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Relocating from the US need help understanding school years

(36 Posts)
amenahi Fri 10-Jan-14 22:26:53

Hi All,

I am relocating from the US to live in London near King's College Hospital for only one year. We are considering living in the Dulwich Village area. I need help understanding a couple things.

1. What is the name of the grade for children entering school who turn 5 before the school year starts? In the US that is considered kindergarten.

2. Is there a cut-off date that a child must turn 5 by before they are able to start? For example in the US a child must be 5 by September 1st (in most states) before they are able to start kindergarten.

3. If there is a cut-off date are there any exceptions to the rule? Can a child test into the grade?

allyfe Wed 15-Jan-14 10:52:42

I agree, her level sounds similar to other children in reception. There will be other children with birthdays close to hers, she may not be the oldest in the class. I know of some reception children who entered with a reading level expected in year 2. As 3bunnies says, they provide differentiated work when needed.

3bunnies Wed 15-Jan-14 06:08:43

I wouldn't worry too much about her being bored, ds is a similar age and can already read at the level of a year 1 child and has achieved his goals for numeracy in reception. The school will differentiate the work and is used to accepting children with a range of abilities. You can do extra work at home with her if she wants to. It might be a bit of a culture shock for her so it is probably best if she doesn't need to do too much. Year 3 is when the learning really starts to accelerates and children do find it a bit challenging after the gentler infant school years.

pyrrah Tue 14-Jan-14 21:00:16

Sorry - multi-form, not multi-year entry.

pyrrah Tue 14-Jan-14 20:59:49

Despite the no secular schools thing, more and more people in the UK are atheist so it's not particularly effective!

The religiosity or otherwise of a school basically comes down to the head-teacher's personal beliefs. In London most community schools are of the 'nod to god' variety, but if lack of religion is important to you then it's worth checking it out (although a change of head can change that).

RE is the study of faiths rather than the study of faith, and things like Diwali, Eid and so on are also celebrated.

You can withdraw your child from RE and the worship bit, but other than JWs, no-one generally does. DH and I are secular humanists and as atheist as you get, but still like Xmas carols, nativity etc and see it as an important part of our cultural history.

In London traffic an hour isn't often that far. DD goes to a primary that is only about 1.5 miles away but by the time we've walked to the bus stop, taken the bus and walked to school it takes best part of 40 minutes.

Other things to check is the situation regarding bulge classes. A friend of mine has applied for a school that has single form entry (30 children) and had a 150m last admitted distance in 2011. In 2012 they ran a bulge class (60 children) and I have a horrible feeling that they may not get a place this year even if they live on the doorstep. Bulge classes = siblings and with the potential siblings of 60 children in 2012, there may well be no places over in 2014.

Multi-year entry and no previous bulge classes are your friends. The local authority will have this information.

The brochure can be downloaded from here and will have all the info on last years allocations. Schools which have become Academies may not have their 'last distance offered' details - you can try calling them individually to find out (although some of them didn't seem to have a clue when I asked last year!)

PenguinsDontEatKale Mon 13-Jan-14 08:44:09

If you have a DD starting year 3, this may actually help you. Take a good look at admission criteria, but most schools put siblings basically at the top.

It is often easier to get a place in year 3. The law is very, very strict that each class must have no more than 30 children in for reception, year 1 and year 2, but the rule is relaxed at year 3 so there may be a wee bit more flexibility. Also, in affluent areas of London, quite a few children may move to the private system at year 3 (there is a vile phrase 'state til 8', which basically means go to state schools for the infants and then move for the academic year in which they turn 8), so if you can move close and be there as soon as possible in the summer, you might get more chance of a space coming up.

