Our son was due to start school in September 2016 had we not whisked him away for an adventure in Mexico instead. We didn't know he'd be gallivanting around the world rather than sensibly learning to read in the UK so we went through all the palaver of finding the perfect school for him/us/his sister for two years down the line.
Finding a school in central London is no easy matter. First my wonderful geek of a husband drew up a spreadsheet of all the schools within a mile of our house: there were over fifty. Yes, you read that right, fifty. So first of all we crossed off any overtly religious schools. Then we un-crossed off one of the religious schools because it's an incredible place despite our views on religious schools.
Next, we asked around all the local online parenting groups and even had a meet-up with other local parents to try and figure out the mine-field that is choosing a school when your kid is still three years old. We eventually got our fifty down to about eight schools we thought we'd visit. Remember, we had to compile a list of six schools to which we'd be willing to send our precious little bundle of snort-blergh-joy.
I think of the eight, between us we visited five. One got taken off the list because someone said they saw a parent drop-kick another parent at a summer fair. That didn't sound like 'our type of school'. One we didn't visit because others did and quite frankly, them not liking it was enough for us given open days were during work hours.
So in total we saw six schools. Most had a weird homework policy: head teachers aware that homework for tiny kids is unnecessary but feeling that they had to bend to the will of parents who liked homework (rather than those who didn't). This put us off. We don't like homework for little ones but we would rather schools 'own' the decision to implement it than try and claim they don't like it whilst still doling it out. Some had really strict and authoritarian styles and others were obsessed with school uniform. None of this worked for us.
Of those six schools we only felt we'd be willing to send our perfect-creature-things to four of them, and two of them only just, so we only put those on our list. So we began thinking about schools in summer 2015, visited them in autumn and winter 2015 for a January 2016 submission of application. We heard about our place in April 2016. Almost a year from start to finish. We were extremely lucky and did get our first choice.
But then we upped sticks and ripped those small ones from their home and future in the perfect school to bring them to Mexico. And we needed to choose a school here. So what did we do? Did we follow a similar process?
No. We left the kids with my visiting parents and walked around the block. There's a school directly behind our house. We walked in and asked to speak to the head teacher. We were shown around, it seemed ok so we signed up our travelling wonders immediately. They started in January and they've never been happier.
I am pretty certain our son will love the school we have chosen for him in the UK. It's liberal, forward thinking and has no uniform, but it was a lot of hassle to get to the point of him actually having a place. Some of that hassle was of our own making- we opted to muck about with spreadsheets and visiting schools (note, we did not read an Ofstead report at all, just looked briefly at their designation) - but the system is designed to be played that way, especially in the big cities where there are so many schools so close together.
The school we have here in Mexico is extremely traditional and not that forward thinking. The kids sit at desks most of the day and they get homework every week, even our almost three year old, which I think is bonkers. But our little beaver-bums go in every single day without complaint and the teachers are extremely kind and caring (even if our four year old tells us he's never met anyone as bossy as his teachers here).
I'm sure if we were going to be here forever we'd have a less cavalier attitude to choosing a school but for now, this is just perfect.