Uloma Ezirim’s Diaspora Chronicles: Finding the Right School For Your Child

Migrating anywhere is not easy. It is even more challenging when you’re constrained by the absence of the educational or professional requirements for the place you’re moving to. The challenge of settling in – with or without family- always seems like a daunting feat. BellaNaija Contributor, Uloma Ezirim, has decided to share a 3-part series called Diaspora Chronicles. In this honest and refreshing segment, she shares some of her experiences since she moved to the UK. Read Part I HERE
State, Grammar or Private? For every forward thinking parent in the UK with a 9 year old child, that is a familiar question.
So I live in a nice-ish neighbourhood in Greater London and my child is 9 – already attending a state primary school. For us, private school was not an option as we could not afford it. However, I feel confident that I am making the right choices for my child – as they are attending a “2” school.
In the UK, all schools are regulated and inspected for effectiveness by Ofsted (Office for standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills). After each inspection exercise, schools are rated 1-4. Where 1 is Outstanding, 2 is good, 3 is requires improvement and 4 is inadequate.
Soon my comfort zone would be rocked as some vital information became apparent.
In the first term of year 4, my child informed me that 3 pupils had left the school because they were preparing for secondary school. Running errands on a Saturday, I encountered a group of pupils filing out of what was called an 11+ preparation centre.
On investigating further, I realised that there is an option out there that other parents are exploring for secondary school other than state schools. That option is what is called the grammar school. To get in, my child had to pass the 11+ exam which was due in 2 years.
Some parents have been preparing for this exam since their children were 7! It was a race against time. Uloma, I thought: “where have you been?” The nearest grammar school in my catchment area was about 60 miles away.
Let me slow down and put things in perspective. For secondary school education in the UK, there are 3 options. Your choice will probably be dependent on the outcome that you are seeking.
Stats are as below:
State Schools
Attended by majority of UK children and are government-funded. Performance of state schools vary from year to year, published school league tables confirm their status at each time.
Grammar Schools
They are also government-funded but only children who pass their entrance exams by 80% or more can attend. These entrance exams are commonly known as the 11+ and are taken in the first term of year 6 (age 10/11). The exams covers one or more of the following 4 areas: English, Maths, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal reasoning. Grammar schools are highly selective with a strong emphasis on academic achievement and they are usually at the top of the national school league tables.
Private schools are not government-funded. Although some do give bursaries and scholarships to a select number of students each year. In private schools, class sizes are smaller, children are more confident, driven and have access to a greater range of extra-curricular activities. Some say in these schools, mixing with affluent families builds contacts and improves their chances of getting better jobs.
The burning question now was how to get my child to attend a grammar school. They are presumed to be the next best thing to a private school and most times even better. League tables have shown that the recent attainment of grammar schools at GCSE’s, A-Levels and the International Baccalaureate had far exceeded that of some private schools.
My thinking cap was well on at this stage. I needed, a new home, new job, new school and in that order. I needed to move to a town that would tick all the boxes. I chose Kent for two main reasons. They have a whopping 37 grammar schools, and my sister was already living there.
Now, one of the influencing factors for house prices is schools but we were lucky enough to afford a house close enough to 6 grammar schools.
I also got a job in London about 45 minutes from home. So in 2.5 months, we sold up, packed up and moved up like “a thief in the night”. I had no time to say goodbye to friends. After all they don’t call me the “the hustler” for nothing.
My child got into a “1” primary school in Kent and battled with being at the top. She did not feel so brainy anymore, but in a couple of months she took her rightful position.
Thereafter, it was one tuition class after the other, online practice tests, practise test centres, mentorship and prayers. About 2000 pupils applied to our choice of grammar and she was one of the 170 that got in.
A familiar story for many I hear you say. This accomplishment remains one of my greatest yet.
This write-up will irk some particularly as it is a controversial one. However, please don’t get me wrong, as I am well aware that, a dedicated and gifted child with a strong support system will smash any exam regardless of the choice of school.
For all of you that know this story, that called me and encouraged me, my Abubabes old girls group, my friends, family, God, I say thank you.
Share your stories as always. Thank you for reading.
Photo Credit: Ron Chapple |

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