I don’t think it can have been a very difficult decision for my parents. At the age of about 18 months, we moved to a new housing estate in the suburbs of Luton which had a newly built infant school (ages 5 to 7) about a quarter of a mile away. There was one primary school about a mile away and really only one secondary school about 2 miles away. So when it came to choose where my sister and I went to school, there really wasn’t much of a decision to be made. Here in Edinburgh and with my slightly more complex family structure, the choice of both primary and secondary schools is a much greater and the decision making process much more difficult.
Holly was the first to go to school, closely followed by William a year later. Their mother, Clare, is Catholic, so she chose to send them to a Catholic Primary school. I didn’t have any say in the matter. In Scotland, if you have children out of marriage, you may as well not exist as a father from a legal perspective, but that’s another matter. Oh, with the exception of The Child Support Agency, of course.
I have to say that initially I wasn’t too happy about this choice of school as I don’t believe Catholic (or any other segregating label) schools should be allowed. But their mother made the decision and I had to go along with it.
Three years ago, Louise and I were faced with the same decision with Alice. However, the local primary school has a tarnished reputation to say the least, so, partly for convenience and partly because I had come to see what a good school it was, we chose to send Alice to the same school as Holly & William.
The time has now arrived for Holly to move on to Secondary school and, once again, I have been largely excluded from the decision making process. During May, Holly sat entrance and scholarship examinations at a number of private schools, although Clare was apparently favouring the Catholic Secondary school, St. Thomas of Aquin’s. To cut a long story short, after a tortuous decision-making process which saw her change her mind more times than the Scottish weather in an average week, she has chosen a private school. Personally, I’m pleased with the choice, albeit still at loggerheads with some of my principals and beliefs.
At primary school, I think children are still too young to be ‘labelled’ as different by attending a certain school and I don’t think that Catholic religious beliefs are forced upon them too strongly at that stage either. Certainly Alice only seems to be achieving greater understanding that differences between people do exist; she occassionaly attends Sunday School at the local Church of Scotland church, as well as attending the odd mass at the Catholic cathedral. I have greatest difficulty with Catholic schools at the secondary school level, when I think that it’s definitely wrong to isolate one set of children, especially on the basis of the religion they happen to be born into.
However, I’m not very comfortable with private schools either. It’s still a sad world where opportunity can be ‘bought’ and not made available to everyone on an equal basis. Sure, private schools do offer the crumbs of a few token scholarships to the gifted, not only being seen to bring quality education to the less fortunate but boosting their exam result figures at the same time. It cannot be denied that here in Edinburgh it is important which school you go to, that the tie will open doors for you. I’m pleased for Holly of course, but I wish we lived in a society without these class structures.
I’m not paying for the school by the way, it’s way above my means, Clare is paying and Holly receives a good bursary. Even if I could afford to send one child to private school, what about the other three? It’s likely that William will follow suit but it does leave me with a big problem in four years when it’s time for Alice to move up.