If your children aren’t at school yet, you’ll be wondering what the big deal is. What can you possibly need to know about the school run? Surely it’s just a matter of getting your children to school and home again so how complicated can it be?
Well, firstly, the School Run has to be done twice a day, for at least 190 days a year; unless you have childcare, or friends or relatives prepared to help you out. It’s worth considering this when you are choosing a school. We live 5 minutes away from our school, so can walk come rain, shine or snow. If your school is in a residential street, you might want to avoid having to drive if at all possible, as it’ll probably be gridlocked for 30 mins at each end of the school day.
It’s worth making life as simple as possible when it comes to school choices and knowing what I do now, I’d go for a ‘good’ school where I could walk the School Run, over an ‘outstanding’ one where I had to drive to drop off or collect my child. It’s hard to appreciate this when you are up to your neck in Ofsted reports and league tables but a difficult school run can literally drive you mad.
Your day will revolve around the time of the School Run and you will quickly learn how inflexible it is. The day can drift by deceptively slowly, then suddenly it’ll be time to leave the house NOW! And it’s always when you are taken by surprise by the clock, and are in a rush that you will be delayed by something or someone. If you have younger kids, they’ll want a wee, or have a tantrum or fall over and hurt themselves while you are dragging them out the door in a panic.
The optimum time to get to school for at the end of the school day is 5 minutes before the classroom doors open. You can have a chat with other parents and your child will enjoy seeing you waiting for them outside. It can take weeks to get it just right, but eventually you’ll learn exactly when you need to leave home so as to arrive at school just before home time.
It’s horrid the first time you arrive to find your child lined up, feeling abandoned outside the classroom because you weren’t in time to pick them up. It happens to everyone at some stage, so don’t go overboard on the guilt when it does. It won’t scar your child for life, although it may be some weeks before they let you hear the end of it. Try not to let it become a regular occurrence, although if you are habitually late you will be performing a valuable public service by helping other Mummies feel better about themselves. The general consensus seems to be that it’s better to be late to school for drop off than pick up, and if you persist in being tardy, for gods sake look flustered and apologetic. There is nothing worse than someone strolling in late at either end of the day, looking like they own the school and are doing everyone a favour by simply turning up at all.
On the flip side, don’t turn up too early. If you are always the first one in the playground at pick up time, then it looks like you have nothing else to do. If you make a habit of sitting in your car or hanging around the school gates until you’ve seen a few others head into the playground, it will also prevent you from getting the times completely wrong and arriving for pick up an hour early.
Oh, and that delivery that you’ve been waiting in for all day. Guess when it’s going to arrive? Yep, that’s right- while you are out of the house, on the school run. I usually spot the delivery van whizzing past us as we cross the street and turn into our road. And when I get home, I find a ‘Sorry we missed you’ card shoved thoughtfully through my postbox with a premium rate number to call to rearrange delivery.
I get stressed just thinking about the number of times this has happened to me. It’s worthwhile cultivating a good relationship with any regular delivery people, pointing out where they can safely leave parcels when you aren’t home and tipping them well at Christmas.
If you already have children at school, I’m sure you will be able to relate to most, if not every point I’ve made above. The School Run is more than simply an exercise in child delivery or collection. For me it can be a gauntlet to run, a social occasion, an interruption to my productive day or a good excuse to get away from the hoovering and I’m sure has been, or will be, similar for you at some point.
Last but not least; if it’s going to rain during the day, it’ll be at pick up. If there is the slightest hint of a cloud in the sky, carry an umbrella. I have no idea how it can rain so often on the school run, but it does.
Consider yourself warned.