Nursery: For children who are 3 years of age when school begins. Nursery is comparable to a first year of preschool except it is government funded. Most or many primary schools (think elementary school) have a nursery too, but there are also a lot of private nurseries/daycares. The government sponsors 15 hours of nursery each week for children who are three years old. Some schools are flexible about which hours your child can attend, but at Lucas Vale it is run in AM/PM shifts. I decided to put Simon in the morning shift at Lucas Vale so he will attend school from 8:45-11:45 every day. He also has to wear a school uniform. I'll drop off all four kids at school every morning. !
Reception: For children who are 4 years of age when school begins. At first I thought Reception was comparable to Kindergarten, but it's really just a full-time preschool. It focuses on imaginary play and less structured curriculum and learning. Miriam will be in reception, which means that when we come back she will in fact be in the same grade/level as she would have been if we had stayed. Reception is a full school day, 8:45-3:45. Miriam doesn't start school until the end of September and the first week is just half days. They also give children the option to stay on half days for a longer transition period if the full days are too difficult. Miriam wears a uniform and also has PE once a week. The sad bit for Simon is that he will have a year of Reception (full time/all day school) and then come back to the states and go to part-time kindergarten. Poor kid. Or not. Poor me?
Nursery and Reception are part of the "Foundation" category and operate under a different learning model than the subsequent years. I'm not exactly sure what that means but I'm just learning the vocabulary. Levels 1 and 2 are called "Key Stage 1" and levels 3-6 are "Key Stage 2." Like I said, I'm not exactly sure what it all means.
Level 1: Children who are age 5 at the beginning of the school year. This would be the kindergarten equivalent. So the number of my kids level/grade doesn't match up with the number of the grade they would be at home.
Level 2: First grade equivalent.
Level 3: Eli will be a level 3.
Level 4: Third grade... you get the idea.
Level 5: Cameron will be a level five. The primary schools go up to level six, so thankfully all four kids will all be at the same school for the two years that we are living here.
This is all really boring but maybe grandparents are still reading.
The school year is divided into three terms, Autumn term, Spring term, and Summer term. They get a week of holiday at half term, and a longer break between terms. (Two weeks at Christmas, etc.) Their summer break is only 5-6 weeks. At the induction the school made it very clear that students are not allowed to miss school during term without a Dr. excuse or funerals. Sadly, we are scheduled to leave London in May of 2016 and so the kids will only get to attend two terms next year. I kind of have a knot in my stomach over this. I guess it can't be helped but I wish we had planned better.
The uniforms consist of black or gray shorts/pants/skirts with a white polo or collared shirt and black shoes. They are required to wear the school sweatshirt every morning and they also have to have a matching blue backpack with the school logo. We went back to the school to buy the kids sweatshirts, PE kits, and backpacks and it was a pretty penny. And that doesn't include the actual uniforms. (Five days worth of pants and polos for four kids.) But they are all going to look so smart!
I really liked all the teachers and staff I've met at the school so far. During the induction we had an interview with two members of the "inclusion team" who were really kind and answered all my questions. I don't really know what to expect, and I think all the kids (except Simon) are a little nervous too. But the opportunity for all four of my kids to attend the same school for two years will surely have some fantastic benefits.