Carr Manor Primary School: playing the long game

Carr Manor Primary School woodland project

Boy Wonder on the Carr Manor Primary School woodland project

I RECENTLY attended the new parents forum at Carr Manor Primary School, where Boy Wonder is in the nursery. I say nursery but by the time I headed home that night I realised why they prefer to call it the foundation unit.

Our four year-old son is only there by accident. We moved house three years ago, a little further away from the estate agents’ paradise of north Leeds because I was facing possible redundancy and we wanted a cheaper mortgage. I’m not sure we even checked the local school. Well, we got lucky.

Carr Manor Primary School sits in Meanwood, a diverse area with typical inner-city variances in income, education and ambition.

Hilary, who runs the unit, spent time in Italy a few years ago. It transformed her views on education and it’s transforming the prospects of the children who attend the unit at what is an ‘outstanding’ school.

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Maggie Thatcher is very naughty… so says my three-year-old

IS IT FAIR TO INFLUENCE YOUR KIDS’ POLITICAL BELIEFS? Tonight, I was getting Boy Wonder ready for bed and I complimented him for doing as I asked and not being ‘naughty’. His face grew serious and he told me the following:

‘Do you know the Iron Lady, Dad. Well, she was very naughty. She took jobs away from daddies and mummies and they couldn’t earn pennies. Their little boys and girls didn’t have any food to eat and everybody was very sad.’

For a moment, I was speechless. The Duchess is working tonight so I can’t check yet but I expect that he saw the film poster on a bus or billboard and asked her about the identity of the woman with the bouffant hair and cold face. The Duchess obviously didn’t pull any punches and we’ve now got the future president of the Communist Party in our midst.

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El niño prodigio is giving me southern discomfort

BOY WONDER IS LEARNING SPANISH. On Saturday mornings, I now take him to the local Little Fidget class for under-5s. The teacher uses a magical kingdom theme, with cuddly creatures and fantastic scenarios to engage the kids. So far, we’ve met the wolf (lobo), rat (ratón) and dragon (dragón).

Boy Wonder seems to enjoy it, although his motives are a little suspect. The final act of the class each week involves the kids assembling at the front for a snack while they learn basic Spanish table manners. He seems to pay particular attention to those instructions above all others.

I learnt French at school but attended a weekly lunchtime Spanish class for about a year when I lived in London 10 years ago. So, I’m enjoying this gentle refresher. However, the teacher is Venezuelan, so I need to adjust my learned Spanish accent so I don’t confuse my son. She says gracias, I say grathias. She uses a ‘j’ for a double ‘ll’, I use a ‘y’. We haven’t learnt the word for tomatoes yet.

Competing accents

Then again, there are competing accents at home. The Duchess is from Hertfordshire so I knew what I was letting myself in for. But I thought settling in Leeds would mean our kids would enjoy the privilege of a down-to-earth northern accent.

The problem is that the Duchess spends the most time with the kids and, as a result, Boy Wonder is frequently classed by strangers as ‘a bit posh’ because of his rounded vowels and sing-song intonation.

As part of the fightback, I find myself practically ironing my vowels flat when I read him bedtime stories, presenting almost a caricature of my fairly soft Teesside accent.

People tell me it’ll all come right when he starts school full-time and apes his mates. Knowing me, I’ll then probably try to smarten up his diction, chiding him to speak ‘more nicely’ while ignoring my own ‘owt/nowt’ speech. Poor kid. (That’s poo-er, not pour, by the way.)