The Fly in the Ointment

There is no Utopia and now we have discovered the dark underbelly of Welsh life – how they assign schools. Good Lord is it frustrating.

Sad red squirrel

Okay, in the USA you are guaranteed a place in the school of your district. If you move into that district on August 20th and school starts on the 21st, they have to make room for your kids in the school your district covers. Fool that I am, I thought “catchment areas” worked the same way here, especially since houses for sale or rent made “in such-n-such catchment area” a big selling point. Certainly it didn’t say any different on any websites regarding Welsh education.

So, with joy in our hearts we rented a house in the best catchment possible. We could walk the younger two girls to their excellent school just down the road and our eldest lamb could go to Stanwell School, one of the best in the country, via a short bus ride.

halliluah squirrel 


Turns out we were wrong, oh so wrong. Catchment area only counts if you were born there it seems. Unless you started applying for a spot years in advance you might have to take your kids miles and miles away from your house to a crap school. We were told the excellent primary down the road was all full up. We were told Stanwell was all full up. Would we mind terribly sending our kids to school somewhere else, like maybe Bristol?


The plot thickens. There are 4 different “bands” of school. They are green (an excellent school), yellow, (a good school), amber (meh), and red (Christ Almighty this school needs help). Needless to say that the little primary school down the road and Stanwell were firmly in the green. Yeah, the green schools fill fast. Would there be room for our kids in a green school?

We have good news for the two youngest. A primary school a couple of miles away has room and is green banded. We’ll still have to drive them PAST the local school to get there but at least we feel confident in their education.

Not so much for Blossom.

The only school with an opening is amber banded. That is not an option. Yes, I know that statistically kids from middle class backgrounds from “bad” schools do just as well on testing as kids from “good” schools and socioeconomic status is more important to academic achievement than the ‘school’ kids attend.  I know “bad” schools are often schools with a disproportionate number of kids from poor families. I know logically that Blossom could indeed get a good education from an amber school.

Still, screw that. My baby will go green or I’ll throw a conniption fit and roll in it.


We are appealing (without much hope) to try to get our youngest in the nearby school, and Blossom is on wait list at two green banded schools. But I can’t risk Blossom not getting in a good school. Thus, I am sitting here while she takes an admissions test for a private school that costs the proverbial arm and a leg. Just in case. It is one of the best schools in Britain and kids from here usually go on to Oxford and I’m sure it’s worth every penny but …  goodbye holidays and spending money; hello tuition fees.

Oh, and did I mention the decision on the wait list won’t come in until AFTER the first day of school? We’ll have already signed on for a year of private school by then in all likelihood.

Meanwhile, I pay higher taxes to live in the catchment I am not benefitting from until, at minimum, next year.

grumpy squirrel



4 thoughts on “The Fly in the Ointment

  1. I keep thinking about Dudley Dursley and his Smeltings stick.

    With what data do they base those bands? Is it test scores or number of students who take upper level courses? Are they schools that offer a greater variety of STEAM course work? It is a new school culture and I think judging school based on their color is problematic.

    What you need are teachers and administration who are able to recognize her potential and thoughtfully accommodate her needs. That can come from a “meh’ school too. It may also be that the “meh” school is better prepared to teach a child who doesn’t fit with the typical class and social expectations. You won’t know until you start having those conversations.

    The problem is you can’t know any of that going in and you have to approach it as a newbie. You are great communicator and you build relationships well, Kyra. Build those relationships with the school staff and most of them will do well by Blossom. That data is harder to quantify and ends up as the paragraph about other factors that might have an impact.

  2. Oh my heavens I am so sorry!! You all researched before you left, you did everything right! Praying for you to have the best luck!

  3. The situation is much worse in much of Europe. Perhaps you could try home schooling which is permissable for the first year. Or get in touch with your local council. I seem to remember that you will need some sort of statement from a health professional about a child’s “special needs”, which takes time to get.

  4. Home schooling? I grew up hearing impeccable grammar and slept in a room with a wall of books. My schools were, briefly, a one room school for everyone through eighth grade, a school with only two grades per class, and a school with only one grade in each classroom. My parents read, and so did us kids. She will probably be fine in the local school with more variety in her classroom. Be strong.

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