Give me a G and T (the drink, not the child.)

28 Oct

Aside from the lovely drink with depressive effects, G&T stands for Gifted and Talented round my way. Judging by all the parents I’ve run into in the last few weeks on my tours around various South London secondary schools, there are a lot of these ‘gifted’ kids about – or rather a lot of parents who think their children are ‘special’. All these parents who have pushed out these mini Einsteins are being encouraged by the schools to put them  forward for scholarships. They obviously have very high hopes for their offspring’s future careers, based on achievement in school. Nothing to sneer at, but I rather like it when my own daughter talks about her desire to be a hairdresser when she leaves school at sixteen. “That’s an alright job” I tell her, thinking about the flexible hours and rather selfishly imagining my weekly free blowdry.

If I compare the whole secondary school admissions experience for me and my daughter, it goes a little something like this: I was raised in Surrey and now my family and I live in South London (thank god.) I was privately educated and my daughter will go to a state school (I’m glad about that too.). Therein lie the differences. I had to sit an entrance test and so will my daughter. Securing a place was not based on proximity to the school for me (private don’t do that), and neither are many of the schools that my daughter is applying for. In fact I probably had more chance of getting into one of the schools of my choice because my parents were paying for the priviledge, so somebody was bound to take me. My daughter is not owed anything by the borough of Lambeth. My thoughts when we started looking around were “She’ll just go to the local comprehensive right, and things will be fine?” Unfortunately, she took a real shine to a highly competitive selective state school that ‘excels’ in Music. I think her choice was based largely on the fact that she could wear Kickers as her school shoes, but children have their reasons.

Our tour at said school ended with a talk from the head teacher that was so evangelical and preachy that I almost felt as if I should have stood up on my chair and raised my hands in the air. It was strange to say the least that not one of the children who was chosen to sing the school’s praises was anything less than a genius. That’s what they had you thinking anyway, in that strange hall with the echoey walls and the massive projection of exam results and Ofsted results, with the booming echo of the children’s voices providing the soundtrack to the sermon.

When I was at school I remember feeling quite sorry for the ‘gifted’ children (and there were only about two as I remember.) They were really clever but they had been told so from day one by their teachers, so every moment that wasn’t consumed with higher learning, was spent doing competitive extra-curricular activities rather than playing kiss chase with the likes of me and my not so clever friends.

These days it seems that gifted or not, you have to promote your child’s inner genius if you want them to be considered for some of the better schools. Applying online today I could not, and did not want to tell lies about my daughter’s ability, so a couple of weeks before our application, she took a scholarship (I am a hypocrite and the pressure is immense I tell you!) There was no young Chopin manuscript, and instead my daughter sang a pop song along to a YouTube video. She doesn’t read music and she isn’t a musical genuis, but she’s got a sweet voice and she enjoys playing the piano and composing stuff on GarageBand. We were informed yesterday that she didn’t get the scholarship and we weren’t surprised, and luckily she took it all in her stride. Her name’s still in the hat for a place, but I’m hoping that she’ll be offered something at her second choice, the perfectly good, friendly, local comprehensive that doesn’t feel the need to harp on about being the best.

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