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.