“I’ve got some dinner ready” I say. For once I’ve been a good mummy.
“S’ok. I’m not hungry. I had a posh lunch, in a restaurant. It was someone’s birthday.”“Where did you go?”
“Rocca. It was yummy. And the waiters are buff.” She stops, looks dreamy and sighs “Some people are so lucky. The rich kids go out to restaurants for lunch.”
“To proper restaurants?”“Yeah. One kid goes to Carluccio’s every day.”
The mind boggles. I start to imagine little gentlemen from the Lycée, white linen serviettes tucked into their necks, legs dangling above the floor, having set lunches at various Michelin star establishments near the school.
Her school is in South Kensington.
The teen expands “Some kids get pizza for a pound, some go to ‘Raisin d’etre’, a posh sandwich place. The poor kids go to Tescos. The really poor kids take packed lunches.”
She’s doing her GCSE’s at the moment.She’s just done her mocks. It’s going ok, apart from Biology. We have to find a tutor, but to find the money for that on top of school fees, it’s not easy.
“A. spends £900 a month on tutors. He gets three hours a week”
The class system is alive and well in England. We tried to get her into a good local girl’s school, Camden, which is free but, despite being on the waiting list for six years, she didn’t get into the sixth form. You have to be really poor or really rich to get into Camden. Really poor because you live in a council or housing association flat in the local area or really rich because you can afford a private property nearby. So I guess I’m going to have to try and find the money for the Lycée for A levels.
There is a local comprehensive but the teen worries about bullying. There’s police there, not just outside the school but inside, patrolling, practically attending lessons. But if she went there, she could come home for lunch, just as French children do.
Send her to live with me and she'll get into Camden… on the other hand the last teenager who lived with me was a complete disaster.
If your teen went to Caluccio's every day wouldn't the novelty wear off? Eating the high-class food served there would become routine. Even the "buff" waiters would begin to lose their appeal. From what I've seen, the thing about teenagers is that their "want" basket is about as easy to fill as Mel's Hole (Explanation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXbnxYAT5kI). No matter what you get for them, they'll want something else. The pursuit of riches is presented to us as "The… One… Goal" of human existence; there is nothing else as far as Conventional society is concerned: A good life is one which achives it, a bad life is one which fails to, Period! but from what I've seen of rich people, despite having more than me in the materialistic way, most of them are no happier or satisifed with life than I am.
I stumbled upon this blog in a slightly convoluted way. Some great posts, but this one bothers me a tad. Not all people who live in council flats are poor, and not all people who live in private houses are rich. And the definition of poor that you refer to I take as meaning financial. Is that all to measure life by? We all know that finance is an elastic measurement and by no means an accurate indicator of character.
Mr Emlyn-Jones is right about teenagers and their wishlists. What you can do as a parent is give them the confidence to know that the material is mostly immaterial in the end. If you can afford the fees, then carry on her education at the Lycee, if you can deal with her lunching at Le Gavroche on occassion. If paying the fees means that money is so tight she can't take part in any other part of school life then you have to ask yourself is it worth it? If you decide that the fees are too much then a couple of years at a state school at this stage in her schooling probably won't do any harm if she's a self-starter with a supportive family. If she's going to worry about bullying before she knows the reality how is she going to cope with the real world???
Whatever the outcome, good luck. And lucky her to get to go to such swanky places for school lunch – it does sound like she appreciated it, and the waiters!
Doesn't bullying happen a private school? Or do you pay to ensure that it doesn't?
I get really upset when I here those sort of commnets, My kids go to a school with a resident policeman and more than its fair shair of poor kids. They are well rounded human beings able to empathise with 'rich' and 'poor' kids and they don't get bullied. The oldest one has two tutors, but I would sure as Hell resent paying for it, if I were also paying for school too.
Camden is a 'good' local school but V elitist. Only the very brightest kids get into the 6th form, despite where you live.
