British mother in the US shares differences in school systems

When my British friends ask me what it means to educate my children in the United States, the first issue they bring up is the risk of school shootings.

In contrast, the last school shooting in the UK – when a gunman murdered 16 primary school pupils and a teacher – occurred in 1996. As a result, public opinion has called for tighter control of firearms, which the British government enforced.

The next question from my friends is often related to academic success.

In 2018 – the most recent year the research was carried out – the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranked the overall knowledge and skills of British 15-year-olds 13th in the world in reading, literacy , mathematics and science.

The same assessment found that 15-year-old Americans were ranked 25th in the world.

It is difficult to compare public school systems forensically due to the vastly different populations and government infrastructure across countries.

However, feedback from my British friends has convinced me that setting up in the UK is more child and parent friendly.

Here are three main reasons.

In the UK, children start school from the age of 4

By law, children in the United Kingdom enter the publicly funded British school system from the age of 4.

Most begin full-time classes at “reception” — the first step on the educational ladder — in September after their 4th birthday. Research has consistently shown that early childhood education helps children develop academically and socially.

It also eases a huge financial burden on working parents, who no longer have to pay babysitters or preschools for private childcare.

The age at which American parents are required to send their children to school depends on the state. In New York, for example, the law only requires them to attend school after the first grade.

School holidays are better distributed in the United Kingdom

My friends in the UK can’t believe my kids get a full 10 weeks of summer vacation from school.

“What are you doing with them for 10 weeks?” » asked my daughter’s godmother one day. She grimaced when I told her we were paying thousands of dollars for day camps and overnight camps.

In Britain, almost all children get six weeks of summer vacation, two weeks at Christmas and two weeks at Easter. There is usually a one-week “half term” in February, May and October.

In response to parents’ complaints about the standard length of summer vacation, some education authorities reduced it to five as an experiment. The extra week was added to the May semester, giving children 10 days off instead of five in the spring.

Children wear uniforms

Most state schools in the UK require pupils to wear a school uniform. The protocols contrast with those in the United States, where most public school students can wear whatever they want to class — although within reason.

As a mom whose teenagers can waste hours choosing an outfit to wear each morning, I wish uniforms were mandatory across the country. I’m tired of endless arguments about what clothes are “appropriate” or not.

Meanwhile, I shudder when I hear about “elite” cliques of high schoolers dressed head-to-toe in Lululemon. I can’t stand to think of a kid being bullied for wearing something Old Navy instead.

A friend said her children wore whatever they wanted on a few designated days on the British school calendar, such as the last day of term. “The stress of dressing for competition is intense,” she said.

Uniforms are not only levelers, but also support the idea of ​​a community or team. Children look better dressed in a uniform, and it’s good training for entering a profession.

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