Don't think I want our kids to have a UK education any more

(60 Posts)
feesh Sat 01-Mar-14 18:34:22

I couldn't decide where to post this, but I figured you lot might be more understanding and less defensive grin

We live in the Middle East and since we moved here, have had two gorgeous little kids. I am starting to think about where they should go to school, even though it's a couple of years off yet.

I always kind of assumed we'd go back to England at some point, probably before they start school, mainly because we don't get an education allowance here, but also because I have elderly parents and I never planned on staying an expat forever.

But the more I read about the UK education system on Mumsnet, the more depressed I get and I don't think I want to put our kids through it. I know some schools are better than others, but it's more the general principles of education now that I'm struggling with, such as :

- Ridiculous amounts of homework for primary school kids - when are they supposed to play, socialise, develop hobbies?
- Ofsted and their arbitrary ranking of schools and how league table obsessed everyone is
- Segregating kids according to ability in PRIMARY school! I think it's terrible. I was a G&T child, but we were never put in sets that young and I just have happy, fun memories of primary school without there being any pressure, which I think helped me to see that learning can be fun and enjoyable.
- Exams at primary level (SATs). I don't agree with this at all.
- Weird stuff they learn nowadays such as phonics and number bonds (this is me just being an old biddy and thinking "Well I didn't learn that and it didn't do me any harm" I freely admit!).

Anyone else thinking similarly? And if so, what do you plan to do about it? I would be interested to hear other views on the issue.

woodrunner Sat 01-Mar-14 19:38:43

I know you wanted overseas parents to reply, not UK ones, but I'm baffled by your post as it doesn't describe UK state primary education at all and I'm pretty judgemental about the state education my DC received.

There was no segregation, very little homework, and SATS are just tests they are barely aware they are doing, all in a classroom context.

Number bonds and phonics - they are trendy but they have their uses.

How different is the school system where you are now? Lots of places are more traditional with a lot of learning by rote. It depends what you're after, but in UK, as anywhere, I guess, what matters is finding a school that suits your child.

Wherever they go, you'll find it isn't perfect and you have to compensate in some way to help them lead the life you want them to have.

stargirl1701 Sat 01-Mar-14 19:40:05

Move to Scotland. Our education system has none of these elements.

There is no UK education system.

yep, come to Scotland, we have no SAT's and have the option to defer if required.

LIZS Sat 01-Mar-14 19:44:29

you are being naïve if you think these things don't happen in some shape or form in other education systems - repeating years, overdiagnosis of SEN in English speaking children, elite academically selective secondary schools. Reality is often different to what you may hear and practice more individual to the schools themselves.

scarlettsmummy2 Sat 01-Mar-14 19:48:07

I live in Scotland- not so sure that it is better than England, but definitely not as good as Northern Ireland, from my experience, unless you pay to go private.

bulby Sat 01-Mar-14 20:05:25

Have worked in international schools. Chose to make sure dd completes at least primary school in England. People write about the bits they don't like- phonics has been perfect for dd but I never started a thread about it iyswim.

contortionist Sat 01-Mar-14 20:12:13

I did number bonds in the UK 35 years ago, and it hasn't done me any harm!
I've been amazed at how quickly DD has learned to read with phonics. She loves it too.

lemmingcurd Sat 01-Mar-14 21:52:54

Well OP, I can't speak about the ME but compared to Italy the schools in the UK are awesome. I spent a lot of time researching the area before we moved back last year and was lucky enough to find a house in catchment for an ofsted-rated 1 primary. it was fantastic. like walking into a private school. lots of pastoral care, extra-curricular activities! good teacher-parent communications and v reasonable homework, only twice a week.
unfortunately my marriage failed so now we are all back in Italy. I am beyond gutted. There are some really great things about the British education system.
Sorry about punctuation, iPad is not collaborating

Phonics are fantastic. Makes learning to read so easy and straightforward. I don't really know what number bonds are yet but I have trust in the school because they seem to know what they are doing.

