We haven’t had much luck with Dan’s schools.
He has been bounced around at the state’s convenience; certainly not his. It never really feels like we’ve had any power over his destination. He has been a victim of catchment areas and overpopulation.
And believe you me, there is nothing makes you feel like a total and utter failure as a parent when it comes to where your kids go to school.
Just wait until you’re there too and you have issues and come back and tell me how that feels.
We were refused all three of our choices for first school when he was 5 – even though our local school is a 5 minute walk away and we’re slap bang in the hot spot of the catchment area.
We were refused our first two choices of middle school.
All we were asking was to attend our local schools.
In two years time he goes to high school and we live in dread at what that stage brings.
Between frightening government changes in education and our track record, what will become of my eager-to-learn boy?
I read a fabulous blog post from an English school teacher entitled Does Every Child Really Matter? and it really struck a chord with me.
Seriously, if you have a child at school go and read it. It sent a cold chill down my spine as I recognised some of the scenarios painted.
Poorly behaved children taking time and attention away from the quieter ones in class? Tick.
Teacher talking about everything and anything except your child’s performance at parent’s evening leaving you wondering if they actually know your child at all? Tick.
Once your child has reached their target they are largely left to coast? Tick.
Teacher who’s been there for years and years and everyone knows they aren’t moving the children on and are largely ineffective, but STILL they remain year after year. Tick.
The school boasting of its performance, when the reality is they are in a catchment where parents care deeply about their children’s education and so read with them at home, sit down with them to do homework, help out when they’re struggling, boosting their performance. Tick tick tick.
Last year Mia had an amazing teacher and she came home buzzing and keen. The year before was a wasted year; her teacher seemed bored and preoccupied.
A wasted year. A whole year of schooling.
Of course, not every school is like this. But what if yours is? What if your child is the one left to coast when they’ve got so much more to give?
What if you want more for your child? What if they want more?
There is nothing more important than their education. It will set the scene for the rest of their lives. It will shape the people they become.
And here is what I believe; if your child is happy and challenged and in an environment where they feel that the people around them want them to achieve then they will flourish.
So, for the first time in Dan’s school career we’re taking charge.
We have a bright boy who loves to learn. He’s flying high, he gets a thrill out of discovering new things and he enjoys work. He loves school.
When he was a baby we researched the best high chair, the best pushchair, the best nursery. We invested a lot of time and money into it. If we couldn’t afford it, we saved.
His nursery cost us an arm and a leg, but it was absolutely worth it for his development and he blossomed there.
Now he’s 11 we’re making that same investment in him again. Because we absolutely think it’s worth it. He’s worth it. And he’s at the age where it’s really starting to matter.
So, come September he’s moving to our local private school.
It’s not a decision we took lightly. But he visited it and fell in love. Their sporting facilities and opportunities made his eyes stand out on stalks. He said it feels calm there.
He sat the exam and got offered a place and we are blessed that we have been offered a huge chunk of assistance from the school to help pay for his time there.
I messaged a good friend of mine who went through exactly this a few years ago with her own son and ended up sending him to private school. I wanted to know whether it was really worth it, would Dan feel out of place, would he thrive?
This is what she told me:
“Bite their hand off. Our school was brilliant , it’s their business to be brilliant. They were on the phone/writing letters when he was doing well and the same when he would fall behind. I only have positive things to say about it.
“I always apologised for my son being at private school (it’s surprising how many people ask) but the children there were mainly the children of parents like us just wanting them to be educated well”.
Of course I’m under no illusion it’s going to be perfect and I’m sure I’m going to have a moan from time to time. But it feels right for us. And what I know is that he won’t be left to coast. And he will be afforded amazing sporting opportunities and he will be taught to be respectful, hardworking and committed. It will be cool to want to learn.
And he will absolutely matter.
On top of all this, he is really, really excited about his new adventure.
When my children were little I was convinced it was important that both of them were at the same school. Now I know it’s important I don’t make that decision to suit me and my husband. Every school is different just as every child is different and I think it’s vital to find one in which they will be a square peg in a square hole.
And in three year’s time we will make that exact same assessment for Mia.