Choosing a primary school for your child feels like such an important decision – it’s their first experience of formal learning. So what should you base your decision on? The editor, Annie Ridout, is feeling a little overwhelmed by it all…
Make sure you check the local schools, my mum told me, before I had even conceived my first child. I ignored her. I didn’t give a toss about local schools; we could move if necessary – if and when we had children.
A year later, I was pregnant.
My neighbour told me to apply for nursery while pregnant. They’re all oversubscribed, she said, if you want a place – put your name down now. I didn’t apply.
I had no idea what my freelance work life would look like – or whether I’d be back at it three days, three weeks or three years after giving birth. (It ended up being the middle one. But only writing occasional articles).
My daughter turned one, I launched The Early Hour, making good use of her twice-daily two/three-hour naps. (I know, we were lucky. I thought it was all down to my brilliant parenting; it wasn’t – it’s genetic. Her brother does NOT nap for six hours a day). And then I wondered if she might be ready for nursery. Well, if I might be ready to help with childcare.
I put my name down at all the cheap ones, and six months later she got a place (after a certain amount of begging – I really liked this tiny, sweet, simple nursery). She settled quickly, her confidence grew, I had TWO WHOLE DAYS to work, at home, alone – and all was dandy.
Perhaps nothing will ever feel perfect and ‘good enough’ will have to suffice
But then I got pregnant, and nine months later had another babe with me full time. I had to return to the work-when-he-sleeps thing. It’s ok. We’re making it work.
Meanwhile, my daughter had turned three, started full time preschool and conversations were beginning about visiting prospective schools. I thought it didn’t apply to me then realised it absolutely did. So quickly booked in to some open days.
I’ve been to one. The school attached to her preschool. It’s very creative, seems fun, the teachers are nice and it feels safe. There’s no uniform. It’s all quite hippie. This seems like all boxes have been ticked.
But then I thought: what if she’d favour formality and structure (uniforms and desk-lessons, rather than free play up to year 1). And it dawned on me: I’m not sure what school will be right for my child.
Now the conversations have started amongst the mums. I’m not being sexist here, I simply haven’t had a conversation with any dads about schools. Even my own husband is fairly laissez-fair about the whole thing. We’re debating about which local one is best – not in terms of Ofsted, I know that shouldn’t be the deciding factor – but for each individual child.
Safety comes first for me. As long as she is safe and protected, I will rest easy. Beyond that: learning obviously matters, and creative freedom. Food that she will enjoy eating. I like the no-uniform thing – I never wore one. So I guess our local school, the one attached to her preschool, is the right one for her. But it feels like such a big decision. Her future starts here.
So good job we happen to have this school down the road. And to be in the catchment area. My mum was right, these things do matter. But not until they affect you. Like now. Because I have to apply by January. Perhaps nothing will ever feel perfect and ‘good enough’ will have to suffice. Like with all things parenting-related.
Now, it’s time to start looking in to secondary schools. (Naaaaaaaht).
Have you decided which school to send your child to?
Images from Designspiration