Don't think I want our kids to have a UK education any more(60 Posts)
I couldn't decide where to post this, but I figured you lot might be more understanding and less defensive
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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).
As others have said - there is no such thing as a UK education system. Can you clarify your post?
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you read MN about anything you wouldn't live in UK! It is not a RL view. People post when they are unhappy with something- there is nothing to say if you are happy.
If you read MN all primary school DCs are weighed down by homework, teaching to the test. All comprehensives are bog standard. All MILs are terrible women, all dogs should be put down, all men are lazy and can't even pick a towel up, etc etc etc
You can only be pleasantly surprised by reality!
Well if you have money, can choose where you live and fund a decent lifestyle when you get here, England is probably still a great place to live. However if you won't, the only reason to come back in my opinion would be to be closer to family and for cultural reasons, in that you want your children to be raised as locals rather than expats. Life is getting harder for people on low to middle incomes without savings although I'm not convinced it's massively worse than many other places. Australia is hard enough if you don't have dosh but I don't know much about Canada.
My youngest didn't learn to read through phonics (didn't really work for him) but it wasn't a problem - the school still supported him. I do like the way they teach maths now - much better than in our day.
No need for SATS to be something huge - some parents go over the top, getting obsessive about SATS & the 11 plus, but there's no need (middle son has done both, life didn't stop in either case).
Lots of good things like forest school going on in many schools now.
I do find the constant tracking through every lesson teachers have to do now a bit mind boggling & ridiculous but it doesn't really seem to affect the children - I haven't noticed anything anyway.
Incidentally I've taught in the Japanese school system & I'd rather my kids were in the UK one. Apart from SLD schools - which ime were very similar between the 2 countries (both great).
Agree with Fanny, if your dc have lots of hours dedicated to an
internationally useless, as in our case language, 22% of the timetable , something's got to give. Sadly its at the expense of science & maths. This was a fee-paying school too. We really appreciate the UK system now, people have no idea if they haven't lived overseas. We came home mainly for the education.
We don't really want to be here either and only came back cos of the school issue. The constant thoughts about where we could try next are less frequent now but it's not a pleasant state of mind to be in. But we are feeling more settled now and coming out of dark wintry days defo helps. We would happily bugger off again but school is going do well we've not go it the courage ATM.
Someone mentioned the easily availability of drugs. Is that anywhere in particular?
Savoy - I'm just curious, but why do you rate English schooling over Australia?
OP In all honesty I don't really recognise my dcs' schools in your description.
Homework - 1 piece each of Maths/English per week - takes 30mins-1hr tops.
Ofsted is crap yes but this is more a problem for the school - the children are blissfully unaware
No segregation according to ability. But work IS well differentiated to ensure everyone is working at an appropriate level and making progress.
SATS are really no biggie for the kids at our school. Infants don't even know they are doing them - they are doing fun special work in the library (in small groups with class teacher) Juniors do know but still low key.
Don't worry about phonics and number bonds - phonics is a great way to equip children with good reading and writing skills. Number bonds just means knowing that eg 6+4=10, just makes solving number problems quicker if you have ready recall of these basic number facts.
Have you been in a primary school since you were at school yourself? I know I hadn't and it was a massive eye opener - lovely bright classrooms with interactive whiteboards, net books and iPads, lots of outdoor learning inc forest schools but also just getting the younger ones outside for normal lessons, really fun and exciting cross curricular learning.
A few things my dcs have been doing recently:
Puppet week: learning to make several different styles of puppet, making up plays to perform with them inc developing characters and writing scripts (infants) - performing them for parents
Javelin throwing!! (Infants - with specialist sports coach paid for by new sports funding)
Egyptian topic: designing, making & painting an amulet from clay. Debate on the pros and cons of the Aswan dam (juniors)
English: learning about writing different sorts of texts eg writing a school prospectus for Hogwarts, designing own board game and writing instructions for it, writing a diary of a boy in Tudor times
Just a few examples, I could think of loads more...
Someone mentioned the easily availability of drugs. Is that anywhere in particular?
Well I can tell you that in Hong Kong it's common knowledge that every single international school is absolutely awash with drugs, booze, bullying and 12 yr olds having sex in the toilets, all except the school that your own kids go to
God I'm cynical and mine aren't even in school yet.
OP I think it's like most things- the general picture doesnt tell you much about the specifics. In HK I could send DS to 5 different schools with very very different philosophies, homework policies, levels of pastoral care, testing etc. I could equally find a UK school identical to any of those, assuming I could afford to go private (which I realistically have to here anyway, so no difference in cost).
Seriously?!! Wow - I've never heard that.
A country always looks worse if you only rely on foreign reported news.
During the 7/7 bombings you would be forgiven if you thought London was overrun with terrorists but actually Londoners still love the city and are damn proud to live in it.
If you can afford independent schools, then it is a no brainer. You can pretty much find/fund any school to suit your dcs. If you intend to rely on the state system, then you should do more research on which area to live which mn can help you with. But even with the best research in the world, the choice may still be the wrong one for your children once they are in it. If so, research alternatives at that point.
