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Bridging gap between Irish and English primary education without hot housing

(17 Posts)
wanderingfree Tue 16-Nov-10 12:04:13

OK so bit of a story here. I am living in Republic of Ireland and my 2 DSs are being educated in a primary school here. We may move back to England in the next year, or may not.

The system here is very different and basically they take primary education at a gentler pace than the UK. We first moved here 2 years ago after DS1 had had 3 years of UK primary - he went into an age approp class and redid an entire year of work in english, science & maths. The headteacher explained it to me by saying they take 2 full school years in Ireland to cover the Reception curriculum so they seem to be a year behind UK kids.

So my issue is that DS2 (5yr6mth) is in equiv of Year 1 and doing very basic work. I am concerned he is getting so far behind UK kids that if we move back he will really struggle. He is currently doing:-

reading - Jolly Phonics Oxford reading tree at Level 1+, with sentences like "mum pushed the cart", "dad pulled the cart", "chip pushed the cart" etc.

spelling - the class had their first spellings this week with 10 words - on, at, she, he, in, was, me etc. They learnt them together as a class there will be no spellings coming home and the teacher told me they would not be doing weekly spellings, just a few here and there

maths - adding up/becoming familar with numbers up to 10

handwriting - copying over letter shapes given in dots. Each day they have an A4 page with 30 or so A's on, or B's to do at home.

There is no european language taught in primary except Irish and they do an hour of that a day.

The first parent/teacher meeting of the year is in Feb so I asked for an extra one last week as I wondered if the slowness was down to DS2's ability - I was told he is getting on great, could take on more work but the teacher doesn't want to give him (or the other more able children) more or they will be too far ahead when they start the next class. They can't go beyond Level 3 in reading scheme as would upset the Year 2 teaching.

I'm not sure whether to relax into the gentle curriculum and enjoy the freedom DSs have to progress without pressure / or to do extra work at home so that DS2 doesn't fall too far behind UK kids.

fruitful Tue 16-Nov-10 12:14:22

My Ds1 is in year1 in the UK, he is 5yr9mths. Reading and Spelling about the same as your ds. Maths doing 10-20. Handwriting - well if yours is doing that much practice then he is almost certainly ahead of mine! There are children in his year who are way ahead of him and some who are behind. They all get catered for.

I reckon you should enjoy it. If you come back here, there will be children in the class at the same level. Now it maybe that your ds would, here, have been further ahead - but if so, he'll catch up.

wanderingfree Tue 16-Nov-10 12:26:18

That sounds really positive fruitful, thanks. I had been reading a few threads here where UK Year 1 seem to be doing so much more than over here, so was getting a bit worried.

But I would much prefer to relax and enjoy him after school, rather than hassling him to work!

Unwind Tue 16-Nov-10 12:48:22

I would just enjoy it, but you could help prepare him, by getting him to read slightly more advanced books at home (for fun), and if you are concerned about the foreign language, play a teach-yourself CD in the car. You could also get a couple of children's movies in that language with subtitles, once he is starting to pick it up.

mummytime Tue 16-Nov-10 12:50:14

I would chill. A lot of children do come into schools in the UK with no English, never mind what other lack in education. These children often perform very well. So motivation is a big factor. Really if you come back during the primary years you should be fine.
(Personally I would come back before secondary as I wouldn't want to buy text books etc.)

wanderingfree Tue 16-Nov-10 13:13:23

Yes thanks mummytime and unwind, I will chill and strike the extra work books off my 'to-buy' list! I think he is able enough to make up a difference if we do come back and maybe it won't be that great anyway.

I have thought that we must come back before secondary as the transition must be a lot harder after that point.

I am well used to paying for text books though - every child has their own in Ireland, so I had a list of 10 for DS2 and 16 for DS1 to get over the summer. Cost over 200euro on text books alone and I got as many second hand as I could! No such thing as free education or free healthcare in Ireland I'm afraid.

fruitful Tue 16-Nov-10 18:04:29

If you do want to push him a bit, there are online sites with games that he might like. has reading "books" on it. Or the BBC. Or there is a school in Kent called Woodlands Junior - their website has lots of learning games.

sunnydelight Wed 17-Nov-10 08:14:54

By the end of primary the standard is much higher than the UK, but I appreciate that doesn't help you at the moment. Unfortunately the UK has such a limited view of early years education, measuring "success" in terms of early reading, writing etc., that when you compare it with systems like Ireland and Australia young children seem "behind". They are in fact getting a much more rounded education at a more child friendly pace. I would relax, if your kids do go back to the UK they will soon adapt to a different system.

wanderingfree Wed 17-Nov-10 08:48:32

Actually that does help me a lot sunny! It's hard when you loose confidence in your child's education provider and I have worried about longer term effects. So I would be greatly reassured if I felt there was a strategy / educationaltheory behind the Irish way.

How do they manage to be ahead at end of primary? I think they go to secondary a year later in Ireland - at 13 yrs. So there are 8 yrs of primary and although children CAN start school at 4, they usually do at 5 so there is a potential 2 yr age span in every class. Like you say sunny, it is very child centred but I am indoctrinated by UKsystem and find it hard without the testing/ assessments / pushing. Wierd as I hated all the testing when we lived in UK!

