Posted by: anglopole | August 31, 2008

‘We don’t need no education…’

The large groups of kids everywhere, the back-to-school stuff in supermarkets and conversations with friends about nurseries, schools, interpreting bookings for admissions appeal sessions for confused Polish parents, etc. make it impossible for me to forget that tomorrow’s the beginning of the new school year, which also means summer holidays are over (not that everyone’s actually had the holidays!).

The education system here is different than the one in Poland, which is why I am not at all surprised that so many migrants from Poland find it hard to grasp the admissions’ rules and they end up enrolling their kids for schools too late. My life is a little bit easier as my children are starting their education here and I have been working as a teacher for some time too, so I have got used to the system here. Unlike, in Poland the fact that a child was born in a particular year doesn’t mean that they will start school at the same time as their peers born in the same year. For example, this year admissions for primary schools are for kids born between 1 September 2004 and 31 August 2005. Applications for chosen schools in the catchment area (schools closest to one’s house) are to be sent by 30th of September. The decisions whether a child is accepted for a particular school or not depend on the distance from their house to the school, siblings who may already be attending the school, the time application was delivered by the parents to the local authority (a county council). That’s why, I have already sent the application form for my older son to start primary school in 2009. This year, being nearly 4, he will be a proud pupil at the local nursery school (some children attend them for a semseter and others for two, before starting at primary school), which is yet another confusing phenomenon for many parents not familiar with the English ways regarding education. A nursery in Poland are associated with a place where parents can leave their babies or toddlers during the day. While kindergarten is a place, like nursery here, where children can get used to more structured activities introducing them to school life.

Like many things in Britain, a lot depends on where one lives and so terminology in education can vary from county to county. In Bedfordshire the education ladder looks like this:

  • pre-school
  • nursery
  • lower school
  • middle school
  • upper school
  • college
  • universtiy

Children normally transfer at 9+ (the end of Year 4) to the middle school serving the local catchment area and then at 13+ (end of Year 8 ) to the catchment area upper school. All upper schools have a 6th form and pupils may remain at the school up to the age of 18 or 19 years.

Starting with nursery, all students are required to wear a uniform and what unifrom it is depends on the school they will attend (each school has a different logo and coulour combinations). I find it a very good idea, actually, for safety reasons (you can easily spot youngsters roaming the streets when they should be at school) and unnecessary fashion competitions among students can be eliminated to a large extent. Surely, the students themselves do not really appreciate all this but, hey, this is just the way it is with many things in life – ironically, they only make sense in hindsight 😉

My little boy is extremely excited about starting the nursery school and I can only wish that his enthusiasm only grows in time rather than fade and transform into some weird teenage ups and downs and the fashionable disdain for education 😉



  1. It seems to me that our Peruvian education system is so much alike as the English one you explain here.
    For example, students wear uniforms too, and they depend on the school… BUT, from the early 70’s up to the early 90’s we had a unique uniform. In a really ugly shade of gray, in order to make the uniform look not so dirty (navy blue works the same, doesn’t it?). And the skirt for girls was simply awful. The thing is all my school years I had to wear that dreadful uniform (I graduated in 1986), so I now envy those students going to school in green, blue, maroon or whatever.
    You made me get back to the good old days. Thanks!


  2. Thanks for all this info, Gabriela. It’s interesting to know what it’s like in Peru, the country I always associate with the Andes! 🙂


  3. Andes and Macchi Picchu, yes. But also beaches, rainforest, deserts, lakes, big cities, tropical weather, very cold weather… you name it. From our earliest school years, we are taught that Peru is a microcosmos.
    I’ll keep on reading your interesting blog. 😀


  4. Well, I would most certainly love to visit Peru. I used to be interested in the Incas Empire and it’d be great to visit the places that may still remind us of these ancient days! Do keep visiting my blog – all feedback is welcome! 🙂


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