I have reached the stage where I must participate in the decision-making process for my eldest in terms of secondary edumacation.
It is worth remembering, I suppose, that the generation above me (at least in Oswestry) considered 14 year-olds to be mature students, so there has perhaps been some progress, but I must confess to almost total bewilderment at the 'choices' laid out before me. Back in the day, the whole process was a damned sight easier, as there were effectively only two choices (unless one was fortunate enough to come from a family of silver spoon munching luck-monkeys) facing the questing parents of semi-rural Shropshire.
I grew up in the latter days of the infamous 11-Plus selection process, and as a result of completing lots of quizzes with my mum, was able to squeak into the glorious OBHS. As opposed to the (ewwww...) Modern. The choice was therefore strictly Hobsonian - until the bigwigs in Westminster (via Shrewsbury) decided that comprehensive education was the way forward. This was all in the days before SATs and league tables of course. So not only were we forced to endure the company of our more mechanical cohorts, we also had to deal with girls - who had changed so damned much in just a couple of years.
But I digress.
The school I visited recently with my daughter was a fabulous place. Way beyond anything I had ever had cause to associate with education. I cannot of course reveal any details, but us Islingtonians live in a rarified atmosphere. Need I say more?
We were toured around the place by a Muslim girl and a proper 'oh my days' (possibly Turkish) Cockney miss, and I was impressed by the confidence and eloquence of the kids, if a little underwhelmed by the sprawling site and its ageing buildings - though these were soon to be completely rebuilt. Nobody was looking at the celebrity in our midst, although everyone noticed him. We trooped self-consciously into a GCSE dance class and watched some of the routine, which was reasonably impressive. And then a text message sound interrupted the display, and one of the girls broke away from the others to check the phone. The youngish teacher turned to her and asked what she was doing. Her reply, for me, summed up just how much things have changed since my school days:
"It's my social worker!" she protested.
The teacher shrugged her shoulders and turned back to the other girls, and we moved on to the next part of the tour.