The next big decision: choosing a primary school

April 12, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Posted in Daily Life | 8 Comments
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Goooooood loooooord where do I begin.

So, we live in a lovely house, in what we thought was a pretty crap catchment area.

After toying with the idea of moving house (ridiculous mortgage canned that idea), moving in with my parents (I’m really too old to go home again) and various forms of bribery (was yet to establish what), we reluctantly went to look around what we thought was only the best of a bad bunch of primary schools in our catchment area.

And loved it.

You know when you almost don’t want to admit how wrong you were?  And that sensation of relief, guilt and snobbery all rolled into one?

And you know that feeling of the shifting worry moving from one issue to another?

We’d started with a level of desperation as to which school we’d possibly be able to send Bear to and were now faced with a race against time to get him into the one just a stone’s throw away that we had previously written off.

I think that our personal, suited and booted visit to meet with the head mistress and tour the school stood us in good stead for the first hurdle – the pecking order of acceptance at said school is catchment plus sibling, followed by catchment plus attending the nursery, followed finally by catchment only.

We’d already heard horror stories about children living on the doorstep of the school being turned away and sent to the grimiest school in the hood because they didn’t fall into the first and second categories.

We’re waiting to hear if bear has a place for the nursery in September when he turns three.  If he does, there’s a good chance he’ll get a place at the school next year.

Surely it shouldn’t be this complicated?  Any child who wants a good education should get it.  Any parent should be able to assume that their child will be happy, cared for and nurtured at school.  Call me a snob but shouldn’t you be able to assume that if your child asks to go and play at a friends house after school, that they will come home in one piece?

This school operates a play based learning philosophy which has been so hugely successful that other schools come to observe and adopt their methods.  We had no idea.  It means that during an average day you have one sit down lesson with four or five other children, whilst the remainder of the class (under the supervision of a teaching assistant) gets to choose what they do – as long as it’s linked to the learning objective of the day.  This is supported by carpet time at the beginning and end of each day.

So, really it’s how it should be – children learn through play – they look forward to going to school and they feel proud of their self driven achievements. The walls were festooned with brightly coloured artwork, children ran to hug the head mistress, girls excitedly invited us to inspect their ‘bug club’, and younger siblings joined in with older brothers and sisters when they liked the sound of the story being read.  It sounds wonderful doesn’t it?

And all that time, it was right there under our noses, and we very nearly turned ours up and walked the other way.

This is a lesson in many things – mainly in not pre-judging,

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  1. This does sound very complicated. We register the boys at 2 for nursery at 3. We give three choices but I haven’t heard of anyone not getting their first choice. You find out about 6 months before they start. Then you register them for school in the January before they start in the August at the school of your choice. You pretty much always get in. The only bad thing about our primary school is that there isn’t a nursery but he goes to one close by. Good luck. x

    • That’s amazing that people always get their first choice where you are, it’s such a struggle here! We need luck!! x

  2. […] tone makes for a really easy to read blog, and she talks about all sorts of parenting issues, from picking primary schools to finding child-friendly restaurants and the dreaded realms of potty training! Baby Genie also […]

  3. […] we looked around bear’s prospective primary school, I oooohed over an art project they had on display.  I thought they were such a clever idea that […]

  4. I really hope you get in! We got third choice and I’m still really unhappy. It was ok to start with but as the year has gone on I just feel more and more desperate to get her out (she started in September). It’s a nightmare so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone! S x

    • Gosh its scary isn’t it. Did you appeal? it’s so stressful, will keep you posted, it looks like we’ve got a nursery place so thats a start x

      • I had no grounds to appeal sadly, it was purely down to distance (we were about 70 metres too far away). She’s on the waiting list for 2 schools and I just wait to see. Good luck with yours. x

      • It’s really stressful isn’t it. We’re one step closer, we got a nursery place so we’ll see what happens next year. I hope you get one of the two you’re waiting on x

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