Choosing an infant school and then junior school for my three was a very simple choice. I absolutely loved our closest infant school and then the juniors next door, although not affiliated, was the natural progression. However, secondary school has been a completely different kettle of fish so far.
It wasn’t that I made decisions lightly before, but all of a sudden there feels a whole new gravitas; secondary school really determines their future (or does it?). All of a sudden it’ll be ‘choosing options’, mocks and then GCSEs plus the general journey of moulding a young adult.
It’s been weighing heavy.
I’ve never had a burning ambition to send my children to a grammar school and there are aspects of the grammar school/selective system that I fundamentally disagree with. However, when we discovered we were realistically only in the catchment area for one school, which wasn’t a particularly well-performing one, I thought it was something I needed to consider just to give more options. I felt it was my ‘duty’ not to just go for the easy option. The aforementioned is the easiest option due to proximity and the fact my daughter wants to go there as many of her friends will be going there.
In the interests of keeping our options open, we got my daughter a tutor. This wasn’t hothousing, it was just an hour a week (alternating between maths and English) for a year to get her used to some of the skills required for the 11+ /common entrance and to practise some papers. We did find she encountered quite a few topics, which hadn’t been covered at school.
We only did an hour of tutoring a week as I felt if she needed more than that, then grammar school wasn’t the right thing for her.
The journey so far
I had a very negative perception of our local non-selective secondary school mainly based on league tables. Sofia and I went to its open day whilst she was in year five (a year early) and I have to admit I found the pupils all lovely and really engaged (half the entire school was on show not just a couple of cherrypicked students) and the new head, who had been at the helm for eight months, was dynamic, enthusiastic and charismatic (more so than the heads of the grammar schools I’ve subsequently been to). I’ve also been impressed by the school’s use of social media to communicate with its pupils; linking news articles to specific things they are covering on the curriculum. I also spoke to people who had children at the school and guess what? They all loved it and said their kids were thriving there.
Sofia’s done the first common entrance. We’ve told her, and strongly believe ourselves, that it isn’t the be-all and end-all if she doesn’t pass. However, if she does well, there’ll be a further exam. What I do know is, she’d much rather be a big fish in a smaller pond. If she felt she was off the pace in a selective school it would completely dent her confidence and I can see her getting totally dispirited instead of being spurred on to attain more. What I certainly don’t want is to get onto a programme of constant tutoring to compete.
I’m a strong believer that the best course is the one that makes you happiest and as her current form teacher has said “she’ll do well wherever she goes.”