I’m proud to say that I am probably almost alone amongst the mummies I have met in never having pored over the Ofsted league tables online, weeping openly because I live in the ‘wrong’ street (and believe me, I do live on the ‘wrong’ street). OK, that is a bit of a lie – I have glanced at the ones in the newspaper, but only when my husband shoved them under my nose, and even then they made me feel a bit faint, and I had to sit down, and pretend I hadn’t really seen them. Because it was really all too depressing.

Why do mothers love reading Ofsted tables so much? Obviously none of us want to send our beloved offspring to a school where they’re going to get stabbed on their first day, get a Class A education in drug-dealing, but not actually learn to read or write and spend their days filming Happy Slappings on their mobiles. And that’s only the infants schools. Still I’m praying there isn’t as vast a difference between many of the schools as the tables initially suggest, for the primary schools at least. Surely the quality of a school depends on so many other factors as well as test results? And how do we really know if, just because a school scored 3% higher in one particular test, it’s really a nicer place for your child to spend most of his or her waking hours?  The report also depends on what happens on one measly day in the year, and doesn’t factor in things like how much private tutoring and pushy parents are skewing exam results.

Ultimately simple common sense tells us that not everyone is able to go to the ‘best’ school in an area, in the same way we can’t all be in the catchment for the ‘best’ hospital either. Of course, like everything else in life that inevitably means that the richest, most middle-class people, with the most sophisicated research skills, can afford to move to the priciest houses in the best catchments , and get the best state education for free. Which kind of defeats the whole object of the system (actually I reckon high-scoring state schools should be means-tested – if you earn over £150,000 or so, you should be forced to go private to create more space for everyone else).  With the current baby boom in place, and no real plan in place to address this population blip as far as I can tell, I dread to think what the scramble will be like for the ‘decent’ schools in my area by the time my little one gets to school age (hopefully by then I’ll be living in a sparsely populated area of rural Wales running an organic B&B or something, so I won’t need to worry. Particularly as, being married to a staunch atheist, it’s unlikely we’ll be going down the ‘I’ve just seen the light! That Pope Benedict 16th is one majorly cool dude! Let’s go get Baptised now!’ faith school route.)

Who knows, perhaps in a couple of years, when reality hits and the peer pressure bites, I’ll be poring over the lists with the worst of them, converting to Catholicism and plotting my escape to some suburban hellhole where my soul will shrivel up and die but my child will go to a school that offers viola lessons and GSCE Mandarin. But I wish to God that a system had been in place where parents were just forced to send their children to a particular school rather than being allowed to exercise ‘choice’, ultimately resulting in the undignified scrabble for places, and the ridiculous gap between good and bad secondary schools we see today.

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