This page has been put together to give you some basic information about the education system in England and what you should expect.
It will hopefully answer some of your questions and help you and your children settle quickly and happily in our school. Please also feel free to come in and ask about things – even if your understanding of English is limited, we will do our best to help you.
Children in England start school at the beginning of the year in which they turn 5, when they enter "Reception". Before this, they may go to a pre-school or a nursery, if parents choose. At St. Sidwell's we have a nursery for children aged 3 and 4. In the nursery and reception year children follow a nationally agreed "Foundation Stage Curriculum", which identifies what children should learn at this age.
Children stay at our school for a maximum of 7 years - up to Year 6. Years 1 and 2 are called "Key Stage One" and Years 3 to 6 are called "Key Stage Two". At the end of Year 6, at age 11, children leave Primary school and go to Secondary school, until the age of 16 or 18.
All Primary schools in England follow a National Curriculum, which consist of "core subjects" – English, Maths and Science – and "foundation subjects" – art, music, physical education (PE), history, geography, design technology and personal, social, health and citizenship education (PSHCE). ICT is taught as a discreet subject but also within all other subjects. At St. Sidwell's, we have a large number of laptops, iPads and other ICT resources. All computers have internet access.
At St. Sidwell's we have a themed or topic approach, where the learning across different subjects is linked. This makes learning more meaningful and gives children more opportunities to practise skills they have learned. For example, children in Year 5 learned how to write detailed instructions in literacy (English), and then used this skill to write instructions about how to "mummify" a body during their work on the Egyptians in history. Teachers inform parents/cares of the next topic in the newsletter sent home at the start each half term.
Religious Education (RE) is taught in all schools. St. Sidwell's is a Church of England school and RE is an important part of the curriculum. Children learn about Christianity alongside other religions. Parents have the right to withdraw their child from RE, but no parents have done this at our school. We greatly value the diverse backgrounds, cultures and religions of our children and hope that children will grow up to understand and appreciate beliefs different from their own. Children of other faiths are often able to share their practices with their classmates, which enriches the experience of everyone.
All schools are required by law to have a daily act of collective worship. As a Church school, our daily worship is important and a time when we all come together for a short time. Our daily worship is Christian. As with RE, parents have the right to withdraw their child but do not usually choose to do so. Children are invited, but not expected, to join our moments of prayer and many of the stories and values that we discuss are common to many religions.
We believe that children should be actively involved in their own learning. This increases their motivation and makes learning more memorable and secure. Children are therefore encouraged to ask questions, to challenge (in a polite way!) others' opinions and to engage in discussion and debate. Children do not sit passively absorbing what the teachers say but are active partners in the learning. Conversation between pupils is encouraged as learning is consolidated when children talk about it. This philosophy is in contrast to that of some other countries where children are expected to be quiet and to learn by rote.
Children in English schools are not as regularly tested as in some countries. A child's "level of achievement" is recorded and reported at the ages of 5, 7 and 11 in Primary schools and at the ages of 14 and 16 in Secondary schools. At the age of 5, teachers make a judgement about a child's achievement against national expectations based on classroom observation. This information is shared with parents, both verbally and in writing.
At the age of 7 teachers give each child a level for English (speaking and listening, reading and writing), Maths and science. They make an informed judgement based on their knowledge of working with the child and the results of national tests in English and Maths that are completed during the month of May in Year 2. Parents are only informed of the teacher's assessment – not the results of the tests. The expectation for a child aged 7 is level 2.
The main national tests come during a specific week in May for children in Year 6. These are called "S.A.T.s" – Statutory Assessment Tasks. Children are assessed in English, Maths and Science. There is a national test for reading (especially comprehension) and maths, but writing and science are assessed by the teacher from the child's ongoing work. The tests are sent away to be marked externally and parents are informed of their child's results in July, before they leave the school. The expectation for children at this age is level 4.
There are no other official tests but teachers make assessments of children's levels of achievement regularly in order to plan their next steps in learning. In Years 3, 4 and 5 children will complete "optional" SATs papers in May, to confirm the teacher's own judgments. These are not reported to parents.
There are a number of ways that we inform you of your child's achievements and next "targets":
Parents from other countries have often expressed anxiety about the lack of work sent home from school! We do expect children to continue their learning at home but with the younger children this will be daily reading and lots of conversations about incidental things at home to improve their speaking and listening skills. As children get older, they will be given maths homework, spellings and may be asked to research information for their class topic. Children often use the internet for this so if you do not have a computer at home, you may need to go to the library or come and ask if you can use the computers in school.
Your child will benefit if you can do any of the following:
Hopefully you will feel comfortable asking any member of staff for help. The class teacher can answer your questions about the work your child is doing and about homework. It is always best to see the teacher at the end of the school day as the early morning is always a busy time.
Office staff can help with any administrative problems or general advice. They can tell you dates of events and school holidays or give you addresses or phone numbers for contacts at County Hall. Small items of uniform can be bought from the office.
Samira Souyad is a teaching assistant who works with EAL children for part of the week, to help them understand class work and to help them improve their spoken English. Samira works in school all week so she is available if you need her.
Hopefully this information will be useful to you and help you to understand how our education system may be different from the one you are used to. Please do not hesitate to come in and ask for extra explanation. We want you and your children to be happy and successful at St. Sidwell's.