My morning run to work goes past three secondary schools. One is the comprehensive that my elder kids go to, the second is a private school for girls, and the third is a huge comprehensive that, until recently, was under special measures and which has made some pretty impressive strides to return to a standard that it enjoyed in the past. Such is the way of the education system, and maybe more of this another time.
The (quite) interesting thing about this route is the way in which the pupils interact as they go to school. I tend to overtake the first crowd of children as they gather a larger and larger numbers, the closer they get to their destination, which is either the school gates, a side alley for a quick fag, or the sweet shop. This is a particularly useful route as it allows me to catch up with my second son, and deliver him the games kit/lunch/coat/book/brain that he leaves in the house at least twice a week. And perhaps because I know some of the kids, I can normally rely on them saying hello if they see me, or commenting on my propensity for wearing either running tights (a source of no small embarrassment to all of my children) or shorts.
A similar reaction from the kids going to the other comprehensive, who I tend to meet, as it were, head on. They’ll say hello, move out of the way if they’re blocking the path, and the particularly cheeky ones will shout out helpful and motivating messages – ‘Nice Legs!’
However, I do get a bit stuck when I have to run past the private school. None of these kids, it seems, walk to school. Fair enough, because of its nature, you expect most of them to travel in, but moving along the pavement is a constant hassle as the big doors of the Chelsea Tractors open without warning, as cellos (why cellos?!) are lumped onto the pavement, and as the girls, four abreast across the pavement and studiously avoiding eye contact, force me to run into the road.
I explained this dilemma to my friend G, who knows about such things, last weekend. Why is it, I asked, that these girls are such snobs that they completely ignore the people around them, and isolate themselves so much from their environment? Aha, she said, it’s a bit simpler than that. Her belief is that the pupils at this school have a life that revolves around school itself, their families, and friends of their families. Everything outside this is another world, and the lack of eye contact signifies nervousness at contact beyond their world, rather than aloofness.
It’s a bit of a shame, as, if G is right, then I shall have to suspend my plans to re-listen to all those Crass albums (maybe not such a shame then) and think about the waste of putting kids into education at massive expense, for them to be so ill at ease with the world around them.