"You'll find that everything's changed while you've been away". Fool that I am, I wasn't quite sure that that would be the case. I read that quote in an article about the perils of repatriation. Turns out, after an initial toe dip into 'sorting' things out for our return, I discover that in fact things have changed quite a lot and in ways we never thought would affect us. Let me tell you a story...
We have a house in Derby. A house in a nice area that we chose because we liked it, the area, and the schools round about it. We fully intended giving our tenant notice that we would be moving back, but then I spent a morning on the phone to various local schools and the local council to see where I might get school places for Orla and Hamish. Let's just say, I hadn't foreseen it being as problematic. I started off by phoning the school I would prefer them to go to, which told me that they were fully subscribed. Then I phoned the council to see where there might be places locally, and was told there *might* be a place in Reception for Hamish, but not one in year 1 for Orla in one of the schools near our house in Derby. This particular school was bottom of my list in preference, but I have heard that it has improved a bit.
So I thought I might as well phone the school and see whether they *might* have a place for Orla too. Ugh! Nothing. Not for year 1 and not for reception either. The school told me they were having 90 kids starting in Reception which kind of shocked me. I was flummoxed: not a single school place in Reception class across 4 schools in our area of Derby? That's over 300 places! Let me just say that when I was walking around a few years ago with Hamish in the pram, the place was not teeming with babies the same age as him.
In fact, before we left for Germany I phoned the education department to get an understanding of what we would need to do to get the kids into school on our return. I was told that we might not get our first choice but that we would definitely get our catchment school. In fact, it wouldn't be a problem. Hmm.... And now everything has changed.
And at the end of a long morning on the phone I had in front of me the following options:
A) move back to our house and send the kids to two different schools (there are/were only 5 with places in Reception across the whole city) in different corners of the city.
B) move back to our house and send them both to the same school - of the 5 schools mentioned above, 2 also had places for Orla in year 1. Both of these schools are special needs schools.
C) move back to our house and send them to private school. I would need to get a job before our return that would allow me to fund this.
D) move out of the area into Derbyshire, as opposed to Derby, where the problem is less acute.
E) forget all of the above, and stay in Berlin which would require taking both kids out of their current school, putting them back into Kita and hoping with fingers crossed that both could get places in the bilingual school with Orla starting in 2013 and Hamish in 2014.
So what would you do?
And why am I unable to send my children to any of our local schools? According to the local council their has been a baby boom. A baby boom which wasn't apparent 3 years ago in our area. According to someone else I spoke to in the council the problem is down to immigration. A bit of Googling on the 'lack of primary school places in England' brings back lots of newspaper reports agreeing with this. And the more you tell people that you can't get your kids into school when you return, the more you hear stories of people who have found themselves in similar situations. What's going on?
And what do you think we have chosen? Answers on a postcard in the comments please!