The love of back to school


I always loved the first day of term! The new uniform and shiny shoes, new very sharp pencils, a completely clean new eraser and a new pencil case with everything set out just so. A new exercise book, virgin white, completely untouched and waiting for me to make my first mark. This was half exciting, and half terrifying, what if I made a mistake on that first page? Of course who could forget the smell of a new book?

From early primary throughout my schooling, back to school was a time to look forward to, regardless of how much I enjoyed the long summer holiday and now, as a Mother with one child going back to school, I feel a similar excitement. Don’t get me wrong, I have adored having Kieran at home. It’s been a very full summer (with a few PJ days thrown in for good measure!) and best of all it has been the first summer with Kieran and Taylor together. Now though I am in need of more routine (and less nights working to the wee hours!) but also I’m excited for Kieran.

It’s his new school year, his first day in another year that will see him learn, grow, experience and enjoy. The new pencils, the ever so slightly too big uniform to grow into, the new lunchbag and coat zipped up all the way are all his now. Does he get the same kick out of school year that I did? We are a generation apart and he is a boy. Does he feel the same?

I asked Kieran today how he felt about going back to school. His words included:

I can’t wait to see Charley and William – they are my best friends when we are on the playground“.

I’m looking forward to seeing Miss P, but I have to call her Mrs G now because she got married when we were on holiday“.

I’m looking forward to assembly. I like assembly and I’ll get my certificate from Mrs Y for doing my library reading challenge – cool!

I can’t wait to go to gardening club. I wasn’t allowed to go last year because I was only in Reception. I’m in Year 1 now so I’m much more grown up“.

He is certainly excited, perhaps for different reasons to those I had but it’s good all the same. Perhaps he doesn’t “get” the new book smell and the thrill of the empty noticeboard, ready to be filled with pictures and words, but he does love back to school all the same and that’s good enough. I’m very grateful he loves school as he does.

And me? My pinafore has long been outgrown but I’ll always love back to school, be it mine or the children’s. It’s such a magical, new and hopeful time.

What about you? Did you love or loathe the new school year? Has this changed as you’ve got older / had children yourself?

School Admissions from a Panicky Parent’s Point of View

A mum of two young boys, Stacey currently lives in Dorset and divides her free time (!) between looking after house and home, trying (sometimes unsuccessfully) new recipes, blog writing at It Takes A Woman, writing on theatre at BrewDrinkingThinkings and spending lovely evenings with friends and family. I’m very grateful she’s agreed to do us this cracking guest post!

My eldest son is nearly 3 and a half and is going great guns at Preschool, but pretty soon we will have to start the school admission process for him to start in Reception year in September 2012. School admissions are extremely competitive in my area and, since we are in the middle of two or three years in which there were bumper births in the area, competition for school places is quite fierce.

We live in Poole, which hit the news a couple of years ago for using anti-terrorism legislation when surveiled a family who had been reported as making a fraudulent application for a school place. They were not, as it turned out, doing anything wrong as they did indeed live in the catchment for the school they applied to – unfortunately it was (and is) a very popular and successful school. So why were they reported in the first place? Was competition so fierce that a green-eyed parent falsely reported them?

I find the whole arrangement troubling – parents at our Preschool who have gone through admissions this year seem to be mostly unhappy with their allocations. We previously lived in the catchment area of a fairly unsuccessful and quite run down school so when we had to move, although we liked the area, we specifically moved to the area we live in now because the First school is so good. It seems, though, that a lot of the children at our Preschool have been allocated places at the school in our old area, leaving us with the real possibility that our children will end up there anyway. We would have leave to appeal, but that may or may not be successful.

So what do we do now? At the moment, all of the above are unspecified worries as we can’t actually apply for places until the end of the year, but I’m trying to stay a step ahead in noting what the current policies are and what the deadlines will be. Our school of choice has 90 places available but, as I said, 2007 – 2009 were bumper birth years with an average of 1600 babies born in Poole in each of those years. Several schools have had to increase their numbers to accommodate this rate but it still means that not every child will get a place at their catchment area school. The Borough, however sees its job as done as long as all children in the Borough get a place somewhere – even though this could be a fair few miles away from their home.

Given this state of affairs, I know that I can’t change any initial outcome and I know the proper channels to take should we not get the allocation that we want, but I wonder what lengths some parents might go to, to get their children into a ‘good’ school? Obviously Poole Borough Council must have believed that the parents they surveiled had gone to fraudulent lengths to get their children into a good school and only last year the previous Government announced a range of measures, including a ‘whistleblower hotline’ and door step checks to uncover suspected fraud.

I’d like to think we’ve done everything right to ensure our children get the education we want for them, but we shall know whether we have done enough by this time next year. Unfortunately, I think it’s more a case of ‘fingers crossed’ than anything else!

Wow! Our area isn’t as competitive as this for school places and if Twitter and the like are anything to do by, there are even worse areas. Is the system broken? Are you in a similar situation? I’d love to hear your experiences.