It's an emotional couple of weeks for me, as Olle comes to the end of second grade, which means he's coming to the end of Infants school and will be moving into Primary next year. In practice this just means he lines up in the mornings on the other side of the playground, so it's not as if he's moving to a different location (which does happen in some large schools). But he won't be grouped with K-2 any more, so as parents we won't be around kindergarteners at events like the end-of-year concert or the weekly assembly.
But the big change is that the drift to private schools starts now. We live in an area with a very high private school attendance rate (I've heard it's as high as 70 percent in high school, but can't find anything online to support that). Many of the private schools start at third grade, so the kids who've been booked in early will be leaving our school this year.
So far I've heard of five kids who are leaving O's class at the end of the year (though one of them is moving to another public school). There are probably more. This will happen every year from now on, with a big exit for year five, which is when most of the other private schools kick into action.
Even though the last three years have gone so quickly, we're still biding our time with plans for high school, four years in the future. (Only four years away - I can't believe it!) Anything could happen. He could reveal a great aptitude for doing exams and get into the local opportunity class for years five and six. He could pass the selective schools exam in year six and have a choice of high schools. He might continue with dance and be accepted into the performing arts high school.
Or none of the above. In which case our choice will be between the local state high school - which has either an excellent or a terrible reputation, depending on who you talk to - or a non-religious private school which I admit we have him on the waiting list for. We put him on that list when he was four and we fled from the Montessori preschool and were casting around for other options. When he didn't get into kindergarten there, we commuted our place on the list to the high school list. I'm incredibly glad he didn't get into kindergarten there, as then we wouldn't have discovered how good our local public school is. Now that I've become familiar with the public education system, I'm leaning much more strongly in the direction of the local public high school. (Money is an issue too, but if we had no other option, we'd pay the fees somehow.) But there is always the nagging fear that as his local friends head off for the privilege of well-resourced, elite schools, we would be consigning him to the scrap heap of state education. Would we do that for a principle? Or by sending him to a private school would we be succumbing to the scare campaign around state education? Thinking it over, the only teenagers we know in the inner city who go to state schools go to selective schools. The others all go to private schools. That's dreadful! But his cousins go - or will shortly go - to ordinary state high schools and are doing fine.
We very quickly learnt, when he was in kindergarten, which of his classmates was booked into which private schools. There are some families who are intending to stay in the public system, with whom we occasionally have whispered conversations, to check that we're all still going to be here next year. It's like waiting to see who blinks first. I have no doubt that quite a few will blink - and it could even be us. The momentum is almost irresistible, when you - and your child - have personal connections with so many people who take a private education for granted. And when you live in a political culture which asserts that a private education is desirable and superior.