Health visitor – Your child’s well visits will be overseen by a health visitor. S/he operates out of your GP’s office and can make house calls, books private appointments, and conducts a no-appointment weekly clinic. The health visitor will administer vaccinations, discuss questions or concerns you may have, and help you adjust to the overall growth and development of your child. Any serious illness or issue will be referred to the GP. The health visitor is not only concerned with your child’s well-being but yours as well so don’t be surprised if questions regarding your own coping with parenthood come up. This is a perfectly normal part of what is viewed as a holistic approach to health.
Immunizations – The vaccination schedule in the UK is different than those in other countries. Be prepared that your child may or may not receive vaccines you expect or have heard of. Slang terms for immunizations are “jabs” and “sticks”.
Prescriptions and eyeglasses –
Prescription medication and eyeglasses for those under 16 are free through the NHS. When going to the chemist (pharmacist) to fill a prescription, make sure you complete the back of the slip noting that the prescription is for a child.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is called paracetamol (Calpol)
Consultants – Consultants are specialists in their field, and you will be referred to one if there is any issue which cannot be adequately addressed by your health visitor or GP. Obtaining an appointment with the consultant can take a couple of months.
Nursery – Once your child reaches the age of 3, they are eligible to enroll in the government funded nursery program at your local school. Registration usually begins in January and runs through mid February, though it is possible to secure places for your child after this time frame. Most nursery schools, the cost of snacks is £2.50 per week. You can find out more details about your local school here.
Primary and Secondary School – Switching schools due to a move can be daunting for both children and parents, especially when that move is to a new country. We hope this information can be of some help in preparing for this life change.
In the Scotland school system, the equivalent of Kindergarten in North America is called Primary One (P1), and the students attend five full days/week. So whatever grade your child is in in North America, add one, and that is the level they will be in here. Once they get past sixth grade (primary seven), they will start again in Secondary(S) 1-6, with S5 and S6 being optional.
Before you Come
Based on the experience of other families, trying to enroll your child before arriving in Aberdeen will most likely not be possible. But rest assured that enrollment can easily be taken care of once you have landed in the UK. In the meantime, consider searching these helpful resources:
Start searching online for information about how public school works in Scotland. One helpful website is Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS). They have specific information for parents in their ParentZone. If you do not find the information you need on their site, they can also answer specific queries when contacted by email. LTS also has information about schools’ ratings at: http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/scottishschoolsonline/index.asp. This is a very valuable resource.
Once you arrive you can contact cosla (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) to find your local authority by city or area. The local authority will tell you which school your child can attend and give you guidance on what to do next. Once you know which school your child is designated to by area, you can contact the school and let them know when you will be arriving.
If you have already secured housing prior to your arrival, familiarize yourself with which school is closest to your new home. We suggest you have your child attend the local (nearest) primary school. This will allow for quicker walks to and from school, as well as places your child closer to his/her classmates, which will help them establish friendships quicker.
Once You’ve Arrived
The day after arrival (if housing is already secured), phone the city council office to let them know you have arrived.
Go to your local school to fill out paperwork.
Take a tour of the school and meet the teachers. (It is possible you might be able to pre-arrange a meeting with the depute head teacher [vice principal]. If you were not able to request this meeting beforehand, ask if it is possible now.)
What to Expect
If you do not like the school your child is designated for, you can ask for a school transfer to a school of your choice. You must contact the school your child wishes to go to and speak to the headteacher about a transfer. If the school you would like to send your child to agrees to the transfer, you must fill out the paperwork and file it with them and the council so they know where your child is attending school. Transfers may depend on available space in the desired school.
To prepare your child for school, it is necessary to have all your paperwork in place such as your child’s immunization card, passports, and any other pertinent school information. While the new school may not need our your child’s former records, it may be helpful to have them available just in case. The paperwork process for enrolling your child is simple and straightforward and should take around a week for him/her to be able to start at his/her new school.
