We’d gotten into a reasonable routine on the homework front as we moved through September which, most of the time, let James keep on top of it. Not an entirely perfect routine mind you as we’d a bit of a wobble mid-month when he figured that he should only do homework the day before handing it in rather than when he received it but we recovered from that. I say “we” as this early in the journey, he’s not quite organised enough to run the whole show himself but he is progressing in the right direction on that front. A couple of weeks in, he took over the organisation of his bag for the next day which was a big step forwards.
The volume of homework, so far, has been surprisingly manageable. Quite a varied mix from day to day and quite a variation in what is required from each of his subjects too. The technology in particular seems to vary quite a lot with bits of reading and note-taking, literacy, drawing, and design work making it by far the most well-rounded subject at the moment. Maths is pretty much as you’d expect with a mix of written and online homeworks that are going over some of the same ground as was covered rather speedily for the transfer test. The early weeks of both technology and art highlighted how much the standard has moved up from primary school and over just a few weeks the work he was handing in moved from being very obviously primary school homework through to bearing at least a reasonable resemblance to grammar school work. The homework tails off rapidly as the mid-term break nears.
We’ve been to a presentation cum seminar that was run for the new starts a few weeks into the term. That tidied up a number of points that I’m sure that many were wondering about but I don’t think that we would say that we know everything yet, the snag being that we don’t know exactly what questions to ask. Way back for instance, we were assuming that we needed to pay the fee upfront and never thought to ask about paying it over a number of months but in practice when you get to the point of paying, their assumption seems to be that you’ll pay by direct debit. On the other side, we’d assumed that we’d only be paying the £50 for the lunch card but in fact the bill was £154 with the extra £100 being made up of the charge for the stationery pack (which is actually all the workbooks etc. and not just the calculator, pencil case and compass), a peculiar charge for transport (which covers excursions that haven’t happened yet) and some additional materials for technology and home economics.
In place of a PTA, for the moment, is the parents’ forum. So far, there’s only been one quite informative meeting of that. It’s better than a PTA in the sense that it’s not restricted to a limited clique but not so good in that it’s not a vehicle for organising parent/teacher events which is the one area that the school lacks at the moment. Somewhat surprisingly, the school has only had a marketing manager for a few months; I get the impression that she will radically lift the profile of the school in the months and years to come.
The family service in October was a very well attended event. Whilst we hadn’t particularly looked for a Christian school, it’s clear that Christian values run right through the school and I think that’s underlying the various “trivial” things that we noticed at the outset and continue to notice as time goes on. Although it’s not a faith school as such it does have the very caring attitudes and values that you’d expect to see in one – in fact the only other school we saw with a similar approach was the Catholic grammar school Our Lady and St Patrick’s.
The only downside we’ve seen is in the traffic jams that are frequent at 3.30 but avoidable when we set off in time in the mornings. Friday afternoon in particular is generally really bad as there aren’t so many after school clubs that day so just about everyone arrives at the same time.
Major upsides are that James has become quite fired about maths which is some feat as he just hated the maths in primary school. The catering exclusively for boys’ interests has helped him in all of the subjects yet it’s not something that we’d even considered a year ago. For example, the topics in English kicked off with those aimed at getting boys fired up about the subject rather than attempting to go for topics that would interest both boys and girls. The library is just for boys which has bumped up the reading he does and he’s even ordered a book. Even though it’s early days for us, his confidence is clearly up – he’d never have even thought to order a book before. Having just 17 in his class has removed the chance of “hiding at the back” that you can get when there are 30 and, whilst we can’t point to something specific, that extra attention can only be to the good and will pay off over the years to come.
So, for us, a good choice and one that is surprisingly affordable.Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.