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Topic: UK State Schools  (Read 1699 times)

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UK State Schools
« on: June 26, 2018, 03:23:23 PM »
hi there...we have four kiddos (7.5 years, 6 years, 4 years and 6 months). I know that England is big and no two State schools are the same, but I would love to hear from anyone who uses the state school system and your opinions/advice. We would definitely rent/buy a home in an area that has quality schools (we are unsure exactly where we would end up at the moment). Any advice on where to research particular schools and areas? I have been on rightmove quiet a bit and am familiar with the rankings. I am just not familiar with how the schools actually function and what they are like. Would love to hear from you! Ps I searched and looked through past posts and didn't really find much on the schools, thus this post.


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Re: UK State Schools
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2018, 03:57:22 PM »
My 4 year old is entering school this September, so I'm learning the ropes myself.

Hopefully Physicskate (who taught for a million and one years until recently) will come along and give a good summary.  Look out for eetoomey (I'm sure I spelled that wrong) who has kiddos in school in Scotland.

Kids start school at 4 here.  I find that daunting, but it is what it is.  We went to the summer fete this weekend and they sold alcohol and the (former) headteacher gave her speech while holding a can of Fosters.  Religion is taught in schools.  These are things I still need to wrap my head around.

Discipline can also vary by school.

When touring the schools, the biggest thing I found was that each school has an "ethos".  So the school my daughter will be attending's ethos is on drama/musicals.  Other schools had space, discipline (that one kids had to walk with their hands on their hips through the halls of the school - soooo weird), sustainability, etc.

Kids finish education at 16 and by 14 are more-or-less required to know what they want to be when they grow up.  By 16, they need to know as there is not the forgiveness in "path" as there is in the USA.  The UK really believes in certifications/qualifications for EVERYTHING and not so much in transferable skills.

Another consideration is that is you need an address before you can apply for a school in a council area.  Therefore, while you WILL get a school assigned, it could be that all of your kids are at different schools or at schools not near your home.  You are not placed at the school nearest you.  My BIL and SIL are moving to the UK in August and they are very nervous about where and when their child will get a school place.

The UK system is exam based.  So I'm praying my kiddos are good test takers!

I personally do not think one system (US v UK) is superior to the other.  Just different.


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Re: UK State Schools
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2018, 03:59:20 PM »
It'll depend on your area from what I understand. Ofsted rankings are what to keep an eye on, at least in England (not sure about other areas). I'd encourage you to join some local groups on FB for the area you'll be living. We have a pretty helpful one where I am, and the girls will happily tell you about the schools.


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UK State Schools
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2018, 04:15:45 PM »
Kids finish education at 16 and by 14 are more-or-less required to know what they want to be when they grow up.  By 16, they need to know as there is not the forgiveness in "path" as there is in the USA.

As a Brit who has gone through the U.K. school system, I have to disagree with most of this.

In England, education or training of in some form is now compulsory to age 18 (whether that be Sixth Form, FE College, apprenticeship or 20 hours a week of volunteering/training while also in part-time education):
https://www.gov.uk/know-when-you-can-leave-school

While you do have to choose your career path younger than in the US (you decide your major before you apply to university), you don’t have to choose what you want to do when you grow up at only 14... not at all.

While you do give up some subjects at 14, you still take 9 or 10 subjects (with English, Maths and Science compulsory, along with a language and either history or geography (and you can take both)), and you don’t narrow down any further until age 16. From the ages of 14-16, I took English, English Literature, Maths, Double Science (with classes split into Physics, Chemistry an Biology), French, Geography, Home Ec and Theatre Studies. We still had to take PE and RE classes, but they were extra and not graded. The only subject I dropped which might have been helpful later in life was History.

When I was 14, I wanted to be either a journalist or a make-up artist/beautician. At 15 I wanted to be either a journalist or a lawyer. At 16 I wanted to be either a geophysicist, or a French translator, or a dancer (I almost left school at 16 to go to dance college). By 22 I had a degree in Physics. At 24, I had a masters in geophysics. At 27, I became a meteorologist. At 35, I’m still a meteorologist and I love my job.



