A little boy reading his homework, circa 1950. (Photo by George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)
Hot House

Taking the register

The trials and tribulations of prep-school parenting

So basically I’ve been feeling fairly shit since yesterday, and I couldn’t figure out why. Because Will and I had that amazing child-free weekend at Cowley, and I’ve been seeing this incredible acupuncturist, and the closed beta is doing super well at work and the builders have finally finished the roof terrace, and then I realised. Fucking Tatler Schools Podcast.

It’s actually really got to me, you know? I stumbled on it the other night — our nanny’s been off so I’ve been doing literally ALL the laundry and I was like, “Right, I’m not going to just do the sodding housework like some unpaid maid, I’m damn well going to make this time count.” And we’re in a bit of a dilemma over whether Hector should stay at his current prep until Common Entrance, or if we do the whole brutal seven-plus process now and get him into a really safe bet like Highgate or The Hall.

I mean his current prep’s lovely in terms of pastoral care, great facilities, lots of perfectly nice euro parents blah blah but it’s not a guaranteed Westminster-slash-Eton feeder. And I have no clue because we’ve only been through all this with Minnie and Lyra and obviously you don’t have the seven-plus nightmare with girls.

So Lyra’s still at their prep and now Minnie’s super happy boarding. Thank Christ I didn’t go all alma mater with her and push for St Paul’s. We’re definitely thinking about it for Lyra but Minnie’s much more like Will, she’s not at all alpha. Anyway, the Hector dilemma. So I was like: “Yay, good old Tatler, private school stress, this is right up their boulevard.”

I start listening to the ‘Admissions’ episode, with the head of Thomas’s Clapham and the deputy head of Wellington, and within about five minutes I’m pretty much having a panic attack in the utility room

And I start listening to the “Admissions” episode, with the head of Thomas’s Clapham and the deputy head of Wellington, and within about five minutes I’m pretty much having a panic attack in the utility room.

And you know the thing that really got me is I’m not meant to be that mother — the “Kumon at three, cello at four, name down for Wetherby since birth” psycho. But clearly I am, because now I’m freaking out that if we’re serious about Westminster or Eton we do need to move him at seven, and essentially we’ve taken our eye off the ball and now he’ll need a shedload of tutoring to stand a chance.

I mean, obviously he already does extra maths, but he’d one-hundred-per-cent need coaching to get through an interview. And the heads on this podcast were saying that they can spot a coached child a mile off, and it’s the one thing that’s really “off-putting”.

Except clearly you can’t genuinely leave it to a seven-year-old to say the right thing. I mean, Christ, Hector would start talking about poo or PJ Robots. Which would be properly off-putting.

Also, the whole podcast was so bloody SW-focused. It’s like, anywhere north of Notting Hill essentially doesn’t exist. FFS.

I read this thing the other day that said if your child is gifted they’ll put little extra details on their drawings, like shoes and eyelashes. So I was like: “Hector! Draw Mama.” And it was literally: head, body, limbs, eyes, nose, mouth. Great. Wonderful!

Will says it shows Hecky’s an all-rounder, and that that’s what public schools actually want. But what you have to remember about Will is that he went to Uppingham, and he’s got a massive chip on his shoulder because he applied for Oxford and didn’t get in. Poor man. It really does scar people for life.

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