If you get your older child in and there is a sibling rule, that will bump you nice and high up the waiting list for a place for your younger one.

thepobblewhohasnotoes Mon 13-Jan-14 03:26:26

Just to emphasis how important distance is, if you want to change schools, you could be waiting 6 months for a place for your chosen school, and be effectively top of the list as you are nearest. Another family could then move closer to the school than you, and put their DC's name down for the same year. A place becomes available a week after they've gone onto the waiting list. The other family would get it, not you.

thepobblewhohasnotoes Mon 13-Jan-14 03:21:50

*think not thing!!

thepobblewhohasnotoes Mon 13-Jan-14 03:21:07

A fundamental difference between US and UK schools is that over there you have the concept of passing a grade to move to the next one. Over here, the teachers teach mixed-ability groups, everyone moves up together.

thepobblewhohasnotoes Mon 13-Jan-14 03:18:09

There is a lot of pressure on school places, and unless you have a factor in your favour like your DC has a sibling at the school, places are allocated purely on distance. Ask the local council for the admissions criteria.

They should also be able to provide stats on how many children were let in last year under the different categories, and - importantly - how far the furthest family lived from the school. My council does that anyway. That's a very useful document for you when house hunting.

If you have to go onto a waiting list for the school, AFAIK, places will be allocated according to how close you lice to the school, not who has been waiting the longest. In your shoes, I would choose the school or schools I wanted, and try to move as close as possible. This is the best thing you can do do get a good school for your DD.

Be aware that house prices will be higher near the good schools, as many people will move before reception allocation, to ensure their DCs get into a good school (we did). Even if you don't get in at first, you may stand a good chance of getting a late place in reception year if people have put their DCs down for independent schools or private schools too, as they may have used reception as a backup, so there will be some who don't show at the beginning of term.

When househunting, use and on the map accompanying each property, you can click to see primary schools, and then click through to see their OFSTED reports and info about the school, it's a very useful tool.

thepobblewhohasnotoes Mon 13-Jan-14 03:09:24

amenahi, in practice, many schools are basically secular. There is a legal requirement, from memory something like the schools "must provide an act of worship that is broadly Christian in nature". However the interpretation of this varies wildly.

If it's important to you to not go to a religious school, then it's worth asking them how the requirement to provide worship is met.

With my two local schools, a teacher at the open day answered that they one has prayers in assembly, they sing well known hymns and they say grace at lunch. At the other one (the one DS goes to), they said that they talk to the DCs about what being good means, and they sometimes ask them to close their eyes and thing about "wonder and awe". They fudge it, in other words, and Christianity doesn't get forced on them, although they did do a nativity.

Many schools (particularly in London IME) are basically secular despite the rules. It's down to the individual school's ethos.

amenahi Mon 13-Jan-14 02:42:26

Wow pyrrah I didn't realize the schools were not secular...I thought they would be more so than the USA. That's good to know. I can't believe 'reasonable distance' is considered an hour one way! I actually have another dd who would be starting Y3. I better do some homework myself on HE options to be prepared - especially since we were not planning on getting a car.

NyanevesSister - yes your email would be helpful as I would have more questions about the area!

NynaevesSister Sun 12-Jan-14 12:01:32

OK I can't work out how to message on my phone so I will do so when I get home!

NynaevesSister Sun 12-Jan-14 12:00:08

Amenahi I will message you my email. If you have an questions about the area or want more information I am happy to help.

pyrrah Sun 12-Jan-14 11:32:00

Just to add - Southwark admissions are a lovely bunch and they actually encouraged me to ring weekly to check waiting list positions. They practically recognised my voice when I called by the time she got a place! After the 31st August, the lists will be held by the schools so you start ringing them rather than the council.

The council only has to offer a place within 'reasonable distance' - that can be up to an hours travelling each way in London. Be careful about turning it down if that is what you get offered - they only have to make one offer. Nurseries won't generally take older children here, so you will end up having to HE. Better to take the place and then keep fingers crossed that something will come up from the waiting lists (you can be on more than one list).

Even in Outstanding schools places do come up in Reception. In fact Reception is probably an easier year to get one as there is more movement than once children are settled in Y1.

I'm in the North of the Borough which tends to have slightly higher mobility, but got a place in an Outstanding primary (my first choice) 3 weeks into term after two parents finally told the school they weren't taking the place and another 2 moved their children after getting their first choice at another primary. So 4 places came up at once.

