So, it finally happened. There I was, sitting in Starbucks having coffee with my neighbour, who has children of a similar age to myself, when the conversation inevitably turned to schools (we are in the process of visiting some on behalf of Freddie, who starts next September). Two tables down, a couple of acquaintances I know from a playgroup joined in, and the chat continued to be peppered with words such as “catchment” and “Ofsted”, and discussion of the merits/non merits of certain educational establishments in our area. Crazy talk about people renting a house for 6 months near a decent school’s catchment area (I thought this was the stuff of urban myth). After about 15 minutes of this conversation, it dawned on me that I have become the person I previously would have run away from, screaming, or beat round the head with a copy of ‘The Good Schools Guide’, vowing never to become such a total ‘mum bore’ when I had kids. Wrong!
It’s that time of year again, where even the sanest of parents go totally cray-cray, agonising over which school to put down on the application form that could make or break their child’s educational future. Even when it doesn’t really matter that much anyway, when all the schools are pretty good, and even when the borough is oversubscribed, and you probably won’t have much of a say in the matter, you can see it. You can see the twitching and anxiety of ‘preschooler mum’, as soon as the subject is mentioned. Okay, so many parents have valid concerns, or are trying to avoid a poo school- after all, we want the best for our kids, right? What’s ridiculous is when even though, like us, all the schools in the area are pretty great, you realise you’ve still turned into a dick, agonising about the most trivial details when deciding which one will be numero uno on your list. Questions like: “Will a smaller 2 form entry school suit Freddie better, or the larger 3 form one?” (fair enough, a valid question). “Which school uniform do I like best?” (not so valid), or “Ooh, should we go for the one that does ‘Forest School’?” (what is that? We have no forests around here…).
Where we used to live in London when Freddie was a baby, our two nearest schools were a large, crappy, special-measures delight, and an Oustanding Catholic primary, where you could almost see the light bouncing off the children’s halos as they skipped into school each day. Heck, I was very close to finding God to ensure a place in the latter school, when I read the admissions criteria and realised we were several points down God’s educational pecking order, by 1: not actually being Catholic, quite a biggie and 2: we were unmarried parents, a definite no-no. Thankfully we moved house so didn’t actually have to seriously consider either option, but even back then I was considering doing all sorts of things to ensure F got into a decent one.
Like the loser I am, I actually had a sleepless night and vivid dreams last Thursday, all about bloody schools. Do we choose the nearest school to us that we really like and can walk to, or the one that we LOVE but is a bit further away and might not get in to anyway? I know they all make friends even if they start knowing no one, but would F be better going to the school that most of his little preschool friends will be going to (he’s quite a sensitive chap) even though it’s the further away one? Do we put 6 choices down and risk getting the bottom one that we really don’t want? Or just put 3 down, and run the risk of getting none of these and being sent to a school the other side of the borough that no one wants to go to, and whose playground activity depicts a war zone. I realised I was starting to lose the plot slightly, when I messaged my best friend (who happens to live quite near me and is also in the midst of the schools selection process), and asked her to rank in order of preference all the schools she had been to see. HELLO! CRAZY LADY IN THE BUILDING!
To be honest, I don’t know why I’m fretting anyway. I’ve always held the belief that as long as you are loving and the sort of involved parent who reads to your children and stuff, they will do just fine wherever they are. Thankfully, we only have about 6 more weeks of this misplaced middle class parental hysteria to endure, when application deadlines are hit, and it’s taken out of our hands and into the lap of the council gods (no amount of money would make me want that job, such a ballache to work out who will go where, I’ve always wondered how they do it).
Parents can then calm down sufficiently, safe in the knowledge that there is nothing more than can be done…until next April, where the wait for that email to come through will inevitably send blood pressure in the ‘burbs rising once more…
Are you choosing a school right now? Or have you been through this process before?
Linking up with Let’s Talk Mommy and Share With Me
Don’t beat yourself too much; it is a VERY worthwhile thing to freak out about. You’re not being frivolous, education is important. In a perfect world it would be less prone to luck and easier to navigate. Not so at the moment. Anyways it’s not you, it’s them. Chin up.
Ah, thank you Sara, you’ve made me feel a little better! I think I’m possible more concerned living in a London Borough, as they’re always banging on about there being too few school places- what do they do with all the leftover children?!
Nope, definitely not alone! I’ve done our form for Kitty and sent it in, and it’s just got the one choice on it, our village school, on the basis that all the other ones even vaguely nearby are always hugely oversubscribed and if there are 30 four year olds living between us and the school then someone is hiding them in a basement! I know that there’s every chance she will thrive wherever she ends up, but it’s still a little nerve racking – suddenly private education starts to have merits just for the certainty! Goodness only knows what we’ll be like by the time they get to senior school!
