Tag Archives: school

Starting School the American Way

schoolMy 8-year-old started 3rd Grade this week.  She would have been starting Year 4 in the UK but they start school a year later here.  Finding a school place was simple as schools are allocated according to where you live, if you live within the school bus route you automatically get a place.

Preparation for school in the UK usually meant buying uniform and new shoes, labelling P.E kits and backpacks and organising dinner money.  Here it is different.  There is no school uniform. Children arrive at school on the first day in their new ‘school clothes’, a concept I don’t really understand. My children have clothes; they may wear them to school, to play in the garden or to go out at the weekend, they are not categorised into school and non-school. We don’t need to provide anything for P.E apart from a pair of ‘sneakers’.  Life should be easy, with very little to prepare but ……..

  • There is a huge list of school supplies to buy. Each year is given a list of stationery items to provide including ring binders, pens, pencils, glue and notebooks. Each item needs to be labelled and taken to school on the first day.
  •  When registering at school parents have to complete a form to prove that their children have received all the required vaccinations.  This meant that my daughter had to have a Hepatitis B vaccine before leaving the UK and another on arrival.  We also have to provide a letter from the doctor to prove she has had chickenpox or she will need the vaccine.
  • We attended an information meeting where the children were photographed for their records and we were given copious amounts of forms, signing us up for things I didn’t understand.

We visited school to meet the teacher the day before it started.  It was highly structured and organised. The teacher presented us with a list to follow, including finding a library book, completing an ‘about me’ form, reading through the rules together and finding various things in the classroom. As the meeting time came to an end a tannoy announcement told parents that it was time to leave the building.

On the first day my daughter came home with a folder inside which any correspondence is placed. It also contains her homework diary and reading record, a behaviour chart and a calendar that is completed each day at school showing both homework and things the parents need to do that evening.  I’m hoping this will help us both be a little more organised.

At curriculum evening the teacher outlined all the things they would be doing this year.  The teacher gave all the parents her email address and encouraged them to share any information about their child by email.  There is a website you can sign into as parent to check on your child’s progress and all work comes home at the end of each week marked with grades.  This open communication between parent and school is a very welcome change for me, I can’t imagine any school in the UK being quite that open.

I feel a little like a rabbit caught in the headlights as I begin to understand a system that is alien to me but we have had a good first week.  My daughter loves her teacher and gave school a 10.5 out of ten.

Up and Away: A BBC Newsround Special – Helping Children to Understand Those With Additional Needs

I used to work with children on the autistic spectrum.  My children often ask me about the children with whom I worked and autism in general. This is difficult to explain to young children.  ‘Up and Away’ I hope will address some of their questions and help them to see the world from a different perspective.

Up and Away: A Newsround Special airing on CBBC on Friday September 7th at 5pm  – hears the moving and often inspirational stories of children who have additional needs and have made the big step up to High School.

Presented by 14-year-old Royal Television Society award-winner Rosie King, the programme combines moving testimony from incredible characters with carefully crafted animation to illustrate that the big move up can be as liberating as it is scary.  Rosie has
Autism, and so has direct experience of the subject matter as she explains:
“I was born into a family with special needs and I didn’t really think it was
that big a deal until you realize that not everybody lives with these
disabilities. This programme shows how that huge moment that you might have been
dreading can be the best thing ever.”

Rosie hears the remarkable stories of Daniel who was picked on at Primary
School for having restricted growth and feared it would happen again at
Secondary School; Iyar who has Cerebral Palsy and faced the challenge of moving
up to High School from a Special School; and Callum whose visual impairment left
him vulnerable to bullying.

Daniel, Iyar and Callum’s have all faced up to their individual challenges.
Their inspirational stories show that while life in Secondary School can be
tough, most problems, even for those children who are different, disappear in a
few days.

I recently got back in touch with one of the families I worked with.  I worked with Tom who was autistic when he was 3 and 4 years old.  He was very good with numbers and letters and could read complex words by the time he went to school.  His comprehension however, was limited and his speech and social skills didn’t match his peer group. Tom is now 13 years old  and I wondered how he had coped in the school system.  His Mum said that academically he had always done well but they had worried that he wouldn’t fit in with the other children.  Tom was saved by being a skilled sportsmen, he is very popular at school and is having a positive experience.

I am looking forward to watching the Newsround Special and hope it will be an inspiration to children with additional needs and help all children understand the thoughts and feelings of children who are ‘different’.




Daily Worship in Schools – To Opt Out or Not?

There was a discussion in yesterday’s news regarding daily collective worship in schools. This was as a result of a BBC survey which showed that 64% of school children do not attend Christian daily worship.  Many schools are not honouring the statutory requirement to provide daily Christian worship but are instead using assemblies to talk about moral values, community and responsibility.  64% of the adults questioned in the survey believed that the legislation should not be enforced.

This encouraged me to re-evaluate a discussion that we had when our daughter started school.  We are not religious and before our daughter started school she had no concept of religion, God or Jesus . The only time she had attended church was for a wedding  and she  knew nothing about prayers or hymns.  We felt that when she went to school it would be wrong to force her to pray, sing hymns and immerse her in Christian culture, as this did not reflect our beliefs.  We were however, happy for her to learn about all kinds of cultures and religions in R.E lessons so that she could understand that there were an array of beliefs in the world.

We were quite surprised that worship would form a part of her daily school life in a secular school.  Parents of particular faiths had the opportunity to choose faith schools for their children that would reflect their religious culture, but as secular parents we were not given the same options.  Our first reaction therefore was to opt out of collective worship.  The school fought hard to persuade us otherwise.   Eventually we decided to allow her to attend ‘service’ for a number of reasons:

  1. If she didn’t go what would she do instead and who would supervise her?
  2.  We didn’t want her to appear different to the other children in her early days at school.
  3. The content of the service was largely based on non-religious stories, they sang very few hymns and though prayers were said actual praying was optional.

Towards the end of last term my daughter came home a number of times saying that service was boring and I began to question again our decision to let her attend.

She has just entered Junior School so the opportunity to opt out presents itself again. I no longer have the worry about what she will do while assembly is on, she is an avid reader so could occupy herself reading during this time.  Now that she is older and settled with her peers I do not think that she would feel excluded.  I am unsure about the content of assemblies is in her new school so have been unable to make a judgement on this.

I asked my daughter what they did in assembly.  She said that they didn’t pray, they were told stories but they weren’t about God and stuff.  She said that they had a story about Narnia and had talked about School Rules.  I asked her if they sang hymns, ‘What is a hymn?’ she replied.  I explained that it was a song about God or Jesus, she told me that they didn’t.

Is assembly still boring?

It’s ok it’s very short.

If you wanted you could choose not to go to assembly and do something else like read instead.

Her face lit up at this suggestion.

Have a think about it, if you like you can go for a few weeks and see what you think. If you think it is boring or they talk too much about God you could choose not to go.

I have left the final decision with her, she is old enough now to see it for what it is and to make a choice.

I do wonder however how many parents who don’t hold religious beliefs just go along with allowing their children to attend assembly as it is the easy option.  I feel that if we all made a stand in the belief that our children could be doing something more constructive with their time, then schools would begin to challenge the legal requirement.  If schools were faced with a large proportion of children who do not attend assembly and had to work out what to do with those children, then maybe they would make a stand?

I have left the decision with my daughter but am still undecided  as to whether we should make a stand.