My daughter is now in year six, and the past year has been dominated by her secondary transfer, and we were able to use our parental choice in where we applied for.
I’m going to start this post rather back-to-front by telling you she got an offer from the school her heart was set on: A happy ending. However our choice, was maybe not perceived as that by others. Let me explain.
We live in a populated corner of London, and there are many schools to, allegedly, choose from. However, hysteria sets in and seemingly you enter a dark place to how you ‘choose’ your school. If you are anything like me, the process will leave you shaking your head in despair.
The state school system in our area is administered by a test, which is an entrance criteria for what is considered the better schools in the area. My daughter scored really well in the test: In any other exam her score would’ve been an A grade or a first. But for one particular school, it was just not good enough. We also don’t live close enough to be catchment, so this choice was out.
Of course, people feel sorry that my daughter didn’t make the grade, while obviously delighted their children had, on either criteria.
Yet, when I am feeling anxious, I wonder if maybe they are secretly branding my daughter as a failure? That despite the tutoring (I know, I succumbed to the system!) she couldn’t score the required top score?
Which leads me to my next point, those that can’t afford to tutor are they automatically going to have to accept that some schools may not be a choice for them?
We also took the decision to apply to private schools as well. We are able to make this choice (there’s that word again …) which ,of course, not every family can.
However, here was yet another situation where choice was almost a dirty word. From the outset, the constant refrain is that it’s very competitive and you’re lucky to even get a place, let alone choose!
The children are pitted against one another, with their arsenal of extra-curricular activities ready to fire away the competition, to make sure they’re the ‘chosen’ ones.
Of course, the reality is pretty much all the children are offered places, often at more than one school. Indeed, my daughter was.
This then leads to a whole new level of competition: Which ‘tier of school’ did your child get accepted to? Top tier? Second tier? Third tier or the-hopeless-any-one-can-get-into tier?
The school we’ve chosen isn’t a perceived top tier school and it may not even be considered second tier. Does this mean that people may consider my daughter not to be a top-tier person? I sincerely hope not.
Ultimately, do I think that parents in my locality have a choice in either the state or private sector is a good thing? No. I can see that actually amongst a community it can be extremely divisive. Quite often, factors totally out of the child’s hands means certain schools will simply not be accessible for them, so there is no choice.
Of course, we’re through it now and September heralds a new era for our daughter, and I know she’s looking forward to it.
My advice to parents about to sit the 11+? Ignore the hearsay, and go with your gut instinct. Your child is your child, not a ‘tier’ or even something to try and beat the tutored culture – hopefully the right school will be able to be chosen, whatever other people think about it or choose themselves!