So it is time to send off the primary school applications. We have been racking our brains with the question: Are we making the right decision?
I'm from a completely different cultural background. In my home country, the school you go to is the one you live closest to. If you do not have any special needs, it is as simple as that. It is a bit different at secondary school and college ages, where you might choose to apply to a specialist school if you are that way inclined. I for example went to a special performing arts college, because I did music.
But here in UK the school choices seem so important. So many people get swept into it, and sometimes I feel like people think that whatever primary school you go to will determine how well you do in later life. In London especially it can get crazy. I hear all the time of streets that appreciate in value because they happen to fall into a catchment area of an outstanding school. Outstanding schools are like property gold dust, sprinkled by the fairy Ofsted-mothers...
So now we have been racked with thoughts about which school we send our little four year old princess to. We have seen three schools, and they are all in their own way good. In fact, as according to Ofsted they are all "good".
There is the one that my husband had originally pegged as "The One". It is traditionally the school all parents in the local area aspire to, the school that always has been good. It is next to a big park the teachers use for some lessons. When you walk up there from our house, you walk through a our local park, over a road (with pedestrian lights) a few blocks of suburbian houses, and there you go. And we thought it would be easy for our daughter to walk there on her own when she is bigger.
Then there is the school which is also good, but a bit further away. My husband figured that would be a good back-up choice. When we went to view it, I liked it, but I wasn't in awe. It was big and felt a bit like a rabbit-warren with many many small rooms. We would have to take her there, as it is a bit too far and a bit too busy traffic wise to let your kid travel to alone. Then again, I loved that they had music lessons and other additional activities. We both consider those performing and creative activities to be really important.
And then there is the school she goes to nursery in. This school has traditionally been the crummy school in our area. It has had it's chequered past. It is now and has been for about five years rated as good, but the many locals still remember its past. The school has put in a lot of effort in improving, and parents from the school tell me the change is marked. For us the biggest positive of this school is that our daughter has made very strong friends in the nursery, and most of these friends will attend this school. She knows the school area, it won't be new and scary for her. And I liked that the school is slightly smaller than the other too, with 90 kids in her year group, instead of 120.
But there are some serious downsides. The school is close-by to a big road. The local area isn't exactly nice, and some of the crossings can be difficult even for an adult. It is somewhat likely that we will always do the school drop-off with her, although thankfully the school is very close to our home.
So what do we choose? Friends? Future independence? Fancy music lessons?
What really clinched the deal for us though is when my husband had a little chat with our daughter.
He asked her would she like to go to a new school and make new friends, or stay in the same school with her best friend Bethany.
And she said: "Hmmm, I think Bethany".
So now the school we have selected for her as her first choice, is the last school. The school she has friends in. The school she knows. I know from experience how stressful it is to jump from one place to another. I did that three times during my primary school years. And if we can avoid that I rather would.
And of course. The decision might be just made for us by the whatever randomised features finally end up deciding which kid goes where. We have five choices we have added, of which the last one I've never even heard of. And I am really hoping she gets to stay with her friends.
What did you think when choosing a primary school for your children?
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