[Surgeon-General’s Warning: This one’s a bit boring if you’re not *really* interested.]
One of the areas we were most apprehensive about before doing this relocation was the schools. The system here is completely different, and it’s not us, but our poor little children we were tossing into it at the deep end.
We thought we’d had it somewhat arranged beforehand – we had a place for Anna in the school close to where we intended to stay, and Alex was on the waiting list, with the understanding that if we stayed in the catchment area, he’d be in. However, all went somewhat awry thereafter.
Firstly, there was nowhere to stay in Hollywood, and we ended up in Dickens Heath. Which is in the next county. And there’s another big difference to the way things are done in South Africa – the school has no say on admissions – it’s all done centrally in each region. And we’re on the border of four areas – Birmingham, Worcestershire, Solihull and Warwickshire. Each time we looked at a house, we had to figure out which area it fell in to, and whether it was worth applying to *that* admissions centre. Then, there turns out to be a glut of four-year-olds in the area. You’d swear England won the world cup in 2006. Not a single school within a four mile radius had a place in reception year. So we couldn’t get into the Dickens Heath school, ending up in Hockley Heath – which is 4.5 miles away.
[As an aside, what is it with place names in this joint? There’s Dickens Heath, Hockley Heath, Illshaw Heath, Forshaw Heath, Fulford Heath, Bentley Heath Copt Heath, and that’s just the immediate area. I’m sure they’ll find that there’s life after heath, but they’re not bothered to look for it yet… ]
The next problem was that while all this school picking was going on, we couldn’t get the kids to school – we had to prove that we were actually living in the area to do that. But after a bit of arguing and begging, they relented. So, having found a school, we had to deal with getting the children in a week and a half late. A quick rush to get school uniforms, and it all seemed to be sorted out.
Lastly, the major issue is that they start school here a lot earlier. Alex, in reception year at age 4, is starting to learn to read already. While Anna was doing the same in grade one at age 7 in South Africa. So although she was ahead of her class back home, she’s well behind on the reading level here. We’re having to push a little to get her to catch up on that, but at least she’s managing the level of maths and science that the other kids are at. I’d say that by the end of the year she should be ok.
On a different note altogether, it’s worth a mention that it’s more direct to get from our house to the school by boat than by car – both places are on the canal running from Birmingham to Stratford-upon-Avon… maybe I should investigate this…