When I was a kid there didn’t seem to be all this stress over school places. I went to my local village school, and then transferred to the secondary school that I was in catchment for. I was aware of there being maybe one or two kids in the village that didn’t go to the same school as me, but on the whole everyone went to their catchment school. Yes, the teaching was varied – we didn’t have the national curriculum back then – and I remember particularly fondly my year being taught by our deputy head, who was a keen nature lover – we had a lot of lessons outdoors and learnt much about nature and wildlife. Yes, perhaps my maths and literary ability didn’t increase as much that year as in other years, but I was still learning stuff, and I still did fine in my academic career.
So as we started looking at local primary schools for the geekdaughter, I was fairly relaxed about the whole thing. I imagined that I wouldn’t be particularly bothered about which school she was allocated. But something very strange happens once an element of choice comes in to play – people suddenly start having an opinion about things. If we’d been told that there was only one school we could send our daughter to we’d have accepted that, but because we had a form to fill in where we could state our first, second and third choices, we felt that we had to go and look at all the possible schools and carefully consider our choices. And through the process of doing this, we actually developed quite a strong opinion about which schools we preferred.
Thankfully, despite having had no plans to have kids when we moved to this house 13 years ago, we discovered that we were in the catchment area for the school we liked best. So I was hopeful that we would get our choice. However, it was still very stressful waiting to hear, especially as it seems like our local council released their results later than everyone else. I’ve seen lots of comments on Twitter over the last few weeks from friends, either delighted to have got the school choice they wanted, or despondent because they didn’t.
Last week was particularly hard for me. It started on Sunday morning, when I was suddenly wide awake at 5.15am, and couldn’t get back to sleep at all. From there I carried on not sleeping well and waking up early, and generally feeling “on edge” during the day. It was only around last Wednesday that I suddenly realised it might be caused by anxiety waiting for our school outcome.
We were out having a family lunch together last Friday when the email arrived, and I must confess I disgraced myself by crying when I read that we had been offered our first choice place. I couldn’t get home quickly enough to log on to the admissions system and accept the offer. It was as if a huge weight had been lifted from my mind, and that night I slept better than I had all week!
It’s a bittersweet feeling though – I am so relieved for myself and for the geekdaughter, but at the same time I feel such sympathy for those parents who didn’t manage to get their first choice, as I can imagine how I’d feel in their shoes. Sometimes having a choice isn’t necessarily a good thing…
I recorded an audio blog entry with some of my thoughts on this subject as well:
If you can’t see an audio player above you can listen directly on the web here.