New to England; dumb questions about school system.

(8 Posts)
inkstainedwretch Sun 23-Jun-13 22:19:30

Hi, I'm new to Mumsnet and new to Oxford - we just arrived from Canada literally a few days ago because my husband is doing a postdoc here. I'm terribly confused by the educational system and have a few questions.

1. I understand reception year starts "during the school year he or she turns 5." But when does the school year start and end? Specifically, I have a child who will turn four in late August. Does that means she starts reception year this September or next September?

2. I understand there are grants for part time nursery school for children who are three or four, but how does one apply for one? Do you have to apply before the child turns three, or as soon as the child turns three, or would a four-year-old still be eligible to apply?

3. Are young children actually taught religion in state-funded schools that are tied to a church? We are atheists and would rather our child not be taught any specific religion, so does that restrict us to community schools?

Thanks so much for helping out a fresh-off-the-boat!

NickTheNanny Sun 23-Jun-13 22:50:41

Oxfordshire Schools: Admissions, Primary Infant-Junior

Oxfordshire: School Term Dates

The next school year starts 2 September 2013.
If your child's birthday is between 1 September 2008 and 31 August 2009 than they start school in September 2013.

I would suggest that you call the Schools Admissions Team 01865 815175 as soon as possible to find out how you can apply for a place.

2. The nursery education funding is done by the nursery or pre-school itself. The funding starts the term following the child's 3rd birthday. The nursery will get you to complete a form at the beginning of term.
I am not sure if you are able to get any funding now, given there are only a few weeks of term left. Ask the pre-school/nursery. More information

3. All schools to my knowledge have to teach some religious things about various religions. A CofE funded school will teach children about Christianity as well as other religions. Contact individual schools about what they specifically teach and day to day things like saying prayers during assembly, involvement with local church.
If you feel strongly that you do not want your child to be taught about Christianity, or any other religion, then do not choose a school which is linked to a religion, and ask the school about what parts of Religion Education are compulsory and which are optional. However removing your child from the optional parts may indicate to other children that your child is different. So consider if you can tolerate some religious teaching, so your child can then make a choice when they are older about their own religion. Oxfordshire: Religious Education - there is a link to the agreed Syllabus.

inkstainedwretch Tue 25-Jun-13 01:20:18

Thank you so much! So helpful!

LeapingLizard Tue 25-Jun-13 01:55:48

Hello and welcome! I agree with what Nick has said, and here are some additional tips.

Though your child is eligible to start school in Reception in September 2013, she doesn't have to. She reaches compulsory education age in the term after her fifth birthday, so September 2014.

Local Authorities in England tend to be exceptionally keen on keeping children with their "age peers", so the cutoff dates are strict and it is quite rare for a child to be placed with older or younger children. This means that if you wait a year for your daughter to start school, she will go into Year One, skipping Reception, and will still be one of the youngest in her class. Some people seem to be of the opinion that missing Reception would be an academic and social disaster, but I personally think this is unduly alarmist.

If you feel your child is too young for full-time school at just-turned-four, you could send her to nursery (preschool) instead of Reception. Her eligibility for the funded half-time nursery place continues right up until she actually starts school (at which time the funding is diverted to the school instead) or until she reaches compulsory school age. The curriculum for four-year-olds is theoretically identical in both educational settings (school and preschool), but I think that preschools' expectations often can be more realistic and age-appropriate, and they have a much better adult-child ratio. And preschool is half-time, which also makes a difference.

In parts of Oxford city, the schools are bursting at the seams with young children. Cost-cutting exercises some years ago combined with a slight recent demographic shift have left some children without a suitable school place. For example, they might be sent to a school which is not near their home, or siblings can be allocated to different schools. If your child is unlucky enough to be in this position, you could put her on the waiting list for the school you prefer and hope someone will move away and free up a place. Oxford has a very mobile population, so that sometimes works. While you are waiting for the school you want, you could keep her home, send her to nursery or send her to whichever school you've been offered.

If for any reason you don't want to send your daughter to school just now, you might like to join in with home education activities. There are many people home educating in Oxford for all sorts of different reasons, so there is plenty to do!

inkstainedwretch Wed 26-Jun-13 00:40:54

LeapingLizard, thanks so much. I have indeed been pondering some of the issues you mentioned, especially whether my daughter would be ready for full time school at just-turned-four. There is a nursery school, Iffley Multilingual Montessori nursery, that attracts me a lot both because of the multilingual-ness and the Montessori philosophy, but it's a fair distance from home for us and not easily accessible by public transit, important because we don't have a car. Also, I'm not quite decided on what I will be doing. Homeschooling attracts me in a lot of ways but part of me would also like to return to work, if I can find a job here. If I do wind up working full time it would be attractive to have my daughter in full time, fully funded school, since I will have to pay for full time care for my younger daughter, who just turned one. Sigh... so much to figure out. Thanks for the link! Looks really good.

cowleycyclist Wed 03-Jul-13 22:42:45

I wouldn't worry about the religion thing too much, though it depends how averse you are to any mention of religion. The C of E primary schools are much more low-key about religion than Christian schools in North America would be (I am an American expat). Our DC's C of E primary is quite inclusive in terms of its religious ethos - the children learn about a variety of different religious festivals and traditions (Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, etc) along with Christianity. I am not religious but don't mind my child learning a few Bible stories because I think it's an important part of Western cultural history.

However, C of E schools are sometimes longer established and better rated than the "community" schools, so they may be more oversubscribed. (They are not necessarily better schools though!) Also, most C of E primaries in Oxford take the parents' religion into account as part of the admissions criteria, so a letter from the local vicar can bump you up on the waiting list. hmm That said, there is indeed high turnover in Oxford schools, and if a place is free and no 'religious' pupil is waiting for it, then they have to give it to a child who wants it regardless of their religion.

Google Ofsted school inspection reports to read the official government reports on schools and nurseries, and see their ratings. Ofsted doesn't give a complete picture of a school by any means, but it's a place to start.

Zimbolino Fri 05-Jul-13 20:24:41

You haven't said what part of the city you are in, might help?

If you are interested in home ed there is an Oxfordshire home ed Yahoo group you can join to find out about local social and educational activities.

CatChick Wed 14-Aug-13 21:03:30

Hi Inkstained,

We just moved here and signed our kids up (with the help of Mumsnet folks!) as well. I would second Nick's recommendation to actually call the Council folks--some of the directions online were impenetrable without their help. (For example, the form to use was specifically labeled, "Do not use after Jan 15th, etc.)

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