I received news last week that my oldest has been allocated a place in her preferred secondary school. Once the excitement died down the panic set in and it all seems so real. How am I old enough to have a child going into secondary school already? My emotions fluctuated all week and I don’t expect they will settle down any time before September. September 2023 that is, because I also have another child starting infant school at the same time, and will have to go through all of this again in six years.
Thousands of children in England missed out on a place at their first choice of secondary school. More than 30% of pupils in Birmingham and London had to settle for a lower preference, while in Bristol 7.5% of pupils were not offered a place at any one of their preferences, so I know we are lucky.
You would think that having seen one child successfully through primary school I would feel prepared, but I don’t at all. Secondary school is a different world, one which I have barely set foot in since I graduated myself. Stepping over the threshold on open evening was like both stepping back in time to when I was 17 (bad hair and unflattering trousers), and landing on a foreign planet.
White boards were the height of technology when I left primary school but now it’s all tablets, laptops, and independent learning. There’s no lunch money, I just top up an account online and she pays with a fingerprint, and chips are only served once a week. It’s a world of “can I have a mobile phone?”, “how do I do simultaneous equations?” (um… ask your father), and “what’s it like to kiss someone?” (DON’T ask your father!)
While my oldest has moved beyond the realms of dressing up for World Book Day, birthday parties at soft play centres, and Christmas plays at school, my youngest is just about to start, catapulting me right back to the beginning. I am honestly not sure how I feel about this. High school may be more expensive in terms of uniform and school trips, but infant school is much harder work with all the getting ready in the morning, special assemblies and concerts, and parent helping on school trips.
Parenting is such a bittersweet experience. We raise our children to be independent but each step they take on their own is a step further away from us. Part of me is proud that they are so capable and confident, but another part of me yearns for the time when I was their entire world (or I was when they wanted something)
These next few months will fly by and, before I know it, I will be walking one child into school to hand safely over to the teacher, while being told not to walk anywhere near the other in case I embarrass her in front of her new friends. I have promised myself that I will try to savour the last term of life as we know it, to look forward to the opportunities that having two children in full-time education will bring, and to stop worrying about changes which will happen whether I want them to or not.