My son has had a tough year. He's been through a bumpy transition from a " learn through play" American International school to a UK state school. Long story and definitely a topic for another blog.
However, my daughter will go straight into the UK system from day one so we won't have the above issue to deal with. The issue we have had is which school as we are no longer paying for the privilege of not having to worry about the admissions process.
We put her name down for four schools nearest to us (except for the one that we had been warned about), but after all the trouble of deciding which ones and in which order, she didn't get into any of them! Instead we've been given a school we had never even heard of, a 15-minute drive away (on a quiet weekend test run)!
Apart from the distance, there is another issue we have had to think about: it is a Catholic school. This is interesting as if we had gone through the normal admissions process for this particular school, we would have qualified as number eight (last) on their admissions criteria: any other child not captured by criteria one to seven!
Having no previous exposure to Catholic schools, we were not sure what to think. I spent a day wondering about how we could get out of this situation. Could we say "The school's too far away for us and we can't manage two different drop-offs in different directions at the same time" or "We're not Catholics so is this an issue?" or maybe even "have you read my blogs, do you really think it's a safe idea for my nanny to spend anymore time on the roads?"
So I was all set until my wife did a little research. It turns out that this school is the best, non-paying, school in our county and the 9th best in the UK (according to the Real schools' guide). Hmmm interesting data, if you like rankings.
The next point in our decision tree was doing a drive-by of the school one weekend. It looked normal enough, and we noticed a poster for an upcoming school fete. Perfect! We'll get to check the school out before any commitment. We'd get to see if the place is full of nuns scuttling around the place or priests swinging smoking lamps (now you get an idea of my ignorance).
In the end, the school looked and felt very nice. A brand new, million pound, block has recently been built (explaining their increased capacity for even criteria eight children). There were very friendly welcoming people that gave me a good feel for the place and apart from the odd cross, bible, and rooms named after saints, I didn't see much evidence of anything out of this world.
So perhaps it won't be so strange after all. In fact the Catholic system has a very caring, nurturing ethos, at least so we are told. And perhaps this is just what our four-year old daughter needs now: to right all the wrongs of our parenting to date.
When I was a kid there was one primary school and one secondary school. That was it. No choice. No problems. Things seem more complicated these days. Infant, Junior, Primary then Secondary schools and a challenge to get into the one(s) you want. Instead of worrying about it, we have recently been repeating the old (non-Catholic) saying: Everything happens for a reason.
N.B. This blog first appeared here: http://www.cityparents.co.uk/Blog/Cityfathers/410.htm on 30 May 2016