Leaving Home At 8 Review: Board To Tears
LEAVING HOME AT 8: Thursday 11th February, Channel 4, 9pm ALERT ME
Far from a documentary detailing one man’s struggle to get up in the morning (the snooze button, mouldy cornflakes, avoiding the bus stop nutter) this hour-long emotional rollercoaster follows four eight-year-olds in their first term at boarding school.
How will their families cope with the separation? For one excruciatingly self-absorbed mother, the answer is not very well.
It’s April Ross’s first day at Highfield, one of the country’s top prep schools. As she excitedly packs a green wig (apparently a ‘bears PE bag’, I digress) her mum, the self-suffering Sandra, exclaims repeatedly, “It’s going to crucify me”. Well if sending your child away only to spend the rest of your life completely absorbed in how that act affected you doesn’t, we TV reviewers should do the job nicely.
While parents are crying right left and centre, the children appear nonchalant at first, as if they’re off to summer camp. The method of keeping them as busy as possible, including one-to-one tuition and music lessons after school (no Facebook for these kids) is effective, but bed time is a different story and suddenly little girls are breaking down on the carpet.
“There’s no medicine we can give them for home sickness”, says senior housemistress Mrs Grey. Looking at the bags under her eyes it’s clear she wishes there was. This is evident on visiting day when one set of parents decide it’s best to stay at home. Needless to say, the journalist probably didn’t know what he was letting himself in for when he attempted to console an eight-year-old with a camera stuck in her face.
All this drama makes for unsettling viewing that will either leave you on the fence or punching one. Sandra returns with an update on April, “She said she loves Highford but hates boarding school. It it’s something you’ve inflicted, it makes you feel bad”.
Other parents, meanwhile, comment fondly on new-found quality time with their children and the loss of their northern accents.
It all gets too much for Sandra in the end who’s about to move three hours away from Highford. “My husband will be in Afghanistan, my children at boarding school… I’ll feel like a really redundant mum”.
Hastily searching for a ‘Plan B’ she concocts an idea to move April to a local school. At least her brother, Alex, is aware of his mum’s self-involvement – he hasn’t been home in years.