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Applying for a school place: the last first day at school

I’ve just pushed the ‘submit’ button on the application for Arlo to start school next year and I don’t really know how to feel about it.

I’m a mixed bag of emotion; excitement for him (he’s been desperate to go to school since his best friend started in September), sadness that this indicates that he’s really not my baby anymore – and freedom that for five days a week I get to be footloose and fancy free*

It doesn’t even seem that long ago we went through the process of applying for Sofia’s school place. Now that was a completely different ballgame, not only because then we were lucky enough to be able to physically visit schools, but because it was the first time going on the ‘starting school’ adventure and we were clueless about what was a good school and why. 
We’re lucky where we live, there’s not any ‘bad’ schools so it’s a real first world problem situation. But that didn’t make it easier – we visited our catchment school, which we’d actually moved closer to be near (yes, we’re those type of people…) as we’d heard great things about it and it was rated outstanding by Ofsted
We walked around the school and it was fine. Just fine.  Nothing amazing, but I didn’t know what else to expect? Even if it was bad, surely that sort of behaviour wouldn’t be displayed at a planned walk around?! I left that visit confused as I didn’t have the feeling that everyone talks about, and I was frustrated that maybe I should have asked more questions. 
I then visited another village school, just for a comparison. This one was a primary school, not an infant like the first. It was a lot smaller (approx 20 children per year) and because of that, it felt lovely and homely. A complete contrast to the first and I was in a quandary…
I loved the primary school, but it was out of our catchment, and later the feeder secondary school too, which meant that if Sofia went to the secondary where Stuart and all of his brothers went then she’d probably know noone – and making new friends at 11 is, I feel, best avoided if it can be!
I had no bad feeling about our catchment school and I’d heard no bad things about it, it was also a very short walk away (and like Stuart said, we didn’t move here for her not to go to the school!) so we went with that as our first choice. In previous years, in-catchment children had not got a place due to such high applications so I held my breath submitting the form and didn’t get my hopes up.
We were lucky that we did end up getting our first choice and were very fortunate to get Sofia into a school in which she is now thriving, enjoys learning, her teachers and the wider environment. 
So, it makes sense for us to apply for Arlo to go there too – the place he has tagged along with me for the last three years (first wrapped up quietly in a buggy, and now making us late picking up acorns, twigs and anything else that can slow our school run journey down) where he’s already picked out what classroom he wants to be in ‘when he’s four and can go to school‘ and even what book bag strap he wants on his very own school bag. 
I found applying for a sibling place different, I was almost complacent when hitting the submit button – I’m sure he will get in to our first choice as Sofia’s already there plus I know he’s a low birth rate year (that always helps!) so the nerves side of things haven’t been there for me this time. The second and third choice I haven’t visited (because, well… covid) but I wouldn’t be traumatised if we got those. Yes, it would be hugely inconvenient doing school drop off at two schools (how would that even work!?) but not devastating education wise. 
Something I do remember so clearly is before Sofia started Year R, we had a home visit with two of her teachers. I remembered getting so worked up over her going that I literally couldn’t stop the tears from flowing during our chats. I made a joke that when Arlo’s time came I’d be pushing him through the gate and she said “Oh I don’t know, the first is always sad just because it’s your first and the second – well it’s the last time you’ll get a first day at school“. Just typing that’s got me choked up. It’s hard to imagine my little baby in his uniform off to learn and in a structured routine; good luck teachers is all I can say. 
Knowing the school, the head teacher and teaching staff, the ethos – and just general ‘feeling’ has been our deciding factor. And let’s face it, if I was unhappy with it, I’d have taken Sofia out already! 
So the applications in and everything’s crossed for Arlo to join his big sister in September. 
If you’ve left it to the last minute to apply for your school place – you still have until January 15th 2021 to get your application in. Click here for more details on that. You’ll be notified of your school place on 16th April 2021 and you need to accept the offer by the 30th.
*if only I didn’t have to work four of those days…