Tuesday, March 07, 2006

And so the lying begins.

I took Eben off to an appointment at the local pre-school this morning. Luckily (in fact extra luckily considering we're in Lambeth) the local primary is absolutley stonking, it's 3rd in the borough in the league tables, but more importantly it has the most amzingly warm atmosphere to it.

The attached pre-school which Eben will attend from January next year if our application is successful is attached in terms of location, but entirly independent in terms of facilities to the primary, so there's separate toilets, kitchens and so on.

My meeting was with the new head, a guy who joins his long serving assistant head wife to make up what I imagine will be an extremely strong husband and wife team. They have three pre-schoolers themselves and his first words were, that we wants to create a school he'd be delighted to send his own children (obvious I know, but it sounded genuine and the fact his wife is there suggests he really mans business).

The atmosphere was playful, but very structured. He reassured me that he felt the government's current plans to put educational targets on the under 5s were absolute bollocks. He was definitely his own man, wasn't towing a line, very interesting and I have no doubt he's going to do great things.

And then came the question about catchment area. I lied - I said that having moved in recently (18 months it's kind of recent) we hadn't really worked out the catchment area (well we have and we're outside technically). His response - 'our criteria really is church attendance' he then went on to say parental interest was key and it was good to see we were checking so early. It was blunt, unquestioning, but unequivocal - we go to the attached CoE church and we're pretty much guaranteed to get in.

Q. So what are we going to do:

1. We're not religious
2. I have a fundamental issue with faith schools

A. We're going to start going to church

Fuck principle. It's too good an opportunity to miss out on. I've already dressed up for the meeting and taken the good buggy for God's sake why the hell should the deception stop there, keep it going. Anyway I was told by my next door neighbour that it's the best place in the area to meet like-minded people. Her comment 'Frankly I don't know why they don't go the whole hog and put a bar in the back, it'd make things far easier'.

Besides, it's going to save me £7,000 in school fees, I can swallow any amount of God for £7,000.

So here I am one of the priveliged middle classes perpetuating the selective system and alienating the poor in the community to condemn them to a poor start in life. What would my 18 year old self think of me? He'd hate me like the silver spoon grammar school educated prig he was. Hey ho.


IsobelMagsBuchan said...

Six, I'm not going to tell you what to do but I would say think long and hard before you make a decision.

Those religious leanings that seem so innnocuous prior to admission, that seem so reasonable and not so far removed from your own moral principles, start sticking in the throat once your child is being force fed crap and intolerance on a daily basis. And that is what any religious school does whatever they say to the contrary.

When we were still living in W3 the local primary schools apart from the local RC school were pretty much the same in that the tables etc identified them as acheiving results far below the national average. I chose a school that was closest to me although we were in fact one street outside the catchment area. I didn't get my choice and my son went instead to one of the largest primary schools in London.

I was not best pleased to begin with but they won me over. The Head was an energetic woman who believed in opportunity for all and in celebrating the multi-cultures and multi-ethnic origins of the pupils at the school. It was way down on the results tables but if you looked beneath those results it was a brilliant school and OFSTED said so. 37 different languages were spoken there and for 73% of the pupils, English was a second language. Over 80% qualified for free school meals. Refugees came and went on a regular basis and yet despite this my son thrived. He was identified very early on as being gifted and the right resources were pointed in his direction. He was allowed to take the KS1 SATS a year early and acheived levels appropriate to KS2.

Both me and my son loved that school and its community and many tears were shed when he left in Year 2 because we were moving to the Midlands.

Here we had the problem that the schools in the area we were moving to were oversubscribed and the only school that did have a vacancy was a voluntary aided RC school. They wanted him baptised, so we lied and booked a baptism (which never went ahead because we had no intention of having him baptised.) They wanted one of us to be RC, so we lied and said that Mr Mags was baptised RC. He had in fact gone to a private RC school so the lie wasn't too far off the mark because he had had a RC education, which incidentally he loathed. We made all sorts of promises to get our son in over those on the waiting list because after all this school was 2nd in the league tables and so must be good.

