So my son has got into the secondary school of his choice. It's the largest comprehensive in the borough and was previously a failing school with a very bad reputation for bullying and violence. Since then, as a result of a highly dedicated and committed staff team, £28 million injection of cash, fabulous new architecture and state-of-the-art resources, it's substantially turned around with steadily improving results.
If only perceptions could be changed as effectively. The major problem the school still faces is persuading other people in the community to accept the improvement. The school's lingering reputation is partly the result of latent racism on behalf of some parents. (The school has more black kids than white and more boys than girls.) It's also a matter of mud sticking. Whatever the cause, many people wouldn't dream of placing it high on their list and the school is one of the least over-subscribed, so that often the kids that do go there go because they didn't get the schools they did choose.
Most other parents were supportive of our decision to place this school top of our list. But there have been those who roll their eyes in disbelief that we chose to embrace the inevitable (whatever school we chose, we knew this would be the one he would be sent to. We also wanted to ensure our son knew we were backing his choice.) I really don't need people to look at me like I'm sending my son to Death Row, thank you very much.
What Joe has had to put up with from his peers is a lot worse. Some well-meaning souls look at him with sympathy, and murmur condolences along the lines of 'Oh you poor thing. I'm sorry for you. Hope you don't get stabbed.'. ('They're just stupid,' says my wonderful first-born. 'Believing everything they hear. And they're scared too cos they know they couldn't handle it.') Others ... well, can you believe there are kids who are prancing round the playground chanting, 'We're private. You're state.'???
Aforementioned wonderful first-born spent the whole weekend drawing a poster of the school's emblem with its name underneath and the words 'My School' underlined. In the corner he's written 'I don't care what other people think.' That's my boy!