As of this lunchtime I no longer have a child in school. After 15 years of book bags and reading practice and PE kit and lunch money and parents’ evenings and INSET days and school reports and grumbling about the price of uniforms, suddenly it’s all over. One is off to university this autumn, the other will be heading for sixth form college, unburdened by the need to put his hands on his school tie ever again.
They’ve changed a lot, of course, in the past 15 years. Possibly not as much as the school system has. Beneficiaries of New Labour’s “education, education, education” largesse they went to an excellent local primary school, and have kept one step ahead of the reformers ever since.
The youngest enjoyed all the sports the local primary sports coordinator introduced him to – shortly before the school sports partnerships which made it possible were abolished. They went to an outstanding secondary school which was in the very last group of schools to be refurbished under the generous old Building Schools for the Future programme. The oldest completed her AS levels in the year before AS’s were changed. The youngest has just done the last year of old-style GCSEs before syllabuses, course work and the grading system itself are all reformed. They leave the school system while uncertainties about possible forced Academisation swirl around. I have occasionally pictured their ride through the school system like a scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark: we are, collectively playing the part of Indiana Jones running just ahead of the granite ball representing the Department for Education – or maybe we’re Bart, they’re Homer:
They’ve done fine, of course, thanks to a series of hard-working, professional, and downright wonderful teachers who cajoled, inspired, and enlightened them all the way and who genuinely seemed to care about what happened to them. And not everything has changed since my day. I asked my son how he felt about leaving. “Now it’s over I can look back on it and say it was great” he said (remember, he left school about two hours ago) “But at the time, when you’re there and you’re a teenager and you hate everything, it makes you feel like banging your head on the desk.” I doubt there’s anyone who went to any school, anywhere, who doesn’t know exactly how that feels.