Today marks 2 weeks in London and we are just starting to get into the swing of things. If, of course, by that you mean “are able to eat and take showers and get to the grocery store”. If you mean “got the kids in school, can get medical needs dealt with, and know how to speak the local lingo”, we are pretty much not swinging at all. The pendulum is stuck and glaring at us. And it just handed me a stack of paperwork to fill out.
By means of illustration, allow me to present you with two anecdotes: One involves my day’s activities. The other, David’s.
At 1 PM David left the house for a quick run into town….
He planned to check out some new routes, look for some tennies, and pick up some items from the bigger market located in the Town Center. He took Audric with him, just for the male bonding and brute strength carrying force (very useful when carting groceries across town on a bus).
4 hours later, they returned. They had most of the groceries. But, no tennis shoes. David’s feet were very sore, and he was cranky. For three hours, they had tromped from shoe store to shoe store. At first they were daunted by the prices- shoes at the mall seemed to start at 80 pounds ($120) and go up from there. But, eventually they found some basic black ones for 50 ($75). But, David didn’t know his British shoe size.
“Can you just measure, please?”
“Oh no! We don’t have the equipment for that!”
“??? You are a shoe store right? Hmm, ok. Well, how about we just try converting European sizes. I am a 44.”
And so it went. Unfortunately, the EU size conversions weren’t working well, and all the shoes were either very small or very large. *None* of the regular shoe stores had a measuring tool! Finally, they sent him to a high end men’s store, which was rumored to have just such a mythical device. David feigned interest in a pair of loafers and the attendant dutifully pulled out a large bench-like contraption attached to what David described mostly a normal foot measurer, but with the addition of some rubber bands and straps. The measuring process was “remarkably intimate”. But, in the end, he got his size: 8.5.
Good enough, but, this store had no shoes that were anything like what he needed. So, back they went to some of the other stores- including Reebok, Foot Locker, and several local variants. But, NONE of them had a simple black athletic shoe in an 8.5. (He discovered early on that saying “tennis shoe” scared them, but “sports shoe” got the idea across).
At the Foot Locker, they were having a sale, and the salesman had a Can Do attitude rivaling that of Cinderella’s sisters. He didn’t have an 8.5, but he did have a 9. And, here, if you just stuff the toe with some paper- see! Perfect!
David left with no shoes and no good leads on where to find some.
At 1 PM I went online to find the paperwork we needed to get Audric into the school system here….
At first the website was down. But, eventually it came back up and I printed the application- 8 pages. But that was just the start. In addition you also must attach birth certificate, visa and passport, a copy of your local tax bill, and an officially stamped form letter from his last headteacher describing the number of days he was absent and a variety of other bits and pieces of information that they deemed interesting. Plus, even though they will assign you a school, you must designate your top three preferred schools in order of desire.
That is where things got tricky. On the seconday schools website, there are 17 schools listed. But, they make no effort whatsoever to group them by location, or tell you whether they are private schools, religious schools, specialty schools, etc. And, in fact, many of the schools themselves make determining this information difficult. So, for the next 2 hours, I pored over the entire list of local schools in our zone, comparing them to our location on a map, and digging through their web sites to find out just the most superficial information about them. Here is what I found out:
- Abbey Manor College- for “unconventional” students who have been unsuccessful in normal schools.
- Addey and Stanhope Secondary School- Speech and Language Hub for the area (A note on special education in London– unlike the US where the experts travel from school to school, instead, here, they seem to like to sort kids into schools where the experts stay. So, Addey and Stanhope here has all the Speech and Language therapists. Other schools have specialties in Autism Spectrum, Severe Learning Disabilities, etc. Many of these schools are primarily mainstream, but have special supports built into their structure. Others, like those supporting more severely challenged kids, are specialty facilities just for them). I figure that with his dysgraphia there is a chance they will want DS to go here, but we are hoping not…
- Bonus Pastor Catholic College- Catholic. Alas, because it is on our street.
- Conisborough College, a Colfe’s Associate School- Close-by and looks possible!
- Deptford Green- WAY to the North
- Forest Hill- Local, but all boys
- Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College- Music and ICT (computer) Focus school, fairly distant.
- Haberdashers’ Aske’s Knights Academy- Close by, but a Sports focus.
- Prendergast Ladywell School- only goes to age 16, and all girls
- Prendergast School- Co-ed from the 6th form (next year I think), but a bit distant
- Prendergast Vale School- linked to the two above, also a little distant. The boy on their website cover looks very much like he will join a fraternity in a couple years.
- Sedgehill Secondary School- Local basic highschool
- St. Dunstan’s College- “Independent, Forward Thinking” I learned “Independent” means “Expensive”. This one is 15k per year.
- St. Matthew Academy- Catholic
- Sydenham High School- Girls only and Independent (also 15k per year)
- Sydenham Secondary School- (same as above)
- Trinity Church of England School, Lewisham– yeah, it is CofE.
So, of all those schools (and a couple more I found on the map), there are really only 2 that seem a possibly good fit. About the number of high schools you would expect to find in your area, really. But, wow was it a lot of work to figure that out!!! Once I get the form back from his old school, we have been told it will take 20 days for DS to receive information on his assigned school. Then we get to buy him his uniforms, and away we go!
The Leathersellers Company’s involvement in Lewisham dates back to providing the original site for Colfe’s School in 1634 and the original site for Prendergast School in 1890. The Leathersellers then funded Prendergast’s move to its current location in 1995. As one of the oldest livery companies (or trade guilds) of the City of London, charity has long become our main raison d’être, and education has become an increasingly far-reaching activity. Many of our members volunteer for governance work. This commitment to governance is singularly the most important part of our role in Lewisham. We are often cited by senior figures in Lewisham as having made a significant contribution to education in the borough. You can be sure that that commitment will remain for many future generations of children.
Next up- a bunch of photos and words on our set up here.