‘I don’t want to raise Lola and Liberty with a sense of entitlement’
When she finds out her daughter has won a place at a private school, Charlotte Cripps is delighted... until she sees the bill
I can’t put all my eggs in one basket with my chosen state school – and I’m struggling to add others to my list – so I’ve also put Lola’s name down for a private co-ed in my road in north Kensington. I have no idea how I would pay the school fees but you never know what the future holds.
I went to the open day and met the headmistress with her sidekick Labrador/therapy dog. Most of the boys looked like Little Lord Fauntleroy. I was shown around by a seven-year old called Persephone, which made Liberty’s name sound bog-standard.
But I like the school. It’s not full of pushy parents and it has more of a creative vibe. I paid £150 to add Lola’s name to the waiting list. But for most parents, who put their child down for at least seven private schools, because they are so oversubscribed, it is the most expensive lottery in town.
It’s the only way to join hundreds of other mothers in the hope of winning 20 spots each year for their children’s entry, aged four or five, into a private school. So when Lola won a place, I was chuffed. I felt I had a really good plan B in place should I need it. They really must have liked us, I think to myself. Wow, all that sucking up to the headmistress worked.
But as I read the offer letter more closely, I gulped as I realised there was a catch. They wanted half a term’s fees (£2,500) two years in advance to hold the place for her. I can’t plan what I’m doing tomorrow, let alone in two years’ time. And if I am going to part with £2,500 it will need to go on a new car; a dog-walking friend just crashed into mine, putting the final nail in the clapped-out VW’s coffin.
Obviously, I’d much prefer her to get into the state primary school that I have on top of my list because she will be with a mix of people from all walks of life. Ok, she won’t be lugging a hockey stick around like some of her friends in the area, it’s more likely to be a healthy start voucher. Nor will she experience real animals, like the donkey a nearby prep school in Notting Hill lay on for its Christmas nativity. Or the confit duck-leg treats given to pupils at a posh girls’ school in Hammersmith, which had an austerity day implemented, in which the girls were introduced to jacket potatoes and beans.
Even if I could afford it, I don’t want to raise Lola and Liberty with such a sense of lofty entitlement. And how would I keep up with all the skiing trips laid on for the kids at private schools? No, I’m much more comfortable with Lola going to the state school of my choice.
Luckily, a friend and neighbour, who has just left Kensington and Chelsea for Devon, has given me the uniforms her two girls used, which she bought from John Lewis.
Before she drove off in her Range Rover for new life in the west country, with her kids, her husband and rescue dog from Cyprus in the back, she winked at me and said: “Just remember to get on the committee of the church Christmas fair and ask to organise everything.” I smile with an exhausted look on my face as Muggles lurches at yet another black bin bag, and rips it open like a wild fox pulling out some silver foil.
Lola has trotted off and Liberty is crying in her pram. Oh God, I just need to go to bed, I think to myself, but I can’t. I have to make a cake for the church’s Harvest Festival.