Yesterday, primary school places were announced to anxiously waiting parents, and I remember well how I felt last year waiting to hear that Wriggler had got into the village school. It felt like there was a lot of pressure to get school selection right, and parents I spoke to while doing my research were surprising judgemental about other schools and other parent’s choices.
Personally, I hadn’t worried too much as we have researched the schools before we chose where to move to and were happy with what was on offer in the village – it has a small community feel to it, good emphasis on social morals and academically an outstanding school. Plus, it was walkable – something I really wanted as I liked the idea walking by the village shop on the way home for an ice cream in the summer, and (in theory) all Wriggler’s friends would be local.
There was also something else driving how The Mr and I felt about school: he hated the academic pressure rather than enjoying learning – so a school that prioritised this enjoyment over homework was important; and I had been terribly bullied throughout my school years and I hated being at school – that remains something I am keen to avoid for my children, so I felt that a school that was also focused on the social development of the students would be key.
When looking at schools for Wriggler there was a lot of pressure and talk about making sure we as parents chose the right academic school, so they could succeed. I saw several school like that, but they lacked in kindness and social awareness and just learning how to be ‘good’ people as well as a success. Just because you achieve academically does not mean you are a good person and in later life I think having good morals and being a good person is worth more respect than any academic achievement.
Academic success is naturally a huge thing everywhere, but perhaps even more so in grammar school counties. Now, I am personally a supporter of grammar schools – being a product of the system myself – so I do believe that for the right children grammar schools offer the right environment for them to flourish. Same goes for comps (or whatever we call them these days); some children suit different learning techniques in order to flourish and achieve.
But what is success? Does it have to be the pass at 11+, the 10 GCSE and 4 A levels (A’s and B’s only); or is it finding their passion, being encouraged to work hard at it, relishing it? Or is it making the most of what they are good it – being content that they apply the skills they have learnt? Or is it all those things?
What about the kindness – the social awareness? For me that is a fundamental part of success. I am not sure that the millionaire bloke who is cruel, lies and cheats is really a success. Nor the high-flying woman who domineers, steals credit and manipulates is either. Yet on paper they are.
For me, for my family – success would be children that apply themselves, take the knocks as something to push back on and challenge rather than define them and most of all be someone who is kind, thoughtful, compassionate. Someone who friends turn to because they know they will find support and not judgement. That they’re not jealous, but champion others success and hold their hand when they are struggling.
I am reminding myself of this now as I think back to the excitement of starting school, this whole new chapter that is coming and how when you are then mixing with other school age parents you can’t help but have conversations about what reading level the kids are at, or what maths they have done. How even how much homework they get (or don’t in my case) in reception.
So, I am focusing on the school reports saying my son is happy, well liked, kind and eager to learn more, and ignoring the competitiveness of ‘my school is better than yours’, or ‘my child is such an achiever’ conversations.
And, I hope that you have chosen the school that is right for your child, more so than choosing the ‘right’ school, because that hopefully will mean that they enjoy learning, find their passions, make strong and healthy friendship and come home bubbling about their amazing days.
Enjoy this next chapter guys!