When we decided to start a family, my husband and I were living in his flat. We loved it there, it was a great area and convenient for nights out and for commuting to work.
It would also have been fine to stay there when the girls came along. Fine, but not perfect. There wasn’t that much space and there were only two bedrooms. There was no garden and we had no family in the village.
So we knew it was sensible to move, and the perfect home was staring us in the face – because I’d already owned it for nearly ten years. I had a relatively large detached house with a garden and three bedrooms that was located close to my family. So of course, we moved back in.
It wasn’t long after I’d had Libby that I started to realise that school was going to be an issue. The estate we live in is brilliant. It’s one of the most sought after areas of our town.
The neighbours are all wonderful, we’ve never had a problem. And yet, the local school is just not where we want to send our daughter.
The OFSTED reports are dreadful. We have heard from two different sets of parents that their children have been physically beaten and the school didn’t even notice.
The number of pupils per member of staff is high. And OFSTED say that the children are underperforming because staff have “low expectations” of what they can achieve.
Children that need extra support are reported to be let down because there just aren’t the staff to give them the help they need.
And here’s the thing, Libby might need some help. Not necessarily academically, she seems to be picking up letters and numbers quite well, she’s a bright little girl.
But she can’t see in three dimentions. She had a squint in both eyes that was corrected aesthetically when she was two years old but it was too late to save her depth perception. She still can’t catch a ball.
She also has sight problems that have led to her wearing glasses at all times. We don’t yet know how any of these issues will affect her as she gets older.
With or without the issues Libby has, I want the right to choose a school for my child. We live just over the hill from the school I went to and loved, and there are other fabulous schools in and around the area.
And I genuinely believed that in the UK, we had the right to choose where our children go to school – or at least where they don’t go.
As the time drew nearer, I realised that we were likely to have a battle on our hands. We tried to move house but it was all a bit of a rush and we hadn’t managed to get the house to the standard we wanted it at for sale. And besides, we love it here.
We’ve considered all the options. We could home educate and I know there are numerous advantages to doing so. But Libby is desperate to go to school. And I don’t want to deprive her of that right.
We have considered putting her into private education. If I knuckled down and worked my socks off, we could probably afford to do this for a couple of years.
But when it came to having two children in private education, we just wouldn’t be able to do it. So do we put her in private education while we get the house ready to move?
I don’t know where we’d get the time or the money to do up our house whilst I was working all hours under the sun to pay for private education. So in two years time, we’d find ourselves in the same position again but with two children to place in school.
So, we’re in the process of filling in the relevant forms online. We’ve put down our three choices, our local school is not one of those choices.
I am willing to drive Libby an almost unlimited distance to school if it means that her school life will be pleasant and she will be happy.
I’m not one of these parents that is seeking out the best school academically and pushing my child to be a high achiever. But I do want her to enjoy her school years. And I want to know that when I drop her off each day, she will receive the help she needs and she will be safe.
Everyone tells me that the likelihood is, we will only be offered our local school. So where do we go from there? I don’t know.
And what of the right to choose a school for my child? It seems to me that I don’t have that right at all.