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Re: UK State Schools
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2018, 04:32:24 PM »
It'll depend on your area from what I understand. Ofsted rankings are what to keep an eye on, at least in England (not sure about other areas). I'd encourage you to join some local groups on FB for the area you'll be living. We have a pretty helpful one where I am, and the girls will happily tell you about the schools.

Personally, I would use Ofsted with a grain of salt.  A guide, yes.  But gut feel is paramount.


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Re: UK State Schools
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2018, 04:40:30 PM »
As a Brit who has gone through the U.K. school system, I have to disagree with most of this.

In England, education or training of in some form is now compulsory to age 18 (whether that be Sixth Form, FE College, apprenticeship or 20 hours a week of volunteering/training while also in part-time education):
https://www.gov.uk/know-when-you-can-leave-school

While you do have to choose your career path younger than in the US (you decide your major before you apply to university), you don’t have to choose what you want to do when you grow up at only 14... not at all.

While you do give up some subjects at 14, you still take 9 or 10 subjects (with English, Maths and Science compulsory, along with a language and either history or geography (and you can take both)), and you don’t narrow down any further until age 16. From the ages of 14-16, I took English, English Literature, Maths, Double Science (with classes split into Physics, Chemistry an Biology), French, Geography, Home Ec and Theatre Studies. We still had to take PE and RE classes, but they were extra and not graded. The only subject I dropped which might have been helpful later in life was History.

When I was 14, I wanted to be either a journalist or a make-up artist/beautician. At 15 I wanted to be either a journalist or a lawyer. At 16 I wanted to be either a geophysicist, or a French translator, or a dancer (I almost left school at 16 to go to dance college). By 22 I had a degree in Physics. At 24, I had a masters in geophysics. At 27, I became a meteorologist. At 35, I’m still a meteorologist and I love my job.


My husband is also an example of someone who chose well at a young age - though he swears now that engineering wasn't right for him.  But that's a lie.  He's got engineer written all over him.  :D

His BFF is the same.  Also super happy in his field (accounting).

But all of his other friends have struggled to find their way in life (in their 30's mostly).

I still do, and always will, think that the US system is more forgiving.  I graduated high school at 17.  Decided to dance professionally for awhile, decided to enter university at 22 (was able to enter straight in with no access course), finished at 24 (I took additional credits each semester and summer semesters to complete my degree in 3 years).  I do think it's harder to retrain here.  I have an employee right now who is AMAZING.  He should easily be earning £10k a year more than he is.  If he left, I'd be devastated.  But because he doesn't have UK qualifications, I cannot give him a raise...  ::)

My experience with "choosing" what you want to do at 14 v 16 comes from my husband's cousins.  They have been educated privately, so not sure if that changes anything.  His youngest cousin just turned 16 and finished her GCSE's.  Definitely well-rounded.  No doubt.  But she has been following the "film path" for the last two years.  Unfortunately she found out last week that her college course has been cancelled.  So she's scrambling right now.  :-\\\\


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Re: UK State Schools
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2018, 04:53:07 PM »
My husband is also an example of someone who chose well at a young age - though he swears now that engineering wasn't right for him.  But that's a lie.  He's got engineer written all over him.  :D

His BFF is the same.  Also super happy in his field (accounting).

But all of his other friends have struggled to find their way in life (in their 30's mostly).

I still do, and always will, think that the US system is more forgiving.  I graduated high school at 17.  Decided to dance professionally for awhile, decided to enter university at 22 (was able to enter straight in with no access course), finished at 24 (I took additional credits each semester and summer semesters to complete my degree in 3 years).  I do think it's harder to retrain here.  I have an employee right now who is AMAZING.  He should easily be earning £10k a year more than he is.  If he left, I'd be devastated.  But because he doesn't have UK qualifications, I cannot give him a raise...  ::)

My experience with "choosing" what you want to do at 14 v 16 comes from my husband's cousins.  They have been educated privately, so not sure if that changes anything.  His youngest cousin just turned 16 and finished her GCSE's.  Definitely well-rounded.  No doubt.  But she has been following the "film path" for the last two years.  Unfortunately she found out last week that her college course has been cancelled.  So she's scrambling right now.  :-\\\\

Yeah, I don't disagree that we do have to choose too young here (I don't think I got a good enough education in English and in things like writing papers) but I'd say that mostly happens at age 16, going into A levels, rather than going into GCSEs at age 14. The point of GCSEs is to give you that (mostly) well-rounded education, so that you can then specialise later on.

