5 reasons why we are no longer planning on sending our daughter to private school

Finding out the news of your wife’s pregnancy is supposed to be one of great excitement, and joy. Unfortunately for me it was a mixture of joy and anxiety. My wife and I had a stillbirth only 11 months prior, and not too long after we felt we had grieved our dear son Nasir, were we ready to try again.

Up until then we were both anxious and it showed in the failed attempts over the past months — no special fertility app or mums-net post could help.

..we could just build her.

The truth was, we just had take each day as it came and — yes to sound cliche — let nature take its course.

A month later, I get a voicemail from my mother in law to call home, whilst I was at work. So naturally, my mood switches into a state of worry — only to call my wife and hear the great news. But there was a delay in accepting this news with all its triumph, in fact it took a few days for it to sink in.

What I later came to realise is, just like there is no one way to being a parent, there was also no right way for me to accept that news after what we had just been through.

Turning Point

After speaking to my wife about it, as much as I didn’t want to worry her, it was the best decision, I learnt that she also felt the same — but just did a better job of focusing on the positive news. Little did we know that this experience allowed us to be more open, challenging our fears, philosophies and preconceived ideas about parenting.

One of which was the decision we had previously made about sending our child to Private school. I have come to realise that my wife, supportive as she always is, thought it was a great idea — but realistically this was driven by me.

I was adamant that I was not going to take the chance of putting my child through the same state school system I went through. I mean look how I turned out — my ‘pro state’ friends would argue, or ‘there are a number of state schools outperforming private schools’ — my mother in Law would add. To be honest, she ought to know, seen as she led a team of child safeguarding nurses in two separate London boroughs.

But still my response was…

And oh boy, did I get my wish. The data came in, and it was now time for processing and making a decision.

We are no longer ‘planning’ on sending our daughter to private school.

Here are 5 reasons why…

1. We have and are the network

One of the main advantages argued for private school is the network that children are able to build, in comparison to state schools. I mean, if your child’s best friend happens to be the son of the CEO of ACME Ltd, you are sorted for life — right?

Maybe so, but knowing my wife and I, we weren’t the type to simply rely on a school or a relationship with another family to create a pathway for us, and wouldn’t want to start now.

“Give a man a fish you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish you feed him for a lifetime.” — some wise donny.

We have managed to build up a network of young professionals, along our journey.

For example, my 14 year old sister told me she wanted to be a Barrister. Unlike previous generations, I was able to call on two of my female friends, for advice and potential work experience. Both were able to come back with potential options for her next year.

What is interesting about this scenario is both ladies grew up in the same ward as my sister — this is important for her to realise what was possible for her demographic. The diversity of my wife and I’s network is so powerful. I can just go into my rolodex, and have a specific mentor for the next generation — and we could be of similar service to my friends in the time of need.

2. The numbers don’t stack up

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my wife was the only person in her family in two generations to not go to private school. She didn’t turn out too bad — and is a thesis away from a PHD in Counselling Psychology.

What her mother did provide her was extra tutoring outside of school, and paid close attention to the pastoral care in the schools she attended.

‘Cut your cloth to your size’ — African Proverb

The reality is my wife and I could probably afford to put our daughter through private school in the coming years. But just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to, without looking at the opportunity cost.

Average UK Private school fees: £14,205

Mandatory years of schooling: 13 years

Total (excl other costs): £197,428

‘Based on the analysis of the government figures, The Telegraph found that the top 1 per cent of state schools, or 21 schools, achieve better results than 98 per cent of private schools, or 512 schools.’ — Telegraph (2015)

In 2015, 8 of the top 10 state schools in the country were all girl schools. I am sure you have heard the reports that girls tend to perform better in all girl schools vs mixed schools.

The highest scoring secondary school in the country with 94% A*- A, The Henrietta Barnett School is less than 20 minutes away —‘where admission is by academic selection, with a First Round Entrance Test in Verbal and Numerical reasoning, followed by a Second Round English and Mathematics test’.

