Opinion with Matthew Munson: Making a school choice is a big decision

The latest journey for Matthew and Bryan

Choosing a school for your child is a big responsibility – education matters.

A friend of mine home schooled two of her sons for some years, and I had a taste of that last year when we had a small, tiny, minor interruption to the usual school calendar; perhaps you remember it?

I got to choose Bryan’s primary school when he moved down here two years ago (how the hell have two years passed already?). I was looking for a school that would support him as he developed a foundation here from nothing and they have absolutely done that. His friends have become so important to him and I’m delighted; when there have been a couple of classroom “blips”, they have been sorted out with tact and calm discussion. For that, I am relieved. That stability has given Bryan so much strength and security.

In September 2022 – 18 months or so from now – Bryan will start secondary school. He’ll be leaving a school he loves to go into the unknown, and I want nothing more than for him to go to a secondary school that he enjoys as much as his current one. That’s a big choice – and, of course, he’ll be older and will deserve to have an opinion about his new school.

When I was preparing for the same move some thirty years ago, my parents took a similar view. I didn’t pass my 11 Plus (as it was then), so I went to Holy Cross (now lost to the mists of time). I remember being given tours round the different schools and ended up lobbying my parents for Holy Cross because some of my friends were going there and I think I wanted at least some familiarity. It worked for me; Holy Cross might not have reached the top echelons of the academic league tables, but it worked out okay; I had good results in my GCSEs and made a small cadre of good friends.

But now the Kent Test is optional and there are a lot of different schools in the area. League tables tell you part of the story, but so do personal stories. How have children coped with local secondary schools? Have grammar schools worked for some children and not for others? I don’t have any ideological issues against grammars / secondaries (I went on to Dane Court to do my A-Levels – do A-Levels even exist any more? I’m really showing my age now); if Bryan went to either type of school, fine by me.

I take the view that schooling is more than purely a place for academia; it’s about character, values, and friendship. Bryan is academic, so that influences the type of school he’ll inevitably end up at, but the specific school will also need an ethos that is passionate about character and personality. At secondary school, Bryan will be changing from a child into a young adult, and so he needs to see good values reflected at home and at school.

Bryan isn’t really fazed by the Kent Tent; it’s a day of testing these days, so I’m told, and he’s worried he’ll find that boring and a bit stressful. I can respect that; I have a parents’ consultation with one of his teachers before I make a decision about that, and then we can decide together what he’s going to do.

But I would welcome any thoughts from readers about recent experiences of local schools and the Kent Test; this is an important moment for Bryan, and lived experiences will often teach us so much.

1 Comment

  1. You and Bryan really need to make your own minds up, based on impartial reports (OFSTED, for example) and your own impressions when you visit schools.
    What works for one child and his parents often doesn’t work for another.
    BTW is the “Kent Tent” (sic) – your penultimate paragraph – a sort of local Outward Bound experience?

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