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Help - moving from the USA to UK for primary school

(34 Posts)
mummy123456 Thu 05-Dec-13 19:08:01

Hello everyone

I just wondered if anyone can give me some advice on the type of work kids are currently doing in Year 1 at primary school. We are moving to the UK for Sept 2014 and I currently have a child in nursery and Kindergarten. They start school at 5 here instead of 4 so they will have to skip a year and move straight to Year 2 and Reception. I'm not so worried about my youngest as he is currently learning phonics and to recognise letters. He is also doing basic counting and trying to write his name. I am more concerned about my Kindergartener who will have to skip year 1 and move straight to year 2. He is only just starting to bring home books to read and has sight lists to learn. We are on the last list which contains words like:



Once we finish this list he will start the lists again and learn the spellings.

He doesn't have writing homework yet and is still learning to write between the lines. He is still practising letters and trying to write sentances. They teach print writing here not cursive. I fear this could be way behind that of the UK.

In maths he is doing addition and subtraction but not multiplication or division.

He has separate special teachers for science, social studies, drama, art, language (French and Spanish) music and PE. Do they have this in the UK?

I don't know if anyone can give me advice on what I may need to help him with or if they have any experience of the two systems and how they may differ. It is very informal here and they really try to make school work fun. I wonder how that compares.

I appreciate anyone replying to this and thank you for your time.

NatashaBee Thu 05-Dec-13 19:25:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

lljkk Thu 05-Dec-13 19:42:51

Is that a private school they are in now, OP?

MrsCakesPremonition Thu 05-Dec-13 19:52:14

Year 1 and year 2 are grouped together as Key Stage 1 (KS1).

In state schools, the children will generally stay within their class, being taught by one teacher. There may be a Teaching Assistant assigned to the class as well. Where there is more than one class in a year group, the school may set the children across the year group for Phonics and/or Numeracy work.

This is a link to the KS1 National Curriculum.

wigglybeezer Thu 05-Dec-13 19:55:58

Better check the OP is moving to England or Wales otherwise the advice could cause confusion.

mummy123456 Thu 05-Dec-13 20:34:14

Hi everyone- thank you for the replies so far. Yes they are currently at a private school in the US. We are moving to England....probably the Surrey area although this isn't confirmed yet. I'll definitely look at the link for the KS1 curriculum. I think we may start with state schools and then look at private...I guess it depends on where we end up. Is there much difference in terms of academics? Would an Outstanding ofsted school be similar to a private school in terms of academics? I understand there would be a difference in class size. I have tried to speak to a few schools about differences but they are fairly off-hand and say he will be assessed when he starts and that any differences are usually caught up within a term. However, I'm not sure then how much extra work we would need to do in the term and I'd rather start in the summer like NatashaB suggested. They finish school mid-June so we will have plenty of time!

ValentineWiggins Thu 05-Dec-13 20:37:17

Hate to tell you but you are likely to struggle to get 2 places in the right years at any of the ofsted outstanding schools :-(

Where in Surrey are you looking?

mummy123456 Thu 05-Dec-13 20:48:54

Oh thanks for telling me ValentineWiggins...I did think it could be tricky as my youngest is starting reception. I thought maybe we could move as close to the school as possible but I guess most people have that idea! Maybe if I move to an area that has lots of good schools then this wouldn't be a problem as all the schools would be good/outstanding. We are thinking of the boroughs of Kingston, Richmond and the Guildford area.

RueDeWakening Thu 05-Dec-13 20:51:39

There's a forum called BritishExpats, they have a board about moving (back) to the UK which might be useful, it's here.

TheDoctrineOfSanta Thu 05-Dec-13 21:01:20


There is a bit of a baby boom going through schools at the moment and unless you are here by jan 15,you will be a late applicant for reception year. The max class size is 30 and it's only increased by exception. So many schools are full with on-time applicants, no matter how close you live.

A lot of schools have sibling priority so the closer you are, the higher up the waiting list you'll be, plus once one sibling has a place there's a good chance the other will be close to the top of the waiting list.

mummy123456 Fri 06-Dec-13 00:31:44

Thanks everyone. I guess it is going to be harder to just get into a school than I thought let alone worry about whether DS1 is up to scratch with his peers. I didn't realise schools were so overcrowded over there. Here they are but still only have about 20/25 to a class. I note one poster said not many children are doing cursive writing at year 1 - are they mostly just print writing at that age? Thanks for the link to the ex-pat site I'll def. look it up.

