HomeLifestyleHealth & FitnessI’m praying for a state school place... literally

I’m praying for a state school place… literally


I couldn’t get Lola’s primary school situation sorted fast enough. So, freshly stapled together after the C-section and cradling my newborn, I was first through the door at my local Sunday school – a necessity if I stood a chance of getting her into this excellent state school connected to the church.

What are the alternatives if this doesn’t pan out? I don’t have the money to send her to Queen’s Gate, in South Kensington, a fee-paying school where my parents sent me, in the days before it cost an arm and a leg.

Perhaps she’s had a lucky escape. It seems that pick-ups with a driver are now the norm at the school – how would I, with my clapped out VW Golf covered in dog hair, ever keep up? But at the same time, I’m not sure she could handle the local school of hard knocks either.

So when I heard that David Cameron’s kids had gone to a local church school, I thought this was meant to be. If it’s good enough for the ex-PM, it’s good enough for me.

Lucky, really, that I got on the case so quickly. You have to attend the church’s Sunday school with your baby, from the age of six months for three years to have any chance of getting to the top of the admissions pile.

Initially, I felt a bit of a fraud for going because I used to have an aversion to organised religion – but now I love sitting in the grand church. It’s useful time to reflect. Does that mean I’ve become spiritual?

We always light a candle for Alex, who will have died five years ago at the end of this month. I take a moment to feel grateful that I already had his frozen sperm when he died and that after tons of gruelling IVF rounds, I finally became a mum. And when I look at Liberty now, who spent two years stored in a freezer as an embryo in an IVF clinic in Alicante, I see Alex; the way he held his shoulders and pursed his lips. It makes me smile.

I’ve met some like-minded friends at church – none of us wants to pay school fees. But then this isn’t your average church or state school. Only last week I was sitting with all the middle-class parents, including designer-clad Russians and Italians, in a circle at Sunday school, when an Oscar-winning actor walked in with his wife and two children.

Everybody pretended they hadn’t seen the Hollywood A-lister and continued to sing the “Hello, It’s good to see you” song before introducing ourselves.

He didn’t really need an introduction of course, but by the time he said his name and had got to grips with the song booklet, we had launched into: “Father Abraham had many kids, many kids had Father Abraham, You are one of them, and so am I, so let’s all praise the Lord”.

It’s a song that I have to tell Lola to stop singing when we’re out in public: I worry that it makes us look like we’re from a cult.

By the time we got to cutting out a Jesus figure and sticking coloured pom-poms on it, the Oscar-winning actor had become the elephant in the room. Then I thought to myself: what the heck is he doing here? Surely he doesn’t need to be here to get his kids into this church school, like some of the congregation? He must be religious! And indeed he is, I later found out, via Google.

Ok, I have to drag myself out of bed with a toddler and a baby, and sing child-friendly religious songs at 9.30 on a Sunday morning. But it’s not like I have anyone at home to chew the fat with or join me for a leisurely read of the Sunday papers. A trip to the church’s playgroup is a welcome break from childcare. And surely this is better than a price tag of more than £100,000 each to get them both privately educated until the age of 11.

Now, after three years of attendance, I really look forward to going and catching up with the people I’ve met there and feeling part of a community. I finally get the form for the vicar to sign – and they check my church attendance. All is good. It’s no guarantee, but I pray to God that she gets in.

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