There are no absolutes.
My kids have just done this week's homework... God forbid they spread it over the week!
Year. 6 child - find a poem he liked, memorise it and write about why he liked it, referring to the poetic features and things the poet has used for effect. Present it all to the class. Also had a maths sheet about timetables ans estimating. Spelling.
Year 4 child - design a dance workout for a song of their choice. Be prepared to demonstrate this in class. Spelling.
They are also both expected to read - mine now do this before going to sleep. Since implementing this, their reading has come on brilliantly.
Not onerous and for the most part fun. My son looked up poems on the internet, discovered the doom and gloom poems of Hillaire Belloc, read some of the more extreme ones to us for a laugh then chose one. My daughter has been
fannying around reahearsing in her room.
I write this as their homework in Dubai was ALWAYS the same: spelling, literacy and maths worksheets. Not particularly creative, not particularly inventive. And I really liked the school!
Primary school seems to have come a looooong way since I was there. Their lessons seem MUCH more fun and they appear to remember what they are learning. This week they have been writing blogs and making films in lessons. And lots of great stuff like enrichment every Friday afternoon and the wonderful forest school. All I remember from my very strict Scottish Academy primary was doing handwriting for hours, chanting timetables and avoiding the belt!
DRUGS! Not in this primary. They did cyber safety the other week and none of the year6's have mobile phones, let alone drugs! This is a small village school though.
I'm with savoy with my experience of Oz schools, my dd is about 6 months behind her age group in Scotland, and she is expected to do 40-50 minutes homework each night. They have maths tests every week and this year starts Naplan testing as well. She is 8 and stresses over these. She does get plenty of sport during the week though. And you have to pay for all the books, buy particular pencils, crayons, etc buy the teachers markers, boxes of tissues, paper fking plates the list goes on.....
feesh please don't worry - i also feel like most on here that there are great schools here in the uk and that the media really paints a very negative and depressing picture which doesn't reflect the reality. although i am keen on moving back overseas (we're in the UK right now) one of the things i will miss on my DCs' behalf is the schooling!
my aussie in laws despair that we have a British education. They're feed the idea theirs is so superior etc.
OP - you need to educate yourself before you take any decisions about your DCs education.
You clearly have no idea what phonics or number bonds are so how you can be against them is just odd.
Hit the education boards and start reading up.
pupsie Dont worry- i was being tongue in cheek. There just seems to be this thing in HK of doing down other schools, so people stand around saying that X school is full of drugs, Y school has a bullying issue, Girl A at Z School got pregant at 14, but of course ABC school, where their kids go, is a utopian society of abstenious high achievers. Realistically I think all schools in Hk probably have some kids in them that take drugs and have sex. That's just the law of averages. I'm sure it would be the same in most of the London day schools. I certainly went to school with people who were having sex at 13/14 and drinking in the park. It didnt really affect me negatively, and they were certainly the minority.
This thread is really comforting to read! We're in Asia at the moment, and a lot of the recent threads have made me really stressed about ever getting a place at a half-decent school in London, let alone the experience for the DCs (though it does seem like we can forget about being able to take DCs to visit overseas family with different school holidays)
Goodness, I feel as if the education is 'one size fits all'. If you don't fit the mainstream then there is very little provision. There isn't much depth to anything.
There can be little to no planning. (I am a supply teacher).
Some schools have everything that opens and shuts whilst others have nothing.
If you don't pay for things, you don't get them. So my dd2 needed occupational therapy as she was struggling with her writing. There was no extra help at school in the form of TAs etc. So she had to see a $180 for 45 minutes OT. We got $18 back on Medibank. The other child in her class who was also struggling did not get any as his mother couldn't afford it. A year and a half later and hes still struggling away.
According to my dd's teachers for the last few years, my oldest dd is ahead. But I know she wouldn't be at a UK school because I am a teacher. In fact my dd went to school recently with my nephew when she was in the UK and she was in no way ahead.
Talking to my in-law (occasional occurance) I did get the idea there was no planning other than "I think I fancy teaching x this week".
I didn't know that about OT. It's all tied in with school referals here isn't it?
They get better results than us over all don't they? I've had it fed to me how much better it is they start a year later/teachers aren't constrained by nat curriculum/ teachers from here all flock over there as its a better place to teach/ all our over emphasis on planning/targets leaves less time to teach.
It's quite nice to hear the other perspective!
I did like that they do more sport though. I think.
Doh. Clearly brain not engaged yesterday and thought you were being literal. Thanks for clearing that up!!
My children are educated in primary school in England and they only have a small amount of homework once a week. I don't know anyone who is league table obsessed and the children are not really segregated, at KS2 they do have groups for literature and numeracy but I think it does them good as they are all at different stages. The rest of the time they are together as a class.
Yes, they do have SATs but only in Y6.
Actually I find number bonds and phonics a great way to learn, far better than how we learned at that age (now I actually understand it - lol)
I think you have got a slightly wring view of UK education. Maybe you need to come over and have a look at some schools to see how they really work, it may make you feel better about sending you children to school here.
