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German dp in the UK or people who moved their dc from Germarn to UK schools, can you give me some advice please?

(52 Posts)
SSSandy2 Wed 06-Aug-08 08:16:59

Hello,
we live in Germany at the moment and dd has attended school here for 1. and 2. Klasse but I am thinking very seriously about moving to the UK and I am unsure about the schooling there and how it compares.

Could you tell me what you found difficult to accept/things that bother or worry you about UK schools or the education system there generally? My own schooling is in the very distant past and I really only know from experience how schooling has been for dd here so not sure what we would be getting into if we moved her.

It would be a real help if you could be quite upfront and not too diplomatic about it because I really do want to weigh up the good and bad sides and try and find out where dd is most likely to thrive, longer term.

verylapsedrunner Wed 06-Aug-08 08:53:52

Not sure I'm really qualifed to comment as not enough experience. We (both Brits) moved from Austria to UK in May and DS (nearly 6) moved from Kindergarten (in German) to joining school here for the last 6 weeks of the summer term. He was in Reception last term and year 1 from Sep.

Must dash now but will post a bit more later grin

SSSandy2 Wed 06-Aug-08 09:04:43

I'd be interested in any experimences you'd like to share lapsedrunner. If you find time, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Hope you've settled in well back in the UK. I haven't lived there for so long now, I really don't know quite what to expect and if I'm imagining school life there to be alot rosier than it really is IYSWIM

SSSandy2 Wed 06-Aug-08 09:13:52

sorry about the tipos, connection is very slow

frogs Wed 06-Aug-08 09:16:41

my experience is in the v. dim and distant past, SSS.

But I know quite a few people with dc in various sections of the German system and obviously loads in the English system if there's anything specific you want to ask.

SSSandy2 Wed 06-Aug-08 09:25:53

Hi frogs well I don't know specifically really because I'm not sure what people would find lacking in UK schools or negative about the system generally if they were schooled elsewhere. One thing I personally really do dislike about UK life is the class system and how much people are preoccupied with it and that dc are also affected by this.

I am aware about that aspect though and thinking how to circumnavigate it/compensate for it. I suspect too that in terms of cultural activities, out of school activities we will find the UK lacking in comparison to where we live now.

I would be interested to hear in what ways people find the curriculum, the teaching, the social side of UK schools lacking/poor in comparison to what they know from Germany. In what aspects would you say find the German system better or where have you/your kids struggled to adapt?

frogs Wed 06-Aug-08 12:58:26

I don't think most people would find the social side of UK school poor at all, tbh.

I think the single biggest difference between UK and Gm schools is the difference in remit. Gm schools are there to deliver the curriculum, and evaluate whether children have taken on board the material delivered. If they don't make the grade, they drop back a year until they do. The academic side is all -- they are not really interested in pupils' personal development, happiness or social interactions.

UK primary schools are generally pretty rigid about grouping children purely on age -- there's virtually no scope for kids to be advanced or held back, and people do occasionally moan about the inflexibility of that, particularly if they have children with late summer birthdays. However, the flip side of that is that schools are much more geared up to working with individual children wherever they may be at, and the concept of a 'Klassenziel' doesn't exist. At best this results in much more individualised and differentiated learning, though the introduction of SATS does mean that some of the most able children are left to coast while the school tries to get the borderline people up to scratch.

The schools also see themselves as having a much wider remit in terms of children's overall development, so the level of pastoral care is on the whole much more evolved than German, where it's pretty non-existent. They also IME tend to be more flexible -- I remember receiving a 5 for a piece of artwork once on the basis that I'd painted the cat purple and its tail was too thin. Wtf? Whereas ds made a model chair last year which was somehow shaped like a crocodile. It looked fab, but had the downside that you couldn't actually sit on it because the crocodile's teeth were in the way. In Gm I suspect that would have been a deal-breaker and resulted in a 4; here his teacher got him to take it round all the other classes and to the deputy head to show it off because it was so imaginative. And this isn't a particularly arty, creative school by any means. There will be huge ability/level variations in most UK primary school classrooms, which can unnerve Gms a bit, particularly the inclusion of kids who would undoubtedly be in special schools in Gm. But if it's dealt with well it really doesn't cause problems ime. Obviously there will be schools where it won't be as well-handled, but that will be true anywhere.

