Yesterday I looked down at Catrin holding onto the pole in the bus as we bounced, jerked and shunted through the heavy traffic. She suddenly looked taller and more grown up and she kept her balance effortlessly and without any fuss or messing about. I smiled and glanced out of the window and a poster caught me eye… It said ‘Ready to start school? Children born between 1st September 2010 and 31st August 2011…’ and I found myself getting a bit teary.
She is growing so fast.
I remember her as a wriggly little thing with a frog-like belly and scrawny legs…now she draws herself as a mermaid from the story of Peter Pan; she can recite of the songs and most of the dialogue from ‘Frozen’ and ‘Tangled’ and knows how to make her little sister smile when she is upset. She greets me with a yell of ‘Mummeeeeeee!’ and a huge hug when I collect her from preschool and gives me the full rundown of her day including detailed descriptions of her paint and sequin creations; a list of who has been naughty and who she played fairies with and which items from her lunch bag she ate and which she thought were ‘a bit yucky’. She turned 4 two weeks ago and had a fantastic time at her party…leaping around on the bouncy castle and running around pretending to be Elsa with her friends (multiple Elsas…plus one Batman). She had been looking forward to her birthday for so long and she is now looking forward to the next one (which she has already requested a Peter Pan party for in celebration).
She is ready for school and she will, most likely, do well whichever school she ends up in. Nevertheless, I worry. I work in a school a few hundred metres from my home, yet Catrin will not have the opportunity to attend that school because we live too far away (yes…a few hundred metres is too far away). This is because there are many different criteria for admitting children to schools in my area (siblings already attending the school, children in care, children with particular special educational needs, etc)…the distance from home to school is the lowest priority consideration on the list. Last year the furthest my school admitted anyone based on distance criteria alone lived 0.17 miles away. So now we must check out the other schools in the area to see which we should list on the application form. In reality we are fully aware that, despite meticulous research to choose the schools we believe she would thrive at, we have no control at all over which school she attends as, based on distance from home to the other primary schools in the area, we probably aren’t in the catchment area for any of them and we will, most likely, be placed in the nearest school which happens to have a space. The lack of control is frustrating and scary as the education which she will receive and her experiences in school will help to shape her into the person she will eventually become as an adult. It feels like a decision which is important to get right but which, ultimately, will be taken by a member of the local authority who has never met, nor will ever meet, any of the children whose futures they will influence.
Maybe I should stop worrying as there is nothing I can do about admissions criteria and we certainly won’t move house before the application deadline. She will be OK wherever she ends up. I hope.
In the meantime preparations have been in full swing for Christmas, my husband’s birthday and Bethan’s birthday (December is the month of being even more skint than usual for me and will now remain so for the rest of my life). Catrin helped me to decorate our tiny, plastic Christmas tree…another sign of her growing up as last year she spent a considerable amount of time dragging it around the living room, along with a large wooden duck, while the fairy lights dangled behind it. Perhaps the feng shui wasn’t quite right and she was attempting to correct it.
In an outbreak of morale at work, a Christmas tree competition was set up amongst the staff last week. The aim is to put up a Christmas tree in each department which should be decorated in a theme pertaining to the department it is located in. The students will then judge the entries and the winner gets a cake. It being my policy never to pass up the chance of cake, I created a reprographics tree made out of reams of paper and decorated with paper clip chains, paper fan baubles and an origami star…sprinkled with hole punch waste snow. Not sure the cleaners are the biggest fans of the hole punch snow and the reams of paper will probably be used up within a couple of days, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a tasty win.