This is an interesting thread but reading it reiterates why I don't want my DC educated in England sorry!
Savoy I don't understand your comment about an OT and TA? If your daughter was struggling so much she needed to see an OT, then I don't believe a TA could help her??
Perhaps it's because DH and I both didn't go through the school system here (and we went through different ones to each other also) but all this pressure on where the kids are up to, schools fining for absences etc, just makes me shudder at the thought of having to go through it for the next 12/13 years.
Savoy is talking about Australia where all additional help is paid for by the family, I believe.
Why don't you want your child educated here Sooky? Where would you rather they were educated? I'm not sure its perfect but then when you look elsewhere and at other countries sometimes it makes you appreciate what it is like here. Similarly healthcare!
My daughter is doing really well with school here, and again I don't recognise a lot of the comments. I do wish there wasn't so much pressure on teachers though, and that they were allowed to just get on wtih their job.
Thanks Goodness, I was referring to her comment 'There was no extra help at school in the form of TAs etc.'. I was just pointing out that if her DD needed an OT then a TA really wouldn't have been much use?
The health system in Australia isn't like the UK - you pay as you go, and if the other student couldn't afford it then they should have been referred to community services where it is much cheaper to see OT, ST etc (granted there is a waiting list as most people do it this way).
It's not perfect but i appreciate the teacher training, the resourcing, the breadth of the curriculum and the oversight there is compared to where we've been. And it's "free"!
OP I am overseas and have had the conundrum of which education system to choose. The things that I find so depressing about how education is delivered in England are:
- The idea that parents can't make the right choices for their kids (what to pack in their lunch boxes, whether they should be off school on a certain day or whether they can take an additional day holiday etc)
- The crazy system of how to get into a good school which seems totally unfathomable and against the spirit in which it was designed (e.g. you pay for a very expensive house super close to a good school or take your chances…)
But I think the education itself is pretty good compared to other systems which seem either rather too rote learning or conversely, too little academics.
No system is perfect I guess - and within each system there are better and worse schools. But if I am honest it is one of the reasons I'm not keen to come back to the UK.
oh sorry Goodness, I didn't see your comment about healthcare! I am actually in two minds about that. I'm in London and I can say honestly my experience with GP, hospitals etc has been horrible - I do resent having to pay towards the NI when I get such shit service. I do hear though outside of London it works well so perhaps its just unfortunate for me.
Don't get me wrong, I would hate to live in the US and need medical attention for example, it's great how healthcare is available to all. But I have a friend who in the last 12 months has introduced me to two of her friends who have come over to the UK to give birth and then gone home. Obviously they are British as they have NI number, but if you are not actively paying into the NI then I don't think you should be able to use it. Although I'm not sure how they could police that...
Regarding schooling, the other options for us is either back to Australia or to Ireland. My DH is Irish and he says they have a very good education system. I'm really not that fussed by it all, I have looked at Ofsted reports for local school because I feel like a bad parent if I don't but I really feel it's a combination of the school, the parents input and time with their DC, and of course the students ability. If my DD left school and got an apprenticeship for example I'd be happy enough with that (even though DH and I are both tertiary educated and deep down just assume she will be too!).
The TA comment was about the fact that there is often little additional help within the school itself. My dd had poor fine motor skills and therefore poor pencil control. I think if she had been at school in the UK the natural progression of things would have been that TA would have helped my dd and the other little boy in her class with this. Sat with them and given them some extra help maybe. My dd's teacher wouldn't have had time to give my dd additional support. So you have to pay for it. Which of course only works if you can afford it. And if you give a toss.
Also, dd would have had the opportunity to do activities that improved her fine motor skills at a school in the uk. Threading, play doh etc, none of which happen in any school I have worked at in Victoria.
Obviously I did do that stuff at home, but she mostly preferred wrestling and training tigers in her spare time.
Yes they'd definitely do that in my daughters reception class. They actively do.
we are in Perth and find my sons school excellent. I have one in Year 2 and 1 in Kindy. In both Kindy and preprimary they do heaps of activities to enhance their fine motor skills. So it must differ from state to state. They use playdoh all the time too.
Oh how very clever of her Savoy, you must be so proud. DD is scared of crocodiles at the moment, wrestling and training tigers really is quite brave.
One thing UK schools don't do well is languages. If putting your dcs in a different environment will allow them to pick up a useful language, that is a big plus.
I agree blueshoes. Drives DH dippy that they're learning French. Especially given that they've come back from overseas and are beginners at it when their peers aren't. So they feel a bit lost. And DS1 is continuing with his Mandarin which he really enjoys.
We moved back to the UK from Dubai a few years ago, and I couldn't believe how poor the kids' new UK school was, compared to the Dubai one - and they supposedly follow the same curriculum!
It was not my first choice of school, tbh, and I have since found a better one. The thing about the English curriculum is that it can be delivered in different ways, which is great in the case of some schools, while others can get away with teaching the bare minimum and ticking boxes. Hence hysteria over league tables, school places, etc.
Join the discussion
Please login first.