It was a bad decision. My son has Turkish origins and this was picked up on immedicately and he suffered racist abuse on a daily basis as did the couple of dozen black pupils in the school. This was witnessed by an OFSTED Inspector and commented upon in their report. We complained etc but the school refused to acknowledge that there was a problem.

The focus was not purely on religion per se but was on Roman Catholicism to the exclsuion of other faiths and creeds and also the the exclusion of other subjects. It was narrow, bigoted and nasty and it was force fed on a daily basis.

We ensured that our daughter wasn't going to that school and after she got a place at another school nearby we automatically applied for her elder brother to be admitted too under the siblings rule. He got the place and that year he spent there was a happy one. My daughter is still there and we are very happy with the education she is getting.

Then you are confronted with the choices for secondary school. My beautiful gifted boy was more than capable of passing the 11+ exams around here for either of the two nationally recognised grammar schools or even the entrance exams for the much sought after King Edward schools in Brum but he wanted to go to his local school, 10 minutes walk away from home and refused to the astonishment of his teachers etc to take the exams. He is at the local school now and although I cannot say I am happy with the leadership of the school or its disciplinary records, academically he has once again been identified and is being provided with the extras his gifts require.

I am a great believer that if your child is motivated and able they will do well wherever they go and so far my own experiences are proving this.

Just a little to chew over Six. That religion stuff....it sucks!

Excuse typos etc and spelling this morning. I have no humph in my humphometer.

Anonymous said...

You fucking hypocrit Six ! Actually I understand completely about the money you save and the education Eben will get - nowt more important than your kid although as you say your 18 year old self wouldn't have understood that. Just make sure you counter the brainwashing that he will get from the school when you get him home and make damn sure you don't end up baking cakes for the church fete. Try turning up stoned once in a while . . .

I feel very uncomfortable commenting on education - I believe fundamentally that fee paying schools and selection based on wealth or the opportunities welth engenders are wrong. On the other hand it's easy for me to say that as I went to a very expensive and exclusive public school so I'm not arguing from a position of strenght. Although I could just say - everyone should have had the education I did. We just aren't prepared to spend that much money on our children.

flyingfinn said...

Six. Is this pre-school attached to the C of E? Or is this a man with his own particular Christian ethos? I went to a a C of E junior school, and really; there's nothing to fear. But you have to ask yourself a question: Is what you're doing right? You could be denying a place to a child whose parents genuinely want their child to go to a Christian school.

Mags. What do you mean by 'forced fed crap and intolerance'? That doesn't sound very open-minded.

IsobelMagsBuchan said...

Finn, don't get me wrong, I have no problem with faith, belief or even God for that matter. What I do have a problem with is organised religion and in particular, faith schools.

Compared to the those I have had the misfortune to meet with regard to all of this, I am probably the most open minded person they have ever met!

An example of 'crap' is the theory of christian confession and the 'sin' that is attached to that by default and it being taught and put into practise at the age of 7 and 8. I don't know how much experience you have with children of that age but the vast majority of them aren't 'sinners' in the true meaning of the word as used for the adult christian population and I just find the whole concept abhorrant. Apart from anything else although most children can understand the concept of right and wrong at that age, they fail to understand the deeper significance of what 'sin' and 'confession' truly are. Most carry out the ritual by rote without any true reflection whatsoever.

As to intolerance, I think preaching that there is only one faith, the RC faith or one christian apostolic faith hardly promotes understanding and tolerance of other faiths and creeds particularly if other faiths etc don't even get a mention in class. When there is a mention then the narrow minded parents throw wobblies. For example, the OFSTED report to which I referred earlier pinpointed this problem and advised that it must be rectified. So the school decided to have a 'multi-faith' day....a day for goodness sake! (this failed the return OFSTED inspection btw and the school were told to pull their sicks up.) Part of this day was to be spent at a seikh temple. Oh no it will not shout the parents. I am not having little Johnny visiting a heathen temple. I am not joking Finn, this really happened and those words were actually said. The local newspaper even got in on the act.

