English Educational System Quirks

I’ve been immersed for some time now in the English Education System. So far, I have had the opportunity to teach primary and secondary and, although it is true that the English and Spanish Systems have much in common, some of the differences are fairly curious. For example, there aren’t the dreaded “oposiciones” that bothers Spaniards so much. This concept even doesn’t exit!

Substitutions. When a teacher is absent at the school someone has to cover to them, even if it is just for an hour. The way to obtain a supply is mostly though an agency. The agency will send the school one of their workers. So if you want to do supply you should register with an agency.

In England it is quite frequent to do day-to-day supply, may be one day in one school and the next in a different one and so on. In this country there isn’t any similar to “oposiciones” as in Spain.

Agencies work in two ways. Either they can book you in advance for a school ( when the school knows in advance that the teacher will not operate on a specific date) or you get an early morning call, which is quite frequent. These calls can be any time from 7.15am onwards. Therefore, if you work for an agency as a day-to-day supply you have to get up and be ready, even if you don’t know yet if you will get work for that specific day. Some days you might get ready for nothing but fortunately that`s the minority of them.

If you are interested in working as a supply, check out these agencies: Connex-EducationHaysRandstadImpact teachers, Red, or Capita.

DBS. The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) enables organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors to make safer recruitment decisions by identifying candidates who may be unsuitable for certain work, especially that involve children or vulnerable adults, and provides wider access to criminal record information through its disclosure service for England and Wales.

Therefore, you will find that every single school will ask you for your DBS, so if you want to work as a teacher in England, you must get it. You need to register to use the update service. The registration costs are £13 per year.

OFSTED, Public inspection. Unlike Spain, in England all inspections of schools can be consulted online. This allows you to know the reputation of a school that is offering you a position or know its quality reputation before applying for a place for your children.

Punishments. Schools can punish their students for their behaviour, of course never physically. Detention is one of the most common punishments in schools in the United Kingdom.

It requires the pupil to report to a designated area of the school during a specified time on a school day (typically either recess or after school) and remain there for a specified period of time, but also may require a pupil to report to that part of school at a certain time on a non-school day, e.g. “Saturday detention”. Especially for serious offences not quite serious enough for suspension.

Schools don’t have to give parents notice of after-school detentions or tell them why a detention has been given.

Uniforms. Uniforms are not compulsory. However, it is quite unusual to find a school (primary or secondary) that does not have it.

If the school have a uniform – as I said almost all schools have – the head teacher can discipline your child for not wearing the school uniform. Your child can be suspended or expelled if they repeatedly ignore the uniform rules.

Schools can decide if girls can wear trousers, or if religious dress is allowed. In case your family economy cannot afford it, some local councils provide help with the cost of school clothing, including PE kits.

School attendance and absence. Unless you educate your children yourself, you must make sure your child gets a full-time education. Children must get an education between the school term after their 5th birthday and the last Friday in June in the school year they turn 16.

Your child cannot miss school even if you, as a parent, want to (eg: family holidays). You can only allow your child to miss school if either: they’re too ill to go in or you’ve got advance permission from the school.

Holidays in term time. You have to get permission from the head teacher if you want to take your child out of school during term time. It’s up to the head teacher how many days your child can be away from school if leave is granted.

You can be fined for taking your child on holiday during term time without the school’s permission.

Fine. Your local council can give you a fine of £60, which rises to £120 if you don’t pay within 21 days. You may be prosecuted if you don’t pay the fine after 28 days.You could get a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or a jail sentence up to 3 months.

School trips. Your child’s school can ask you for a voluntary contribution to the cost of activities like school trips. They can’t stop your child from attending if you don’t pay.

In England school holidays are spread throughout the year due to half-terms. However, in Spain we keep those days from half-term to use in summer, therefore summer vacation is more prolonged in Spain.

School term, half-term and holiday dates vary across the UK.

Ainoa Cano