school, then you have to do what you can cope with, but just bear in mind that senior school fees (including all the extra shiz you have to stump up for) are about ยฃ5k a term – so have a get rich quick/get out plan that can cover you – so that you are never in a position with no school for your child one week before the beginning of the new academic year. It’s not a good place to be.

    Junior private school is nothing like that cost and is really great, in my experience. Although, junior state school was just as good – I just couldn’t find a way for them both to be in the same state school after we moved, so it was hopeless.

    Argh… nightmare.

    But thank you everyone for being lovely, and helpful.

  8. Hey Emma,

    Ok, stop feeling guilty right now. It is understandable but misplaced. You are doing the best you can for your kids and you are providing a stable, solid and loving environment. That is such a wonderful base for your children to grow up from. That is the important thing.

    Many, many kids don’t have that.

    You are doing a fabulous job, don’t spend the time you have feeling stressed about what you can’t do, appreciate what you can do :)))

    Sue xxx

  9. It’s only natural for a parent – perhaps especially, dare I say, a mother – to feel guilty if they cannot give their child everything they once thought they might; but you give your daughters something money cannot buy: a good example. Your daughters will be fine, and you should concentrate on being there for them, and enjoying their presence in your life.

    On the other hand, if you do decide to ditch all morality, you will let me know, won’t you? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Whatever happened to the concept of sending your child to your local school? Why do parents need a ‘choice’ of where they send their child? It is this ‘choice’ that creates the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ schools.

    Let’s take a look at the LEA of Gloucester. Gloucester is a very strange city, because it still has a grammar school system. All children at the age of 11 take the 11+, to determine whether they can go to a ‘good’ grammar school, or a ‘bad’ comprehensive. By taking all of the ‘smart’ and ‘able’ and ‘bright’ students and putting them into one school, you immediately create an issue. You have to send all of the ‘dim’ and ‘challenged’ and ‘less abled’ children somewhere. So you send these children to their local comprehensive, or in Gloucester’s case a comprehensive half way across the city with a place. All of these ‘bad’ children are together in one building with no one to look up to. They’ve already been turned away by the system and not deemed ‘good enough’ to have a ‘good’ and ‘privileged’ education. The children start to act out and you end up with a ‘bad’ comprehensive with a ‘bad’ reputation and ‘bad’ kids.

    You’ll have noticed that there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ Primary school, usually because children go to their local one where there is an even and broad playing field. If you get to ‘choose’ a ‘good’ school for your child, you’re creating a ‘bad’ zone for another parent. It eventually leads to a separation of the social classes and vastly disadvantages children who come from a slightly worse off background.

    Your school ‘choices’ do not only effect your children, but they effect others and the rest of the country. Just something to think about…

    Send your child to your local school.

    • Hey Chris. Am with you on the theory and social engineering part. It was happenstance that got us here, not a hunt for a good school – just a school that they could both attend after the move. It is what happens thereafter that one can drift into, as I did, and end up here. I do get your point, but mine was not based on the good school thing, and my dilemma now is not the good school thing – it’s ANY school!! She has a week. In fact, under a week. And she is 13 – not the easiest of ages to drop into a new bunch of friends ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Disclaimer: I am not an expert, just a parent.

      But don’t “local” schools end up streaming by house price?

      I am lucky. I bought my house because it was close to my favourite pub. 6 months later, the pub closed. 20 years later, it turns out to be in the catchment area of one of the best primary schools locally. I believe that some people now buy houses near mine not because of the pubs, but because of the school. So it’s those that can afford those prices that get the best primary schooling.

      Like I say – not an expert.

  11. Hi Emma,

    Great post! It’s reassuring to see the personal, mere mortal, stuff behind all the inspirationally great work you do.

    I think if you read back what you’ve written (part of the point I suppose) you’ll struggle to find any decisions that weren’t made with the best intentions, or didn’t make sense at the time.

    You’re clearly closely tuned in to your daughters’ own wants, needs and moods. I’d echo what’s been said about stability – and that’s not minimising the number of schools and moves etc. It’s having you and your attention to rely on, and being encouraged to have the self-belief and self-worth to cope with change and external uncertainty. That can’t be painted on by a school. Again, everything you write suggests you’re giving them that.

    Last thing, a clue to knowing your priorities? Look at your twitter handle. Looks like lots of people supporting you – another clue. Best wishes for the future,


  12. Good luck Emma! – I think getting schooling right is something every parent agonises over. Of course a good local state school for everyone would be great but it’s just not always there, is it? Where I live, for example, all the good local state secondary schools are Catholic…
    One day your daughters will be grateful to you for giving them all you could.


  13. You’re so very inspirational to so many people. Given that quality, I think she’s very lucky to have you as a mum. And with that, she’ll turn out OK whatever happens.

    (On a side issue – I wonder if there’s anything in the notion of parents self-organising out-of-school sessions? I reckon with a little prep. I could do a session on the mechanics of how animals move that would fit in the curriculum somewhere, or maybe just interest a couple of young people in biology…)

  14. Emma

    stop feeling guilty right now! why should you feel you’ve done anything wrong in trying to do the best you thought you could for your kids.

    others have given better advice than i could. as for drifting into things, few of us have successful masterplans for everything…. and it is how you respond to life’s challenges that matters.

    when in doubt or concerned about not having won the lottery or otherwise achieved all the trappings that capitalism offers..try putting on some inspirational music and dance round the room



    or maybe


    all the best, david ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. ps this song always makes me think of summer [and not education]

    and this is aspiration [and a fun video]
    “i wanna be a rock star”

    or on capitalism, consider “fools gold”

    or “loaded”

    or “walk this way”

    [with apologies for probably suggesting lots of music that i happen to like, with little connnection to above posts :)]

  16. First time reader here ๐Ÿ™‚

    As someone who has survived umpteen school moves (8) across continents (3) I can tell you that children are far more adaptable than we adults ever give them credit for.

    I see it this way with your daughter – yes she has to make new freinds but equally she is now out of a situation that she didn’t like and consequently almost certainly looking forward to any new friendship(s).

    I joke about it but my parents sent me to private school (company perk) to get a stable education – trouble is I was a rebel and no matter where I went I’d have rejected the authority – BUT I can tell you I turned out ok, I hold down a decent job, I have a good standard of living and I have 3 fab kids of my own.

    School moves = we do turn out OK, honest.

  17. Mulqueeny! Found your blog from a google search for ‘display twitter private home’ (noodling with wordpress plugins while on a v. boring conference call – still on same call…).

    V. much like this blog; how do people afford private schools, and in many cases why? (How did my parents afford it? And that was boarding…)

    Being non-millionaire my children are at state schools – and with involvement and effort from us (well, Mrs P.), seem to be doing well. As someone says above, it isn’t the money, it’s the love.

    Get in touch sometime; would be nice to catch up.

    (Still on the same conference call…)


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