Middleagedmum.com: schools out forever

Yesterday at 8.25am there was a knock on the door, just as there has been every day during term time for the last seven years. Since teen son started secondary school, he (then his sister) has walked to school with friends he’s known since reception class. But as they have both now officially left school for ever (apart from exams) – one to do a foundation course and the other to go to a sixth form which requires a bus and train journey –  there will be no more cosy chats with old friends to start the day. They are a little bit sad and very excited about moving onto the next stages in their lives, which is as it should be, but as usual with any new phase, it’s me who isn’t quite ready for it.

Having always worked freelance or part time, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to play an active part in their school lives and it’s been a joy. Since the first day at primary school, it has opened my eyes to the lives of others and encouraged me to become an active member of my local community. In the early years we enjoyed international evenings and assemblies celebrating the many diverse cultures of the pupils. There were Summer and Winter Fairs, quizzes, parties, concerts and plays, as well as non competitive sports days (thank God) where everyone was a winner! We went on school trips all over London, taking thirty kids (some who had never been out of Hackney) on every form of public transport – believe me, anyone who ever questioned teachers salaries, should do this – there is nothing as stressful as the thought of leaving a six year old on a tube.  And finally at the end of it all, there were leavers concerts, assemblies, discos and camping trips by the sea that would have made Enid Blyton proud!!

Of course there were inevitable anxieties about friendship groups and worries about whether they were learning enough. There were also nightmare scenarios like when I forgot I’d agreed to make 20 animal costumes and had a freelance deadline, and the school trip when a poor little girl threw up on the bus  – all over me! But for the most part, I can honestly say I loved the primary school years and all they involved.

The transition from primary to secondary school is by far the biggest change for both parent and child, as the day to day involvement you have enjoyed with the teachers, other parents and children, more or less stops overnight. Apart from parents night or the occasional concert or play, there isn’t much need for interaction and by the time they reach sixth form it’s down to virtually zero. Over the years I have enjoyed getting to know the kids and chatting to their parents, many who I would never have had the chance to get to know had we not met in the playground. The connections you make when your kids are young, stay with you for years and lots of the people I used to hang out with in the sand pit 16 years ago, are now firm friends.

Younger friends with pre-school children often ask me about schools in London, particularly Hackney and I always tell them, that we couldn’t have been happier.  Hopefully (everything crossed!) they have done reasonably well academically, but they have had an education beyond that, which for me, is just as important.  They have made lovely friends, been part of an amazing community and have learnt how to be open minded, tolerant, creative, independent thinkers who are not afraid to stick up for what they believe in. And these are lessons that will last forever –  for them and for me!


  • Marv says:

    Can’t agree on non-competitive sports day, I’m afraid, there have to be winners and losers just like in life. BUT I am wholeheartedly behind the idea that school is about far more than academic education. Teach kids to be part of society and to get along with other people and the rest of learning often comes along as you go.

  • Jane says:

    I agreee that life is about winners and loosers and I think kids realise that all too early these days, I’m just glad Ive never had to enter a parents race!!! Jx

  • Miss Maudie says:

    I have just read your post and am sitting here in floods of pre- menopausal tears!!!! My kids’ primary school years were some of the happiest years for me too – I also worked part time and felt privileged to be able to share in so much of what was going on with them in school. I wasn’t really prepared for how little involvement parents have in secondary school (or middle school aged 9 in my neck of the woods) but I suppose as children get older their parents are usually a source of embarrassment to them anyway (hopefully this phase passes!) so maybe it’s best this way. My girls are still at home (17 and 14) and I really dread the next stage of them moving out for college – or whatever – by then I will be in the bang in the middle of the menopause – box of kleenex anyone…! M xx

  • Jane says:

    MM you have me weeping now – I hear ya. I felt v emotional all day yesterday and started wishing for grandchildren – is that wrong? I too blame the menopause – for everything!! Jxx

  • LizT says:

    Your post really struck a chord as last day of school yesterday for my youngest. Real mixture of emotions. You are at school for such a long time it’s hard to believe that the next step can be over in a flash – my eldest only has one year left at uni now. Expect we will have to deal with them moving back home for a bit before we get to grandchildren!

  • Jane says:

    Liz it looks like they will be living with us until they are 40 – but thats a whole other post!! Jx

  • Amanda says:

    I’m just never letting Jack leave school, very simple, I can’t stand the thought of it. #twoyearstogo A

  • Claire says:

    I have had 5 children over 13 years so eldest is in 1st uni year and youngest in year 1. I am 47 and my hair is 50% silver and I think half the reception mums think I’m the granny! So far I have been to 16 nativity plays and I have another 5 to look forward to. By the time my youngest leaves 6th form/college, my eldest will be 31 and therefore possibly a mum herself.
    If I turn out to be like my own mum, I could well be at the school gates for the next generation by then. I am looking forward to the break when youngest leaves primary school (even though I have loved it all)
    So the obvious answer to your distress girls is, produce a larger family!

  • Osnat says:

    Yes, the tittle girl sick over you coming back from that sailing trip, one of those bitter sweet moments I will always cherish, because some of the most precious memories from that period for me are the school trips I went on. I mememeber when my kids were already settled here in Toronto schools and there was a trip form I needed to fill, here every trip had too many forms attached to it and it asked if I wanted to volunteer.Of course I did,but I asked my kid first, the resolute answer was,no mum it will be too embarrassing. Then I knew that the good period ended, my kids were now on a different path, of independence, from that moment on my involvement in their schooling became less and less.
    I will always remember their years in William Patten, they were really the best ones for me on so many levels; the wonderful teachers, the friendships struck, the morning coffees, the playdays,the wonderful plays and art projects; thank you for bringing all this up so poignantly Jane,and now I better stop before I start crying.xx

  • Anna says:

    Tears in my eyes as I read this post – and my youngest is only leaving infant school!!! xx

  • Jane says:

    The worst Anna – it gets easier J x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *