I have posted before about the excitement that surrounds schooling in
That’s still true, but in the back of my mind was a little niggling concern about having no back up plan – particularly as school Open Day season arrives and friends' children start to go off to 'interviews' and the like. I started to wonder what would happen if it all fell through, and we don’t go abroad. Having failed to move house to be nearer to good state primaries, we would potentially be resigned to sending Littleboy 1 to our nearest school (a place whose Ofsted report is not, shall we say, exactly glowing.) So I decided on a whim to send off for the application form of a local private school - one of the few that doesn’t require you to sign up while they’re still a foetus.
The form itself is a fairly straightforward, until it comes to the section in which you’re asked to describe your child’s ‘hobbies…interests….musical instruments played and grades achieved’.
Littleboy 1 is 3 and a quarter. How, I asked The Doctor, do we describe the hobbies of a 3 year old?“Hitting his little brother over the head?” he helpfully suggests. “Riding his scooter like a maniac around Clapham Common?”
Reading the prospectus through, we ascertain that not only is the school academically selective, but it receives at least 10 applications for each place. What, then, would make him stand out? We begin fantasising about what we could write on the form…. “Littleboy 1 is familiar with the early sonatas of Beethoven, although has not quite grasped the complexities of the later works.” “He has recently shown a strong interest in the Large Hadron Collider”. “His prowess at building Lego towers suggests a future Norman Foster....”.
In the end we decide that I should go along to the Open Day in order to decide whether this was really for us. We thought it best not to take the Littleboys (knowing they would just run around screaming) so instead, The Doctor took them to the park while I went along by myself. However, as I followed the considerable crowd to the school gate, it quickly dawned on me that I was the ONLY parent to have pitched up alone. Everyone else was there en famille, many with small babies in prams, as well as the toddlers angling for next year’s entry (who were no doubt already on Grade 4 violin). As a result, the place was mayhem – when the Head Teacher gave a talk, you could hardly hear a word above the din of small children wailing.
After that, I walked around alone like Mrs No-Mates, tagging along on other people's guided tours and feeling as if everyone else was staring and wondering where my children and partner were. (There's something about schools that makes me nervous, as if you might get sent to stand outside the Head's office if you say the wrong thing.)
I wanted to buttonhole a teacher and ask about the ‘hobbies’, but other parents kept getting in there before me. “How much do they use computers?” asked one woman fiercely. “Because I really, really don’t approve of children in junior school using computers all the time.” (The teacher’s eyes flickered warily to the two large Apple Macs in the corner before she fudged the answer diplomatically). Another Dad wanted to know why some parents chose to send their kids at 4 and others and 7. What was the reasoning behind such a decision? (Hmm, could it be something to do with the fees? I was wondering).
Afterwards, I went to join The Doctor and Littleboys in the park. What was my verdict? he asked. “Lovely school, nice pupils,” I said: “But not sure I could put up with the other parents...”
The form is still sitting on my desk......