I went to Birkenhead School (Private, one of the best in the UK), and then in my later years to Wallasey School... overall neither we're bad.
In fact Wallasey School was far more down to earth and in touch with the real world due to the normal (I guess you could say common) folk attending from Moreton, Leasowe, Wallasey Village and the surrounding area's. Most of the pupils in Birkenhead School came from extremely privaledged backgrounds, many had millionaire parents and a lot of local footballers send their children to the school.
Of course Birkenhead School was for more intensive teachning wise (when I moved to Wallasey School, I was approx 2 years ahead of the year I was going into, such is the acceleration of Birkenhead School) and it was far more results driven (the pupils were attaining 100% A-C grades in GCSE's and in the region of 80% A - B grades in A-Levels).
Where was I happier? Wallasey School, by far. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my time at Birkenhead School, but it was a very pressurised and competitive enviroment and the discipline was sometimes too strict. They were also very inexperienced in dealing with situations out of the norm... they basically like the child to be regimented and never to step out of line, express themselves, or to explore better ways of doing things. I was of course a pupil in the days when it was boys-only, and now they accept both boys and girls, so it may well have changed (adapted, modernised in some area's) somewhat in it's teaching style?
So I would not for one moment say private is the only
way to go for a decent education - it should always be an option to consider, but only if you have the money to burn do I think it is worth it for the average child. Im not sure what the GCSE and A-Level grades of Wallasey School are at the moment, but when I was there, it's "reputation" was very much overdone and it was all just hype, of course you had the odd tear away and bad apple as you do in every state school (in fact they even turned up in Birkenhead School), but the majority of the kids were decent, had some sort of vision for their life, got along with each other just find, and generally got their head down and did their work. I have tonnes of friends from Wallasey School, and off my head I can't actually think of one who is not in employment and/or studying in, or been to University. They may not have gone to Oxbridge like half of the Birkenhead School lot do, but does it really matter lol?!
Oh yeah, you also have to pass a set of exam's (not the 11 plus or whatever it is/was, a LOT harder and more in-depth) to be accepted into Birkenhead Senior School, as with almost all private schools, unless you are admitted from the Prep, so it does also depend on your child's ability if private education is a route you wish to explore.