At secondary level, most UK schools are much stricter than Gm schools would feel able to be regarding clothing and behaviour. Gms don't always see this as a good thing ('verschult' seems to be a common phrase used) but the number of educated upper-income Germans putting their kids into UK boarding schools for some or all of their Oberstufe suggests that there's a great deal of perceived dissatisfaction with the German system (which is also what I hear anecdotally). Lack of rigour in teaching and curriculum and poor discipline seem to be the main gripes, though obviously there are UK schools of which that would be true. But there is much more variability in ethos and atmosphere across schools in UK than in Gm because they have much more organisational autonomy (national curriculum notwithstanding).

I think the class thing is much less a feature of schools (IME) than you would think, though obviously it depends on the schools. If you find a good mixed primary school in a socially mixed area that isn't top-heavy with private provision, you should be fine. Ditto out-of-school activities -- most primary schools offer a range of sports, music, art etc clubs, although availability can sometimes fluctuate. Ds has done cricket, football, multisports, Latin, Detective club (!) and drama over the past couple of years. If you want to take particular activities more seriously there are loads of non-school based organisations for sports, music, drama, etc. Obviously you can't compare eg. Berlin with Little-Puddleton-in-the-Marsh, but unless you are planning to move 15 miles from the nearest main road there will always be activities to go to, and if you're in eg. London, Oxford, Cambridge, Sheffield, Brighton etc you'll be overwhelmed with choice.

Sorry, this is an essay! Hth a bit, though. Maybe you should set aside a couple of weeks to stay in the UK and actually do some school visits? I think on the whole most parents in the UK are pleased with their child's education assuming they've been allocated a school that they've actually chosen. There are grumbles, but they tend to be localised and over specific issues. The rumblings I hear from Gm parents tend to go a bit deeper.

frogs Wed 06-Aug-08 13:00:45

You could also look at the deutsche in London forum to see what they say about the difference between Gm/UK schools.

frogs Wed 06-Aug-08 13:09:40

This one is quite encouraging (though I know it's not really your situation.

verylapsedrunner Wed 06-Aug-08 15:00:40

I don't think you have any thing to worry about on the schooling side, as frogs has said it will probably be a more positive experience than the German system.

I think the biggest adjustment will be on the cultural/social side. I think for children everything is much more commercial and "in your face". Life seems far more rushed (and more competitve?).

I guess with the current state of the economy we could not have chosen a worse time to move back. We came back on the completion of DH contract and it tied in with DS reaching school age. We also had a house to move back to (albeit far too small and in need of renovation). Without a doubt life here is more expensive.

Being totally honest if we had the option (eg a job contract) we would much rather be in Vienna right now for a better quality of life, slower pace of life etc.

strudelface Wed 06-Aug-08 15:18:20

<waves at verylapsedrunner from Vienna>
We may well be following you to the UK if dh doesn't get a job elsewhere - so may be in touch for moving etc tips!

SSSandy2 Wed 06-Aug-08 16:34:50

that's a really helpful post frogs, thank you. I have to print it out and read it somewhere dd isn't. She's pestering me all day and driving me nuts for some reason (school holiday syndrome). Yes, I will be in Cambridge in September visiting some schools.

That's a relief re the out of school activities. Detective club sounds amazing! I was a bit concerned she had become used to a higher standard, wider choice of cultural activities than we might get in the UK. Although I suppose it wouldn't be the end of the world, for the most part they were conceived of as compensatory activities in some way I suppose.

See what you mean about the composition of classes. Not sure what I think about it really. I suppose it's one of those things you need to experience to know whether it works for your dc. This pastoral/social thing, personality developpment, friendship etc is TEH big issue for me really. I feel reasonably confident that I can deal with the academic side of it all till she reaches secondary but I don't know why my dd finds negative social experiences so hard to cope with. Wish she was more robust and took more in her stride because it would make my life a lot easier.

Tbh dd isn't thrilled at the prospect of uniforms. I've shown her a couple of websites for schools and she has told me "mum there is no way I am wearing those ugly uniforms" (ie pinafores / dresses)! My tomboy wants a boy's uniform if at all.

It is difficult isn't it lapsed (why are you VERY lapsed atm)? Hard to get everything in one place. If there was this fabulous place where everything was great, we'd all know about it wouldn't we? Everyone else would be trying to move there too! Hope things improve for you all over time.

Califrau Wed 06-Aug-08 16:55:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SSSandy2 Wed 06-Aug-08 17:00:25

just give us a little song. That digging will be great for my flabby upper arms (igitt):
hejo spann den Wagen an....

strudelface Wed 06-Aug-08 17:51:17

Sorry SSS wanted to add am watching any responses to this thread as we may have to move back to the UK and I have to say the schooling aspect is the most scary thing.

