As an expat, I feel as though I am forever navigating culture idiosyncrasies (trousers versus pants, anyone?) but none have been more daunting than the British Education System: How do you apply? Am I too late? State or independent school? Single sex or coeducational? The list goes on.
I admit that I started reading up schools in our area and scanning the league tables when Little Miss A was still in utero, blissfully unaware of that her parents had no idea how it all worked. I may be clueless about the British Education System but you can’t say I was unprepared as I proceeded to diarise the application deadlines for my choice of schools (both genders at this stage). I didn’t know who or where or how I was going to manage childcare for my unborn child when I went back to work after maternity leave but I did have somewhat of a plan for him/her from the age of 2 years having secured a spot at the nursery of a well-regarded local independent school.
Fast forward a few years and Little Miss A is now happily ensconced in her second year of nursery at said independent school (I plugged the hole between 6 months and 2 years by way of a nursery with working mum friendly hours) when I receive a notice that stated if your child is sitting 4+/5+ assessments: (A) you must fully disclose (makes sense: the school needs to write a report); and (B) by the way, there is no automatic entry to the Upper School so if your child does sit assessments and is not successful he/she will be put on the waiting list for Year 1. Gulp. What should we do? In the soundtrack of my life, cue The Clash: “Should I Stay of Should I Go?” Or rather, do we take a gamble that she may or may not get into the schools (that I randomly chose) and risk losing her a place at a really good school that has a track record for producing confident, self-assured students who go on to win places at their first choice of school at 7+?
The Captain and I agonised for days. We had also only recently learned that Little Miss A’s British classmates have birthdays based on the academic year (September 1st to August 31st) rather than calendar year. Which makes a summer baby such as Little Miss A the youngest rather than the middle of the pack as was the case for us in Canada. The chances of her getting a spot are already stacked against her as she goes up against children born almost a full year before her. Throw in the sibling preference and the odds get even worse. And there is something to be said about stability and letting her to continue to thrive in a familiar environment.
So after much soul searching, we decided to turn down the three assessment spots I’d so diligently secured. I would love the opportunity to find out how Little Miss A would fair at an assessment but my curiosity does not extend to the prospect of her not having a school place next year. And while I loathe the thought that these schools are making money off us vulnerable, hyper competitive parents, I just don’t think she’s ready to move to a busy pre-preparatory school. She’s still my baby: let me hang on to her for just a little while longer.
Me & Little Miss A