Three Hundred Metres
Sapphire's won 'Pupil of the week' at school but I don't have time, technically on my day 'off' to go, with three articles due.
She's not fazed though, as every kid gets an award eventually. Some are for 'trying hard to listen in class' whilst hers happens to be for 'outstanding homework and attention to detail.'
I'm writing this as my body cools down from our early morning exercise - she running ahead of me, blonde hair bobbing, long legs striding - me trying hard not to look like Kel Knight as I powerwalk fruitlessly behind, reminding myself that there's only two weeks left before I'm able to start jogging alongside her.
On the kitchen table are about a dozen hand-woven orange bracelets that she made yesterday in readiness to wear and hand out to her friends for Harmony Day today. She had spied some bright crepe paper that a chocolatier had used to wrap their wares in to post to me; cut it carefully into strips, twisted it for strength and plaited them. Her self-taught skill and creativity frequently leaves me amazed.
So yesterday morning, LC and I sat with her at the breakfast table and tried to have the talk.
Not about sex or periods or why kissing the dog is going to exacerbate her allergies and that answering back isn't always the best option when we're rushing off to school and she's left her viola at home; it was the talk about high school.
For the past couple of years I've spent hours at the school 300 metres up our street. Picking up litter, sweeping up broken beer bottles, walking Milly, seeing Sapphire scooter effortlessly around like a maniac on the cement and bitumen.
I've told her about how frustrated I am that the school is overlooked by so many families who live in the area, despite only being 29 metres from the primary school that everyone flocks to. How some kids have to leave home at 7.00am to catch two trains to the private schools their parents pay $25,000 a year for.
How we love our community, want her to make friends near her home, be part of things and not be hygienically sealed against other income levels, cultures or family situations.
Three hundred metres away, the school that she could walk to within 30 seconds of the bell ringing is ranked 515 out of 528 for VCE results. The numbers of students who did VCE in 2010 only numbered thirty with a median score of 22.
Two kilometres to the north east, PP high is ranked 97/528 and got a median VCE score of 32 with 161 students participating. The same distance away to our south east UH is ranked 59/528 with a medican score of 33 and 336 students. Quite a difference, you'd have to say.
Sapphire is a smart kid. Very smart. She's currently doing year eight level maths (which she hates) and last year her NAPLAN results showed that her reading, writing and English skills were at year nine level. She was in year five.
How can I not ask whether sending Sapphire three hundred metres away was going to offer her the same opportunities as the other two schools?
"You're a snob," she hissed through tears yesterday. "You keep saying that it's important to be local and that we should support things here, but you don't really. Isn't it good enough for you?"
"Actually, I wonder if a school with that performance and with so few kids is good enough for anyone, not just you." There. I finally said it.
The chat deteriorated in sulks (her), pleading (me) and sharp words (LC). Sapphire ended up in her bedroom with the door firmly shut against us and the thought of high school in any shape or form. "She's afraid," LC said. "She was used to the idea of 300 metres away, is familiar with the grounds and now we're changing things. The thought of starting high school is scary enough."
He's right of course.
And it is frightening for us, too. Both the 2km schools are out of our 'zone' and she'd have to sit an exam of sorts to be in consideration for some form of accelerated learning program to attend either one of them. I was stupid enough to ask, "Would you do your best if you sat such a test?" and she refused to answer. Coffee soured and churned in my gut.
Could we afford to move? Financially or morally?
Do I want her to walk 300 metres so that I can brag at dinner parties on what a wonderful leftie parent I am but have her end up with few subject choices or the risk of not being stimulated enough? Do I want her to see us 'cheat' the system as we rent in a different area and marinate in hypocrisy? Do I want her to feel undue pressure to sit tests so that she can escape the poorly performing school and ignore it as she walks past towards the tram stop?
All I know is that I want the decision made by someone else.