The Long Long Way To School

In Italy when it is time to pick your kids school, whether it is primary or secondary, you choose the closest to where you live or the one that either you or them most fancy. Easy peasy! When daughter number one was born, we discovered that in Ireland is not like that.
When it comes to primary school, your child has by law a place in the catchment area school, but if you for any reason don’t want your kid to go there,it is better you start invoking for help the entire army of the paradise’s saints and their boss.

When I was first pregnant and still oblivious to the Irish educational system, every time they asked me in which school I had put my baby ‘s name down, I thought they were severely affected by some form of control issue. Not to mention when people were saying to me that they had move home only for the sake to be in the right area for the right school: Ridiculous! Unfortunately,I soon realised it was me to be ridiculously wrong and ridiculously naive.
When daughter number one was two months old, I went to leave her name to a new multidenominational school,(because naturally in the meanwhile we discovered we didn’t like at all our catchment area school), and she was already number 90 in the waiting list. People were putting their baby’s name down even if they were not born yet, just with the due date. Insane!
Turning to private school was not better. The good old rule so popular in continental Europe that if you pay you get what you want, it doesn’t apply to Irish education. The process is the same than for public schools plus, on top, just for the privilege of your child potentially attending a such renominate institute, you also have to pay a deposit that will never go back into your pocket.

By March of the year my daughter had to start primary school, we still didn’t know where to send her and I was panicking. Of course, the travelling husband was relaxed and rational about it: “Somewhere they have to take her. Education is a right”.
Of course, they did and they would have; it was just that “somewhere” to bother me!
As much as I hate to admit it, the husband was right, once again. Not only by May we had four offers, but we also could make our pick and ended up to send her to one of the best school in the area.

The only good thing about the Irish educational system is that once you have your first child in, all the others are automatically accepted. Your first child is a sort of guinea pig. Unless, of course, you would be so lucky to live and bare your children in the area you grew up, as the offspring of past pupils is guaranteed a place in the school attended by their parents, no matter what.

Once you have the primary school sorted, then it is time to think about secondary. The second level education system is, if possible, even more complicated. The rule about siblings and off spring of former students is still applied,but there isn’t a catchment area school where you are guaranteed to be accepted.
The advantage of secondary schools is that not all follow the same admission requirements: some of them will give the precedence to children living in the school area and others to children attending one of the feeder schools. If you are blessed enough to belong to the right category you are fine. We are not!

When we moved, and I discovered that not only here in the northside you don’t have to worry about secondary school until the fifth class, but the girls were also attending one of the primary feeder school for the local community college, I felt like to open a bottle of champagne.
Now, that daughter number one is in sixth class, I instead feel to open a bottle of Prozac every morning.
It turned out that the local college changed its admission policy two years ago and now the precedence goes to kids living in the catchment area rather than from a feeder school. The other candidate school that we equally like, on the other hand, gives the precedent to kids coming from the feeder schools, which is not our case. Once again we are on the wrong side of the Irish education system!

So far the situation is this, we requested admission in three schools, and we are waiting to hear if we will be offered a place. If we won’t, we can still hope in the final raffle. I know what you ‘re thinking: a lottery for assigning school places? Yes! If you are miserable enough to get in the second round waiting list, then your kid’s future will be in the hand of the police officer in charge of extracting the name of those so fortunate to get the few refused places. Because, in fairness, there is space for everybody and the agony wouldn’t be so long if only who have been offered more than one place would make their mind sooner rather later.

If you think that the torture is over after you had handed the enrolment form and all you have to do is to sit and wait, you are wrong. The potential schools are not happy only testing the strength of your nerves; they also want to check your physical resistance with endless open nights.
The applicants and their parents are invited to visit the schools and listen to what the most prominent figure of the institute has to say. The first time is informative, but by the third time you do it, you would rather shoot yourself on the feet than endure all this for three hours…..again. The schools might be different, but what the principals and the teachers and the head students have to say it is all the same. The worst, then, is that it looks like they want to sell you the school, while everybody in the audience perfectly knows that is not like that.You are there begging for a place for your kid. Your kid,that in the meanwhile is building up expectations that you can only hope won’t be disappointed.


