"Mummy will be put on the naughty step if we're late." Lying is not good practice, but nonetheless, every weekday last term, the same yarn was spun in order to chivvy little legs from home to school. The fact that even the tardiest of mummies seemed to get off scot-free – no detention, no nothing – didn't pass the twins by. "Where is this naughty step?" asked Claire. "And why have we never seen anyone on it?" added Oliver. "Maybe no one's been quite late enough," I fudged. Now though, spinning webs of deceit will no longer be necessary, because the school has moved. A key two minutes closer, according to my Timex, which means being late should be a thing of the past.
New term, new building, ribbon was cut and 99 red balloons floated into the stratosphere. A buzz of excitement filled the shiny, soft tarmac playground, but Claire did not share in it. For her, it felt like the first day of school take two, because what my daughter hates more than anything is change. The telltale signs began at breakfast, with deep breaths and sighs and a refusal to eat. "Yippee," squealed Oliver over seconds of cornflakes, "new classroom today." "But not new teachers?" his sister checked, desperate for reassurance. "And Mummy, where will the toilets be?"
Loos won't be the only thing Claire has to map. Very soon, hallelujah, a canteen will be opening, and frenzied packed lunch preparation, together with being late, should be consigned to the history books. School food tsar Jamie Oliver would have been proud: many mothers (including myself) had been gunning for private caterers. At an extra cost of 20p a day there was even a sniff of organic fruit and veg – a small price to pay for better brain food – but alas, private catering was decided against, so it's down to the local borough provision.
Government guidelines dictate that no more than two deep-fried items should be served a week, and that a dairy food always be available, but parent power has the final say. Should a tick be put next to shop-bought pizza or home-made? Packet-mix carrot cake or fresh? And what would Jamie Oliver make about even having such a choice? Clearly I'm not enough of a food fascist: be it toad in the hole or lamb roast, as long as I'm spared the daily bind of filling sandwiches and tossing oversized leftovers in the bin, it gets the thumbs up.
So does the new school. The twins gush about their bigger, improved classroom; the whiteboard that (once it actually works) will be touchscreen; the state-of the art hall they ate their lunch in; the magic taps in the toilets, about which there was more. "Mummy," says my nervous daughter, "the toilets are a very long way from the classroom. We have to take a friend when we go." "And I took my NEW friend Matt," Oliver informs. My son even mentioning the "F" word is revolutionary. "Who's Matt?" I ask. "He's the carpet in our new classroom."
"Mummy," Claire tugs my arm. "They're going to knock down our old classroom. Can we go and see it before we go home?" Oliver is resistant, but I can see it's important to Claire, so we pay a visit. Staring through the grilles at the ghost of a building, my daughter whispers a solemn goodbye. Then she's ready to move on, physically and mentally. "Tomorrow we'll go back to our new school," she says gravely, "and I don't want any more weekends the rest of the term."Reuse content