Is it better to send your child to private school for primary and secondary, or just secondary education?

When you’re a parent, every choice you make seems loaded with consequences. And when it comes to deciding on education, the school you select could have life-long impacts for your child.

Many parents wonder whether it’s better to send their child to private school from primary age (or even earlier, nursery), for secondary school, or for their entire education.

There are concerns over cost, the value your child’s getting from their total education, and the potential impacts of disruption from changing school systems.

So what’s the best decision to make? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of sending your child to private school for all or part of their education.

Benefits of sending your child to private school for both primary and secondary education

Group of children running towards a school entrance

Having your child educated privately from the age of 4 until they leave with A-levels at 18 can bring an enormous sense of continuity and stability during their formative years. And there are plenty of other advantages, too.

Forever friends

If you choose private schools local to your area, children are likely to move through their school career with a consistent group of peers. They’ll nurture special friendships without the disruption of changing school systems and having to form new bonds whilst they also start an important phase in their learning.

That’s particularly true if you choose what’s known as an ‘all-through’ school – a single school that provides children with teaching from reception to 6th form.

Small world

Children who are privately educated will be able to take advantage of the superior facilities and smaller class sizes throughout their schooling – there’s no adjustment period as they get used to a new system part way through.

All-through schools, or closely linked junior and senior private schools, have an added advantage: they can allow primary age students access to specialist teachers that they’d otherwise not encounter until their secondary education.

Making an entrance with exams

For private primary schools that lead into a nearby independent secondary school, it’s highly likely they’ll take care of tutoring your child through entrance exams – whereas many state primary schools don’t offer this service.

Drawbacks of sending your child to private school for both primary and secondary

There are many advantages to sending your child to private school from reception to 6th form, but there are some drawbacks, too.

Financial costs

The most obvious drawback of sending your child to private school for so many years is the cost of school fees, which represent a significant investment for most families. Many private schools offer scholarships and bursaries, but most parents will need to prepare carefully by making a proper financial plan before they commit to 14 or more years of rising school fees.

Sadly, parents who haven’t prepared properly can end up sacrificing their own dreams and goals to pay for schooling, even though it’s entirely avoidable with the right plan in place.

Personality clash

If your child doesn’t get along with a particular classmate, attending the same private school or schools throughout their education could mean they’re stuck in the same class for years, with no natural opportunity to get away from each other.

Moving your child from the state sector to private school could give them the chance to experience a different group of friends and reinvent themselves as a new, more mature and confident version of themselves.

World outlook

It’s a sad fact that most private schools lack diversity in the student body and across the teaching staff. If the private schools in your area have little diversity, independent education for both primary and secondary may put your child at a disadvantage because they have less opportunity for unconscious biases to be dispelled.

Benefits of sending your child to private school for secondary years only

School pupils in an examination hall

For many families, the cost of 14 years of private school seems astronomical if they don’t have a financial plan in place. There are benefits to using the state system for primary years switching to the public school system for secondary-aged children.

Cost savings

Naturally, if you choose a private school for only the second part of your child’s education, the total cost of school fees will be significantly lower because you’re paying for fewer years. This can be an attractive option for many parents as they look to get the best return on their investment.

Value for money

With nationally recognised qualifications awarded during secondary school years, many parents feel that paying school fees for this stage of their child’s schooling will bring the most value. With smaller class sizes, specialist teachers and incredible facilities on offer, the opportunities to achieve excellent grades at private school are enormous. In other words, the impact of private school on your child’s life could be greater at secondary level.

Clubs and societies

Sending your child to a private secondary school rather than a primary school is likely to give a wider choice of extra-curricular activities to enjoy. They’ll be able to appreciate and treasure the experiences, pursuing interests that they might not otherwise have access to.

Confidence and individuality

While many state primary schools are able to offer a family-feel in their classrooms, the sheer size of most state secondary schools can be overwhelming for some children. Private schools are able to bring a personal touch to their secondary school pupils, and parents can see the difference in their child’s achievements and confidence.

The more, the merrier

If you change from the state sector to the private sector for your child’s education, you’re giving your child the opportunity to mix with a wider pool of peers. Developing social skills and getting to meet people from all sorts of different backgrounds is an advantage that will stand your child in good stead for their entire lives.

Drawbacks of sending your child to private school for just their secondary education

Of course, changing school system part way through may bring some difficulties for pupils and their families.

Chopping and changing

Moving from one system to another could unsettle some children, and they may find it hard to get used to the smaller class sizes and larger school grounds when they’ve been used to the state school system.

In with the in-crowd

If your child joins a private secondary school where a large proportion of the class attended a private junior school together, friendship groups may already be established. This could make it difficult for your child to settle in and find their place in the group.

Financial difficulties

For parents who aren’t used to paying school fees for their child, the additional financial burden can cause strain if you haven’t prepared by making a robust financial plan. Having a thorough understanding of your finances and the costs involved in attending a private school will protect your family from hardship further down the line.

Benefits of sending your child to private school for primary only

A group of young school children

Some parents send their children to private school only for the junior years of their education. Let’s look at the benefits.

Saving pennies

Private school fees at any age come at a price, but for most schools, the cost of early years and primary education is significantly smaller than the cost of senior years.

Strong foundations

It’s widely acknowledged that a children’s early education can have the greatest impact on their overall success at school. In fact, it starts before junior school at nursery or preschool. For some parents, this might be a reason to invest in private school for their child’s primary years, as the benefits could have a lifelong pay off.

Entrance exam-ready

Families who live near to a state-funded selective school often choose to have their child privately educated for primary years before taking advantage of the local grammar school for secondary years.

Tutoring and coaching at an independent primary school, along with the smaller class sizes, help children prepare for the 11+ entrance exam. If a child gets a place at a state-funded grammar school, they can receive a high-quality education without parents having to fund school fees.

Drawbacks of sending your child to private school for primary only

Size matters

Secondary schools are usually bigger – especially in the public sector. For children used to an independent primary school, the move to a state secondary can feel like a much more difficult transition.

Generalist, not specialist

State secondary schools usually have to cater to the masses, so if your child has nurtured a particular interest in, say, music or sport during their time at a private junior school, they may miss out on their favourite activities in moving away from the independent school system.

Making a decision on private education

Only you and your child can decide on the education that will best fit their needs and personality. If you decide to include private education into the mix, make sure you plan properly for the costs.

School fees in UK public schools can be very large, and without a proper plan in place, parents can end up sacrificing their financial dreams and goals, such as early retirement or a second home. In the worst scenarios, children have to leave private school altogether if their parents can no longer afford the costs.

To make sure your child’s education is secure and your dreams are still achievable, contact us to chat about financial planning for school fees.