When we decided to move to the UK, the one thing that stressed me out the most was how my girls were going to adjust to the school system here. It is different, but we’re embracing the changes, and the challenges.
Moving without kids is tough, but moving with kids is even harder. That said, we are trying to embrace the new version of normal. I thought I should do a catch up on how the girls are getting on at school, and how we are adjusting.
The School Run
The school day starts later in the UK than it does in SA. We would typically get to school in SA at around 07.05. In order to achieve this there were daily meltdowns, anxiety over being later, and hastily eaten breakfasts.
Here they have a staggered start time. The eldest, who is in Year 2, must be there by 08.30am. The youngest, who is in Reception must be there by 08.40. Both finish at 15.00.
This later start time has meant that we are less rushed than we used to be. I can still drive to school in about 3 minutes, but we have just started walking to school now, and apart from having to teach them how to walk on the pavement and not run into traffic, we’re enjoying it. It takes them about 30 minutes to get there, and then it takes me around 20 minutes to get back.
They are quite tired by the time school is out at 15.00 so I have been fetching them in the car.
FYI – The Car Park dilemma is the same at all schools! There’s never enough parking spaces, and mommy cliques are the same wherever you go.
Oh, and how’s this for a school car-park view?
The schooling system in South Africa and the schooling system in the UK are different. I am NOT saying that one is better than the other, but it is different in so many ways!
The Age Thing!
In SA the school year runs from Jan to December, and you mostly go to school if you are born in a specific year … if your child is born between January 2011 and December 2011, they will be in Grade One in 2018. *With some exceptions when academically required. My eldest is 7 years and 2 weeks old and goes to Grade 3 in September, effectively she has skipped 1/2 a year of Grade One and completed 3 weeks of Grade 2 before being thrust into Grade 3. Whilst my youngest will do 3 weeks of Grade R (Reception) and start Grade 1 in September, a whole 16 months earlier than the South African kids her age. This is some scary shit as a mom!
I expected as much which is why I had enrolled my eldest in the Wise Eye Reading Programme. I truly believe that it has helped her. But I do want to do some extra reading with her over the school holidays in an attempt to continually improve her reading skills. I’m also going to join the library in the summer holidays to try to encourage the girls to read more.
The #momguilt for me and the heartbreak of the week for her came for my eldest. She realised that instead of being the top 5 kids in her class for reading, as she was in SA, she is now in the bottom 3 kids (not percent, children).
Don’t get me wrong, this is nothing to do with ‘intelligence’, it’s due to a simple approach to education by the educational experts. In SA they don’t teach them to read until the year they turn 7. In the UK, it’s the September after you turn 4! By default they are both at least a full academic year behind the classmates.
But it’s okay!
I’m not anxious about this. Do you want to know why?
Because the head of the school assured me that it will be fine. They will help my girls catch up. They will work with me to do the extra work needed to bring them up to speed. And I know that they will. I have faith.
School Dress Code
The schools in the UK are far more relaxed when it comes to dress code, sporting attendance, and club participation. But don’t let this persuade to let you think they are ‘soft’. They are not! This is a whole blog post on its own, but suffice it to say that my eldest and I are both coping amazingly well with the reduced level of anxiety that we are living in, whilst still conforming to expectations!
The choices the kids are given, not only apply to the three different healthy meal options per day, but also to the different uniform styles that are accepted by the school. The fact that they encourage ‘choice’ by their students, blew me away!
If you want to wear shorts or a skirt to school, tights or a dress, does it matter? As long as your uniform meets the colour & decency requirements, it doesn’t matter. You can wear any colour hair bands, you can take any type of bag, and you even have a choice of 3 different meal options per day provided by the school (at your cost), or you can take a pack-up from home.
Whilst I think it’s a good thing that some schools do have very strict school uniform rules, the added pressure this puts on kids is not better. My eldest has sensory processing issues and it took her weeks to get used to a button up shirt with a tie around her neck. The fact that there are so many choices here means that everyone will manage to find something that works for them.
And the uniforms here are super cheap and available at all major supermarket clothing chains which makes buying them easier.
Sport & Culture
The girls are doing PE at school twice a week. It is part of their school curriculum.
They are not doing any afternoon sports as yet. We joined at the end of the school year when most of the sport & culture clubs have already finished for the year. When they go back in September I will be encouraging them to both take up one sport (I suspect either Hockey or Football/Soccer), and maybe one culture club too.
In addition to this, I really want to get them to join a swimming club. Obviously it will be indoors, but they both love swimming, and my eldest is quite good so you never know …
Sport is definitely more of a priority in SA schools than it is in the UK schools. I know they are both missing their sports, but I can’t say I’m missing the crazy afternoon mom taxi service!
Are They Happy?
Yes. They absolutely love their new school. So do I. It’s not better than their old school, it’s just different. I am happy that they are happy, and that’s all that matters. They will catch up. They are awesome kids.
We have another 5 days of school left for the school year before our long summer holidays. They really do need a break so we are looking forward to chilling, relaxing and reading!