Do be prepared to move fast if you get an offer. I heard on the Thursday morning, had to sign the forms and take DD to see the school on the Friday and she started on the Monday morning. Spent the whole weekend trying to track down navy blue pinafores!

Coming from the USA, you may not be aware that there is no such thing as a secular school in the UK. All schools, by law, must have a daily act of worship of a broadly Christian nature (unless the school is a Jewish/Hindu/Muslim primary in which case insert broadly X nature).

The degree of religiosity pretty much depends on the HT. DD's school basically just covers being nice to people and so on. Others will have prayers and bible stories.

Most schools do a Nativity play but they are usually somewhat unorthodox - Mary got taken to hospital to have Jesus by a load of fireman because the donkey got too tired at DD's. I suspect because Reception had a large number of firemen costumes already. DD is a bit confused about the whole stable thing now, but since we are atheists we're not too bothered.

Obviously faith schools are generally far more religious especially in cities (many village schools are CofE and no option of another school for parents so tend to be more 'nod to god'). 'Outstanding' CofE and RC schools in London often require bums on pews at least 2x a month plus baptism before 6 months and extra points for doing the flowers etc and you will need letters from your priest with the application form.

So, if you are religious and regularly attend, might be worth getting your local priest in the USA to provide you with references!

If you spot a school you really like, move as close as possible as the waiting lists don't discriminate on how early you go on the list, it's all about being the highest category for admissions - normally children in care/children with statement of education need/siblings/distance or similar. So the nearer you live the higher your chances of being further up the pecking order.

PenguinsDontEatKale Sun 12-Jan-14 09:09:05

I am sure she will be fine in reception. It is quite funny (in the nicest possible way!) for me to hear you worrying about your daughter being bored as one of the oldest in reception since it is seen as a total plus here and you get thread after thread with people worrying about their child being young for the year!

Bear in mind also that the teaching of reading is probably quite different to what she is used to (we are very phonics focused) and being that bit older will probably help her adjust to that more easily too.

amenahi Sun 12-Jan-14 01:58:38

Nynaevessister thank you ever so much for all the information/ resources you provided! I will take a look at all the websites and make some calls. From the rest of he posts it sounds like she'll be fine in Reception, especially at a decent school. Unfortunately private is not an option due to the cost.

PenguinsDontEatKale Sat 11-Jan-14 19:04:20

If you are coming for a year from the US and have been in Montessori education there, would private education be an option?

I really wouldn't worry about a child being stretched enough in reception in a good school. Many will start knowing some letters, etc.

However, the application process as a late applicant can be pretty fraught as all the places have already been allocated and you are relying on some people not taking up places to make movement on waiting lists. Private schools may have more flexibility.

Seminyak Sat 11-Jan-14 16:59:57

I can't really help with the edu side of things because I don't have kids, but you'll be down the road from me! Hello! smile Hope your move goes well.

olibeansmummy Sat 11-Jan-14 16:51:58

Your dd will go into reception, but u wouldn't worry, ds knew all his letters and could read quite a bit when he started and was/is doing well with maths and he's only a May birthday so I'm assuming there are plenty of older children who are the same level as him/ further on than him.

NynaevesSister Sat 11-Jan-14 16:17:12

I should say some of West Dulwich - a large chunk of it is in Lambeth.

NynaevesSister Sat 11-Jan-14 16:16:05

Reception is the equiv of your Y1 isn't it? It isn't like Kindergarten - there is a lot of free play time but it is far more structured. Also, any good school will easily take all that in their stride. They are used to a vastly different level of ability at KS1 and will differentiate accordingly. As for size - well there's a huge difference in size in my son's class but that's never made a difference.

If you want her to go to a state school I would start with the area that you want to move to. Find all the nearest schools, take a look at the Ofsted report for each one (although that by no means paints the whole picture) and look at the school's website for admissions criteria and also the local authority (in the case of Dulwich Village, Herne Hill, East Dulwich and West Dulwich this is Southwark).

