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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.

TamerB Sun 02-Mar-14 07:00:02

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!

EirikurNoromaour Sun 02-Mar-14 07:16:03

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.

saintlyjimjams Sun 02-Mar-14 07:27:18

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.

saintlyjimjams Sun 02-Mar-14 07:29:23

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).

SouthernHippyChick Sun 02-Mar-14 07:41:27

Agree with Fanny, if your dc have lots of hours dedicated to an internationally useless, as in our case language, 22% of the timetable angry, 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.

pupsiecola Sun 02-Mar-14 08:42:51

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?

GoodnessIsThatTheTime Sun 02-Mar-14 08:50:35

Savoy - I'm just curious, but why do you rate English schooling over Australia?

ShoeWhore Sun 02-Mar-14 09:13:42

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...


PlainBrownEnvelope Sun 02-Mar-14 13:19:55

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 grin

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).

pupsiecola Sun 02-Mar-14 14:58:31

Seriously?!! Wow - I've never heard that.

blueshoes Sun 02-Mar-14 16:18:24

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.

Fannydabbydozey Sun 02-Mar-14 16:20:06

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.

giggly Sun 02-Mar-14 17:00:10

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.....

meerkate Sun 02-Mar-14 17:20:15

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!

GoodnessIsThatTheTime Sun 02-Mar-14 23:17:59

Wow giggly.

my aussie in laws despair that we have a British education. They're feed the idea theirs is so superior etc.

Greythorne Sun 02-Mar-14 23:41:31

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.

PlainBrownEnvelope Mon 03-Mar-14 04:23:37

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.

Sunnysummer Mon 03-Mar-14 05:19:46

This thread is really comforting to read! smile 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) confused

SavoyCabbage Mon 03-Mar-14 06:20:57

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.

GoodnessIsThatTheTime Mon 03-Mar-14 08:40:28

Thanks Savoy,

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.

Pupsiecola Mon 03-Mar-14 08:48:40

Doh. Clearly brain not engaged yesterday and thought you were being literal. Thanks for clearing that up!!

SooticaTheWitchesCat Mon 03-Mar-14 10:35:00

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.

SookyLaLa Mon 03-Mar-14 14:21:07

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.

GoodnessIsThatTheTime Mon 03-Mar-14 14:38:22

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.

SookyLaLa Mon 03-Mar-14 15:07:07

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).

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