So something the health visitor said to us at E’s 12 month check has been preying on our minds. She mentioned schools. Had we thought about which school E would be going to? she asked. Of course we bloody hadn’t, she was a year old, I was still having trouble working out that she was here at all, let alone how to educate her. She recommended that we have a look.
Since then, of course, the papers have been full of articles about the national shortage of primary places and so last week, S decided to act. He emailed our two local schools and asked what the procedure was. Part of me expected the schools to reply “don’t be ridiculous, come and see us when she’s three,” but they didn’t. They invited us round to register. Well, one did.
We went over this morning. It took us a while to find the entrance. The site is enormous. The school used to be in one of those old Victorian redbrick buildings but has recently moved to a new site and everything is new and shiny and impressive looking. It also has an Outstanding Ofsted rating. I have no idea what this means but I know I’m supposed to be impressed.
We walked in, pushing E in front of us. There was a complicated office system – computers to tap in access codes for staff, one window for visitors, another window for paying your dinner money in. There were at least four reception staff and possibly a fifth (or the head) in a separate office. None of them seemed very welcoming. (My mum used to be the secretary at an infant school so I know what good standards look like.) S filled out a form (at least as well as we could – we may be the only parents to register with them who list their health visitor by first name only as we’ve only met her once and have no idea about her surname. To be helpful, we also listed the health centre she works out of), they photocopied E’s birth certificate and that was it.
“What happens next?” asked S.
“We’ll contact you to let you know if she has a place,” said the woman. “And what are the chances?” “Well, you’re in the catchment area and she’s not near three yet so that’s a pretty good chance,” she said, vaguely.
The thing is, I have no idea if I want E to go there. I’d like to look around, ask some questions, find out where the school dinners come from and what’s on the menu, see the classrooms, the uniform, the facilities. Are you allowed to do that? Will the secretaries just glare at me? Do they have open days? When it comes to something she’s legally obliged to go to, in a tight competition for places, am I even supposed to be that picky? I have very little faith in Ofsted though I couldn’t tell you exactly why – except by having so many teacher friends have mini break downs over their inspections, I doubt their intentions.
I met another mum from our library play group on the bus last week and we discussed nurseries. We’d both been to see the one near the hospital which was very shiny and new and seemed quite large and impersonal and quite a bit like a school. Neither of us liked it for that reason. This, in comparison, seems a MASSIVE step beyond even that. The nursery E is at, rather like the other school in our area, is small and a bit battered looking. That’s one reason why I like it.
I realise, of course, that we’ve been very prepared and that E is still so very small. It may seem different in three years time. Though, frankly I doubt I’ll be happy to pass my intelligent, funny, charming, affectionate and lovely child into the institutional hands of the pillock who’s currently running the education system so let’s keep everything crossed his influence won’t be felt by then. In the meantime, we’ll give the other school a week or so and contact them again.