Piglet is a summer baby.
Apparently this means he is statistically at an academic disadvantage, but coming from one who started primary school several weeks behind the Autumn-born children, and who spent the earliest part of my (still continuing) years in education seething with rage that they were on the higher level reading books thanks to those extra weeks, even though they were blatantly not as clever as me, I am not buying it.
However, it does mean that I need to start thinking about schools sooner rather than later. Yes, my little boy, who still breastfeeds to sleep and cannot yet pronounce his own name is going to school in little over a year. The baby years are over, and in their place is a rapidly advancing sense that time is speeding up like a meticulously filmed scene of advancing and receding ice caps in a David Attenborough nature documentary.
“Have you started thinking about schools yet?” I found myself tentatively asking a colleague whose son is less than two months younger than Piglet, but consequently destined for the year below. If this person whose similarly-aged child is starting school a whole year after mine hasn’t started thinking about schools yet, I tell myself, then that means I don’t have to either.
“Oh yes!” she replies enthusiastically. “Our local school is FANTASTIC. We already know he’ll be going there.”
“Have you started thinking about schools yet?” My mother asks.
“Oh, because you really should consider *inserts name of local school that I went to back in the late ’80s and hated.* It’s got a good reputation-and it’s convenient for me!”
Thanks Mum. Thanks for reminding me that: 1. You are the other parent in this family, and 2. that my life has not moved on in the intervening 25 years since I graduated primary school (which, I hasten to add, was not a thing back then, graduation. Now I hear they have proms in YEAR 6, and I even saw the daughter of someone on Facebook graduating nursery-NURSERY!-in what looked suspiciously like an Oxford University DPhil graduation gown. What is this planet of madness upon which we live?)
I cannot put Piglet’s name down for the school I went to. Can I? CAN I?
Oh good lord. It’s like some sort of weird family groundhog day. Rumour has it my grandparents went there when the school first opened in 1928, not to mention my mother, brothers, me and now Piglet? What if there are teachers there who still remember us? I can’t have them thinking that the ambitious child who vowed to get out of there for good and lose the local accent forever (that would be me) returned like a salmon to the village of her birth to breed, and then remained there, trapped forever, with her small child destined to repeat the family pattern of living in the same field for generations like a pre-Industrial peasant. I’m sure there are distant relations of ours with their names etched into the wall on the Council House in the City Centre, and one of those is dated 1485. If I was ever famous enough to be allowed on to Who Do You Think You Are they would tell me that my ancestors never left the square mile surrounding my current abode and were too boring to yield any remotely interesting stories. I bet if I did one of those DNA tests, I would find that instead of blood, my veins run with the mud of the Bristol Channel.
I reckon I have moved slightly too far away to get into my old school though. Just slightly, only a few metres in it, but just out of the catchment area.
So that leaves the other local schools. I have been earwigging in the local cafes for morsels of information, and asking the neighbours. I even asked an eleven year old yesterday what school he went to, and if he liked it. I’m not sure he quite understood the gravity of my questioning. It was a bit like that time in Japan when I was visiting a primary school and my tour guide for the day was a six year old with a note-perfect American accent, having lived for several years in Texas. Mistaking his faultless English for a maturity he did not possess, I asked him what he thought of the city of Houston during his time living there, and he replied that it had a swimming pool. Incidentally, I went there many years later, and I never found that swimming pool.
There are so many things to consider. How convenient is it for me, for my mother (who will inevitably be doing most of the school runs), what does the Ofsted report say? What is the demographic? Will it damage my left wing credentials to have a child in a school dominated by White British children? HOW IS HE GOING TO LEARN NOT TO BE RACIST?
Perhaps the answer is clear, just send him to the nearest reasonable school and hope for the best. That’s what everyone else does, right? Right?
As my mother always says, it didn’t do me any harm.