The kids have now completed their first full week at school and started their second week earlier this morning by bounding through the doors with excitement. They’ve had a culture shock of a week – but in a really nice way, and a way which has seen them all unanimous in their views that they ‘really like it over here’. Bit of a relief if I’m honest – I had no back up plan should they have pronounced they wanted to return to the UK and resume their education in their local primary school at home!
All 3 kids are at the same school. It was built in 2010 and caters for Kindergarten (Reception class in the UK) through to Grade 9 (Year 9 equivalent). It’s a larger school as a result – nearly 800 students, and there are lots of classes for the same year groups. The nice thing is that they stay with their same class for most of the time so getting to know other kids is easier than being dumped in a class that changes constantly with the curriculum. For the UK, this is a school which is like having Primary plus half a Secondary School included (or Middle School for those who live in areas where these exist). I’ve got to say, I wondered about the larger school being too overwhelming, but it’s proved not to be the case and also, has the added benefit that my oldest kid gets to stay with her sisters for the next 3 years without having to change school again which was an important feature.
It’s all non-uniform with very little rules about what you can and cannot wear. Grades 1 – 3 have a milk option (I remember these from my days at Primary school although they were taken away quite a long time ago) – and not just an option of ‘plain’ milk, oh no – ‘chocolate’ milk no less is also offered. I’m putting money that my middle kid just goes for the latter option every day ….
The timings are extremely exact – and a longer day than in the UK too. This comes to fruition in Summer where they finish for the summer holidays a month ahead of their friends in the UK. As someone said to me last week, ‘there’s not much point having holidays when the snow is thick on the ground for 6 months of the year – we may as well spend the time indoors educating the kids’. Fair point.
They start at 8.20am (in the UK it was 8.55am), and finish at 3.01pm (in the UK it was 3.05pm). Lunch/recess is between 11.17am – 12.09pm and they have the option of staying at school under supervised care (which you pay extra for), or taking the opportunity to walk home and have lunch there. All mine are staying for the time being – mostly so they can make friends and play on the extremely good playground which has slides, swings, climbing frames, and numerous other items which the kids absolutely love. These fabulous playgrounds feature in all the schools over here – and all look new and are well maintained, painted in bright colours. There are no security fences – the community gets to also use the facilities when the school kids aren’t on them, and parents are welcomed with open arms into the school and the classrooms.
It caught me by surprise at how open the school is. Don’t get me wrong, there are security policies in place so it is ‘safe’ for the kids, but it’s a completely different level of trust and openness that takes me back to when I was at school. It’s much more conducive to education and supporting the kids too and you forget how wrapped in regulation and security the UK has become that only by moving and experiencing somewhere completely different, do you realise how constraining it is.
All the teachers welcome direct email communication, visits to classrooms, and spend time putting daily updates on the school intranet site – to which all students and parents have direct access to. Homework and all school news is also put on there – there’s very little physical paper. Monthly progress updates on every student are posted by their year teachers and sent to their parents to assess progress. It’s heavily technology driven – all the Grade 6 students and above are expected to have laptops which they bring to school and work on. Mobile phones and iPads are allowed with the teachers permission and there is certainly a degree of freedom for the students which is refreshing and you can see they thrive on it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a loud voice or shout in any of the corridors – everyone just gets on with doing what they do and the way they’re expected to do it. It’s lovely.
My oldest kid had a band concert on day 3 of her arrival – she learnt 6 of the pieces that were being played by her year group and joined in on the trumpet. She has been learning the cornet in the UK, but it’s not a common instrument in Canada so the trumpet is going to take over. She also did a written test on her first day and passed with flying colours – one advantage of moving from the UK with a curriculum that sees kids start school at 4 so puts them slightly ahead of their Canadian counterparts.
My youngest has just turned 5 and as such, has started Kindergarten – but they only do half days, not the full days which she’s been used to. It’s not a hardship – she’s already enjoying the half day she gets to spend just by herself with me and we’ve been exploring the various activities and things to do during that time together.
Everyone is extremely friendly – all say ‘hello’ and have welcomed us into the school with open arms. It’s a true joy walking in there every day. One thing I’ve noticed, is that the assistant principal is always outside on the school crossing patrol every morning and every afternoon – says ‘hello’ to every student and parent and knows all by name. It certainly makes for a wonderful atmosphere and if this is symbolic of their next 3 years at school in Canada – the kids are loving it and can’t wait.
And that’s all that matters 🙂