Thursday, September 2

First Day School

We are back in the thick of it now, oh boy. Kids excited about the prospects of the new term, Year 4 and 5, respectively, which starts this morning. And I, like every parent, am left to wonder: how did they become so .. big. Yes, these little Shakespeares are growing up. Eitan, for his part, has written a football-training schedule for each day of the week, rotating by position. He notifies me that Monday to Wednesday morning I will be required to take him to the pitch for drill-practice which is fine by me as it will force me to exercise (it is all about me, after all). This morning the boy in the backyard, 7AM, practising headers. Not sure what the neighbors think about that but we will find out for sure (our bedroom thankfully on the other side of the house). Madeleine slower to rise, poor kid. She remains our night owl and mornings never fun, especially now, after holiday (we share a teary moment as I wrestle her from bed). Sonnet does the drop-off and reports: "Madeleine found her friends on the schoolyard and she was off. Eitan was in the midst of his group when he arrived, and deigned to come over to say 'hi.'" While sunny, it feels like autumn and I spy the first spider web of the season. Sounds about right.

Full-time education in the UK is compulsory for all children aged between 5 and 16 (inclusive). Students may continue their secondary studies for a further two years (sixth form), leading most typically to an A level qualification, although other qualifications and courses exist, including Business and Technology Education Council (
BTEC) qualifications and the International Baccalaureates which have become ever more popular with ex-pats for US colleges. The leaving age for compulsory education was raised to 18 by the Education and Skills Act 2008. The change takes effect in 2013 for 17-year olds and 2015 for 18-year olds. State-provided schools, like ours, are free of charge, and there is also a tradition of independent schooling, but parents may choose to educate their kids by any suitable means. The National education budget for 2008-09 was £62.2 billion with total enrollment 11.7 million, of which 4.4 primary, 3.6 secondary and 3.7 post-secondary. (source: Dept of School, Children & Family; Higher Education Statistics Agency). This equates to about £5,300 per child.

Eitan and Madeleine are in our fabulous state primary school which is a ten minute walk from our house. We anticipate Independent, or private education, from secondary (Year 7) and Eitan will take the "10-plus" exam this year. Gulp. Approximately 7% of English schoolchildren attend privately run independent schools, some of which are called (confusingly for the Americans) "public schools". Education at independent schools is usually chargeable. Such schools, some of which are boarding schools, cover primary and secondary education and charge between £2500 and £30,000 per year (ISC Annual Census). Many offer scholarships for those with particular skills (football? performance?) or aptitudes or bursaries to allow less well-off students to attend which I note, dear reader, includes ours.

"In the UK, state schools exist in a bewildering variety of forms. Over the last hundred years, successive governments have struggled to improve education by reforming its structure, over and over again. What all state schools have in common is that they are entirely free to parents, being funded through taxation."
-- The Good Schools Guide