For dd1, who is 9, I am not overly worried academically but more so socially, I just imagine 9/10 year olds in the UK being much more mature and 'street' than my dd. For dd2 I am worrying - she will be 6 in November and as is usual here in Austria hasn't started school yet and can't read/write unlike her British contemporaries.

Califrau Wed 06-Aug-08 20:56:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SSSandy2 Thu 07-Aug-08 09:41:00

eek shock at the more mature and streetwise strudel ... Hopefully not. Actually I was hoping it might be a bit more innocent there. I had to have a long chat with dd about sexual penetration etc this year because some boys (aged 7) had been discussing it in front of her and she was very upset and worried by it. Plus the swear words they use, the discussion of murder/ beheadings etc. Have been quite astounded tbh. I've been wondering where on earth kids this age are picking up this kind of stuff.

Is dd1 in a regular Austrian school?

I know what you mean about being behind/catching up. I have been franctically trying to keep on top of this so if/when dd moves, she will be on a par with the rest of the class and I hope we have about achieved that but the sooner she does make the move the better. The better for me really.

Cali you are so lucky with that school. Sounds like they've been great.

taipo Thu 07-Aug-08 10:15:23

Hi Sssandy. As you know we did it the other way around. I think frogs has summed up the main differences between the two systems extremely well.

One thing I would say is that primary schools in the UK can vary hugely and the whole issue of choice is a thorny one. We sent dd to our local school in London, knowing that it had had poor results, but confident that the new head was going to turn things around. Unfortunately he had a nervous breakdown and the school lurched from one temporary head to another (good head teachers are very thin on the ground because it's such a stressful job these days that there aren't enough teachers mad enough prepared to take it on). The staff turnover was very high and there was a general feeling of dissatisfaction with the school. It wasn't even in a particularly poor area but because virtually all the middle class parents living nearby chose to send their dc elsewhere and as the school was never full, the school was forced to take difficult pupils from across the borough. I used to speak to parents who sent their dc to other school and feel really cross that my local school was nowhere near the standard of many of the other schools in the borough.

The other major headache for us was what we would do about the secondary school. We lived in Lewisham which bordered Kent so many parents either tried to get their dc into schools over the border or they simply moved out of London leaving a very small handful of 'good' secondary schools. Many also chose private schools.

It was part of the reason why we decided to move to Germnay as dh had a rosy vision of what schools are like here, i.e you go to your local school, not many parents choose to go private etc. In retrospect it was a bit like moving out of the frying pan in to the fire for all the reasons you're all too aware of!

I think London is quite extreme though and I'm sure if you move to any other part of the UK schooling is a lot less of a headache and there really are a lot of good schools around with dedicated teachers and high level of pastoral care.

SSSandy2 Thu 07-Aug-08 11:20:08

You haven't had an easy time of it, have you, with the schooling? Hope things run more smoothly now that dd has settled into the German school system and progressing well within it. Sounds like you've both got the Dreh raus. Dd and I haven't really. Admylin and her dc manage with the German system quite well on the whole I think

I have had an almighty struggle with dd and maths. I suppose I am also hoping that a school in the UK might do better with her in maths. Hoping the approach is different and works better for her. She seems to not get the basics at all. I have been trying to teach her the maths at home the past 2 years and it's like drawing blood from a stone at times. I think she may be spectacularly ungifted when it comes to maths, either that or just spectacularly badly taught in year 1.

Well she just doesn't get the way they teach it here (either of her 2 schools) not at all, not a single thing they have dealt with in maths. So I got American books and tried teaching her everything from scratch with those and it was better because she liked that approach better but it is never good.

She says she can't do Kopfrechnen, she has problems with place value, she struggled so much with the 24 hour clock, with every thing really and she is quite smart. Very advanced in reading and so on but I'm afraid she has developped a total hatred of maths and I don't know how to turn it around.

Sort of worried that this has to happen before too long.

Today for instance she was supposed to do a (quite easy I thought) page on place value. She couldn't get a single number read out right. So 103,800 is ten 3 million, 1 hundred 80 or soemthing where I just think (whaaaaaaaaaat?! and how do you fix this sort of thing?). We got there in the end but with a lot of hassle and heartache. I have really had to put hundreds of hours into maths and with an 8 hour school day and the commute it becomes almost impossible to keep up.

