Quite how we’re at the point of looking at primary schools when I only gave birth like a month ago, is beyond me. But we are, and it’s pretty scary. And we’re learning really quickly just what will be the deciding factors in how we choose Toby’s primary school.
Today we went to visit two schools. One is more convenient from a commuting perspective (does one say ‘commuting’ in reference to the school run?! Well it’s going to be a part of the daily commute to work, so I’m going to roll with it). One is rather less convenient.
In truly awkward fashion, we want the less convenient option. We love the poorly (for us) located school so much that I want to cry. So if it’s going to be such an logistical nightmare, does it matter if we pick the more local one? I mean it’s only primary school, right?
No. Not to us. Just no. This matters and it matters to the point that the only thing that would make us want to leave our idyllic, beautiful home, is getting Toby into the right school.
So how do we know? How come we feel so strongly in our conviction that we feel a bit sick and emotional having spent no more than 2 hours total within both schools? Quite bluntly, it’s in our guts. Based on websites, there wasn’t a whole load between the two, but based on visiting them we couldn’t have felt more differently about each of them. I hasten to say now – especially for anyone who lives in our area – the school we don’t want to choose isn’t a ‘bad’ school! The kids seemed happy, a mum who was there when we arrived immediately told us how great it is, we don’t doubt that they’re doing a good job there. But in our guts, in our hearts, it’s not the place for Toby.
Our brilliant, funny, beautiful, clever, delicate, complex, adventurous, creative boy is so often a mystery wrapped in an enigma. He is everything that is wonderful in life, but countered with the spirited and complicated nature of a high needs child who finds certain elements of social and academic development tricky. Toby will thrive, he will have an amazing life, he will be happy, but that will be a collaborative effort between us and the right school. The right school for him.
And so the journey begins. Visit schools, apply for schools, hope, wait for the big announcement, be prepared to appeal if necessary. It all comes down to gut instinct, to knowing our son, to asking the right questions and analysing the answers. So how do you choose your child’s primary school? You visit outside of the advertised open days, you go in with a set of questions and an open mind, you trust your instincts. The failure would be in thinking that primary school only needs to play a small part in their lives, and that any student will be okay in any setting.
These miniature people are as individual now as they will be in 2 or 3 decades as journalists, doctors, salespeople, parents, philosophers, activists. Their futures begin the moment they are conceived and choosing the school that fits their needs is important in developing the people that they will become – whatever form that may take.