School’s in

My eldest started school recently. It was a relatively easy transition for her from being on holidays (and three-day-a-week kindy last year) to being a preppie at the local primary school. She was excited, and the excitement has stayed strong. She was even asking to go to school on weekends. We’ve yet to decide whether this is encouraging or pathological.

The school’s within walking distance of our house and, while we didn’t buy here specifically for the schools, the high level of facilities available in the area did sway us. Neatly enough, these facilities included this public primary school that seems to have great input and engagement from the surrounding parents and community. It has a poncy new gateway, newish prep building that stunned me with its technology and friendly classroom spaces, and separate subject classes (French, Art, Music, Motor skills programme…). I’m so out of touch with contemporary school education and expectations. I’ve been ensconced in universities and I didn’t think I’d be having kids, so never paid much attention to what went on in the sector (terrible, I know. More guilt, please).

Once we started having to think about things like the quality of local schools and where we are intending to send the children (she has a little brother), I started divulging to other parents my mild angst about it – foregrounding it with a mea culpa about being a ‘slack parent’ who never looked any of this up earlier. I never actually believed that I was being a ‘slack parent’, though, even as I said this to people.

I was never going to be a “book your foetus into the best grammar school in Melbourne” kind of parent, and I do care about schooling/education and where the kids ended up going, but I wouldn’t have moved houses if the local schools proved to be not A+. I’m a big believer in meeting schools at least halfway by providing a domestic space that strongly encourages learning and diligence. Whether we successfully do this or not is another thing, but I don’t think that getting a child into an uber-performing school necessarily means the child will be uber-performing.

During one of my angsty chats, a colleague mentioned that her brother-in-law had used his computer-fu to put together a googlemap mash-up of primary and secondary schools and their LSG (like school group) ratings. The LSGs indicate the level of cultural diversity and social assistance in various schools. For example, the school our daughter goes to is a “5”, which means it has low number of LOTE (languages other than English) students. It’s an interesting resource.

We like the area we’re in so much that it’d take something seismic to move us out, so knowing the category is just a detail that’s nice to know and not a driving factor in whether we send her there. One thing I do wish was different: The level of racial diversity in our area doesn’t seem to be that high, even though it is a very multicultural set of suburbs (with some of the fastest-growing Indian communities in Melbourne). It is a facet of our neighbourhood that is changing, but it’ll probably be another generation before its effects are more fully entrenched.

I’m sometimes as excited as she is about school, thinking ahead as I do to the huge number of things she’ll be learning.

One thing that I have to learn though?

To let things go when she tells us of the various schoolyard injustices and name-calling. I suspect it takes practice to filter out the static of everyday argy-bargy, yet keep note of possible ongoing issues.

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