Those of you who know me know that I am a Primary School Teacher. In my role as Deputy Principal, I’ve just helped to complete our Prep Interviews where we meet and greet our new prospective families for 2014. The children come along for the interview and share their likes, dislikes and thoughts about going to school. Mostly three, it’s an exciting time for both the children and their parents. Their parents have taken the time to think about the school that they would like their child to attend. They’ve checked out our website, they’ve attended open days and many have spoken to members of our community. It’s a daunting time for many, but once they walk in the door and meet us, they feel comfortable and happy about the journey ahead.
I’ve always thought about how I would tackle the challenge of choosing a school and going through the process of enrolment for my own children. Being an individual who works in schools and helps parents through the process of transition, I have experience and insight from one side of the equation. Being on the other side, however, I now know is a whole new ball game, and I can certainly sympathise with parents who feel a mixed bag of emotions when their children come to the point of being ready to go to school.
This week, I was somehow thrown into the ball game as I was told by a friend about her experience of simply putting their child down on the enrolment list for some schools in her area. At the age of three, she was told that she may have left her run too late. Too late to simply put him down on the list for year seven! This got me thinking about Ella and where she may possibly go to school. The fact is, that we are lucky to have a great deal of choice in the area we live. State, Catholic and Independent – each having their own strengths and weaknesses. As an ex student and current employee of the Catholic System, my preference and inclination towards ‘what I know and have experienced’ has influenced my ‘ideal’ choices, just like any other parent. My husband and I are in agreeance about our preference for Primary School, but we had thought that we would leave our decision for Secondary School for a couple of years to come. Upon calling a few schools that she ‘may possibly’ go to, it became apparent that I needed to act quickly. One lady told me that if I left her enrolment for Secondary School until after she was 18 months old, she would have no chance of getting in!
Let me get this straight. Being a February baby, it will be my preference to give her another year of kinder to avoid being the youngest in the class. This means that she will probably start Secondary School in 2025. 2025!!!!!!I can’t even think about what she is going to have for dinner tonight, let alone make a decision about what school she will attend in 13 years time. I have heard of parents enrolling their children in school in utero, but until I called schools myself, it did not really hit me of the competitive nature of getting children into some schools. It may have been a little naive, given the fact that I work in the system. However, completing and sending off enrolment forms to a few potential schools seemed bizarre to say the least! The problem is, that if you don’t, then you will have no chance of getting in by the time you have decided its time to decide!
So my husband and I sent them off, and parted with the (rather large) ‘non refundable’ enrolment fees, all with the hope of making a decision one day. That decision will be based on a number of things – affordability, proximity and most importantly, a place where Ella will be happy to grow, learn and be herself. It just feels slightly ‘wrong’ that we are forced to almost make a decision about these things, before she can even say her own name! Then again, working in Education…nothing should surprise me! It kind of feels like buying your dream house when you are 15. You are not quite sure what you want, what you will need and whether or not you can trust that it is going to cater for your needs?!
For those of you who work in Education, you probably would be familiar with the amazing Sir Ken Robinson. For those of you who do not, he is an innovative and transformative thinker, an expert in helping society re-think the purpose of education. Do yourself a favour and spend a few minutes sitting down and watching this video. He is inspiring for any educator or parent. As someone who is both, I hope that all schools, including the one that Ella finally goes to, consider and act upon the messages he shares with this community….