I think somewhere in between both the UK and US systems would work best - when I was studying abroad in the US, I certainly found the college freshman/sophomore classes way too easy (they were covering stuff that I'd studied at age 13!), but then the senior/grad-level classes were really full-on and so much more work than I was used to.


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Re: UK State Schools
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2018, 05:04:12 PM »
My husband is also an example of someone who chose well at a young age - though he swears now that engineering wasn't right for him.  But that's a lie.  He's got engineer written all over him.  :D


My partner tells me that he knew from the age of 14 that he wanted to be a town planner (and he is one!)  At 14, I'm sure I'd never even heard of a town planner, or even had any idea that it was a thing.  I was too busy smarting-off to my parents and attempting to be as louche as possible to have any idea of what I wanted to do with my life career-wise.


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Re: UK State Schools
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2018, 05:43:06 PM »
My partner tells me that he knew from the age of 14 that he wanted to be a town planner (and he is one!)  At 14, I'm sure I'd never even heard of a town planner, or even had any idea that it was a thing.  I was too busy smarting-off to my parents and attempting to be as louche as possible to have any idea of what I wanted to do with my life career-wise.

Am I looking in a mirror?!?

Yes, I was off with the fairies enjoying high school when I was 14.  And 16.  :)


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Re: UK State Schools
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2018, 05:43:17 PM »
My kid's school is surprisingly religious, especially in the younger years. 

And yeah, there's plenty of alcohol at the endless school fairs, thank God.  Too bad they don't serve at the interminable assemblies.


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Re: UK State Schools
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2018, 07:04:39 PM »

And yeah, there's plenty of alcohol at the endless school fairs, thank God.  Too bad they don't serve at the interminable assemblies.

Not a complaint.  Lord knows my liver was working overtime at Ascot last week.  Just needs a bit getting used to. 

And frankly I was just disappointed there was no Pimms.  Next year...  I’ll bring my own if I have to.  :P


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Re: UK State Schools
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2018, 04:39:30 PM »
Very happy with the state schools my kids are in. Both are Church of England, one in primary and one in secondary.

A good place to get opinions on schools is Mumsnet. Just google the area and school you’re curious about and  you’ll find some good threads. Or start one! Good luck.


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Re: UK State Schools
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2018, 05:03:01 PM »
Thank you!


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Re: UK State Schools
« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2018, 09:33:11 AM »
Personally, I would use Ofsted with a grain of salt.  A guide, yes.  But gut feel is paramount.

<------ THIS!!!! I have seen schools graded good that I wouldn't be caught dead in (and not just because I am a total snob, it's because not all 'good' schools provide kids with good educational opportunities. I find that you get to hear about schools when you've already moved to an area and hear about which ones to avoid (even though reputation in general should taken with a HUGE pinch of salt).

I recently left teaching because I really question the governmental interference with education - the constant tinkering and meddling that has lead to an increase in educational demand as well as an increase in mental health crises with pupils. I really am not a fan of secondary education here... but perhaps am a bit biased based on my own (negative) experiences.

Teachers give their absolute all here, so that is fantastic. I have met less than a handful of actual teachers that I (secretly) questioned what they were doing in a classroom. But it still isn't enough. The teaching profession is currently experiencing a recruitment and retention crisis after years of no pay rises, effectively funding cuts, combined with increased expectations and unreasonable demands by government (and an army of helicopter parents).
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Re: UK State Schools
« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2018, 09:38:53 AM »
Thank you for this info! I guess once we decide on a particular area I’ll search on a  Facebook group or look for a thread on mumsnet to get a better idea of the options. I hope you’ve been able to move on to something more enjoyable! I taught here in the states for a few years and really despised every moment of it and am now a nurse and love it!


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