58 thoughts on “The Long Long Way To School

    1. Private kindergartens- private Highschools/ you’re signing up your children to have connections with the children of influential figures. for college a good Gpa, SAT score and a letter of recommendation that shows that you give back to the community will basically guarantee your acceptance into the good universities.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. That sounds so tedious and hectic, oh dear God.
    Just reading your saga’s getting me all stressed up 😱.
    Compared to that, the Omani school admission procedure seems pretty straightforward and hassle free haha.

    But with that said, I hope when the dust settles, your daughter ends up in one of the best schools around again. Also, on the bright side, you won’t have to go through this struggle again with your other children so that’s a relief ❤.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Oh My Ortensia, it definitely doesn’t sound like a good system, but I’m not sure what our Australian system is like these days, and 35 years when Carole’s son was being placed into schools, she made all the decisions, while I happily went off to work. However I do know that we were all educated through the government public system,

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Hi Ortensia,

    that sounds too complicate, but I like your husbands attitude. It is right of every person to finish elementary school, or even obligation. In some countries is criminal offense if you do not send your children to primary school!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hai un raro talento nel tenere il lettore incollato fino all’ultima riga, anche quando scrivi un post più lungo del normale. Sono sempre più orgoglioso di essere da tempo un tuo follower.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. goodness-so much for parents to think about-I am sure your girls will be successful no matter how things work out. It is not at all like that here. You attend the nearest public school-or parents pay for the private of your choice. There are not too many choices. Best wishes dear friend!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I understand you perfectly, we have a very similar education system here in Quebec for elementary and secondary schools. My daughter is currently at the university, but my boy is still in high school. Courage and patience Ortensia!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well my good karma assisted me and this morning we received the letters: she is 46 ( that is not the high,we might get a chance too)in waiting list for one school but she has been offered a place in the only girls school that,despite our prejudices was the one we liked the most😀🎉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This is excellent news. My daughter did all her high school in a private school for girls. She wanted to have a musical training in piano and opera singing and this school of great reputation dedicated to girls is located three blocks from our house. Fortunately, she was accepted and she enjoyed it. But then she changed her mind and enrolled in college and then university in mathematics! Currently, she is doing a master’s degree in economics. For my boy, things do not seem so simple … We’ll see. Good luck for your daughter. The stars seem well aligned. Much love.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you dear and hope everything will go smoothly for your son too.
        She is all excited to start high school but nervous as well and we do t forget she is the anxious and hypochondriac one😱but she liked the school,it’s a bit old fashioned and very structured and she needs that,also those mean girls are keeping bothering her will go to the public community college …out of our Way🎉

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Your daughter sounds just like mine. She also had to deal with mean girls. At the private music school she made lots of great friends! Today, Emma is happy, relax and enjoying university. Such a relief!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. That is reassuring.Last two years in school have been hard for her,lots of ups and downs because of those girls.I always thought that an only girls school would have killed her but during the open night we had a such good impression of the way they are organized and of the girls attending it.She said it was cosy!🤞🏻everything will go well.😊

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Mine had to wear a uniform and that helped because all the girls were dressed the same way. At this age, especially, being different sometimes creates integration difficulties. The uniform made things easier. The fact that the girls all shared the passion for music helped to create links as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Every school has uniform here except few Protestant school that are exception like ours because they are very very small,like 70 students in total for the whole 8 years.But next year she ll wear uninform indeed😀I love uniforms too as that way they are all the same,then they can express their personalities and differences in many others way.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I was surprised to see how much my daughter liked to wear the uniform and I think it’s exactly for the reasons you mentioned. Plus, it was so much easier for her to get dressed in the morning.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. So stressing and even more stressing was pretend I was not stressed about so to not feed my daughter anxiety 😱but now we received the letter with a offer place for a very good school that she liked too and the little bullies from her class won’t be in there🎉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow! What a hassle! Here you just sign your kids up in the school district you are in. If you have a problem with the school, you petition the school board for the right to send your child to a different school!

    Liked by 1 person

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