The school gate is no judge of how happy your child will be

The Guardian - G2 - - News -

The Good Schools Guide has a sug­ges­tion for par­ents pick­ing a pri­mary school: hang around out­side the school gates. Are the chil­dren leav­ing in an or­derly fash­ion? Do they run, beam­ing, into their par­ents’ arms, say­ing: “Well, what I don’t know about hi­ero­glyphs is not worth know­ing”? Are they car­ry­ing com­pli­cated works of art or a chopped salad? This will tell you far more than an Of­sted re­port.

But here’s a tip: you will look very weird loi­ter­ing out­side a school, so make sure you take some kind of child with you. Oth­er­wise, sure, great ad­vice, if sug­gest­ing a thing that peo­ple have been do­ing since ed­u­ca­tion be­gan could ever count as such a thing.

When my kids started school, the school-gate red flags (ac­cord­ing to the in­for­mal NCT-ish clan of the area) were stafford­shire bull ter­ri­ers tied up out­side and moth­ers who smoked. “Wait, though, I have a staff. I have a huge staff.” “And you smoke,” said my then hus­band, re­ally qui­etly.

No­body smokes near schools nowa­days, so peo­ple who want to so­cially vet their pri­mary schools have to con­cen­trate on the dogs, and I guess they should be look­ing for minia­ture schnauzers and cock­apoos. If you want to check how much of a ball-ache it will be to get in­volved with the school, make a ca­sual in­ven­tory of how many posters they put up for science fairs, sum­mer fetes and cake sales. If you want to find out how happy the kids are, for­get it; all chil­dren, ev­ery­where, make a lot of noise, and peo­ple al­ways sound happy when they do that. But in all the agony and myth-mak­ing of choos­ing a school, the primacy of the off­spring’s hap­pi­ness is what peo­ple talk about most – but mean least.

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