Playing school hopscotch (new year – new school)
It’s around this time of year that the mums at my children’s school fall into two camps: those sticking with the school for another year, and those playing their annual game of school hopscotch i.e. switching to a new school.
It’s a curious division: while those staying wouldn’t dream of telling those how to live their lives, those leaving appear to have no issue droning on and on about how rubbish the existing school is, how weak the extra-curricular activities are, how inexperienced the teachers are and what a waste of money the whole thing is (I suspect because Archie didn’t get into swim squad). All this despite the fact that those to whom they’re speaking have just made the decision to invest heavily in another year’s tuition.
Obviously some people have good reasons to take their children out of a school – their child isn’t doing well, is being bullied, the commute is too long… maybe even the fees are too high. These reasons I understand.
But then there’s a whole gaggle of other mums, and these are generally the ones who’ll collar you at the classroom door and rage bitterly about how terrible the current school is. As I stand there, smiling politely in the face of such rudeness, I amuse myself by deciding which of the following categories each of these lovely ladies best fits:
The teacher-followers: The most understandable category. When some of the best teachers from your existing school all leave to set up a new school, it’s only natural, I suppose, to cling to what you know.
The friend-followers: Here you have a clique of mums led by a Queen Bee. Queen Bee says she’s moving schools, another follows suit and, before you know it, the whole group has talked themselves into a frenzy of “needing” to get their darlings out of that “hellhole”. I doubt half of them even know why they’re moving. (That reminds me, has anyone read The Hive by Gill Hornby?)
The Grass-is-greeners: With more new schools opening than I’ve got handbags, this is perhaps the most common group. It’s boredom – plain and simple. They’ve been at the school for a while. It used to be the newest and shiniest school on the block but now there’s an even newer and shinier school that’s not just a kitten’s whisker closer to home, it’s offering after-school horse-riding and an intergalactic space programme for the Infants. Bye, ladies! Happy horse-riding – until the next new school pops up – I hear that’s offering hot-air ballooning and a cultural exchange on Mars, by the way…
The show-offs: You can usually spot this group by the weight of their diamonds. Fully paid-up members of the Carat Club, their move is determined solely by the cost of the new school’s fees. As everyone else gasps in genuine horror – the amount quoted for a three-year-old to “learn through play” for four hours a day could keep a small European country afloat for a year – they wave their jewelled fingers in the air (causing their drivers to jump to attention) and drawl, “Well, y’know… nothing but the best for Archie…”