When C1 was born, a friend suggested that I register C1 immediately for nursery schools. I was informed that it was (apparently) very competitive in my neighborhood and I did not want to miss out on getting C1 a ‘good spot’ at the ‘right school’. Since I did not go to school in the UK, I figured I better follow the advice…but that got me thinking about what would come after nursery…
Children start school earlier here than in the US. Primary school starts at age 4 when children enter a ‘reception’ class. In the US, kindergarten doesn’t start at elementary schools until age 5.
I assumed that C1 would go to the local ‘state’ school down the street since we lived in the catchment area. Since I went to a local neighborhood school on Long Island, I obviously thought the local ‘state’ option made sense, which I’ve mentioned before. (Minding Your Own Beeswax).
There were also 2 private ‘pre-prep’ schools close by, but then C1 would have to do the 7+ or 8+ exam to move onto another school. CSr (Daaad) and I wanted to avoid the dreaded entrance exam process so that seemed to narrow down the choices.
Besides, C1 was only 5 months and I just could not fathom any pending pressure imposed upon my little one when he reached Year 2 or Year 3 (1st or 2nd grade).
But that didn’t stop me from considering the other schools. I had to do my homework. I had to understand what the public (private) vs. maintained (state) school debate was all about. Before we committed to what was undoubtedly a great option, I wanted to look around to make a properly informed decision.
A bit like my Christmas tree buying habit where I make the poor guy open up 15 trees and buy the first one he showed me, but I digress…
So when C1 was 5 months old, I called some of the private schools in the area to get C1’s name down on ‘the list’.
I will never EVER forget the first conversation I had with the first School Secretary I rang:
Me: “Yes, hello I would like to have some information and an application for enrolling (C1) for your Reception class.”
Ms.W: “Lovely, could you tell me how old C1 is, and for what year you would be applying for entry, if C1 was to start in the September following his 4th birthday?”
Me: “C1 is 5 months old now so I suppose he would start in September of 2009.” (Which horrified me at the thought of him starting so young but as I’m not in Kansas anymore, I knew them were the rules)
Ms.W: “Well, I AM sorry but C1 is simply too old to be put on our list”
Me: “EXCUSE ME? You must have misunderstood. C1 is 5 MONTHS old…not 5 YEARS old.”
Ms.W: “Yes, I understood you perfectly well.”
Me: (now somewhat defensive of my blissful baby’s errant age.) “When exactly SHOULD I have requested the information then?”
Ms.W: “Most people apply the day they give birth.”
Me: (genuinely shocked, or appalled or amused…probably a mixture) “Really? Well, I’m sorry I had no idea. As I am not from London, I didn’t realize.”
Ms W: “Is your husband British?”
(now thinking this is the secret password to get on that list…THANK YOU CSr.!)
Ms. W: “Well then, HE should have known better.”
At which point the mild amusement immediately morphed into a rant and rage about how surely I AND my husband had better things to worry about the moment after giving birth, than dashing to the post office to get my precious bundle of joy who by the way, will be smarter and more successful than any other child that comes through your doors, on some list of which I clearly did not, nor would I ever want, to be on anyway!!!
Ms. W did not hang up. She was clearly well versed in the well established tradition of registration refusal at Ms. W’s fine institution.
I composed myself during a brief moment of silence, took a deep breath and thanked her…YEP, I thanked her…’cause that’s what we do here.
We both knew C1 was never EVER stepping foot inside that school gate.
So why bring this all up now? Well, C1 finishes primary school next year at the end of Year 6. As much as I would love for him to stay there, it just is not an option. Everyone will move on.
There is an incredible secondary school not too far away that may be an option. But you know…I have to do some more research. Secondary schools in the UK are a blend of middle and high schools. C1 will start at the age of 11 and remain at the school until 16 years where he will do GSCE exams, which used to be called O-levels, or possibly 18 years, if the school he goes to offers Sixth Form where he will sit his A-levels.
Nope. Me neither. I still think in terms of PSATs and SATs. And what about the Regents anyway?!? Those were the good ‘ol days…but I digress…
Maybe the For Dummies can publish a book to help navigate the British educational system. They seem to have a book for everything else. No disrespect to you chicken farmers.
So, unfortunately unless we consider boarding, which we most definitely are not, C1 will be faced with an exam sooner than we thought. One of the schools we are looking at even offers an 11+ deferred exam so imagine how long it took me to work out at what age C1 would have to take THAT exam!
(It’s 10 for all of you statesiders)
C1 has some extra work to do now (don’t even get me started on the tutouring debate here), and I have some calls to make. I have to get C1’s name down on ‘the list’.
Fingers crossed Ms. W doesn’t work at this school now.
Then again, that secondary school looks better and better.
because C1 will not be boarding, I can at least drink to that…
Get a copy of latest school league tables
Fill a mixing glass with ice
Pour in all the ingredients
Strain into a footed cocktail glass
Garnish with an orange peel
Drink while trying to understand school league tables
Mix again, try again to understand school league tables
Mix again… try again… in the morning