When i had my son 22 years ago, I was a Nursery Nurse with many years experience working and running a nursery and working in Infants and Junior Schools. I knew the system and the schools well and was working in both the nurseries and junior schools my son and his 3 other siblings went to. So I am writing this with a view from both as a parent and as a member of staff.
My boys went to the local schools from Nursery to Juniors. We were happy with the school. The classes were large (30) but they were happy and thriving. Due to the large classes, lack of staff and the need for extra support for a number of the children, the school relied on the good will of parents to help with reading and other activities so that the teachers can focus on teaching. This isn’t a perfect situation, but one that is adopted by schools to help with the increasing number of pupils per class, and shortage of staff.
We were happy with our boys education until we decided to move further out of London. By that time I had my twins who were about to start nursery. Our problems began when we tried to look for schools for our boys. Overcrowding in the local schools meant we were unable to have both the boys in the same school which was very distressing for them. My twins were also at another nursery which resulted in me travelling to three schools everyday to collect. Total nightmare.
My boys went on to the local comprehensive. It was walking distance and everyone was happy. However the school was big and the classes over crowded. Grades we not very high, and staff shortage was a big problem. My twins were in infants by then, and I started noticing problems with the girls. N was showing difficulty in reading and maths. Having worked for many years with children, i knew there was an underlying problem. When I approached the school for help, I was told there was no problem that they could see and besides there were other children in the class that needed more attention. I was also told that my other daughter who had been top of the class had got very lazy and didn’t wasn’t working as she should. I suggested maybe she wasn’t being challenged enough. She was finding everything too easy and was bored.
By the time the girls had got to year 3 we made a decision to remove them and place them in a local Private School. It wasn’t an easy decision, they had their friends there, it was local and free. However, we felt they were not getting the help and support they needed due to the large classes and lack of funding and staff from the school.
The new school had small classes. Within a week, my daughter had been diagnosed with Dyslexia and was given the support and one to one she needed. My other daughter suddenly found she was no longer top of the class and started working
hard again. Their education improved, so did their confidence. The school also prepared them for entrance exams and made sure they went on to a good senior school.
The difference is that Private Schools offer smaller classes (12) and more extracurricular activities than State Schools. Private schools are expensive, but then so are houses near a good public funded schools. With Private schools you have a choice of school, (via entrance exam) whereas in state schools although you have a choice of school, the reality is that you will only get into a school in your catchment area.
My daughters had a choice of going to the local or going to a private school, but we were only offered a school quite far. We also spoke to 3 local state schools in depth, and they all said that they wouldn’t be able to offer N much support with her dyslexia and she would in effect be lost in the system. We couldn’t allow this to happen again. So we decided to opt for Private again.
My eldest son went on to University despite poor teacher attendance and having to retake an exam because the year had been taught the wrong syllabus! , my other son opted to go straight to work, My girls are in year 9 now and doing well. N has alot of support at school still and extra tuition at home to help her. The classes are small, just 12 to a class and only 3 classes in a year. The financial side is crippling, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Their closest friends are still from their first school. They have seen both sides of the education system and N admits would have had problems in such big classes.
All children should be entitled to this level of education and it makes me angry that they are not. It’s not the teachers fault. Their hands are tied. They work very hard and have to cope with endless hours and cuts and overcrowding.
As it stands right now, given the choice, I would have to opt for Private again. My children have been through both and I have seen the difference in their education. Don’t get me wrong, I have no objections to State schools,I went to one myself and so did my sons, however, if your child needs extra support, or one to one attention, thats when the system starts to fail. On the other hand if you child has the love and support at home, they will do well in whatever they decide to do, and coming out with all A* s will not necessarily make you a successful person in life. But a good education is essential in life.