A tale of two schools – or how one woman came out on top

If you ask me
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The Independent Online

If you ask me, I would like to tell you a story about a woman and two neighbouring schools which may be a story for our time, unless that is wishful thinking, in which case it isn't much of anything, but there you are.

OK. So, once upon a time, which may be right now, there were two London primary schools. We will call one Ashmount, for that is its name, and the other Coleridge, for that is its name. The schools were no more than a quarter of a mile apart but, London being London, were dramatically different. Ashmount was at the poorer end of Islington and took in a large council estate while Coleridge was in one of the richer parts of Haringey and its intake was largely white and middle-class with a fondness for skiing.

Certain mothers would sell their own grandmothers to secure a place at Coleridge and, on Saturdays, could be seen hawking them on Crouch End Broadway between the fish shop and Specsavers. "Grandmother for sale!" they'd cry. "Top quality. Kind. Bakes. Knits. Babysits. Good for another few years. Sold as seen."

So, anyway, this woman, whose own child attended Ashmount, albeit some years ago, has had to put up with years of being patronised by Coleridge parents, even though Ashmount is "good" according to Ofsted and she never had any problems with it whatsoever. She once even overheard one mother say to another in the fish shop: "Oscar didn't get into Coleridge so they offered us a place at Ashmount. Over my dead body!"

But now Ashmount, which was, admittedly, in a rather dilapidated state, is on the move to a new site and a new building which the woman has just seen, and it is amazing. It is larkspur and steel. It has been built by builders used on an episode of Grand Designs. It is set in a beautiful green space surrounded by woodland. It looks like a top-end Alpine resort in and of itself. It is also the first carbon-neutral school in the UK and shares the site with a new eco centre. Most important, though, it has shifted from N19 to N8, and, as "it is all in the Ns", as the woman was once told, it has moved up 11!

Now, finally, thinks the woman, could the time have come to wind up Coleridge parents? If so, the woman suggests saying loudly wherever you go: "I know a child who went to Coleridge and was fine", as well as, "You can put your name on the Ashmount waiting list... you never know", and "Coleridge? Over my dead body!" The woman knows none of this shows her in a good light, but she can't help laughing her head off all the same.