Could the difference be due to the fact they're older when they start school and do 8yrs of primary? How many yrs is it in UK?

gabid Wed 17-Nov-10 21:12:50

Maybe children don't loose the love of learning and are more motivated when they start school later. In most European countries school starting age is 6. In Sweden they start formal education at 7 and at age 10 or 12 (I think) they are well ahead of UK children (there is a nice video on teachers TV about Kindergarten in Sweden). Pushing children so early into formal education is counter-productive and the 'the earlier they start the more they learn' theory is nonsense.

So I would relax, as long as you are confident in the system.

LadyGlencoraPalliser Wed 17-Nov-10 21:28:09

Sunny, I'd be interested to know if there is any evidence for the fact that the standard is higher at the end of primary in Ireland. I went through the Irish school system myself and my nieces are now going through it while my own DC are going through the English system. I don't notice a huge difference to be honest, in fact I would say if anything, the education my children is more rounded and interesting and the standard is at least as high. But that's just anecdotal, and as I say, I would be interested to see the evidence.

sunnydelight Thu 18-Nov-10 01:47:41

My sister took great delight in sending me reams of statistics LadyGlen when her kids were in Irish primary and mine in the UK grin She was doing a Masters in Education so I got far more information than I really needed, especially as she could be awarded a Masters in smug parenting any day of the week!!! Will trawl through my inbox to see if I can find them but it's a few years ago now.

Also adecdotal but I always felt her kids, and those of other Irish friends, seemed to cover subjects in much greater depth and their schoolwork was a lot less "worksheet based". They also seemed to spend more time doing sport, music, and art - things that I saw being abandoned at our school in favour of preparing for SATS.

Special needs provision is absolutely shocking in Ireland though so it's just as well my kids didn't go to school there as two of them are dyslexic!

wanderingfree Thu 18-Nov-10 12:11:11

I'd be really interested in that research as well sunny. I just haven't had the sort of personal experience that would back that up.

We moved to ireland after DS1 had completed first 3 yrs of primary - he was reading Harry Potter books, enjoying doing project work in Yr 2 and struggling a bit, but being challenged to think, in maths.

So he started equiv of Yr3 in Ireland, they were still reading biff and kipper books, no project work at all and he repeated the same work in maths which was actually good for him in some ways, but made him very lazy!

The system here is based on book work mainly, so at the beginning of each year you buy them the set workbook for each subject, it is divided into Weeks, and each week the whole class completes the pages for that week. No streaming, they all learn together. I have no idea how the teacher manages to stimulate the bright ones and support the ones who are struggling especially when there is this 2 year age span in each class, so potentially more variation in ability. But they do this working together thing throughout primary and basically I think they work to the slowest ones pace as there are no learning support assistants in classrooms.

It just seems very dull work. Very old fashioned repetition. Maybe it is the best way though, maybe the old fashioned techniques are good and in the UK teaching is too 'faddy' and changeable according to the politics of the day. I don't know. They only do PE once a week, art once and very little music within school, you have to go to after school music centres which are really expensive. My view is that it is not nearly as broad and enriching as UK primary education.

However, as they are only at school for mornings here for the first 2 years of primary, and then they finish at 2pm for the rest of primary, until 13yrs old, I suppose they don't have time for much work anyway!

They do get lots of time to play outside in the afternoons which I really appreciate on their behalf, but from my point of view makes being a working parent really hard.

oliviacrumble Thu 18-Nov-10 13:51:15

I have to say Wanderingfree that I honestly don't recognise the education system you're talking about!

I have three children in primary school here in Ireland, and was always under the impression that the Irish system had a pretty good reputation confused.

While it is true that children are not 'streamed', of course there is learning support for weker students - how on earth do you think it would be possible for the teacher to cope otherwise.

My three children are pretty good academically, and are allowed to work at their own pace, having extra materials provided for them by the school.

They also do lots of project work, PE swimming and music classes every week.

Am also a bit confused by your comment that they 'only do mornings' for the first two years and then get out at 2pm for the rest of primary. In general the 'infants' get out at 2pm and the older children at 3pm. I don't know how long the school day is in the Uk, but I certainly would have thought that if school hours per year were compared, there surely can't be a massive disparity?

Perhaps you have been exceptionally unfortunate in your choice of school? Irish children do eight years in primary school, and usually six years in secondary - not sure how this compares to UK.

I suppose I just feel a bit shock at the very disparaging tone of your OP, particularly your opinion on 'the very dull work and the very old-fashioned repetition'. Again none of my personal experience bears this out.

The school your children attend sounds nothing like my own children's school!

oliviacrumble Thu 18-Nov-10 13:52:20


madsadlibrarian Thu 18-Nov-10 15:01:15

As far as I remember OECD consistently rates Irish education higher than UK.

wanderingfree Thu 18-Nov-10 16:34:17

It could be the school is different to others although locally all infants finish school at 1pm and rest of primary at 2pm and my sister in laws little boy is the same and he's in Dublin which is a long way from us.

I do find the work they do very dull I have to say and there seems to only be teaching to the workbook and no research/project type work which at 10 yrs old is a shame.

The children who learn instruments all have private lessons which we can't afford. We already do private swimming and have joined sports clubs as there is no team sport within school and only 1 PE lesson a week so in a sense the sports are private in that we have to pay for them.

the provision for children at either end of the ability spectrum is very limited - you must be lucky in your school if there is learning support. My friend recently trained as a learning support assistant and she can't get a job in a school as they are cutting back on people's hours and not replacing LSAs who are leaving so there are no vacancies.

I am worried about the system here so I suppose I sound critical. Sorry but that's how I feel. The teachers are lovely and the school community friendly and warm but I worry about the pace of work and quality of provision.

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