Eight things new arrivals need to know about England’s schools system

Adjusting to life in England can involve a range of challenges for migrant families. And learning to navigate around a new school system is often key among these

Today, academics at Middlesex University have launched a toolkit to help schools ensure that migrant families feel welcome and are able to understand the English school system.

The aim is to highlight the many differences between the English school system and those in other countries. Here are some of the toolkit’s key points:

  1. Mere babes in arms
    Schooling in England starts earlier than in many countries. While many countries delay formal education until children are six or seven, in England most children start school at the age of four.
  2. All shall have prizes
    Children are placed in classes according to their age, not their level of attainment. They move up to the next class at the start of each year, whether or not they have reached the expected level in their school work.
  3. Not what it says on the tin: part I
    There are many different types of school in the state system. Some of these are religious or faith schools. Not all of the people who attend these schools are religious. Nor do they necessarily have faith. Many, however, will have pretended to do so at some point.
  4. Not what it says on the tin: part II
    Public schools are not, in fact, state schools. They are actually the opposite: private, fee-paying schools.
  5. All in the definition
    The national curriculum is not, in fact, national. Some state schools follow it; some don’t. All state schools are required to provide “a broad and balanced curriculum”, though you would be hard-pressed to find many schools which agree about what this means.
  6. Group work
    Schooling and lessons can be more informal than in many other countries. Children often sit at tables, rather than desks, and may be encouraged to talk and exchange ideas during lessons.
  7. Uniformity
    Most schools have a uniform, which pupils must wear every day. It will be in unflattering colours.
  8. Yes, always
    Physical punishment is forbidden in English schools.

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