We dared send our child to the nearest primary school to our house

Oliver Rickard's picture
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It went all the way back to when we were looking at houses to move into when our daughter was 1 year old.

The people selling would take one look at the baby dribbling on the floor and go into lengthy spiels detailing all the schools in the area and why if we bought their house we'd be able to get into x, y and z highly recommended school. We stared at them blankly thinking that she'd just go to a nearby school and we'd think about it when she could at least walk and maybe even talk.

This was nothing compared to the hubbub of consternated discussion that was to be heard amongst the parents at nursery a couple of years later when the time came to apply for a primary school place.

It soon became clear that there was a precise hierarchy of primary schools in the area and as it turned out the one that was nearest to our house was at the bottom of the heap.

The nursery parents would whisper things like "kids with English as a second language" and "only satisfactory OFSTED" and hatch their plans for making sure their kid went elsewhere.

We went to visit this "only satisfactory" school and found it welcoming, friendly, enthusiastic and full of London. We didn't bother visiting any of the other schools and our daughter, now in Year 1, loves it. This is what's important.

As most of the families with children attending the school live close to it, there is a real sense of community surrounding it, which is supported by a great Home-School-Association and many public events. This is what's important.

The scary thing is that so many of the parents at the nursery seemed to put one thing above all others: academic achievement. Their dearest wish was apparently to get their child into a deeply middle-class, white enclave in the middle of Crouch End where you could be sure that no ESOL child would be bringing the standard down and using up the teacher's attention. The idea that schools are for helping your child grow into the community in which they live seems to have been hidden under a big pile of SATS practice exam papers.
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