Everything I wish I'd known about the school enrolment process
My son is four, five in September and that means one thing: where the eff are we sending him to school?!
We luckily have quite a few things in our favour; we live in a thriving town in north county Dublin that is closely surrounded by other busy villages, all of which have more than one school in each.
My partner and I both work and so could essentially choose a fee-paying private school where the kids shake hands instead of hug and learn Mandarin instead of Gaeilge if we wished (we don't wish).
Jacob being five this year means that he is at a really good age to start school, and he'll have completed two years of pre-school so should be well prepared.
So, why do we find ourselves in April with no school for him to go to?
Here are the 7 things I wish I'd known about the school enrolment process before now:
1. There are no rules. None.
Some schools won't let you put your kid's name down until the January before the September your kid would start school. Some will let you put their name down the second they tap-dance out of the womb. Some are first come, first serve. If you know which school you'd like your kid to go to, do your homework just as you're thinking about coming off your pill. No joke.
2. Your address means everything.
I have a friend who currently can't get her child into the school that is a five minute walk away because her address is 'not in the catchment area'. It is something to do with antiquated mapping which has not incorporated the building of new estates and she will literally have to drive her kids past this school as they attend another further away from home. Ridiculous.
3. You have visitation rights
I genuinely thought that if I started to call around all the schools asking for a visit, that I would sound like an annoying lunatic, and be in the way of the staff. As it turns out, this is precisely what you should do, to get a feel for the schools in your area and to choose the one that you would most like your kid to attend. Just pick up the phone and ring.
5. Catholicism reigns supreme
Sigh. My son isn't christened and a local Catholic school that I called this week has him on a waiting list, no problem. But when I mentioned that he doesn't have a christening certificate, I was told that he then wouldn't get 'priority'. There you have it, my son's education isn't a priority because of our religious choices and as the four closest schools to us are all Catholic-run, that kind of leaves us screwed, doesn't it?
6. There's a form for that
In our town, the schools are all in touch with each other and they issue a general form that you can fill out whereby you put down each school you would like your child to go to in preferential order. You then get your 'first choice', second and so on. It's like the CAO all over again.
7. Not every school is the same
There are public, private, Educate Together, Gaeilscoileanna and Déis Schools to choose from. Where your child goes to school these days can be as a result of any number of factors, be it religion, language, address or because you have tonnes of money in the bank you'd like to throw at it. We were all set for an Educate Together school which we didn't realise was also a Déis school so it's worth looking into to make sure that you get to put your children into the kind of school that suits you.
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