Last night we were delighted to attend the Upper Sixth Leavers’ cocktail party at my son’s school. Those of you who are regular followers of the blog or my books will know that my son suffered from school phobiawhen he changed schools at eleven.
I couldn’t have wished for a better school to help and guide us through this awful experience and I feel that the time is now right to name that school and shine a light on the staff in all their wonderful glory.
In 2006 my son moved from a very small prep school in Putney to his secondary school in Barnes. For whatever reason the transition didn’t go well (we’d recently had my elderly mother living with us part-time as she was suffering from panic attacks - who knows what effects this had on a young boy?) and he went through a very dark time.
There were occasions when we thought that the only thing we could do would be to move him on to somewhere else - but where?
With the support and unfaltering understanding from every single member of staff at The Harrodian we managed to (eventually) create a boy who is sad to leave a much loved school.
The Harrodian is a very special place - you only have to walk around it to sense that- and we first saw this on one of our many initial visits. Every child is seen as an individual - no one is expected to be good at everything and that felt so right for us and our boy.
The Harrodian School, Barnes, London
From his first ‘blip’ - when he suddenly couldn’t bear to be in a classroom- we felt that help was on hand and that whatever happened they would see us through it.
Some would say ‘Money talks’ and, yes, The Harrodian doesn’t come without its price but there were many times when we struggled to find the school fees and the school did all they could to set us on the right path to find the assistance we needed. Without the ‘beyond the call of duty’ assistance from Mr Hooke or Dr Parmley, my son would not have had the wonderful education he has been privileged enough to enjoy.
But, money aside, I don’t know of many schools where they would have been happy to have a mother sitting and reading (or writing!) on a sofa, just to see that their child would go to classes.
I’ve been slated, slagged off, called a bad mother and a soft-touch for what I did but I would say to any of those (small-minded) people, ‘Walk in my shoes and THEN tell me how you would have dealt with it.’
All I know is that I now have a very bright and well-adjusted young man who’s sad to leave a school he grew to love - in his own time. What more could I ask for?
School phobia is nasty but very real. We all hope that our kids deal with transitions in life with ease and excitement - but it doesn’t always happen. All children are different and, as parents, we have to deal with the cards that we’re given as they grow and change.
We just happened to be lucky enough to choose the right school for a very unhappy boy who grew to be happy.
In the words of his Principal, ‘They say your school days are the best days of your life but I hope those days are still to come when you go on to realise your ambitions and dreams.’
And in the words of his Head, ‘The Harrodian is more than a school - it’s a family. And a headmaster’s ‘chicken and chips lunch invitation’ is permanently extended for whenever you wish to return and update us with your news.’
These are the reasons we chose this school and why we’re happy/sad to leave. It was one hell of a journey but we got there in the end!
With extra special thanks to Andrew Parmley, James Hooke, Alison Heller, Shirley-Anne Burton, Ben Roets, Adele Monsef and Jake Murray.
Dad still has to tie my tie!
More hair, almost more height!
Mum and son.
With his nanny.
By the pool at school.
Best music buddy.
With special thanks to the Head.