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This month our expert consultants help a family navigate their precocious child’s educational journey, mixing and matching state and private education.

Primary School10 December 2020

Q: Our son is three and never stops asking questions. We know he is bright and we want the best education for him. So should we pay now for him to go to a prep school in the hope that he gets into a grammar at 11 or should we send him to the local (goodish) primary and pay for a tutor when he is in the last two years so that he gets into a selective independent? We know we can’t pay from now until he’s 18!

A: The answer to this really depends on each individual child and the schools that are available to you locally. 
If your son is eager to learn and full of natural curiosity, then he will probably thrive at any well-managed school and learn quite naturally. You, as conscientious parents, will clearly support his learning with what you do at home. So, the chances are that he will be fine at your local primary. He’ll probably need some expert help in his last year – either from you or an outside tutor – so that he understands about entrance exams and has had practice in working to time limits and exam technique. 
There’s no doubt that sending him to a good prep school now may well give him some stimulating and enjoyable years. There will be smaller classes and, probably, a greater range of subjects and extra-curricular things for him to try. But it won't necessarily increase his chances of getting into an academically selective school at 11 - especially as these schools increasingly rely on computerised tests which assess raw intellectual potential rather than what has been taught and learned. 
If he goes to the local primary, on the other hand, he will then have a chance at an academically selective school at 11 and, if he doesn't make it, then he will move on to the local senior school with his existing cohort of friends - which most children want to do anyway.
So - there are gains both ways. The Christmas break is a great time to thoroughly research the schools that are in your area - look at how they perform and study their admissions criteria (particularly, in the case of state schools, when oversubscribed). You may find that if you have a good chance of getting into a super state primary on your doorstep it makes your decision a bit easier. Make sure you are aware not only of imminent options at primary level but also what might be on offer further down the line. Your choices now can affect the options available to you for senior school in multiple ways. Don’t forget that if you invest in a prep school now and that doesn't result in a place at a grammar, then he will move to a state academy or comprehensive school where he knows no-one and may start with a sense of failure which is never a good way to begin a new school. But you know your son and are best placed to make the final decision.

Do you want help from The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants?

Our expert education consultants can provide your family with one-to-one help on all of the issues raised in this article and many more. We regularly help parents understand the particulars of UK independent schools and assist them in mapping out potential educational pathways for their children. If you would like to find out more about our services, visit the Education Consultants homepage or to speak directly with one of the team email [email protected] or call 0203 286 6824

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