Myth-busting State schools vs Private schools

The post I wrote on Friday in response to a number of suicides in recent years by parents unable to keep up with school fees has struck a chord. I wrote it because I wanted parents of the future to have something to read that gave the detail of experience in both private and state schools – hopefully to allay their fears and prevent them feeling death was the only way out. As the blog post spread so I started getting common (mis-held) beliefs flung at me on Facebook and Twitter and so I put together a bit of a list, one that I think needs its own place – please do add to these in the comments:

No sports in state schools – not true

No clubs in state schools – not true and they are often free/low-cost

No exciting school trips in state school – not true, youngest is off skiing next week and eldest is off to Paris fashion week next year

State school children are rude – not true, indeed I find them often more polite than their privately educated peers

They don’t have a varied curriculum in state school – not true, but some of the options are optional and extra to the school hours

Single sex education is important – whilst true that boys and girls learn at different speeds and in different ways, I have found that my own single-sex schooling has left me hugely debilitated in understanding how my male colleagues communicate, learn and operate. In society communication and empathy, team working and collaboration are intrinsically more important than what you know over the life-span of your career. You can learn facts and skills, you cannot “learn” how people work – this is a life-skill picked up through co-education from 0-18

State school is only for the mediocre – not true, there are gifted and talented programmes UK-wide for state-educated kids and tailored learning for those who need help, for free (as documented here in Chris’s fabulous post). In fact tailored learning is better in state schools as private schools tend to focus on the high-achievers, I had to pay for extra tuition in private school for both my ‘average’ children, on top of the school fees

Private school education buys you better jobs – I believe that this is dying out, it is rare now for anyone over the age of 21 to be asked socially or in any context outside of CV discussions what type of school they went to. The Bullingdon Club embarrassment of the current government has meant this is risible rather than socially acceptable

Children moving from private school to state school will be bullied – I have not found this to be true, indeed the state school kids were far more accepting than the private school kids (and teachers) when I moved my children from state to private

Private school teachers are better – not true… indeed, as private schools are charities, (they are and this is a separate post in itself!), they have far more autonomy over who they hire. Teachers in private schools are not required to have teaching qualifications, (which could indeed be viewed as a good thing), but state school teachers are required to go through far more rigorous testing on their methods and standards. State school teachers are also often better supported through National programmes

Individual pupil care is better in private schools – please don’t believe this. In my experience in private schools there is an inescapable monetary value placed on each child. For example, parents of those children with younger siblings in the school or about to join the school receive greater attention than those with one child nearing the end of their time (and no sibling school fees in sight); high-net-worth parents also receive greater attention and privilege.

Smaller classes in private schools – whilst it is true that private schools do have smaller numbers of children per year, gone are the days of massive state school classes. What tends to happen now is smaller classes in lessons and more year groups per year. So on the whole there are more pupils in state schools, this does not affect the actual class sizes for lessons. For example, in my eldest’s school there are eight groups in year 10, within these groups there are 20-30 kids, their lessons are tailored to skills – so in each lesson within their year group, say Maths, there will be on average 15-20 kids in a classroom, with some lessons as small as seven kids. At my youngest’s school there are three year groups in Year 6, in her class though there are 16 kids.

This all looks like I am taking a massive swipe at private schools. I am not, I don’t think they should exist, I agree with Chris that we should be looking to emulate Finland’s model of education with a fully nationalised system – but I have nothing against the teachers, kids or heads currently living the publicly-educated life, but what I am keen to do is debunk the urban legends that damage the state school education reputation, and lead terrified, naive parents to take their own lives rather than send their children to state school.