Choosing a secondary school - it's every parent's nightmare
"It's a bit like throwing your kid to the wolves" is how one of my colleagues described sending their child to secondary school.
And he's right. Parents across the land currently deciding which secondary to send their precious ones to will understand what he means.
Is the local community school down the road good enough to fulfil their life potential? Or is it a sink hole that will drag them down?
Chances are you've had a look around a couple of schools. Maybe they seem OK, but then the kids have probably been told to be on their best behaviour.
What's it going to be like when your child's on the inside all on his or her own? And now you're wondering about the other pupils you saw in the school during your visit. Do they look like responsible, hard-working model citizens, or the kind of kids that will have your little Jimmy up against the wall if he doesn't bring in his protection money?
Is there a better alternative down the road - or in a different catchment area?
Maybe you're thinking - somewhat guiltily - of going for a grammar. Talking to the other parents in the playground of your primary you skirt round the subject, embarrassed through fear of giving the impression that you think your child is better than theirs. Who, after all, wants to appear elitist?
Perhaps you've been forking out ÃÂ£35 a week in private tuition for months on end in the hope it will get your child through the 11-plus. Others can't afford it, you know, but sadly your egalitarian principles go out the window when it comes to getting the best from the education system.
And we've all seen the exam results from the grammars. They're better. No question.
But then you wonder whether your child might be happier at the local school after all. It's where most of their mates are going. And if they did get into a grammar, will they end up being a little fish in a big pond full of academically gifted youngsters making them feel inferior?
Could your child keep up with them? Can you keep up with their parents? Should you? And what about what your child wants? Aren't they entitled to have a say in their own education? How can you be so sure you always know what's best for their long-term future?
Maybe it's wrong to impose our hopes and ambitions on them anyway.
It's a moral and social minefield. Why do we have such a crisis? Because every parent wants what's best for their child. Because secondary schools are variable. Because choice and diversity has, arguably, led to a greater polarisation of good and bad schools. Or - to use the American jargon - "pro-social" and "anti-social" kids. Children from advantaged backgrounds and disadvantaged backgrounds.
Because natural selfishness towards maximising our own children's life chances turns normally fair-minded people into worrying, fretting individuals willing to accept unfairness and inequality in society for their sake. Discuss.