Operation Henrietta Barnett started now…

3. Education is lifelong

We believe that education is lifelong, and with the speed of technological innovation, it is hard to predict the labour market a decade from now. Who remembers when accountancy and IT were the jobs of the future in the early 2000s, until some of these jobs started to get outsourced to Asia for a fraction of the cost.

What we wish for our daughter is for her to develop the ability to Learn, unlearn and relearn. A growth mindset is likely to provide her the foundation she needs to adapt to whatever the working world throws her way.

4. It’s not about us — it’s about her

At 16, my wife got an offer to go to Woodhouse (a prestigious sixth form college), her mum accepted my wife’s gut feeling that this was not the best environment for her. You can imagine the shock on Woodhouse’s admission team faces when she opted for another — less celebrated — college.

I remember at the same time, I chose to study A Level economics because my step father had dismissed my GCSE results with:

If you don’t study subject like economics, or go to university, what is the point.

In hindsight, it did push me to excel and prove him wrong- but in doing so I challenged myself out of my comfort zone. Because although I did pretty good in my GCSEs, I was living way within my potential because I was in a school where at times they were happy that some children just showed up.

Subsequently I ended up going to university to study Finance, half way through decided that it was not for me. My initial rationale was that I could end up working for a big bank one day, because Accountants and Stockbrokers made a lot of money.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me, my parents at this point weren’t invested in my education — I had delivered on his challenges, so he could no longer could conjure up a list of ludicrous demands on top of my achievements. So I was able to make the judgement call to switch into a marketing degree.

I have since gone on to make a shift into data and analytics, commanding a more than decent package, and been approached for jobs 31 times in a 8 months. But more importantly is I love what I do, and created an opportunity for myself by going down a rabbit hole, looking for the truth about what was driving performance, in my spare time.

Therefore with our experiences, my wife and I don’t wish to live though our daughter. She will have the freedom to do what she wants to do, because we independently will be on our own paths.

We just want her to be happy.

5. London State schools excelling

We are very fortunate to be living in one of the most multicultural, tolerant and vibrant cities in the world. We considered buying outside of London, a couple of years ago when we were planning on starting our family.

Especially when we saw what we could get for our money. We also lived with this false idea, that schools in the outskirts of London were better — but interestingly those areas with the good schools such as Harpenden, St Albans etc weren’t much cheaper than London.

For the same house prices, they failed to offer London’s diversity with added transport costs. Typically, a lot of London state schools get a bad rep, because of decade long incidents — which are passed along through parents chit chats, with no one actually looking at the league tables and attainment figures.

For example, Fortismere has historically been the most outstanding state funded secondary school in the borough of Haringey. The likes of St Thomas Moore, Gregg City Academy and White Hart Lane would not getting a look in.

5 years on, White Hart Lane (now Woodside High School) has the highest Progress 8 figures — 0.49 above average, only 0.1 away from being ‘Well Above Average’.

In Summary,

The operative word is ‘planning’ — which means we will be responsive to our daughters needs, rather than force my previously misinformed agenda of doing what it takes to put her through private school.

Probably not something a data professional should admit, but life is unpredictable and we have had our fair share of sudden changes, and developed the ability to adapt and trust our instincts.

If for whatever reason, it was the best option for her — I am pretty sure my wife and I will do our best to make it happen. But what I have come to learn in my short experience of parenthood is that our job is to raise a well rounded, healthy and more importantly happy individual with high self esteem.

I remember how much the burden of trying to live up to my stepfather’s unfair expectations. I thought I had got the monkey off my back, until I would continue having nightmares about getting poor results in my mid 20s — way after I had graduated and in my career, this horror movie continued playing in my sub-concious.

I had to go back and relive that moment and realise it was not about me, it was about him, them and their insecurities. On balance I did exceptionally well with the cards I was dealt.

It is that peace of mind, I want for my daughter — its priceless and freeing. I am pretty sure she is going to kick ass, whether state or private, we will be responsive to her.

Not the other way around.

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