Apologies to Six for kidnapping his blog as my soapbox. As if I haven't got one of my own!

The point I was trying to make in my original post is to try and not be closed to schools with what you may see as 'bad' exam results. Go beyond that and find out what the school is really like because there may be pleasant surprise waiting there....and no 7K fees either! Any school worth its salt will allow visits during school time by prospective parents. It's the only way to get a real feel for the place and what work they do there.

flyingfinn said...

I wasn't accusing you of anything, Mags. I just wanted clarification. I can't say I agree with you, but thank you for explaining it.:-)

Kayfer Kettle said...

well you can always pray for forgiveness I suppose........

K x

Anonymous said...

Lo six. Skum here.

I think you are probably a better man than me for being prepared to go to church. Mind you we landed on our feet with the school for wee ellie.

She did ask me if i knew what RE was the other night though. At the time she was having a shit.



Gavin Corder said...

Hey Six Join the Club!

I would sell my soul to the devil for the chance of a better education for my kids. The only inheritance I can give them is an active mind and the will to work.

Educationally I have voted for a better system, marched as a student activist, campaigned, lobbied, hosted Prime Ministers on Education tickets, stood as an elected representative myself, served as a governor, raised funds as a parent and generally made a thorough bloody nuisance of myself.

Do whatever you can Six. Lie cheat steal borrow beg - it's worth it. Because whatever you do for the nation will be too late for your lads!

Prinicples can wait. Eben can't.

Span Ows said...

I already have...(sold my soul!)

(CoE)...all 4.

Span Ows said...

P.S. I concur with DcotW's comment re countering the brainwashing: I was a bit put out to find the weeks before easter dominated by hynm learning rather than swatting!

Les Paul Junior said...

We've been lucky in that the state schools in our part of town are pretty good.

About going to church... ...Hmmm. We stopped going about 6 years ago and, to be honest, I can't see someone as "swithched on" as you, Six, cutting it for very long. Having said that, if you're just doing it for your son then that's different, isn't it? There's not much a parent wouldn't do for their kids.

fec said...


Nice blog btw

I agree that a parent should want the best possible upbringing for their children, even if it means going to church. However, I'd be suspicious of this school for precisely the same reason- do you really want your children to go to a faith school? I mean, you don't want them ending up as christians...

this is FEC by the way. I've just started my own blog. I'm wondering if you can add me to your list of links? I'd be mighty grateful...

flyingfinn said...


Why wouldn't anyone want their children to be Christians, if they come to that of their free will? You say it like an insult.



fec said...

Hi Finn, it was meant as an insult. Besides, you say they come of their own free will? Hmm- doesn't sound like there's much choice involved here. Rather, the child goes to a good school, and the price he pays is that he's brainwashed.

I ask you the same as I asked six, finn, if you'd be so kind.


flyingfinn said...

Of course, I'll add you to my links.

Six Years Late said...

Mags, David, Span and FEC, I understand your points, however I trust that we have a balanced enough home life to deal with any indoctrination. The school teach a multi-faith syllabus despite it's CofE leanings. The school is in fact made up of different faiths and races as there is a catchment area criteria for the immediate area surrounding the schools and as we live in such an ethnically diverse area I have no qualms in thinking that Eben will recieve a good rounded education. Of course it will be CofE biased however, if I had to choose any faith school that's where I'd put my money.

Mags, you are very lucky that your son is confident and intelligent enough to be able to make the decisions he has. Eben however is a very reserved little boy. He's a listener. I've been taking him to his toddler groups, music group and gym classes this week while I've been off and he does tend to hang back, he joins in, but he's a not a big leader and you do wonder whether he's engaged, but as soon as he's home he reels off everything that happened. Potenitially, he may not have the confidence to make the same decisions as your son has, so I would hope we are able to stand behind him and make the right decisions in his best interests and help him be the most confident he can as he goes through his school life.

