A Man Who Will Ramble About Charter Schools in the US Explores the UK’s Education System

Today was a great day for me and the other education people on the trip! We finally started to talk and dive into the UK’s education system. While we listened to more lectures today, we were taught about how the system is divided, testing, curriculum, and types of schools in the UK. We also discussed early childhood education in the UK alongside special needs students in the UK as well. All in all, the discussion and lectures were very insightful into what the system is like here in the UK.

We first started with the basics of the education system in the UK. We were told that there are five stages: early education (birth to five years old), primary education (five to seven and eight to eleven years old), secondary education (twelve to sixteen years old), further education (between secondary and university), and higher education (university). We then moved on to the testing part of the system. The UK likes to test their students as much or even a little more than the US. In a previous blog, I had mentioned that the GCSEs were a very rigorous SAT for only seniors as a comparison. Well, to add on, it is only in English and math for the exams. If you fail, you specifically retake English and math. Finally, we learned about the types of schools in the UK. The types were Grammar (have to take a test at eleven to get in to one), comprehensive (normal public school), faith (associated with a particular religion but not like US private schools), Free (help specializes in a particular area), Academies (think charter schools), Special (for special needs students), and Private (charge a fee). Now, with similarities and differences, there are similar and different takes. For instance, a major difference that jumped out to me was that the further education period means you are out of school, but you are still legally required to be educating yourself. Another one was with the faith and private schools. Although they both have admissions requirements, faith schools still have to follow the national curriculum in the UK while private schools do not. They are separate entities. The major similarity for me was that the academies function similarly to charter schools in the US. I think a major question for me still is whether or not academies actually produce better results on the GCSEs. Reason being is academies are run like businesses and are unregulated. It would be interesting to see if the upregulated system works.

While early childhood education is not my exact forte, it was still interesting to look at it from a teaching perspective to begin with. With early childhood education, mandatory attendance starts at age five, similar to the US starting age for mandatory schooling. Before the age of five, it is not mandatory. Something that we learned is that once a child reaches the age of three, they can receive 30 free hours of childcare. Here in the US, that only exists for those living at and below the poverty line. Everyone else in the US most likely pays for it. As part of early education, the social workers are a part of the system as well. We talked about the acceptable ratios for social workers to students when working in the early education system. Sadly, some of the issues the UK experiences with early childhood education are the same in the US. The most prevalent one being the issues of pay, conditions, and status. This does make me wonder: is it possible that teaching may die out because of such hard problems they deal with?

We also talked more about students with special needs in the UK education system. While talking, the UK SEND program reminds me a lot of the IEPs in the US. Another point that stuck out with me was when we talked about Stockton. In Stockton, they have a task force in their schools that not only works within the school, but works with the outside community. The task force’s job is to help teachers and families connect with the needed resources and agencies in order to help the child with special needs. In the US, there are many different individual agencies and resources that we can use. However, there is nothing comparable to this task force in Stockton that I can think of that is in the US. It makes me wonder if any states in the US are trying out and task force ideas like that of the one in Stockton?

After our classes, we went on a canal ride of Birmingham’s canals and went to a lovely cafe for dinner tonight. Tomorrow, we have plans to go to the Black Country Living Museum! It’s like the living museum in Williamsburg, VA, but, instead of just one era, it brings many eras in the UK’s history to life! I can’t wait to explore it tomorrow!

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