Opinion with Matthew Munson: A busy time visiting secondary schools with Bryan

Matthew and Bryan

Well, where do I begin? I look back over this last week and find myself thinking, “What the hell just happened there?” It’s been busy, to put it mildly; that happens from time to time, but it does make me appreciate how much I do enjoy a slower pace of life!

One of the most important things that happened this week has been looking at a potential secondary school for Bryan. I approached this with some trepidation; my little boy isn’t so little any more. He was very excited (and a little nervous, perhaps, but he wasn’t quite ready to admit that), so on Monday evening, we went to visit St George’s.

I was intrigued to learn more about the school; I’ve heard lots of good things about it and really wanted to see it for myself – and see how Bryan would react to it. I’m not religious in the slightest, it has to be said, so I was also conscious of that; how would that impact any relationship we had between us and the school?

Not very much, it would seem. The school is proud of its ethos and doesn’t shy away from its religious links, but also talks proudly about the ethos it fosters within the school – and the values it holds dear certainly were values that are close to my own heart as well. It was a bit overwhelming at first, because of the size and open-plan nature of the school; but, thankfully, they knew what they were doing and had everything mapped out.

Bryan wanted to explore the science and maths classrooms first, and I wanted to make sure I knew what their pastoral and wellbeing plans were – although I saw Bryan’s eyes glaze over when I tried to explain that to him. I managed to get a little bit of time with those teachers, and then acceded to Bryan’s desperate desire to properly explore the school.

We ended up staying there for just over two hours, because there was so much to see; it was only after we left that I realised we hadn’t even looked at the history and geography classrooms (my fault entirely; I’d simply lost track). Bryan loved the activities that were on offer in each classroom, and that gave me five minutes in each to chat to the teachers.

I have to be honest; I liked the school, a lot. The headteacher was very passionate and honest; traits I respect in anyone, and I could see that he was respected – an impression I get from parents of children already at the school. Having a good headteacher is so essential; strong leadership sets the tone for a school.

Choosing the right school is a big responsibility; I chose the primary school for Bryan without him even living in Thanet at the time, as I needed to have something in place for when he came down. I was really conscious of finding one that was right for him, and I dare hope to think I’ve succeeded. But for his secondary school, Bryan is deeply involved in the decision; he needs to feel comfortable wherever he goes.

He certainly came away buzzing last Monday, and was talking about it for the next couple of days. Next week, we’re looking around Charles Dickens, and I’m equally intrigued to see what the ethos of that school is … and then we have to make a very important decision, about which school to put at the top of our list of choices.

This is genuinely a pleasure for me; what a privilege, to help my son prepare for the next phase of his life by looking for the right school for him. I savour every part of being a father, and this is something that I will always value; the chance to make a positive difference in his life by helping him decide where he wants to go – knowing that secondary school will be a place where his character continues to grow and develop, and longer-lasting friendships often begin to form. I’m privileged to be a father, more especially because it’s with a boy who continues to make me proud.