All of the schools have some sort of uniform or dress code. The uniforms usually consist of a school sweater (called a “jumper”), a white polo shirt and dark pants (“trousers”) and/or skirt — no sweats or jeans to school. Often the larger local supermarkets will carry school uniforms. Don’t worry about bringing such items along with you. They are quite inexpensive (a pack of two polo shirts for £2, two pairs of trousers for £5) and the schools will have jumpers with the school crest on them (around £9 each). The general primary school dress code is not as elaborate as the secondary schools and many (primary ones) do not require ties or button shirts.
As far as a typical school day goes lunch, recess, homework, and schoolwork are very similar to public schools in North America. All schools begin around 9:00am and finish around 3:00pm with a short playtime/snack break in the morning and longer lunch. Children are allowed to bring lunch from home (a ‘pack lunch’) but school dinners are also provided at school. Dinners usually cost between £1.50 to £2 per day and children may purchase them every day or just once in a while – it’s up to you. More information about school dinners can be found here on the LTS site.
In 2009 Scotland began to phase in a new curriculum called Curriculum for Excellence which is intended to be a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum from 3 to 18. CfE will come up in newsletters, parent-teacher interviews and perhaps some homework and so it may be wise to have a look at the ‘experiences and outcomes‘ – the things your child(ren) will be learning in school. The teaching of this curriculum will be organized into specific maths and language times but the rest (science, social studies, religious education, arts, etc.) will likely be taught in the context of a ‘topic.’ Roughly each term, your child(ren)’s class will begin a new topic, which will often involve some sort of kick-off (ex. turning the class into a rainforest) as well as finishing event (ex. performing a circus) which you may or may not be invited to attend. Encouraging your child(ren)’s interest in this topic at home will further their learning.
There are significant differences between how schools in the US and schools in Scotland approach parent support. For a parent to help in the classroom here, he/she must have a Disclosure Scotland in place. This is basically like a background check on you to make sure you don’t have a police record. If you are considering helping out in your child’s class, you should start a disclosure as soon as possible AND bring a copy of a criminal record check from home (as recent as possible). Disclosures can take up to 2 months to be approved so you won’t be able to start helping straight away. Current student families have found that because each class has at least one trained teaching assistant, typically parents are not active in the classroom. Parental participation is not expected and teachers and staff may be surprised (but not unappreciative) at your request to be a volunteer.
If you’d prefer to school your child at home you have the right to do so. Scottish law says that ‘every child has a right to an education, and it is the duty of the parent of every school age child to provide that education, either by sending the child to school, or by other means.’
For resources on homeschooling and the legalities:
Aberdeen City Council‘s information on homeschooling, including an FAQ and contacts.
Scottish Law – publications on home education
Community centres – Most regions in Aberdeen have a community centre which offers support and services for families within the area. This may include classes, playgroups, fitness programs, creche facilities, etc. Check the Aberdeen City Council community centre web page for further details.
Library – Check with you local library to see if they provide any activities for children. Here is a list of Bookstart programs for children 0-4 years of age.
Sunnybank Community Centre offers a free, drop-in creche from 1:00-3:00 pm on Wednesdays. Further information can be found at www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/ACCI/web/site/xcc_CommunityDetail.asp?id=1868&ind=2&ind2=22.
The Beach Leisure Centre offers a free creche for paying customers. More information is available at www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/ACCI/web/site/Sports/spr_BLCHomepage.asp
Leaping Leopards Creche offers up to 3 hours of child minding services for a fee. Check out their website for further details www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/ACCI/web/site/Childcare/NS/cst_LeapingLeop_Home.asp.
Castle-Care-a-Lot, Bon Accord Shopping Centre – Child care for children ages 2-7. More information at http://www.premiercrecheservices.com/aberdeen.htm.
Nurseries – For an extensive listing of daycare nurseries throughout Aberdeen follow this link: http://www.netmums.com/listings/WORKING//10/.