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Educational dilemmas

Susan Hamlyn, director emerita at The Good Schools Guide, answers your educational questions.

Our son is seven and quite clearly bookish and studious. Our daughter is nine, wildly sporty and social. Our instinct is to send our daughter to the local comprehensive which is good and where most of her friends will go, but to send our son to an independent prep school and on through the independent system. The decision is complicated by the fact that we couldn’t afford to send both of them to independent schools but we don’t want this to contribute to our making the wrong call. Can you help?

It's not an uncommon problem - two very different children, the possibility of choice and, inevitably, parental anxiety, guilt and sleepless nights.

The key factor has to be the children themselves and, in a way, you have answered your own question because you are - like all sensible parents - looking at the actual children you have, not at some template child.

Your daughter wants to go to the local good comprehensive school with her friends and, if given her head, will probably do fine there. Being the older one, she would probably benefit from, and appreciate, an open discussion about the decision and understand that her brother might well go to a different school.

What is best for her is not necessarily best for him. She will understand that you would be paying for his school place but not for hers, but this will probably mean little to her if she gets what she wants.

I wouldn't put too much emphasis on the money side of the matter - better to focus on your care as parents in doing the best for each of your, obviously different, children. Your son will also need to understand this. It isn't about the money, it's about who they are, so I wouldn't stress the fact that this choice might mean more holidays, treats or whatever.

The final point is that your choices are not irrevocable. Although, in general, moving schools is not something I advise unless there is a real need, should either of your children not thrive at the schools you choose, you can look elsewhere. Children given opportunities develop all kinds of aptitudes and enthusiasms at different times and the school they start at seven or 11 might not be the best when they are 13 or 16.

If you have an educational dilemma that you’d like us to consider running in the next issue, please get in touch [email protected]

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