In some ways, this is a good thing – birthday parties will always be cheaper because I don’t have to invite the whole class, for starters. But it also means she’s going to start school in three weeks. Good grief – she hasn’t even turned four yet!
I’d originally planned to send Flea to a Montessori school but that idea was scuppered when we moved – potentially subversive educational systems are actually illegal in Lytham, so I checked out the local state primary.
I’ll start by saying it’s a good school. And if you’re a fan of God, it’s possibly even a great school. But there are 35 kids in the reception intake this year, and the reception class is open plan with the year one class – meaning two teachers and 68 kids sharing a kind of small, dark, poky space.
I can’t help but think if you’re four and a couple of weeks, this is quite intimidating. So I met with the head and explained my concerns: Flea is very young, she lacks confidence in new situations and she’s also a big sleeper – she still needs at least 14 or 15 hours a night. So perhaps she could start part-time for a term, or four days a week?
No dice. Full-time or forfeit the place. Oh, and also: “All children are tired when they start school. Give it a few months, she’ll adjust.”
I checked out another school a little further away. Here, there are 10 children in the reception class, with one teacher and one nursery nurse. They’re more than happy for Flea to take a day off when she needs it, or to leave early if she’s tired. There’s a dedicated playground for the reception class with its own equipment and lawns.
I met with the head who said: “Our job is to make your child happy and give her a good start. Whatever she needs, that’s what we’ll do.”
Of course, the second school is a fee-paying school.
After weeks of agonising, I made the decision to send her to the private school – the upside of being a summer baby, it turns out, is that Flea gets a nursery grant for another year, which will help towards the fees.
But I still wish the state system could have been a bit more flexible.
I hadn’t planned to put Flea into a private school so young, and I’ve listened to enough Billy Bragg records to know that private education is generally considered to be A Bad Thing. But it’s hard to hang on to your principles when you’re putting your child into a classroom with 60+ kids and two over-worked teachers trying to keep up with a National Curriculum and several hundred government initiatives each term.
What do others think? Are all schools so inflexible?