Finn, yes it is a pre school attached to CofE primary school. As I mentioned they have an obligation to provide places for children in a very small area that simply couldn't supply the full complement of children. To tell you the truth on your last point, if you go to the church then your child will get a place as far as i can see so there is no chance we will be denying a place to a child who's parents are very religious, so I have no guilt about that.

FEC it's very good to see you, I very much look forward to reading your blog, I'm sure it'll make very interesting reading. I'll link you on mine. It's good to see the UKR5L blogosphere expanding.

IsobelMagsBuchan said...

How I wish that my son was confident! Yes he is intelligent but we have also discovered recently that he suffers from Aspergers. Suddenly everything clicks into place. The failure to understand the most simple of requests despite his intelligence. We thought he lacked common sense, if only it were that simple. He would never join in at playgroup or nursery school, he has always been the loner, slightly strange, unable to deal with changes to routine or to interact in social intercourse etc. Yes he has several friends now but like him they are different!

When we had a suspicions confirmed I was loath to send him to the local school but he very astutely said to me, Mom, if I can learn to live there (1600+ pupils) I can learn to live anywhere. He is right of course and does find things difficult at times. I think sometimes we underestimate just what our children can cope with.

Six Years Late said...

Mags, I'm sorry to hear that, but was it a relief to have it diagnosed just from the point of view of being able to know what and how to deal with things? If you don't mind me asking I have a few questions.

Is Aspergers similar to Dispraxia? A neighbour of mine's son was recently diagnosed as dispraxic and it sounds like a similar thing. How exactly does it manifest itself? Is it a condition, a syndrome or what is it in any way curable/treatable?

IsobelMagsBuchan said...

I don't know anything about dispraxia, so I can't comment on that.

Aspergers syndrome isn't curable and it isn't really treatable. What they can do is help devise coping strategies in order to deal with every day situations that are difficult to handle because the brain in an aspergers sufferer doesn't work in quite the same way. Aspergers falls into the autism disorders category.

Basically my son is well off in that it is termed 'mild'. He is disasociated from normal behaviour in that he cannot make the normal social connections. Things are taken literally. For example if you don't point out the obvious, like untie your shoelaces before attempting to take your shoes off, then he will not make the connection. He cannot make small talk in any way. He cannot interact with others in a way that he would love to because he has a block on the skills necessary such as small talk, how to act with others etc. He hates routines being disrupted and is threatened by changes unless they are explained in detail. Travelling is a nightmare because he has a problem with understanding the concept of things being a little late and therefore panics. He finds simple exercises such as tying a shoe lace or buttoning up a jacket difficult. Problems with simple motor skills are normal with aspergers sufferers. All of these things mean that he has terrible problems with self confidence and self belief, despite the fact that academically he is gifted. I think the simplest way to describe most of it is that there is no common sense and people are difficult to deal with!

Six Years Late said...

Mags, it does sound similar. Dispraxia also falls under the autism disorders. My neighbours son also has great difficulty co-ordinating on things like shoe laces and buttons.

I hope you are finidng ways of coping.

IsobelMagsBuchan said...

LOL Six, we've been coping all his life. A diagnosis doesn't really make much difference apart from him knowing that he is not alone.

Six Years Late said...

Sorry Mags that wasn't meant to sound patronising, if you took it that way.

IsobelMagsBuchan said...

No I didn't take it that way at all Six. No apology wanted or needed. You made me laugh in a genuine way...honestly! If you don't laugh you might cry, so I laugh.

Lucy said...

Go for it and no need to feel guilty.
"If a man is not a socialist by 18 there is somthing wrong with his heart;not a conservative by 40 there is something wrong with his head"
The catholic experience Mags refers to is is unlikely to be repeated at the CofE.

Lucy said...

So, how has it. Have you survived a couple of weeks of God?

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