She also doesn't click with the whole approach to German lessons. I don't know if I were to have more confidence in the German system and more faith in her teachers, she would not just grow to come to terms with it and thrive within it. I really don't know but I do worry that I cannot forever be putting this much time into it. At some stage it has to work on its own IYSWIM

SSSandy2 Thu 07-Aug-08 11:28:59

actually come to think about it maybe I should ask them to put her back a year in the UK because she will be way behind in maths, won't she and I'm not sure if she could catch up that easily. I've noticed from books I've ordered (UK) that dc her age are much further on in the maths curriculum

taipo Thu 07-Aug-08 11:54:17

I understand totally how stressful it is when your child doesn't seem to 'get it', especially when you are trying your best to be patient.

It does sound as if your dd might be more suited to the UK system where there wouldn't so much pressure, SATS notwithstanding, on her to keep up with the rest of the class.

I think, despite the very tough start she had here, dd might be more suited to the German system. She is bright but not very motivated if she's not pushed, so I think she would have just been allowed to coast in her old school for the reasons that frogs mentioned, that some schools will try to get the weaker pupils up to standard and not bother so much with the bright ones. The constant testing here means that she has to work hard for every test and the competitive side of her character means that she is motivated to try and get one of the top marks in the class.

Do you think being blingual is sometimes a problem for maths? When I help dd with her maths homework I read out the numbers in English. She seems to cope pretty well with it atm but I do wonder if it leads to confusion sometimes but I don't really want to switch to German just for the maths homework.

SSSandy2 Thu 07-Aug-08 12:46:24

I think definitely that numbers are read out so differently in German is an additional big problem in the early stages of maths but I shouldn't think that would be a long-term problem.

I mean things like 476 being 4 hundred and six and seventy in German 121,227 being 1 hundred,one and twenty thousand, 2 hundred seven and twenty. I noticed dd does get confused with that because I do it English style at home and at school of course it's the German way. On the whole though I think it's just a change-over thing when she is tired.

THink actually they select English maths or German maths and work from there without too much trouble mostly.

Thing is with maths they seem to ALL be struggling with it and I wonder why that is. All the parents I've spoken to at both schools say it is an enormous struggle and they work hard at it daily. Did you find maths was taught very differently in the UK or have you found it to be much the same as here?

I just wondered if it is so difficult because they teach it differently or because perhaps they start so much later here and then of course have to move faster to get through the work and thereis not that playful introduction to maths they would get reception -year 1 in the UK?

SSSandy2 Thu 07-Aug-08 12:50:16

ALthough she struggles so much with maths and seems to not understand it at all, she was one of the best in her class at maths (which is thanks to massive home imput), I would say in the top 4. This sort of indicates to me that maths is not being taught effectively in that school (either of our 2 really). My sisters says that she hasn't experienced anything like this with her 3 girls or their classmates (as far as she is aware anyway). They live in Australia and I imagine they must have a totally different system to here

taipo Thu 07-Aug-08 13:39:33

Dd has days where she doesn't seem to be able to the simplest of calculations and it takes about an hour to do one question. It's very frustrating but she is doing fine in class and gets good marks (well, they have slipped back a bit recently but still OK). I spoke to her friend's mother the other week who said her dd was the same. Don't know whether it is to do with the teaching or just that she sometimes has a mental block. I don't do any extra work with her atm as I feel she gets enough homework as it is but that may have to change when she goes into the all important 4. Klasse.

I signed up for a free trial on this site last week. It has lots of maths and English games. Not sure I'd pay for a whole year although dd wants me to. There are also lots of good games here and it's free!

frogs Thu 07-Aug-08 13:50:07

SSSandy, I'd be really surprised if they let you put your dd back a year in an english primary school. There is almost no provision for this.

If the child is struggling, the school will deal with it (obviously how well it's dealt with will vary), but you should expect her to be taught at her own level.

My own experience is that switching between Gm and English counting systems is slightly dyscalculia-inducing because of the 'twenty-seven vs siebenundzwanzig' conundrum. I can still occasionally read 63 as thirty-six if I'm not paying attention, and I did pure and applied maths at A-level. And telling the time is even worse.

If you're really concerned, get her assessed by an ed psych in the UK, but really any good UK primary school should be able to cope with her needs. The ds of some friends of ours has serious dyscalculia (bottom 4% of the population, though top 75% for overall ability) and the school have been quite good at finding strategies that work for her, and co-operative in working with her specialist tutor (who the parents pay for privately).

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