It's that time of year when mums and dad's across the land are traipsing round primary schools and agonising over the order in which to put their choices down on the school application. This year it is our turn. Our biggest little man (who currently wants to be a Doctor!), will be heading off to school next September ((sobs)) and so it has been us doing the traipsing, having the discussions and dealing with the disappointment when we discovered that the school that our garden backs onto is the worst that we viewed out of the lot of them!
When we moved into our house, knowing that there was a school a few mere steps from our front door was just perfect. It has a 'good' Ofsted rating and even though there were some parts of the report that weren't so good, overall we thought it looked like a really lovely school.
How wrong could we be?
Now I know that no school is perfect (except maybe that one that is just a bit too far away from us that not only achieved 'outstanding' but had the Ofsted inspector gushing over his keyboard about what a fabulous school it is!), but in this one particular school there were several things that happened on our 15 minute show round (also the quickest we had) that had us questioning whether we even wanted to put it on our list of choices.
First up, a child in the PE lesson vomited. This kind of thing is expected in a school but the reaction from the teachers was like it had never happened before and they had no idea of what to do in this situation! Being more worried about the mess rather than the poor girl that had just chucked up her entire lunch, it was the other half who came to the rescue by dashing in there with our baby wipes and helping to get her cleaned up. And then he heard one of the staff say, "it must have been the pie". I mean what's wrong with the pie? Did she just eat too much or are the catering services that bad that the staff have seen this all too often!
Next up was the two teachers that we heard shouting. I can't imagine dealing with a class of 30 children but not once in any of the other schools did I hear a teacher shouting at the pupils. Like really shouting! And then, the one that shouted in the PE lesson (because I think a pupil was being mean to the girl who vommed), stormed out and past me huffing and puffing like a child!
Elsewhere, the children in the classrooms didn't seem to be overly under control by the teachers and the outdoor area was seriously lacking in having anything other than a few bikes where the other schools had lovely under cover outdoor spaces with home corners, art corners and play areas – all so that the reception children could do what they do inside, outside, and thus getting fresh air and escape from such a new setting. I mean, in this school, we didn't even go outside because it was 'too windy'.
So yes, to say we were gutted with the outcome of this visit was a bit of an understatement.
There are lots of schools around our area but it seems the very closest ones are all underperforming, with pretty bad Ofsted reports. I know that Ofsted aren't the be all and end all but they do give some indication as to whether your child is going to be safe and whether they are actually going to learn. For this reason, we visited schools in the other direction, where Ofsted rated them good and where we pretty much agreed with their decisions.
When it came to coming up with our choices and the order we would put them in, there was a lot of discussions about what we preferred, what the journey would be like and how easy it would be for the other half who doesn't drive. Ideally, we don't want a school that we have to drive to and so top of our list is the one that is roughly a 20 minute walk. I think that this is do-able as the other two closest schools (that we don't want) are 15 minutes walk away so there isn't really much difference. This school also has a bike and scooter parking area which means that Zach could ride there and back which would then take less time. It is also easy to drive to (slightly less easy to actually park) and is easy for the other half to get to as it's not far from the train station.
Second and third on our list are both a car journey away (bus trip for the other half). Not ideal but lovely schools. One is slightly lovelier than the other and I really liked the headteacher. It is however the furthest of all four. Despite this, it's going in second place. The other one is much smaller and whilst very nice, it didn't give me the same feeling as my top two so is in third position.
We scrutinised over whether to put the one behind our house down. I spoke to people on Facebook and I spoke to my sister who is a mum and teacher. Together, we decided that because we are highly likely to get a place there, and therefore have a school that is close rather than being given one that is in the next town or further afield; we would put it as our last choice. Bottom of the list.
And so we have our four choices.
I have filled in the online application and saved it. I haven't yet sent it off because there is still a part of me that has a niggle about the top two choices and whether they are in the right order. I really like them both. I like the headteachers equally. I like the facilities, the classrooms, the outsides equally. One is a walk away and one is a drive away. The big thing though is that the further one has a breakfast and after school club whereas the other only has after school and it's a sports one rather than a general one. And in all probability, as much as I would love to think that my blog will take me to being able to work from home, it's highly unlikely and therefore I am likely to be in employment somewhere. And so we will need some form of wraparound care for Zach. This however is too much for my brain because I start to think how on earth do we get him to and from school and how on earth do we then also get Oscar to wherever he will be!
For now, I will keep the application as it is while I still consider those top two choices. I really do hope that we get into one of those two schools. Once I click on that submit button, it's going to be a long old wait until April. Or maybe not…the months are flying by now I have two children keeping me busy!