Education, education, education. It should be simple - find a friendly local nursery, progress to the local Ofsted-approved state primary, then secondary school, A-level college, and university if you are lucky. But no, it is never that simple. Especially when you live in a densely-populated international city centre. Especially when you hold left-liberal social ideals. Especially when you are fortunate enough to be able to make real choices.
Choices. Sounds great, in principle - but it's a lot to get our heads around. There are many, many variables - things that could change over time and are sometimes outwith our control. Here is a rough sketch of the excel spreadsheet we are creating, to help us record all the variables:
Firstly, we would like the boy to get used to spending a little time away from his mummy. Cut those apron strings! We have his name down for a small Montessori nursery around the corner from our house who will take him from January 2015 (after he turns 2). We are fairly confident he will get in, for perhaps 2 or 3 half days a week. If he doesn't get a place then there are numerous other options within an easy walk from home.
Secondly, we are very lucky to have a very highly-rated CoE primary school at the bottom of the street. This is our first choice of first school. But there are a number of reasons why we may need a back-up: it could go downhill between now and 2017; there may be too many siblings taking priority over local residents and the boy may not get a place; we could even move (albeit this is unlikely).
What are the back-up options? Well, there are a number of other decent state primaries in the borough, which we will definitely take a look at. There is also the option of private prep and pre-prep schools, especially if we consider sending him to the attached nursery aged 2 or 3.
But hang on a minute... Sending a child into the private sector at age 2?!? Might he then miss out on what the local community can offer? We'd be living here in Kennington, but shipping the boy across to Chelsea for his schooling and (inevitably) his friendship groups to follow. We love all the friends he has made already at the various local playgroups and activities we go to - it would be a real shame to lose touch now.
So it seems more likely that we might enter the state system first, at least for a few years. Here we enter another minefield: the vociferous number of people who resent people taking up valuable (good) state school places only to whip their children out again at age 7 or 8. I do understand this concern, I really do, but I'm not going to choose a less-popular state school. Why would anyone? The school was a major selling point when we moved here two years ago - and it probably added a bit to the cost of the house! The boy will know many of his year group there from his playgroups (and the nursery round the corner). It will hopefully be a natural step for him, and will give him a fantastic few years getting to know more people in the area.
And from there? Well my secret "pipe dream" is to get him into Westminster - it is probably one of our closest secondary schools, and it just happens to be one of the best in the country. They have a selective "under school" which takes boys from age 8. Obviously it all depends on how academic the boy turns out to be - but who knows? I know that if the boy develops that way, then we will do whatever it takes to help him fulfil his potential. And if he develops in other ways - sports, music, drama (all highly unlikely given the bookish nature of his parents!) - then London also offers great choices here too.
I'm not ashamed to admit that my real fear is not raising a child in central London - it's raising a teenager in the years to come. I would worry endlessly about him if I thought there were actual gangs at his secondary school (cliques are another matter - bullies are everywhere, but I'd rather the boy face the ones without knives). This probably does make me sound like a snob. But I'm not sorry about it. I'm sorry that gangs and violence exist. I'm sorry that for some families they do not have that choice.