An end to hidden extras

19th January 1996 at 00:00
Lindsay Moore's children went from private to state school, and loved it. I wasn't surprised when the head teacher of my daughter's primary school told me that 25 families had recently moved their children from private establishments to her state school.

Originally I had sent my son and daughter to private schools. But then my family circumstances changed, which meant a move from one side of London to the other.

Edward had quite liked his private school. He used the system to his advantage and was doing quite well.

We were short of money so all the "extras" required by his school became a problem. You didn't just have to pay the fees you had to buy endless equipment as well shoes for outdoor PE, shoes for indoor PE, clothing for both types of PE. Every time he grew it was horribly expensive.

After our move, the children could have gone to private schools again at a push, but after seeing the local state primaries I thought, well, why pay all that money?

A big bonus was that the state sector allowed me to get involved in the children's education for the first time. Indeed I was made very welcome I could go in at any time. At Edward's private school you couldn't get past the front door unless you had an appointment.

But at his new school I was actually allowed to help out in the classroom. I began to have much more of an idea of Edward's reading ability and how he stood in the class, because I could go always go in and look at his books. In his former school my visits were only at the convenience of the school, and I felt it.

At our local primary there are no problems with the teaching. In fact the staff seem to have more experience of life in general. Some of Edward's previous teachers had themselves been pupils, gone to university and then returned to their old school to teach. They didn't have much experience of the real world and I felt they were very cosseted.

Edward had a good academic grounding at the private school, but when he went into the state system there was a large gap in his maths work which his new teacher was quick to pick up. Edward settled in quickly and soon found a friend in the same road and they could walk to school together.

At the new school the physical facilities are far better it has a library for instance, which the private school didn't have. Class sizes aren't that different up from about 18 to 24.

Our daughter Jenny also settled in quickly she had come from a much bigger private school than Edward. Again she had a good grounding but her maths education had been rather hit-and-miss. She was really pleased that I was allowed to help at the new school and that she'd see me for odd moments during the day. She has made lots of friends and I don't have to drive miles for her to see them.

The other day I asked both of them which system they preferred. Both chose their primary school without hesitation. They now feel less pressured at school and although they get some reading to do they don't have hours of homework. There's much less competition in the classroom.

And they like the security: "We know we can always stay at the state school because it doesn't depend on whether you and Daddy have any money. We know we won't be moved unless we all move away from here." Although they still see some of their old friends, they're delighted with their new ones.

It's been a revelation, this school. I can't understand why some local parents don't even consider the option.

Lindsay Moore now lives in the London borough of Richmond and writes under a pseudonym.

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