Aaah, I’m so envious that you have a lovely village school to go to, and that the likelihood that you wouldn’t get it, is as you say, tiny! It’s weird- I’m not normally that stressy about parenting stuff, but this is giving me the heeby-jeebies!
In my experience it is so easy to become a ‘school bore’. Unless you are ‘smug with money, living opposite the local outstanding’, then you have nothing to worry about. The rest of us, want to best for our children, in the battle for over subscribed schools. It’s huge decision, so many factors contribute. Been there twice, first time, we were in a bad catchment area, surrounded by oversubscribed other schools, everyone else could afford to move and then were terribly sympathetic in that annoying fashion. By the skin of our teeth and after a lot of sleepless nights, we got into a good school. Did 3 months there and then relocated. Was offered the only school with places, which I am less than impressed with – my son is happy but I know what he is missing, where as he doesn’t. I find it really hard. Oh and yes, I met an urban myth. A woman who moved for 9 months on to the virtual doorstep of the local most sought after school, she explained to me, (as in my head I calculated what all that must have cost) rather than send her child to the local school, the school my son goes to. At the end of this, she asks which school my son attends. Awkward. Oh how she back peddled. It is a huge and important decision, everyone is obsessed, you are as boring as the next parent (probably less so as you are worrying about being boring, whereas they might not have noticed they are boring). Good luck, am sure it will turn out fine. X
Thanks Gemma! Sorry, I laughed at thinking about how awkward that conversation with the other lady must have been- oh to have been a fly on that wall! Sorry you’re not overly happy with your son’s school, that must be hard, but at least he is happy there and I think that counts for a lot. Like I said in my post, if you’re a proactive parent in general, then I’m sure your son would do well wherever he is 🙂 x
It’s our turn next year and I am already losing sleep on it!! Ha what a loser. I have mum bore moments like this all the time though and I think “what have I become”??? ha ha xx
I often feel like my old self is looking down on my new self and marveling at what I’ve become! I possibly secretly enjoy these conversations though, I just save them for the right people i.e. not my childless friends! xx
the whole schools form thing does tend to take over for a while but rest assured normal life resumes! Popping over from share with Me
I do hope so!
We have all been there – trust me. We moved us to get our children in the an outstanding Catholic school hah and I am so glad that I did. It is so important. Gabe’s special school is half an hour away on a school bus and that is fantastic too. It is a big box ticked when you are happy with your children’s schools – good luck. EEK! x
Ooh so you’re someone who did do a tactical move! Are you guys catholic then or did it not matter so much where you live? Where we are in London it seems to be super-strict but where I come from in Bedfordshire anyone could attend the good catholic High School. If I’d have known we could have got in, we might have stayed put! That’s so good as well that Gabe’s school is so close, you guys have been so lucky! I agree, schooling is such a big thing, probably one of the biggest decisions we will make as grown adults! x
Goodness it sounds stressful!! I can imagine I would also be a total school bore!!! I’m glad that here (in fact most places we would live if we ever moved elsewhere as expats) Arthur will go to the international school mark teaches at!!
It really is Chantelle, you’re not missing much, I promise! 😉 x
I don’t think you’re a loser at all! It is important and you want your child to be happy at school. I have 2 in education now and once they settle in you will settle in too 🙂 x x
I hope so Susanne! It just seems such a long wait until April to find out now. So sorry for the late reply! x
I think its pretty normal to think about this things and worry! I was really giddy while waiting for results of this school thingy! I am so glad that my son got into the school that we wanted and goodluck to you =) #sharewithme
Ah, that’s so good you got the choice you wanted- I really hope we do too! x
I dread this and A is only 1! A whole bunch of parents at work went through this process last year and I could overhear them sounding like crazy, middle class problems folk in April… except last year I was pregnant swearing not to be one of these nut jobs… 18 months on and I am showing early signs of being a nut job myself! lol
Haha, we always swear we’ll never be what we actually become! I guess they’re cliches for a reason! x
I love this. I never thought I would be that bore either but I am. We have been looking for Buba’s schools around here for September. And I probably mention it more to gain more knowledge of your school systems and being an expat doesn’t help me make a better decision I am clueless to how it all works. AHH Love that you admit it too. great post. Thanks for linking to Share With Me. I hope to see you again next week. #sharewithme
That must be so hard for you not knowing the system as well- it’s mind-boggling enough if you grew up here and so have a fair idea how things work! Hope Buba gets the school you want him to go to. Sorry for the late reply, been crazy here with illness and allsorts, just catching up now! x