DeckTheHallsWithBoughsOfHorry Fri 06-Dec-13 00:45:36

Mine is in Y1 now. He is doing a kind of pre-cursive where each letter has a joining-up flick before and after, but they produce each letter separately and don't join them together iyswim. Plenty of the class are still definitely printing, though.

I'd agree that your main problem will be getting into a school at all.

NatashaBee Fri 06-Dec-13 03:19:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

claraschu Fri 06-Dec-13 03:57:09

I think it is very unlikely that your children will be behind the state schools in any way. US kids seem to have much more homework, and to actually do much more in different subjects (comparing NYC to UK). Schools here are often smaller, with no specialist teachers, which has its good and bad side.

mathanxiety Fri 06-Dec-13 05:57:33

Learning the spellings of the sight words will set him up well for reading pretty much any reading material he encounters.

The British educational establishment looks down its nose at Dolch words/sight words, but IME the concept works really, really well. Systematic phonics and phonics only is the flavour of the month in British primary education, with many militantly opposed to any hint of what they think are whole word recognition methods. Be aware that there are some school administrators who will look askance and shake their heads sadly at pretty much everything your DC has done up to now. Don't worry. If what your DS has done so far has been done well he will be fine.

You should probably look into private schools, including faith schools.

Or how about staying at an American school in England?
I personally don't think you could do better than an American education.

A friend of DD2's went to Marymount when her family moved to the UK for a few years. She was an IB student, an option you might like to look into for high school or secondary.

mummytime Fri 06-Dec-13 07:37:51

Do not Panic about your child catching up, do not tutor. They will do just fine and be given extra support. Even very selective private schools cope just fine with children moving from the US to Surrey.
Really relax.

Also don't set your heart on Ofsted outstanding, as that is getting much harder for Surrey schools to attain, especially in the more priviledged areas. It is now measured on children making more than the expected levels of progress, which is very hard to show for high achievers.

The American schools in my experience cost a fortune, so if your fees are paid then it might be a good alternative,bt if not...

OneLittleToddleTerror Fri 06-Dec-13 11:10:53

I think you'll have to look at private tbh. I'm not even in London and I learned for 2013, not all the catchment children got a place at the local primary. No matter how close you live, if you are not an on time applicant, I don't think you'll stand a chance at any good schools.

OneLittleToddleTerror Fri 06-Dec-13 11:11:53

This is not heard of around here, so there is obviously a lot of complaints amongst mums.

PastSellByDate Fri 06-Dec-13 12:11:12

Hi mummy123456

I'm a long-term expat - DH is English.

I think you have to start by contacting Local Education Authority once you know where you will be living. If you're renting first, once that's arranged ring the LEA.

You will be a late entry (both for YR and Y2) now - so that does present rather a problem as you don't have priority over applicants to Year R. Britain is experiencing something of a baby boom - so it may mean that initially you don't get your first choice/ nearest school.

Don't panic. You can wait list for the schools nearest you (approach them directly) and may well get a place a few months later. Once one child is in - this improves the position of the second child (as children with siblings already in the school are usually given priority).

Going the private route means you can organise schooling right now and have everything set up before arriving. However, it is a question of whether you can afford it - and I don't want to presume that is or isn't an option for you.


In terms of Y2 curriculum:

Have a look at the new national curriculum by subject area here: - just scroll down to the bottom and chose area of curriculum. Look at Y1 to see what notionally your DS should know by Y2.

Year R (Reception) = kindergarten is under the Early Years Foundation Skills curriculum and is in fact an extension of nursery.

For starting Y2 the essential thing is that they are starting to read (able to sound out simple words) and can make plausible attempts at writing (so may have larger vocabulary than they can actually spell).

Joined up (cursive) writing starts to feature Y2/ Y3 - You may find doing a bit in a workbook helpful - Try Collins Easy Learning Handwriting Workbooks 1 - 3 (available amazon & most bookstores/ large newsagents). These were a great help to my DD2 and also teach a bit of grammar/ spelling rules along the way.

