After the summer holidays draw to a close something terrifying happens to my youngest child, he enters year 6.
The last year of primary school, the time of desperately trying to get one more year out of the jumpers he’s growing out of way too quickly, the year of SATS, of ‘proms’ (having not had a leavers ball until I left sixth form and have strong feelings about the appearance of proms and mock graduations but I’ll spare you that for now!), and, most terrifyingly for me, of school open days.
We had the (dis)pleasure of this early this year as one school on the list has an entrance exam and therefore earlier application. I’d written it in my diary with something close to excitement, it was certainly an eager curiosity at the very least but that vanished the second we pulled up into the car park.
I sat frozen in the car, hands sweaty, heart pounding; very suddenly I didn’t want to be here. I think part of my panic was that I had won a scholarship to a private school in my youth; an event that brought me pride, privilege and panic at being a ‘poor kid’ in a school bursting with posh kids. And as I sat in our years old Astra next to a shiny new Lexus it all flooded back to me along with a stubborn desire to prove I belonged.
With bright pink hair, tattoos and being a wheelchair user I’m not exactly able to blend into the background and so I took on the role of eccentric artistic type who most definitely felt comfortable amongst the double barrelled elite. It went a little awry at times, I over enthusiastically chanted Latin to a bemused classics teacher at one point, but mostly I think I pulled it off.
As we reached the end of the frankly exhausting displays of each department showing off their wares in elaborate style I took a moment to look around the room. Most of the parents gathered looked nervy and tense. And then it struck me: no one here cared if I belonged here as they were far too concerned with whether their child did. We are faced with this hugely impactive decision we have to make based on Ofsted reports, league tables and how big a bang the hydrogen balloon in the science department made and even when we make this ‘choice’ we may not get the school we want.
The panic was setting in once more. Nothing to do with the Astra or high school flashbacks but purely the terrors that year 6 held in store. Solidarity parenting comrades, we’re in for one heck of a year.