Monday, 23 January 2017

Education, education, education

So, recently, I said I wasn't going to "go off on one", on the subject of the primary school situation for LittleBear. And I'm not. But my mind won't rest. It won't be still and silent. It won't relax. It's like a frenetic hamster in a wheel, round and round and round it goes, stopping occasionally to investigate some other shiny thing, but then back to round and round and round and round.

So this is going to be me attempting to explain how and why my mind is racing.

This is for you, my fellow mothers, who may or may not be happy with the new plans, but are likely to be more or less mystified by what happens inside the mind of an anxiety-ridden person.

This is for you, my fellow anxiety-sufferers, who will now understand how many Bad Things are now happening inside my mind.

This is for you, my family and friends, who have no idea what I'm talking about.


Currently, here in HomeVillage, we have an Infant School (ages 4-7) and a Junior School (ages 7-11) and they are both at breaking point as more and more children spring into being in the village. The Infant School now has about 120 pupils per year, and the Junior School about 90 pupils per year, and there are at least 120 children per age group marching steadily towards schooldom. So, there is A New Plan Afoot.

The New Plan

The Infant School is going to up sticks and move to another site, and in the process have a bigger, newer, shinier set of buildings AND change its intake to be a full-blown primary school, taking children from 4-11. But only 60 of them per year group.

The Junior School is going to stay put, but get some shiny new buildings AND change its intake to be a full-blown primary school, taking children from 4-11. But only 60 of them per year group.

Since this now appears to be cast in stone, there seems little point in me bleating about the things I don't like in the plan, so I shall show a super-human level of restraint and restrict myself to the things that are stopping me from sleeping instead.

The Black Cloud of Uncertainty

Let me summarise the situation:

 So, here we are at "Now", with two lovely schools, filled with happy children. And then there's the Future, with two lovely schools, filled with happy children. But something happens in between. Something unknown and mysterious. And, for me, the unknown and mysterious is a looming black cloud of nameless fears, and what-ifs. It allows my brain to go into over-drive, analysing and assessing all the permutations of what might happen to get from Now to the Future. Because, naturally we haven't actually been told. And being the cynic that I am, freshly forged in the fires of Brexit and Trumpism, I'm becoming more firmly of the belief that a lot of people fight tooth and nail for the result they want, without actually having a plan on what they're going to do once they achieve that result. So the fact that nobody has told us what happens inside the Black Cloud of Uncertainty may mean they simply haven't told us, but I suspect means they don't actually know.

The one thing we have definitely been told by The Powers That Be is that the relocation of the Infant School and its restructuring is NOT a new school. It's the same school, just in a different place, with different class sizes and a different age range. Rather like my grandfather's axe. So, given it's not a new school, presumably the pupils of the school can just stay at it as it moves. Right? Right? Wrong. Because the school as it stands has three age groups, each with 120 children (ish). But the not-new-just-changed school will have 7 age groups each with 60 children. Which is a bit like doing this:

How to squash a school 

Take one tall, narrow school and squish it until it's wider and flatter. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work like that with children. You can't take 3 age groups of 120 children each and squish them out to create 60 children per year over 7 age groups:

Don't try this at home

So, even though it's not a new school, it can't simply be a continuation of the old school, because the pupils can't all remain as it moves site. So what happens?

Do they simply evict half the children on some kind of lottery basis? That would be insanity, as a lottery would indubitably result in siblings being sent to different schools. Besides, there are probably laws about just kicking children out of school. Probably.

Or perhaps ask for volunteers to change schools? But that would be insanity, because it risks everyone, or no-one, wanting to change schools.

Or perhaps, since there are currently four classes per year in the Infant School, two classes will remain in the new modified Infant School, and two will move to the modified Junior School? But that would be insanity, because it risks siblings ending up at different schools. And it's basically kicking children out of school for no reason. Which is still probably against the law. Or not.

Or perhaps all the children do stay at their existing schools, and the changes only ripple through as new children join? Making one school that for a while only has children in the lower years groups, and one school that for a while has children in the upper year groups, plus a Reception class intake. Except that would be insanity, as one poor group of littlies would end up at a school where they only had other children 4+ years older than them around, and one school would have children who never had anyone older than them around. And as more and more children joined over the first four years, that school would actually end up too full, having failed to re-distribute the children at the beginning.

Now, I'm not ruling out any of the insane options, because, well, Trump for a start. But I think the most likely outcome is that we'll all have to apply for places at one of the two schools from scratch. You know, almost like they're new schools, which they're definitely not. But it's OK, because then we'll all have the holy grail that politicians of successive governments have told us we all want. We'll have Choice. We'll be able to choose between two different schools that are definitely not new schools, but aren't actually offering the same educational provision that they used to, so we don't really know anything about them. Uninformed choice - the best kind.

Inside my head

Now imagine those possibilities replaying on infinite loop inside my head. I don't just list them out like that, one at a time, reach a conclusion as to the most probable outcome and move on. Nor do I say, "I'll wait and see, I'm sure it'll be fine", like a normal person would. No, the permutations go round and round and round and round, never stopping, always getting worse, more worrisome, more liable to end in stress or distress for my LittleBear. Sometimes ending in imaginary arguments with faceless bureaucrats for no apparent reason. Imagine also that I've only just managed, after 5 months, to adjust to the fact that LittleBear has not, in fact, imploded at school, but has managed to form friendships, and has settled in, and is happy. And continue to imagine the knowledge lying ahead of me that he's going to have to change school, lose half his cohort, potentially including his absolutely bestest friends and you might begin to be peeking into the nightmare of the inside of my mind. Because there are two things that I handle really, really, really badly. Change and the unknown. And this situation is hitting the mother-lode on both of those.

Some of you might be able to shrug and accept that it will be what it will be. You might find that the fact that the two schools we'll end up with will indubitably both be fine is enough to assuage any concerns you have. And I am working on that attitude, but it still eludes me. Instead I'm losing sleep, the hamster on its wheel racing towards nowhere as fast as it can.

I know it's not the responsibility of the school, or the council, to pander to my anxiety issues. Those issues are, quite literally, my problem. But I'm laying them out there, so that if you happen to meet me, or talk to me, or even know someone who's a bit like me, someone who seems to be unnaturally pre-occupied with a problem over which they have no control, just remember what anxious thoughts can do to a person. They take over, they plague you, and whisper to you, and undermine you and they don't shut up. They just keep saying the same things over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over....

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