It’s official. I have Primary School Admissions Fever.
Online applications opened on the 1st September in our local authority and close in January. You can choose up to six schools for your child but in practice I think most people limit their choice to two or three. Logic dictates that the girls will go to the very nice state primary that is one street over from our house but if I’m going to be given a choice or, at least, the illusion of choice, I want to exploit it as much as I can.
Dh can’t understand the point of all this catchment area/choice business. He grew up in a village with one primary school and one secondary school. You went there because there was nowhere else. My poor Mum and Dad purposely moved into an area which was the catchment for very well-respected middle and upper schools (different system in Bedfordshire) and my sister and I both (separately) opted to go out of catchment and attend completely different schools at both stages. Kids eh?
I have identified four schools that I want to visit before completing the application forms (two children, of course, equals two completely separate forms) and we visited one of them this morning.
The school is about 10 minutes’ walk from our house and has an Ofsted rating of Outstanding. For everything. I was fascinated to see what a really excellent school was like and I dragged Dh along for the ride. I’m such a Margot that I made him dress up for the occasion in a shirt and tie. I felt slightly guilty when several other parents turned up for the tour in jeans and t-shirts. I’m a cruel wife.
Anyway, the school was fabulous and when we left I wept silent tears of rage that we don’t live on the same street as the school so would have the best chance of getting in. I have already heard tales of children that lived 180 metres(!) from the school and didn’t get in. It’s THAT good. We don’t have a hope in hell.
I’ve been trying to analyse exactly what made it so brilliant (Ofsted aside) and it was the wealth of opportunities that they gave the children and the commitment that the staff displayed to their work. The school is absolutely obsessed with reading (and literacy generally) and every classroom was filled with books. The Year 3 and 4 children (after Reception they mix the year groups up so 1 and 2 are together, etc.) are doing World War 2 this term so the classroom was decorated with propaganda posters and you had to walk through a camouflage net to enter the classroom. I had to restrain myself from sitting down and joining in with the class! Another class was learning about the solar system so their classroom was decorated with space paraphernalia. Each child is given the opportunity to play a musical instrument and there is a dedicated music teacher. There is apparently a waiting list for piano lessons. When Dh heard this I caught his eye and could see him mentally ticking off the middle class clichés in his head. They have an arts festival each May/June in which external experts are invited in to teach the children different skills. I was impressed that the Head Teacher knew the name of each child we came across. There was a real community feel to the school. It felt like a private school but with an inclusive state ethos.
In short, it was perfect. The school even managed to soften Dh’s rather cynical view of the whole process. We walked to the station ( so I could go to work) and he said, rather sadly: ‘I want to go there and learn about space stuff and play the guitar’.
The only thing that struck me as odd was the lack of uniform. I spent my entire school life wearing a uniform and it was bizarre to see school children in a learning environment wearing Converse and leggings. It reminded me of ‘Mufti’ (non-uniform) Day when I was at school, only it’s every day for them. I asked the Headmistress about it and she said it was a deliberate policy and the children really liked it.
We’re off to visit the school nearest to us in a couple of weeks. It has a Good Ofsted rating and I’m sure it’ll be great. I just got a tingly feeling when I walked round today’s school and the other ones on our list are going to have to be bloody amazing to live up to its high standards. Putting my sensible head on, I know the girls won’t get into today’s school. There’s no harm in taking a punt though.