Children will only be tested here in standardised testing on English/ Maths/ Science - so don't worry about history (which in primary is big general themes like The Romans, The Greeks, The Egyptians, etc...).

With Math (or Maths as they say here) - Y2 is about securing addition/ subtraction skills to at least 100 and maybe introducing the first times tables (x0, x1, x2, x5 and x10). In Y1 you might already by counting by 2s to 20, and 5s and 10s to 100 and should be able to add/ subtract numbers to 20 in preparation for this.

UK schools are different from US State schools (no experience of private sector myself) in that you don't get letter grades. At present the English system is in flux. They are dropping National curriculum levels (hard to explain best read MN guidance on how assessment works here: but there are a lot of changes going through at the moment and one of them is that national curriculum levels are being dropped.

Be prepared for religion to be taught in schools and daily worship. There is no separation of church and state as in the US. Church of England schools are seen as better schools and often are very popular - but attending one can mean a lot of hymns, church services, etc... There are many CofE/ faith schools because these were the first institutions to provide education to children in the 19th century and then were later incorporated into the state education system (ca. 1870 -

However - they won't pledge allegiance to the UK Flag and won't sing God Save our Gracious Queen daily, although they will learn it and perhaps sing it occasionally.


Expect a small novel of a report card if you end up in a state school. Ours runs to 5 pages including full attendance records with little statements under each area of the curriculum. So for RE in Y2 DD2 had something along the lines of: DD2 especially enjoyed the unit on the story of Noah's ark and is developing a wider understanding of different religions in the world. It's all very 'fluffy' - each child develops at their own pace - and schools can be very loath to openly and honestly discuss how your child is performing (as in avoiding at all costs warning a parent their child is failing and really are struggling to keep up).

I don't have personal experience but from what I understand from MN private schools are often highly geared to prepping children for entrance exams at prestigious private schools or for grammar schools. Grammar schools can be either private or state funded. Here they are state funded and free but entrance is by examination on English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Some areas the exam is straightforward and roughly 25% of students pass and go to grammar school. Other areas, like here, it's highly competitive and maybe 7 - 8% go to a grammar school.

Most areas do not offer middle schools - so your 11 year old will immediately go to a high school setting (11-18 year olds) - called senior school here. I'm not a big fan of that - I'd prefer middle schools - but they don't exist in this area. So you also need to be thinking a bit ahead (if you're moving to UK for > a few years) about what options you want for senior school. Unfortunately, my experience has been that primaries are relatively o.k. but quality options for senior school become very scarce - so when choosing where to live think through what the educational options are all the way through.


Huitre Fri 06-Dec-13 12:43:36

If you are thinking of Richmond, all the primary schools here have extensive experience of American expats so it may be a sensible choice! There are American children in every single class at my daughter's school, and I think that in general they find it easy to fit in.

mummytime Fri 06-Dec-13 12:54:48

I think most of Surrey as well as not real Surrey (like Richmond, which has a Surrey postal address but is a London borough) are pretty used to people from the US; and other more exotic places.

VworpVworp Fri 06-Dec-13 13:16:18

some fee-paying schools will have subject specific teachers in primary, particularly for languages, music, PE etc.
You must remember all independent schools are not the same!
Will your housing location depend upon school, or vice versa?

mathanxiety Sat 07-Dec-13 02:17:04

I agree with those comments about Richmond. Quite cosmopolitan. My cousin's children went to a RC primary there that they were very happy with.

Another option you might like to look into is Montessori. Like the IB in post primary, it's a nice educational approach for families who might end up moving again (I don't know if you are in this boat) and ime children move quite easily from Montessori to American elementary or middle school (if you ended up back in the US any time).

mathanxiety Sat 07-Dec-13 02:18:10

If faith school/parish school appeals, then you will need to look into requirements such as baptism, membership of the congregation, etc.

mummytime Sat 07-Dec-13 11:42:42

My DCs state primary has specialist teachers for: Languages, PE, Music, Art and reading support. (All part timers).
It is also C of E, but doesn't require baptism proof etc for entry (it admits enough that it never gets to the specific Church attendance category). You would get a place if there is one, and there is quite a lot of movement.

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