Thursday, September 28, 2006

Oh to be in England, when time for choosing schools is here...

Now that I am getting used to my recent change of status as Mum Who Has All Her Children In School, I have to start thinking about my next move, which will be Mum of Daughter Going To Secondary School.

Oh yes. I have amazingly reached the point where we are looking at secondary schools for no 1.

I don't know how the system operates in other parts of the country, but round here it is plain daft.

For starters all the open days for new schools are happening now, and yet the forms have to be in on 20 October, which leaves little time for important decision making if you need it. And yet we don't find out the decision until March. Why they can't have open days at the end of the summer term (when let's face it bugger all is going on in schools), beats me. At least then you might have some time to weigh up your options. Though of course, the reality is you don't actually have any options much. The chances are your child will go to the school nearest you and that is that.

Actually, we're quite lucky in that regard. There is a very good girl's school nearby, for which we are in the catchment area. However, we are also (just) in the catchment for an exceptionally good grammar school, which though further away is a wonderful school and would offer wonderful opportunities for our daughter. I am not a keen hothousy kind of mum by any means, but no1 is a bright little button, and I feel she deserves a shot at going to the best school we can get her into (bearing in mind having four children completely precludes private education).

No1, however, has other ideas. All her friends are likely to go to the Other School (although we know of at least ten others trying for the one we want her to go to). The chances are most of them won't get in (800 odd girls apply for 120 places) - but we think no 1 has a reasonable chance to succeed and her fear is she gets in and no one else she knows will.

It is a reasonable worry, and I am not unsympathetic. In fact, I am very sympathetic, as I can understand for a ten year old this talk of change and moving on is very unsettling. The trouble is of course, she can't see, as we can, that the chances of her actually being with any of her friends in the Other School are also fairly minimal - there are eight forms and the school is so huge it is split into two so that it is quite likely no 1 will never see some of her friends at all. She also doesn't understand of course, that she will make new friends.

What she does understand is that her mum and dad are currently the meanest people on the planet for making her do this wretched exam, which she fully intends to fail.

Or at least that's what she told me the other day. Trouble is, she is probably clever enough to deliberately answer the wrong questions. And she is also quite like me in some ways - a subversive rebel who never openly questions authority. I can remember hating music and doing deliberately badly at it. It wouldn't surprise me if she did the same. Although, I'm rather hoping that she is enough of a goody two shoes (like I was) not to take her rebellion to those lengths.

Don't get me wrong, it certainly wouldn't be the end of the world if she didn't get into the school we're trying her for, but it would be a pity if she failed because she couldn't be arsed. And I can't say this is something we want to encourage.

In a bid to keep her onside, we took no2 round on the Open Day with us, as the school in question has rather fine sporting facilities, and we predicted (correctly) that no 2 would be wowed by the gym where there were gymnasts displaying their skills and the rather wonderful swimming pool they have (right on both counts). No1 despite her grumpiness was also taken by the chemistry labs where we saw testtubes being heated up and the biology labs where she got to look down microscopes at blood and bones etc. But as soon as we got home she burst into tears and said she didn't want to go. I did my best to cheer her up, but to no avail.

Yesterday I got her back from school and she was in floods again. You are so cruu-eeee--lll she sobbed. The only person making me unhappy is you. Great. Now I have big big guilt....

I tried in vain to explain about reaching your full potential/this being the opportunity of a lifetime, but to no avail. It all boils down to not being with your mates. Which lets face it, at ten is your biggest priority.

In the end, in desperation, I dug myself a really really big hole by saying I wouldn't make her do anything she didn't want to.

Big, big mistake.

The response is a not unnatural, Well don't make me do the test then....

Shit. That wasn't what I meant at all.

Thinking fast, I said, Aah, but it would be a pity to waste all that hard work now wouldn't it? (Against our better judgement, we have been going for some fairly lowkey tutoring since the Spring - only because I know she wouldn't sit past papers with me, and because no one bothers to teach her how to pass the exams at school. It's probably too elitist or something).

She did grumpily accede to this, but then started muttering, What if I pass and I don't want to go?

I fudged this as much as I could. My normal modus operandi is to be upfront and straight with my sprogs, as they are so good at detecting a lie anyway. But the problem we have is that, if we put the grammar school first and get offered a place we HAVE to take it. If she doesn't get in, then she goes to the Other School.

So I am now inhabiting a wierd Twilight Zone where I am putting a child in for an exam which I know she has the capacity to pass, worrying that a) she will deliberately fail and b) that she will get in, and hoping that c) she passes but doesn't get offered a place so she can go to the Other School and be happy, whilst really wanting d) her to pass the exam, get in and want to go....

I have a feeling one of us is going to be disappointed....


Lisa said...

Oh gosh..this is such a difficult decision. I can truly see both sides. We both know what it's like to be that age and care only for our friends.

I am sure that due to the constant stream of dialogue the two of you have, you'll come to an amicable conclusion soon. :)

Jane Henry said...

Thanks Lisa.

Changing schools in this country is just waaaay stressful. And have discovered that the kids are all winding each other up at school about it... So I think we're in for a rocky few months.

How's the training going???

love Janex

Lesley Cookman said...

Thanks, Jane, for the comment on my blog.

I have a friend going through exactly the same as you at present. She's frantically canvassing everyone's views and hoping the school of her daughter's choice is the right one. Mind you, we have the Kent Test here, equivalent to the old 11 plus, so there's that hurdle, too...