This is the school finder on the government's website:

To do a quick look up on all the stats and ofsted reports for a school look at its dashboard - enter the school's name in this finder:

This is a link to the government's website on finding schools:

This is a link to Southwark's web page for school admissions:

When you arrive and have a residential address in Dulwich (assuming here!) you will put in an application to Southwark - but the school does not have to be in Southwark. They can be in any London Borough - you just need to put in one application. For example, if you were on, say the Croxted Road side of Dulwich Village you might list Dulwich Infants (which is in Southwark) and Rosendale (which is in Lambeth).

I would suggest that you call around, and see if school's have a vacancy. You might need to go on the waiting list for schools - often people don't take up a place but don't notify the school. When a place comes free it is allocated using the same admissions criteria, not who was put on the waiting list first. So if you are closest to the school, for example, you will get a place.

You might want to look at an improving school. Langbourne, which I believe has been renamed Dulwich Wood, has had a lot of money and time invested in it by Southwark recently. It is in a lovely setting, and has something many Lambeth schools lack - lots of outdoor space. It's not quite so handy to Dulwich village, but is still walkable, and easily less than 5 mins drive.

On the West Dulwich side you have Rosendale and Elm Wood, both outstanding schools. Elm Wood is also in the process of expanding so there's lots of building work going on but it has gone up to 2 classes per year (what they call a 3 form entry here). And Rosendale as 3 classes I believe. I'm afraid I don't know the schools in Herne Hill and East Dulwich as well but I think they're all good schools.

Also state schools in the UK can be religious - Dulwich Infants is a Church of England School. St Anthony's, which is lovely and has an Ofsted rating of Good, is Catholic.

If you decide to go private then there's lots of options in Dulwich, and you can find them using the same Government school finder. Note that in the UK an 'Independent' school is a private or fee paying school.

Finally, although a child has to start school at five by law, this doesn't have to be a school. All you have to do in the UK is let the local authority know that you are going to home educate. There's no application, assessments, or follow ups. At any point you can re-enter the school system when you want to, by putting in an application with the local authority.

Note that if you are offered a school place and turn it down, the local authority is considered to have fulfilled its obligation to provide an educational opportunity, and does not have to offer you another place (and probably won't).

All this sounds stressful but it isn't really. Oh ok it is! But you can come here and ask as many questions as you like. We have two really lovely regulars, PH47Bridge and Admissions who know everything there is about applying for a school place and have endless amounts of patience at helping people. I'm always amazed at their kindness in donating so much time here.

lilyaldrin Sat 11-Jan-14 16:03:10

Lots of children her age will have done 2 years in nursery already, so I wouldn't worry. September born children will often have had 5 terms of pre-school or school nursery before beginning Reception.

amenahi Sat 11-Jan-14 15:15:13

Thanks again everyone! I guess the problem is she's had two years of formal Montessori education ( where she's in a room of 3-6 year olds) She is used to the routine of 8am-3:00pm every day ( except summers). She is also physically big ( above 90% in height and weight). Her teacher says she is at her peer groups level - meaning the class entering Y1. That's why I feel like doing a year of Reception would be putting her behind. Trust me I am in no rush or have the need to pressure her in terms of education. I just don't want her to be bored and not be challenged.

Now I'm worried about the application process in general and finding her a spot in any class. Lol

Huitre Sat 11-Jan-14 14:30:34

As your daughter will be new to formal education, in your shoes I would count my lucky stars that she's not 18 days older and being chucked into the deep end of Y1, where the expectations are a lot higher - one little American girl has joined my DD's class in Y2 this year without much previous formal schooling and is having a really tough time. My DD has an early Sept birthday and I have found it has made life a lot easier for her in terms of developmental readiness to do the stuff they are doing at school. Reception, while play-based, isn't just play, btw. The children will be doing phonics and maths every day, not to mention RE, history, geography, art, science, guided reading etc. It's just that it will be presented as informally as possible and with as much child-led activity as possible.

lilyaldrin Sat 11-Jan-14 14:22:29

Is there a reason you want her to go straight into Year 1 by the way? It does seem very unlikely that you'd be able to skip a year - she should go into Reception with her peer group.

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