Friday, 24 August 2012

A New Chapter and a bit of a rant!

Thank you for all the good luck messages for number 1 son and his GCSE results.
After a restless night of worry (me not him) we drove into school yesterday morning to collect the big brown envelope. The news was good and he got 5 A's, 4 B's and 1 C grade.

We were over the moon at this. He's a bright boy but is very laid back (lazy?!) so we weren't sure quite how much effort he'd put into his revision. Obviously he did a bit more than we thought!

So from there we drove to his chosen sixth form college in Norwich City Centre to "sign on" and accept the offered place for September. It's right in the middle of the city so we parked in John Lewis. At the college he met up with friends who all seem to have done better than they expected. There had been a lot of worry that morning when BBC news announced that this year the examiners had been hard on students and grades had dropped for the first time in years.

Well, all was good and I took him for a Starbucks coffee and cake. I didn't have the cake - since when did they start putting the calories on all the cakes in there? I'm sure that's not very good marketing, it certainly put me off as I couldn't find anything under 400 calories!
And then home, only to discover he'd left the envelope containing his results in the John Lewis carpark!! I quickly 'phoned John Lewis and the very kind lady in the customer services department ran down to the carpark pay machine and found the envelope - give that woman a medal!

Anyway, now for the rant!
I decided I really must sort out his travel pass to the sixth form college today, I'd enquired some months ago but we didn't want to apply until we knew he definitely had a place; it was dependant on grades.
I'd been told by the council that travel was not very well subsidised and we would have to pay quite a bit ourselves, the amount awarded to help would depend on your income & whether you are in receipt of qualifying benefits.

I tried to complete the online form today with no luck. The journey from home (or nearest town) to college was not showing up, how strange? So I telephoned the council again. Apparently the funding has been withdrawn altogether unless you choose the sixth form college deemed to be in the catchment area of your home. That sounds ok, but none of our local high schools have a sixth form. We could travel equal distance to the 2 nearest, we're about half way between them both. Apparently one is the "right" one! Naturally it's not the one he chose! I explained very calmly to the council lady that all sixth forms offer different courses and the "correct" one doesn't offer what he wants to do. It may sound like he's looking for a slightly obscure course but no; it's A levels in English, Chemistry, Biology & Politics! Not available to do together at the college he apparently "should " go to!
She couldn't help at all and explained that due to government cuts in  education funding they were hanging on to the little bit of money they had left by their fingertips. I was also told that further education is not compulsory - I don't think staying on in education should necessarily be rewarded but to penalise him is a bit much!

Due to the change in law a while back, it will be compulsory for my other 2 children to stay in education until 18, presumably the travel costs will be funded then?

It really makes me cross that his travel to college will now be costing around £450.00 per year, but for those going to the college who's catchment area we are supposedly in it will be a lot less. I appreciate that we are lucky in this country to have free education but it seems that with university tuition fees and things like the transport costs increasing massively it's becoming more difficult for the less well off to further themselves in education.

This is the third time in the last couple of years we've been directly affected by the government funding cutbacks.

 The first time was when number 1 son was offered an extra course at school; he was given the chance to take a "leader in sport" course (I think that's what it was called!). It meant he volunteered to assist various events and took some additional training at our local university. He was about to take a cricket coaching course sponsored by his club but the school advised to postpone this. They explained that the leader course would automatically qualify him as a level 1 coach and he could go straight on to level 2 with his club. It was a 2 year course in addition to all other school work - 18 months in the funding was withdrawn!! No warning, no chance to finish it - just stopped!

The second time was when all local primary school children were taken to participate in different sports so any talented children could be spotted and picked to have further, subsidised training. Little Miss was over the moon to be picked for gymnastics (she'd never done it before) and was invited to join a club at very little cost to our family. She participated in the club and went to 2 regional competitions, coming 2nd in the last one. At that point all funding was withdrawn and to keep the gym club running all costs were passed on to the parents!

I do understand that funds are not limitless and that the academic side of education may be more important than the funding of sports, but wasn't the motto of the 2012 Olympics
 "inspire a generation"? - which generation was that?!

Now I will apologise for ranting like that- I promised myself at the beginning that this blog would be snippets of my life with plenty of humour thrown in - but I'm sure this affects lots of other families too.


  1. Well done to son number one you must be thrilled of his achievements, I do think its unfair that the government expect you to shell out the expenses especially when its benefiting his education. No wonder so many children are not progressing in further education you kind of wonder if it's the parents who just can not afford it. A huge glass of vino for you to celebrate all of your support and hard work. Tracy x

    1. did you say a huge bottle??........

  2. Well done to your son. Understand where you're coming from over travel passes ... I have to pay over £600 a year, last year it cost me nothing! Grrrr ... Enjoy your weekend

    Claire xx

  3. Well done to your son on his results!
    It does seem a bit of a strange way for the authority to work out the college funding. Applying catchment status when it's a school is one thing, but to do it for a college when the courses on offer differ does seem very harsh indeed and I would be just as cross in that situation!
    Lisa x

  4. Congratulations to your son on his great results you must be so proud of him. What a shame you have then, had such a hassle in sorting out his travel arrangements. It seems so unfair if the other college doesn't offer the courses he wants to do. Maybe you should put something in writing to the council as it doesn't appear to be a logical way of doing things.
    Sarah x

  5. Congratulations to your son. It sometimes seem the expense is never ending with teenagers. Wait till he starts driving and the cost of car insurance will make you weep! xx

    1. Oh dear, that's something to look forward to then!

  6. Fantastic results - congrats to him! Very frustrating re the travelling situation - I share your pain - we have no subsidies at all and the best we can do is BUY a student travel card which offers a percentage off the cost of travel but which doesn't work out to much in the end...

    1. We have the same, student travel card for the train or an annual pass for the bus. I just can't get my head around why it's subsidised to one college and not another!Someone should have run through these expenses with me before I decided to have children!!

  7. I have 2 kids in college now. it is sooooooo expensive here in the states. it is crazy ow much money we are paying.

    1. Oh dear, I can see that things could be a lot worse!

  8. First of all congratulations!!! - what great marks and sounds like he worked for them. My eldest is what i would call insourciant (er, lazy?) so goodness knows how that is going to go! Crazy to make you pay to be transported to a public (state?) school. Here we in the US have two at state schools and two at private and more you pay the less they go (so in a warped way you save on transport I guess...)