State schooling in the UK

I thought I would write about my experiences with the UK state schooling system now that Daniel has been at school here for a good three months. Note that my experience relates to just one school in the UK which may or may not be representative of others but I think it’s still worth talking about.

I have only good things to say about Daniel’s school here. It has surpassed all of my expectations and more. Daniel has Tourette’s syndrome and mild autism and the school has been very supportive of these difficulties. They genuinely care about him. I can see this every morning when he arrives at school and is greeted by his teachers. They greet him with warmth and have a genuine interest in him. This is probably the most important quality in a school for me: the relationship the teachers have with their students. And the school in York is fantastic in this regard.

The school here is smaller than the Auckland school and I prefer this. The teachers here seem to know all of their students by name. There is more of a community/family feel to the place. Parents are also very involved in fund-raising both for the school and for other charities.

I love school dinners because it means I don’t have to make lunch in the mornings. Perhaps this is lazy of me but I think Daniel prefers them too as he never got particularly excited by the boring sandwiches I used to make him for lunch in Auckland.

Daniel gets to study music every week. This is not something offered by his NZ school but something that I feel is very important. I love music and think it should be a part of the curriculum for the whole year. He also gets to participate in an end-of-year performance which I am particularly looking forward to.

If Daniel struggles with something here, handwriting for instance, it’s not seen as a problem but as an area he needs some extra support with. In NZ, I get a letter explaining that he is slipping behind and needs to catch up. He’s only 6. It’s not exactly the end of the world.

The class size is slightly larger here than in NZ. It’s 1 teacher to 29 pupils where in NZ it was 1 teacher to 25 pupils. However there is a teacher aide here for 50% of the time which I think more than balances this out.

The school here is like Fort Knox. Once the children enter the school building, it gets locked and no-one can get in without the key. In New Zealand, anyone can wander into school classrooms which are all basically outside and open. Some people might prefer the more relaxed situation in NZ but I have to say I prefer the security they have here.

In terms of the curriculum, it is fairly similar to NZ. He has slipped into essentially the same spot in his education that he left in NZ which is very lucky.

I’m not sure whether we’ve been exceptionally lucky and have just had the good fortune to choose an excellent school or whether other schools in York are just as good. I have friends with children at other state schools and they all have good things to say about them so I think my experience is fairly representative of schooling in York. The school in Auckland is also really good and consistently scores highly in school rankings. But I have to say that overall, I like the school here better.


19 responses to “State schooling in the UK”

  1. This is so encouraging to read, Rachel. Quite a contrast in approaches to Daniel’s writing. As you note, bad writing’s not the end of the world. By the way, you’ll have to film the end-of-year concert and do a post for the enjoyment of your followers. Should be quite entertaining. 🙂

  2. We’ve had pretty much the same experience. The state schools where we are have also been very good. The general impression I have is that academically state schools are very good. What they’re maybe not as good at (compared to the private schools at least) is providing for sporting and other non-academic activities. Ours have been quite good at this, but I don’t think this is universally true.

    • Before we came here we were led to believe that state schooling in the UK wasn’t as good as in New Zealand but this is just not true at all. So it’s good to hear that our experience in not unusual.

  3. There are certainly a lot of criticisms made of the UK education system. Some of them are fair, the system is not perfect and there are some poor schools, but a lot of it is politically motivated and comes from people who want to do away with state provision of education altogether.

    Certainly my experience pretty much mirrors yours – my little boy is 5 and his school sounds like Daniel’s in many ways.

    • Thanks for your comment, Andrew. It’s nice to see you on my blog! I’m pleased to hear that you too have had a good experience with the UK education system. I agree that no system is perfect and that there is always room for improvement but this doesn’t mean that things are bad overall. Quite the opposite in this case, I think.

  4. Great post Rach, lovely to hear that Daniel has settled in and is enjoying his school. I still have great memories from my UK state primary school too. The teachers were absolutely lovely and I felt incredibly welcome, perhaps because I was something of a novelty back then. I remember the school work being quite easy and very creative. Activities were always in groups and had a creative element, whereas Australia was much more structured and strict. I also remember being hands down amazing at all forms of sport… that was short lived!

    • Funny – the bit about being amazing at sport! I don’t think Daniel has had this same experience. He is not sporty at all. Creative activities and group work sound much more progressive than structured and strict. My own memories of primary school in Australia are of structured and strict too.

  5. Ah, state schools. It’s great that you like your child’s school. That means a lot because you know your child is well-taken cared of. 🙂

      • You’re quite fortunate to have a decent school for your child. I can’t speak the same compared to public schools in our country. It sucks but teachers and students make to do with what they pitifully have in schools.

  6. I’m really pleased to hear that you are happy with Daniel’s school Rachel. Again, after so much negative press about the state of our education here in the UK this is so refreshing to read, thank you 🙂

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