Private or state: 'Thomas would have been put in a class of 37'

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The Independent Online

Putting her two sons through independent school has been difficult for Daryl Taplin and her husband but "worth every penny.

"We are by no means rich – we are both actors and it has been a struggle at times," Mrs Taplin said. "We've gone without holidays for years, made do with second-hand cars and made lots of small sacrifices.

"But we are delighted at the way the boys have thrived – they seemed to fall behind very quickly at their state primary school."

Thomas, 18, and Joshua, 16, were taken out of their Southwark primary school aged seven and five in the late 1980s because their parents were concerned at large class sizes and staff shortages.

"The last straw for me was when the head warned me that Thomas would have to be in a class of 37 and that I would have to keep Joshua at home for a term or make other arrangements because they couldn't get a reception class teacher," said Mrs Taplin. "After his first year Joshua was so far behind that we worried that he might be a bit dim – but he wasn't at all."

The boys were transferred to an independent primary in south London and then to a pre-preparatory school in Somerset when the family moved in 1990. Thomas attended Queen's College in Taunton, and Joshua is at Millfield School in Street.

Rising fees were a concern, Mrs Taplin said. "We have been extremely fortunate in that my mother helped with Thomas's fees – which were more than £2,700 a term. Joshua is very sporty and won quite a big bursary to Millfield, but the fees are still around £2,000. The full boarding fees are around £6,000 a term – I just don't know how people can manage.

"I think there is a point when you just cannot afford to pay any more. If the fees went up a massive amount, we would have no option – [Joshua] would have to come out ... I know of several families who have taken their children out of independent schools because they simply can't afford it.

"When you hear the stories of this current year of AS-level students who have been guinea pigs every step of the way ... I am glad we were able to spare them that."