Two months ago I saw my Facebook news feed come alive with comments following the latest school's admissions 'results'. Having been in the situation a year before my heart went out to the disappointed amongst them, and I felt a pang of jealousy towards those that received their first choice, or second, or to be honest, even third. We did not have the privilege to get ANY of our choices. I remember feeding my newborn at 3am when I discovered the news. 'What!?! NONE of them!' I think my poor husband, sleeping so soundly beside me almost had a heart attack. When he finally regained his composure his simple response, 'You're joking right?' Pretty much summed it up.
There it was in black and white, we had been given the very school we hadn't wanted. It was not our closest, or even second closest, and yet we had to live with it. New to the area, and not knowing many people, I had trusted local gossip and opinion to avoid that one. When we looked around, I hadn't hated it, but OFSTED had only rated it satisfactory. That had to count for something? Others were good, or even outstanding, I started to regret the move here. Just months ago I was in central Bath and pretty much guaranteed a place at least one 'good' school. I should have stayed. Tired, hormonal and disappointed I cried over my sleeping baby, wondering how I was going to break the news to her older sister that she would not be joining her best friends at the 'blue school'.
When the breakdown came through the following day the system seemed even more unfair- how is it some of their places went to those who had it as their second choice, while people like me, who chose it first, didn't get anything they wanted. Even now I can still feel my blood pressure rise just a little at the thought. I stormed into nursery with my little one in tow and started eyeing up those who would bebjoining us, well they didn't seem bad... Maybe I was blowing this out of proportion. Later that day, googling said school, I found it's OFSTED had improved drastically since our initial visit. I swallowed my pride as I knew, it could be worse.
It feels like venturing into the unknown when your little one starts school. It is bad enough saying goodbye to them in the first place, but to not feel confident in the establishment they have been given makes the whole ordeal slightly frightening. Those that are in the position we were in last year hover over their various options with despair. The options at this stage are pretty slim. By now you will have put your name down on the waiting list of your chosen school. But it takes a drop out, or several drop outs, before you can have a place, and that is unlikely. You could go with the place you have been given. If fortunate enough with money, of course there is private school (out of our budget) or home schooling. With a small baby at home I didn't feel I had enough time to give home education enough attention and so it was a case of like it or lump it.
On her first settling in session I felt pretty sick. I waved her off and chocked back the tears. She ran in quite happily, I felt a wreck. If it hadn't been 9am I would have sat in the pub with a strong vodka. I took my youngest to play at a friends, although I clock watched the entire time. She was fine. She also continues to be fine almost a year later.
While I imagine some people may not be as lucky as we are. Some schools really may not be up to standard. I think many of us over analyse the situation and worry more than we should. In the UK we have governing bodies such as OFSTED to help ensure the safe guarding of our children. If the school is substandard then they are there to help build it up again. There may be rougher areas and rougher schools, but I think it is safe to say here in the safety of picturesque Oxfordshire, I may have been a little over picky.
Parents naturally want what is best for their children. They also want a say in their upbringing. If this say has been removed for whatever reason it will no doubt bring a huge amount of anxiety. I am now beginning to see however, that this anxiety is not necessarily a bad thing. It makes us more vigilant with the schooling system. We are quick to notice any problems our children may be experiencing, and even quicker at sorting them out. Many of those going into first rate schools may feel so grateful to be accepted they keep their issues quiet so not to rock the boat.
My daughter is happy, that is the main thing. She is allowed to learn at her own pace, and is encouraged in the areas that may need it. I can't pretend I no longer have doubts. Of course I do, there will always be the 'what ifs'. every time we encounter a little blip, a clingy phase or a rebellious phase, I will ponder to myself if we would have had this if she had been at the 'blue' school. At the back of my mind I have an image of the students that did get in, all clearly being groomed into the next generation of doctors or rocket scientists, and none of them picking their nose or fighting. But let's face it kids will be kids no matter where they are, and we are doing just fine where we are. So those struggling with first day nerves- let me assure you, they will be OK, but if you do have ANY doubts don't hold back, no one will hold it against you, they are your children and no one knows better than you.