It is always hard to know whether or not you have done the right thing for your kids. Around eight years ago we moved from Caterham in Surrey to my home town in Shropshire. There were a number of reasons for doing this, not least being quality of life, but the main two were:
* get to know my parents before they passed away
* have the same good school opportunities that I did
Sadly, both my parents have passed away, but not before the kids got to know they reasonably well, especially my mother who was around a few years more than my Father.
Although nearly two years apart in age, my children are only one year apart in school (at the two extremes of their year’s catch) and when we first moved they ended up in an excellent small village school that for a while saw them in the same classes (a two year cohort).
My home town still has a boys’ grammar school and a girls’ grammar school and operates a version of the 11+ entrance test. Both of my girls passed the test and joined the girls’ grammar school (one a year behind the other). Even though they were only 11, they had to choose whether or not to go to the grammar school, they had to give a reason for their choice of school.
There are many for and against arguments for single sex and selective entry schools. I think the school has suited them both well and they have achieved good results at GCSE level. Last week, our older daughter started her second year in the 6th form at the school, now working on the A2 component of her A levels. Her younger sister started her first year. Then things went wrong.
For years, the school, which is not especially large, has worked with a local college (sadly not the boy’s grammar school – for all sorts of complex and largely historical political reasons) to offer some additional curriculum options that the school can not offer itself. As the school has grown though the need for this facility has reduced (larger year sizes allow for more flexibility) and, in these cost conscious days, it has been difficult to justify the high costs and logistics involved in operating this option. This year, the only option is for PE. Over the summer, my younger daughter decided that she wanted to do Theatre Studies at the local college as her fourth A level on top of three fairly standard A level choices at the school (English Literature, History and Music).
There was no way that the school could accommodate the course requirement.
My daughter tried hard to select an alternative fourth subject she could study at the school. She is not into science particularly. She chose German as her least worst option. As this was discussed, it became clear that this was not the only compromise she was making. She was down to do English Literature, but really wanted to do English Language, which the school did not offer. Similarly, she wanted to do Modern History, but the school offered History for earlier periods only. It was only music that was not compromised. (She has achieved grade 5 on piano and classical guitar already through private study.)
The local college offered an open day last Saturday and was still taking enrolments. She went along with my support, and discussed her needs at length. She drilled the college representative in great detail about their course offerings, their teaching approach, track record, college life, and on many other points. She also went on an extensive personal tour of the college. The college was able to offer her exactly the courses she wanted to do, and more options besides that she would be able to try out before making a final selection.
After some reflection, she decided that her educational needs would be best met by transferring to the college rather than continuing her studies at the school. She enrolled with the college and made arrangements for her first day’s attendance. I let the school know and the Head gave her blessing in support of the decision my daughter had made for herself.
The sudden change of direction has come as a big surprise to her many friends. She went off to college today for her first day and was obviously full of nerves. She has doubts. Moving from a small school to a larger college has to be a shock to the system. Having to travel on a bus every day instead of just walking to school will be a big change as well. The greater freedom offered by the college over the school will also take some getting used to.
Funny thing is, I am as excited and worried about the change as she is.
Her older sister is sticking with the school for her final year. It serves her needs well. This is the first time they have gone off in different directions educationally. We had not expected this until University. In parallel with this, my wife, their mother, is returning to education in the next couple of weeks by doing an Access course (at another nearby college) for a year and then heading off to University to do a degree.
Should make for interesting dinner table conversations.
Make me wonder if I should be doing something. But then I work pretty hard as it is …