She’s going to school in September. How utterly terrifying, but deep (deep) down exciting is that? The next chapter. My baby is 100% not anywhere near a baby anymore and I can’t quite believe it. I picture her dashing around the school yard with new friends, eager to learn anything and everything, and I can’t help but think of my school days. I am shocked at how long ago they now seem. How do I have a school aged child already? Surely I just left school a few years ago?!
We had just come back from a weekend away and had put the kids to bed, I was busy working on a brand YouTube video that needed to be up the following day and R was pottering around tidying things up around the house before bed. I noticed it had gone past midnight so thought I’d go have a quick look to see if the school applications were live on our accounts. They were.
I scrolled down the web page, holding my breath, and frantically read what was in front of me. It took about five goes of reading it for it to sink in.
We didn’t get any of the schools we chose.
There is nothing quite like the gut wrenching feeling of seeing ‘unsuccessful’ next to the schools you had hoped and dreamed your child would go to. All those visions of her running around happy vanished in a split second. All I saw was everything I didn’t like about the school she was allocated and I started to panic.
And by panic, I mean really panic. A few choice curse words were blurted out as I shouted for R to come downstairs immediately. He didn’t understand why she hadn’t got them. We had been advised by the schools that they took 50% out of catchment and with us being so close to the catchment area and being a service family, that we didn’t have much to worry about. I had expected to not get the second choice school, as it was slightly further away, but was really taken aback by not getting the first choice.
I spent the next hour really upset and then barely slept an hour all night in between tossing and turning and crying. I just kept thinking of my little girl sleeping away peacefully in the next room and how I felt we weren’t doing the best by her. All you want in life for your kids is better than what you had yourself. You want them to bypass as many negative situations as they can and you want to protect them for as long as possible. I felt like I was failing at the first hurdle and all because I had chosen to stay as close to where R is drafted as possible instead of living near home. NOTE: of course I want to keep my family together as much as possible but R goes away for weeks and months at a time and deploys in July for six months.
Don’t get me wrong, I am VERY grateful that our children have a right to a state provided education. So very grateful. But this isn’t the issue. The issue is the differing standards and facilities at each of these state schools. It doesn’t seem fair that not all kids start out equal when it comes to education, based purely on where they live. Some schools have forest schools within them and big green areas to play, others do not; some have great after school clubs, others do not; some have vast libraries and lots of high quality arts and crafts materials, others do not. And the list goes on and on.
A nice outdoor area to play in, service family support in terms of deployments clubs etc and a focus on pupil wellbeing were the main aspects I was on the lookout for in a school. I just wanted the school she ended up in to slightly resemble the pre-school she is in because it is such a great set up. I needed the vibe. I got the vibe from the schools we chose. I did not get the vibe from the school we got allocated.
Here’s our back story.
When we moved to the area we live in, we never expected to stay here longer than 18 months. I was 38 weeks pregnant (with Little I) and catchment areas couldn’t have been further from my mind. We accepted the best of a (very) bad bunch of military marriage quarters and tried to make it into a home. 29 jobs with Carillion Amey (the people who manage the housing for the MOD) and we had made it into a liveable house.
Fast forward four years and here we are applying for schools. Due to the fact that service families are usually in marriage quarters (limited areas), usually move around a lot, usually have a lot of emotional issues to deal with, usually have a parent away for long stretches at a time (and the fact the school get a pupil premium for taking service kids), we are supposed to rank relatively high on the list for out of catchment school admissions.
To answer a couple questions I’ve been asked numerous times:
– Can you not just leave your marriage quarter and buy in a different area? Unfortunately we have no intention of settling here and so the drama of buying a house doesn’t appeal at all. We will probably be doing 2-4 more years here (my job dependent – I may move with the kids sooner) and so again buying isn’t something I’m keen to do.
– Can you not just privately rent in a different area? There isn’t much on offer for rent around here and to be bluntly honest, one of the only, probably the only, kind of perks of service family life is slightly cheaper housing.
– Can you move to a different marriage quarter in a different area? That’s something we’re looking in to. I’m not sure it’s do-able.
– Why didn’t you put your catchment school down? I just really didn’t get a good vibe from it at all. It didn’t seem anything like the pre-school I has been in, I struggled to get an answer or any communication out of them about any service family support or clubs, none of her friends are going there, the setup is very different from any school I ever went to. I think we all just have a gut feeling about where suits our children – all children are different and different schools are better for different kids. I’m not insulting the school we’ve been allocated at all but it’s just not what I had hoped for.
– Could you hold her back a year? Technically yes as she’s an April baby but she is SO excited about starting school. It’s not right to deny her that.
– Will you appeal? Yep, think so.
I’d love this to be a positive piece that says ‘what will be will be’, ‘I’m sure the school will surprise us’, ‘it’s as much about the support at home as it is about the school’. I know these are all completely valid possibilities, but I’m not as cool, calm and collected as that. I am researching every single possibility for her not to go to this school.
Our plan as it stands, after we celebrate her birthday, is phone up admissions and make sure we are actually on the waiting lists for our chosen schools. Also ask what we can do in terms of applying for any other schools in the area and if it is worth appealing. Then the next plan is to go visit a local private school we can just about afford to see if that is a viable option. All fitted around a 30 hour working week for me and a husband tied (almost literally haha) to a Navy ship. The stress levels are pretty high.
I love hearing about friends who have gotten into their chosen schools, I genuinely do. I would hate to think they were going through the stress and slight heartbreak of all this. It should be a happy and exciting time. A time where uniforms are bought and parents and children talk about all the things they are going to learn and what friends are going to the same school. A time where meet ups are planned with other groups of children going to the same school and school Facebook groups are joined. Not a time where every mention of the word school makes you feel sick and brings tears to your eyes.
I don’t say anything even slightly related to school around I just now. I don’t want her to pick up on any negativity. We will deal with it and come up with something and then we can move forward and involve her.
Did you find out about primary schools this week too?