Will my son resent me for sending him to a state school – and paying for his sister’s posh prep?

“Freddie, Ruby and James would like to invite you to their Charlie & The Chocolate themed birthday party,” the invite reads. “RSVP essential.”

‘We hope Jessica* will make it. Ruby will be heartbroken if she can’t,” purrs the glamorous blonde in the fur vest as she climbs into her Land Rover and kisses me goodbye.

I expect most parents at my daughter’s new secondary school won’t worry about the cost of birthday presents, but I know my standard £10 Amazon Gift Card won’t cut it this time.

It’s a far cry from the last birthday party my teenage son Sam* went to at a nearby Nando’s. His friend, Alex, is the son of a single mother who works two jobs. She insisted there were no presents.

The public school my daughter attended was clearly extremely overloaded and under-resourced, and was not in a position to help her, says the anonymous mother.

You see, our thirteen-year-old son goes to a public high school, while our ten-year-old daughter started fancy prep last year. Why? We couldn’t afford to send them both. It’s a real sacrifice to send Jessica to a fee-paying school, but we decided it was worth it. Even if that means giving up your vacation and buying a new car. I am aware that it will give our daughter advantages over our son, but we simply cannot find the £37,000 it would cost each year to send both to private individuals.

The reality is that Sam is brighter. While he made it through primary school relatively unscathed, Jessica, who is less outgoing, sporty and academically capable than her brother, became lost in a class of 33 children with different abilities. The school, which was clearly hugely overburdened and under-resourced, was in no position to help her.

Then there was the terrible food (nuggets and chips most days), unwanted friendships and the fact that she was on the waiting list for almost a year for the only club she wanted to join (drama).

There are only 14 children in class at her new school and she was recently cast in the lead role in their production of Matilda. Her self-confidence has improved by leaps and bounds, not to mention her reading and math.

In an ideal world, we’d send both of our kids to private school, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes feel terrible about the inequality. And we may have to rethink things if Keir Starmer steps in and increases fees by 20 percent – ​​because we can no longer afford to send Jessica.

We pray that this will not happen, because there is no denying that our daughter’s school is way ahead of her brother’s. The extracurricular activities they offer are breathtaking: hockey, horse riding, forest school and fencing. One of the few optional extras at our son’s school is Warhammer Club. A group of teenagers stuffing themselves with chocolate and ignoring each other while building models is not character building.

Our son has gym once a week, while our daughter swims in the school pool on Mondays, plays hockey or football on Tuesdays and has two afternoons of gym and outdoor education on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The food in the canteen is also exceptional: think of fish pie, broccoli and homemade profiteroles, while my son lives on sausage rolls and Danish pastries in his school canteen.

And did I mention the school trips? Our daughter is going skiing in Switzerland this year, while our son’s sailing trip in a dinghy in Wales cannot really be compared.

Then there are the social connections our daughter makes. She has already been loaned a pony by one of her classmates. Let’s hope there won’t be a shortage of work experience offers when the time comes.

Our son’s friend, on the other hand, got into trouble after his brother was expelled from school for bringing ketamine to a school disco.

In any case, the children at our son’s grammar school are smart and have parents who spend the time guiding them through the over-11s or who find a private teacher.

At the time, we knew we couldn’t afford to privately educate both children, so we were thrilled when he passed the exam and the decision was finally made for us. If he hadn’t failed, we couldn’t afford to send him to private school without remortgaging the house, something neither of us wanted to do. But I would have hated it if he had ended up at the local school.

I hope that the skills my son learns from his State Grammar - getting along with people from all walks of life, working hard, appreciating what he has - will be the strengths he will use in his adult life, she adds

I hope that the skills my son learns from his State Grammar – getting along with people from all walks of life, working hard, appreciating what he has – will be the strengths he will use in his adult life, she adds

Three years later, things are going pretty well, although I would have liked to see him do more extracurricular activities. He has not set foot on a cricket field since he was a teenager, despite our best efforts. Football is the only thing he is remotely interested in.

There are things that are far from ideal: his penchant for tacky football shirts and the fact that he sometimes pronounces the ‘H’ ‘aitch’ (‘No one at school pronounces it H, mum’), but overall I’m proud on him and how he is doing.

I pray that in the years to come he won’t resent his little sister and us for sending her to, in his words, a “fancy school.”

I hope that the skills he learns from his state grammar – getting along with people from all walks of life, working hard, appreciating what he has – will be the strengths he will use in his adult life.

And maybe some of the connections his sister makes can help him one day. The son of a local MP is in her class. Maybe he can give Sam some work experience next year. I have to remember to buy him a great gift for his birthday next month. It’s got to at least be worth a try, right?

*Names have been changed