I get so tired of middleclass parents dismissing local schools. I have heard so many horrible comments from intelligent parents about schools which are quite frankly based on snobbery and racisim, thinly disguised as concern for their children. Unless middle class (rich and poor) parents support local schools, they will continue to underachieve and the class divide in London widens even more!
I am not suggesting you are like that, but this is a subject that continues to frustrate me and I find it hard to hear opinions on 'scary comprehensives' based on heresay!
Jane: I think bullying is just as bad at a private school but it's a different sort.
I originally sent my daughter to the lycee because she's half french and doesn't see her father, it was important for her that she is bilingual. At first they gave us a grant but then took it away (alot of predujice against british parents even of french kids) so I was then in the position that in order not to disrupt her schooling, I had to find the money.
Camden is very elitist. Just go to their school fairs and it's full of media parents who have mansions in Camden square.
I wanted her to go there because it's arty and single sex and free.
I believe girls do better in single sex schools.
My daughter is nervous about the local comprehensive for various reasons that I can't really go into here, too personal. I did send her to a local primary school which was appalling. I then home-schooled her for a while.
I take your point about local middle class parents not supporting local schools though. In London lets face it, the secondary education system is a mess. You almost feel as if you are a bad parent if you haven't sacrificed everything to get your kid into a 'good' school and for some of us, not in the right catchment areas, that means a private education. I mean, we have seriously gone without, especially me, to keep her at the lycee. But I'm tired of it.
I also think you are right that the reluctant to send children to local comprehensives is disguised racism and snobbery. Nobody admits that. But in England, where your accent categorises you immediately, it is a real concern.
However a middle class child of friends of mine did 'the right thing' and sent her to a local comp,girls, in Islington. She had no friends. The white kids were not into education and the muslim girls, who she related to better for they were more encouraged to educate themselves, were never allowed out. It was quite lonely for her, after school for instance, especially as a single child.
I wrote the piece above because I find the spoilt kids of the lycee quite laughable, they have such distorted lives.And my daughter, to her credit, also finds them ridiculous. Of course, that doesnt stop her also wanting what they have.
The classic line was of one rich French girl (who lived in a 6 million quid house) to my daughter: "you live in a flat? Oh my god how awful. I thought only black people lived in flats…"
Many of these kids, the scions of French bankers in the city, have absolutely no idea at all of real life. They are not educated in any real way, but often hothoused so that they are academically adept.
I use this blog to report on some of these things.I hope you find it of interest.
I find it fascinating and glad you wrote about it. I completely understand what you mean about some local schools being so one dimensional that it is really hard for some kids to fit in. Islington is a prime example of that and can understand why your friends child would struggle there.
Islington is full of middle class people who chose not to educate their children through the state system, and this is reflected in the local schools.
I suppose we are lucky as our local school is a good mix of class, race and ability, a true comprehensive, where everyone benefits, although I do have times when I am shocked by what my kids are exposed to, I am grateful that we have that choice.
When my son looked round Camden 6th form he wasnt keen on it. Too many flicky haired over confident girls!! Although my daughter aspires to be one of those!!
I agree about girls doing better in single sex schools. But boys become much better men and more respectful of women if they encounter them on a daily basis and see them as equals. Therefore I would never send my son to a single sex school.
thanks for the discussion, its interesting. BTW do agree with our post about role models for teen girls on todays Womens Room?
Miss nottingham, sorry for some reason your comment was stuck in dashboard land.
Of course it's not as simple as that…I've found many people who live in council flats and housing association places are much richer than people who live in private houses…on a cash flow level, because they don't pay as much to maintain their houses, they are not solely responsible for the upkeep. So yes, they have more cash but in the long term, less money to pass on to the next generation. Although those of us who own our houses, it's not real money is it? all that equity…unless we sell up and live in a tent.
Whatever you decide to do, with your support she'll be fine. It sounds like you communicate really well with her and that is so important. My daughter has just turned 22 – I promise there is light at the end of the tunnel. Good luck.