Matthew Munson: Books, secondary schools and having roots

Matthew and Bryan

Have you heard of World Book Day? It’s every March, and it’s an opportunity to celebrate books (hence the obvious name).

Bryan had various activities going on at school, including having to take in something that related to a fictional character in one of his favourite books. He chose a book by Rick Riordan and decided to draw the Greek god Poseidon; well, you would, wouldn’t you? Bryan came home with a book voucher as well, which he was delighted with; he’s asked to spend it (which delights me – he wants to buy a book!), so we’re heading up to Westwood Cross to find something he likes.

I went to a school in Ashford as their guest author for a day; the school was reopening their library, and the librarian in charge was a wonderful woman called Lisa. We had worked together twenty years ago at the start of our respective careers. I am struggling to understand how that is possible; I’ve had a career for twenty years? I didn’t realise I was old enough for that to happen, but that’s a conversation for another day. I spent a lovely morning with students and some of the staff, and it was a genuine pleasure to be there.

We also had big news this week; year six students all found out which secondary school they were going to in September. I imagine all parents were as anxious as the children to know; I certainly was. Bryan was fortunate; he got his first choice of St George’s, which he was delighted about. I was happy too; to know that he was going to a school he wanted to go to, and was excited about – that’s half the battle.

The criteria for being selected for a secondary school was interesting; it had changed a lot from when I was going through this (gulp) thirty years ago. Distance was a big deciding factor back then, but now it isn’t; other factors are considered instead. Children who are (or were) in care are in group one, children of staff are group two, children with siblings in a school already are group four, and so on down to group eight. Because of Bryan’s background, he was in group one, so I was fairly hopeful that he would get into his first choice, but I didn’t want to be presumptuous enough to claim I knew with absolute certainty.

However, Bryan now knows his educational path in September; he is delighted, and I am very proud of him. He joined his primary school half-way through year three, and year six is his first (and last) full year at school here in Kent – covid saw fit to disturb years 4 and 5 for him and everyone else. We’re currently experiencing our first full year of “normal” education since we became a family in 2019, and it makes me happier than I could imagine; I loved learning at school, and I see Bryan enjoying it too.

People experience their school days in different ways; I was socially very awkward when I was younger and simply refused to socialise outside of school because I struggled. I’m more confident now, so that isn’t so much of an issue, but Bryan is not me (thank heavens); he is far more socially outgoing – an extrovert to my introvert. He has some lovely friends, some of whom will be going to the same school as him; that’s a real boon, as he’ll have some connection to his past as well as being able to make new friends.

For a kid who moved across the country when he was eight, so that he doesn’t have any connections with children from his previous primary school, this is a huge deal; he has roots now in Kent, and a history, which gives him a connection to his home. I am in awe of his ability to make friends, and his sense of what makes a good friend – which is something we’ve talked about a lot – is quite well-developed.

Another milestone for Bryan is fast approaching; his move to secondary school. I am trying to capture all these moments, because he is growing up so fast; the little boy who came into my life three years ago isn’t quite so little any more …