I love phonics so I'm afraid I can't help you there blush I am using them to teach DS to read. Not sure what number bonds are. I assume maths will be the same in German as it is in English so I'm going to let the school handle that!

Living abroad has made me appreciate the UK school system more. I am abroad now and thought that I liked the school system here more but actually now I'm actually here and have spoken to people it seems archaic. I'm not sure the UK system is perfect either but at Primary school at least it seems amazing.

Not all schools have homework. I am missing the homework policy of the school DS would have been in Reception at! I hear that homework here is far more demanding. No child I know in the UK gets "masses of" homework at primary level.

tess73 Sat 01-Mar-14 22:01:43

No streaming in our primary
SATS are just tests they are barely aware of and not a bad thing to check progress/teaching after 3 years of school
Really not much homework, yr 3 DD now gets practicing times tables, some spellings, a maths sheet and a literacy sheet each week. Nothing onerous. Yr 5 Dd gets homework every night but it takes max 20 mins - and this is at a " very heavy homework" school.we get more than anyone else I know.

SavoyCabbage Sat 01-Mar-14 22:02:48

My dc are in school in Australia and I can't bloody wait for them to get into the uk system. I think it's amazing.

People in the uk do complain about it of course as that's the way people are!

Most of them though, have never been to a school out if the uk so they are not complaining in a way that is comparing schools to schools out of the uk.

It's the same way that people complain about the NHS. If you've never been without it, you might not be able to appreciate it. I just paid $120 for a signature on dds anaphylaxis plan.

mummytime Sat 01-Mar-14 22:06:03

Number bonds are just a short hand way of saying, knowing which numbers add up to make 10 (or sometimes 20).

I really struggle to see how anyone can object to them.

Phonics is hardly new.

Most of what you describe was true of school 20 years ago. A lot is becoming less true now, Infant schools are supposed to have lots of learning through play and often outdoor classrooms.
SATs only really exist in year 6, and in a good school there isn't endless preparation.

I thnk you should actually visit primary schools before making judgements.

I could tell you lots of horror stories about international schools, but I wouldn't 't dismiss them all (I might be a bit more scrupulous in my investigation though).

SirChenjin Sat 01-Mar-14 22:07:58

As others have said - there is no such thing as a UK education system. Can you clarify your post?

blueshoes Sat 01-Mar-14 22:25:33

The UK is one of the least pressurised school systems there is whilst generally being excellent (if you can afford to go private or live within catchment of a good school). Education is one of Britain's biggest exports.

I think you are worrying for nothing. It depends on the child. You might have Einstein and complaining the school is not stretching your child. Or you might have a child with learning difficulties which UK offers support that other jurisdictions don't do as well.

And there are lots of different schools with different ethos and strengths in UK.

I would not let your fears of the school system get in the way of returning to the UK. It is a nice problem to have.

BrennanHasAMangina Sat 01-Mar-14 22:27:36

OP, may I ask whereabouts in the ME you are? We are just about to move to Dubai (from Canada) and having been through assessments for the DC with a number of British and International schools there, I get the feeling that the British curriculum schools are much tougher and more rigorous than other Western curriculums. However, I moved to Canada from the UK (ordinary state school) as a child and was WAY ahead of my peers so I guess it really depends on how you look at it.

One thing I know for sure; I would NOT want to educate my kids in the ME if DH's company was not paying the sick-making school fees shock.

pupsiecola Sat 01-Mar-14 23:37:57

My kids spent a year in a big international school in SE Asia and it was disastrous for younger DS. Been back in the UK for 9 months and their state school is amazing. I was only saying to DH yesterday that I can't believe the amount of support, care and attention he has had here in the UK state system (he's not SEN but just a bit of a slow starter and had had all his confidence knocked out of him). The school has gone above and beyond to help him get back on track and he is HAPPY and making excellent progress having not made any for a year. And we've not had to pay any extra (over and above taxes I mean) for any of this help. It all feels a bit bizarre really given what went before.

Also, because your kids aren't school age yet you may not know how they learn/how easy they will find the academics and settling in etc etc. Not saying you don't know your kids - of course you do - but my 2 are chalk and cheese when it comes to how they've found school from the get go. I believe you really need to have some experience of this before you can figure out what sort of education/school would suit your child.

