Race for life? – musings on secondary school

It’s time for A to choose her secondary school.  Well I say choose – but this is of course a misnomer as your choice is limited by mostly distance based admissions criteria.  We are actually very lucky as we live in London – which has some of the most improved comprehensive schools in the country.  So in actual fact our choice has been pretty easy.

But we also live in the catchment area for one of the most selective grammar schools in the country.  This school scrapes only the best cream from the top of the local milk bottle.  So much so, that there are 2000 applicants for a mere 180 places – allocated (mostly) in order of ranking from a specially prepared examination.  Only children who achieve over 80% in this exam are even likely to be in with a chance.  This leads to children locally being tutored (in some cases) from their entry into primary school.  (These tests are now supposed to be un-tutorable but that’s a whole other discussion!)  Lots of local parents worry that if they don’t do this – then they will be damaging their child’s future prospects.

`We worried about this – but decided against against any additional tutoring other than general support for what she was doing at school anyway – figuring we could aways change our minds closer to the time.  But by the time was actually upon us it was too late.  We entered her for the test anyway.  Did some very low key practise papers over the summer holidays with varied success.  But more importantly (I think) we talked to her about the importance of trying, we talked about how it was pretty unlikely she would get a place because of the very intense competition, we talked about how not getting in wasn’t a failure.

She did well.  Not well enough to secure one of the golden ticket places – but well.  Her rejection letter detailed just where in the 2000 she had come.  But the best bit – she was so proud of her ‘achievement’ she pinned that rejection letter to her notice board in prime place, demonstrating amazing resilience.  And I am very proud of her.