In September my daughter starts school. When we first moved to the area, there was a general unspoken decision that she would attend the local new school. There was nothing more to be said, until we started having conversations with other parents with other ideas. This is my ‘choosing primary school’ experience.
For the last year, here are the questions I’ve asked, worried about and analysed for hours and hours, driving both myself, my other half and no doubt my friends mad. Before you say it, no, I’m not even going to mention the ‘O’ word, their reports are not the be all and end all.
- What is the wraparound care provision? – With us both working full-time and no family locally, this became a serious issue. We ideally need 8-6 and, it turned out that the local school only had limited places, and only lasted until 5:30. Just not quite long enough.
- Will my child make friends? – It turns out that whilst nursery is less than a 5 minute drive from the local school, quite a few of our daughter’s current nursery friends haven’t put it as first choice due to siblings elsewhere already, catchment area issues or general preference on others. I had this bizarre idea that every one at pre-school would just migrate into the new school. The idea that they wouldn’t led me to start questioning our own judgement and wondering whether we should consider other schools.
- How long will it take me to do the school run and is there time to walk? – Like many of my friends, I walked to both my primary school and my secondary school in the 80s and 90s. I think, in my head, I had assumed that if we got our first choice, I would walk my child to school and mingle at the school gates for a few minutes before walking home and getting in the car to go to work. Wrong! Even though it is only a 5-10 minute walk, if I’m honest, I know I will get myself, my daughter and all manner of bags, coats, and other kit in the car, dash off to school, run in and run out again and dash to work. It won’t be like my childhood and I have to accept that. It also flags that there actually isn’t too much of a benefit to sending her to the geographically closest school. I don’t have a 4×4 yet, but I’m considering it!
- What pastoral care and clubs are offered? – I’m big on experiences and trying out new hobbies. Whilst the core subjects are important, we really wanted a school that could offer a plethora of new things to try. It is incredibly important that there is strong ethos of individuality and desire to get the best out of the child by giving them the chance to find out what it is that makes them truly tick. When you go to the open days, you see how different schools are and it can be quite surprising. One of our preferred schools has music playing in the foyet all day, which I love.
- Will my child get in with a ‘bad’ crowd? – Now, this is the most ridiculous of them all. Our daughter is 3, she’ll have just turned 4 when she starts school, and has at least 10 years to wait until she hits that pubescent stage that I am DREADING. However, with her stubbornness, cheeky and headstrong ways, there is a chance she could end up ‘hanging-out’ with the children that don’t want to learn. I found myself checking out the uniform of any children who were out playing really late at night, or mucking about walking home, trying to use some kind of warped logic to decide which schools had the ‘model’ children and which didn’t.
In the end, our third choice was a small village school – to try and negate the last question. Our first choice is the closest and newest school, and our second choice is a school in a completely different area that has a fantastic ethos and plenty of opportunity.
Roll on 18th April.
At the risk of alienating some of my readers, I have to admit that we also put her down for a private school too. The private school is the optimum for wraparound and pastoral care (but with a hefty price tag), so come April it will be make or break to compare our offered school against this one and decide once and for all.
We went from local school no questions asked, to putting her name down for an expensive private school in a matter of months, all because of my obsession with research.
Will my daughter be ok wherever she goes? Probably, because a major part is down to the supportive parenting and the home life, where parents get involved with helping their child to learn and to love to learn.
Do I regret worrying and researching so much? A little. I feel slightly embarrassed to have looked towards private education as state school was good enough for both me and my other half. However, our options are still open and in April we will make that decision, stand by it, and shed a tear of pride with a tinge of sadness as our daughter poses for the customary first day of school smartphone picture.