I had a very interesting conversation with someone at the School (there it is again, that uppercase S!).
We were queuing up for our daily free lunch… That’s another thing. As a member of staff, even a temp member, lunch is provided free of charge!
The first time I went into the dining hall I honestly felt like I was in an Enid Blyton or Harry Potter book! The food is brilliant! No ‘prison tray’ style dining here (although I believe the Prep School has those dreadful, compartmentalised, plastic trays, where your pudding is put next to your main meal, and then people wonder why the littlest children eat their pudding first?! Who wouldn’t when it’s right there, in front of you…?!)
No, here the food isn’t even presented in the vast silver vats that it is cooked in… it is presented beautifully, like a corporate event buffet, on large (I mean traditional paella dish large) terracotta platters. The salad is all fresh leaves, artfully distributed, with a choice of dressing, roasted chicken thighs, smoked salmon, cold meats, fresh bread. There’s a soup of the day for starters. Puddings are reassuringly ‘school dinner-ish’.
I messaged my partner in excitement when I had jam sponge and custard!
Sitting in the large, wood panelled, undoubtedly hundreds of years old building, I was in awe of where I was. It sounds daft, but I really could see how attending a School like this could make you feel ‘special’.
But I digress…
It was the end of term, so we had a barbecue in the School grounds for all of the staff. There were beers, wines and jugs of Pimms. I shit you not! Jugs of Pimms… at lunchtime… on a school day! (I must make clear, the children had all finished and gone home early by this time.)
I queued next to someone I hadn’t spoken to before. As a temp, and someone who clearly didn’t fit the ‘brand’ (no-one else there has purple in their hair!), I stood out a bit. The person next to me introduced themselves and enquired as to who I was. I asked what their role was in the school, they were involved in SEN.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with teaching terminology, the SEN refers to Special Educational Needs. It’s a bloody tough job, and one that is increasingly demanding these days. I asked what kind of Needs they could possibly have in this Enid Blytonesque idyll?
The reply was hushed, “you’d be surprised” …
They too had come out of a State school, in a tough, inner city area of Birmingham. We were both familiar with the Needs that come with an area classically described as ‘deprived’. Surprisingly, Early Years still has children with Speech and Language difficulties. Yet here, I was joyfully informed, the parental support was much greater and improvements were made quickly. Perhaps less of a surprise was to learn of some mental health issues affecting older students.
I suppose, when you consider the families who can afford this level of education, and the number of parents who are themselves academic and high achievers, the pressure for their offspring to also be academic and high achievers is great.
We both marvelled at the surroundings that we were in and the phrase ‘from the ridiculous to the sublime’ was mentioned. When I shared that I too had worked in State schools for the whole of my career, they said that they had worried initially, that they would be seen as ‘selling out’ by moving into the Independent Sector.
A while ago I admit, I might have thought the same thing, but my opinion is being swayed by seeing the other side of things a bit more… Children are children, wherever you go.