Ditto NHS as someone said. He broke his leg in 2 places last Summer and was in a wheelchair for 6 weeks. I cannot fault the care and attention he received during this time either.

The UK does get a good bashing but there are a lot of things we do well; sometimes you have to experience these things elsewhere to appreciate them here.

maggiemight Sat 01-Mar-14 23:50:53

I would check out the schools when you house hunt in the UK and get info from the areas you are interested in, speak to house sellers. My DCs were 9-4 years when we moved to the south of England and it seemed daft to be thinking of secondary schools but in the end they went to the best comprehensive and wouldn't have had a look in if we hadn't lived in the catchment. Primarys were good too.

Someone mentioned Northern Ireland but it is all grammar schools and private religious schools at secondary.

Have lived overseas and there can be problems with some secondary schooling, eg tiny classes so no proper competition, DCs going off the rails (eg easily accessible drugs), unqualified teachers so you need to check things out.

feesh Sun 02-Mar-14 05:54:03

Thanks for all the reassurances. I guess you do only hear the negatives on here, and that's what got me worried.

I was also using 'UK' as a lazy shortcut for 'England' - sorry about that.

We definitely don't intend to stay in the Middle East for more than a couple more years; I guess our thoughts were really whether to go back home, or make a more permanent move to somewhere like Canada or New Zealand. I have a bit of a general downer on the UK as a whole at the moment, caused by Cameron's government and the erosion of the NHS and other public services, plus it's a crazy expensive country to live in these days!

But at least I feel a bit better about schooling now, should our family circumstances dictate that we do need to move back home. Good to hear from the phonics and number bonds lovers too smile

JoandMax Sun 02-Mar-14 06:00:50

I'm in the ME and your description pretty much sums up most of the schools here!! Mine are in a British school and really happy, there is the option of load of homework and extra cirriculum stuff but mine don't do it and are doing fine.

Sparklysilversequins Sun 02-Mar-14 06:22:22

Both my dc learned to read without phonics. Number bonds can be useful, we don't get that much homework. My dc have been to a couple of different primary schools, they seem similar in these respects.

However if your child has any degree of SN or SEN you may often expect a gruelling and frustrating experience trying to get the help you need for them.

With regard to your last post I agree with everything you say and if I had a choice I wouldn't be here either. You've had some positive responses on here but if I am perfectly honest I think your perception of the education system in the UK is bang on and many of us struggle with the issues (and many more) you are concerned about.

SouthernHippyChick Sun 02-Mar-14 06:39:29

Where we've been zero mainstream SEN, zero. And teachers v little awareness and sceptical..

School starts later but then in earnest and we much much preferred this to English foundation phase. 3Rs taught in old-fashioned way which seems to work better in the early years.

Fannydabbydozey Sun 02-Mar-14 06:39:55

We came back from Dubai to the UK and were shocked at how our kids had "holes" in their knowledge. They went to what I considered to be a great school in Dubai, but their new teachers in the very good state primary in UK pointed out areas where they really needed to catch up - nice that I had been paying through the nose for this! It wasn't what I was expecting and I had genuinely believed they were getting a superior education, maybe because I was paying for it. They have caught up now but I guess if four hours a week are dedicated to Arabic, something has got to give and that something appeared to be random bits of science, maths and literacy.

Mine get great homework here - one project which is curriculum related but a brilliant exercise in being creative and having to research on their own, and some spelling. Phonics is great and is tought in the English curriculum Middle East schools anyway, as is number bonds.

My son is doing sats this year and is totally fine about it. The school are trying to be very laid back but encouraging at the same time.

So to sum up, I'm with you on the Cameron government thing but at the moment the state schools can be absolutely brilliant AND they are free. And going to the hospital is free, and you can buy brilliant wine from the nearsest supermarket as opposed to having to do a booze run to another emirate! I do miss getting a litre bottle of Bombay sapphire for a tenner though.

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