Here is part 1 of my post.
At St. Hild’s the daily schedule is 9:00pm-3:20pm for a full-day. Nursery times run from 9:00am-12:00pm or 12:15pm-3:15pm.
The term time generally runs from the first week in September until mid-July, so that means they get about six weeks for summer holidays. There are three main terms–Autumn, Spring, and Summer–with a two week break between each, except for the Christmas break, which was about 3 weeks. Also, there is also half-term break of a week in each term. We like the regular breaks and the short summer–the kids don’t seem to get as stir crazy.
Administration of Schools
As in the States there are public and private schools; however, the terms are different: ‘state’ (= ‘public’ in US) vs. ‘public’/'private’ (both = ‘private’ in US-speak). You’re not reading it wrong, ‘public’ in the UK means a private, non-state school. For private schools you pay tuition like in the states.
States schools are fully funded by the gov’t, but they can be administered by different groups. Beyond the normal non-religious schools, there are mostly Anglican and Catholic state schools, which are termed officially ‘voluntary aided’ schools. Our sons go to a Anglican admistered school, and it feels little like a private Christian school in the states (though we’ve never been a part of one, so not really sure). They have religious education (but then again all schools do–no separation of church and state here); however, they are openly welcoming to students of different faiths. There are several primary schools within a mile of our house–an Anglican, a Catholic, and 2 secular schools. With the number of schools each is smaller (it seems) than typical state schools in the US–there is only one class per ‘year’ in the Anglican and Catholic schools (I’m not sure about the others).
(see the Durham County site about admissions)
Normal Process: When it’s time to start a new school or if you want to change schools, there is an application process with the county council. The deadline for the forms are in the October for the following year beginning in September. You put down your top three choices or so, and they allocate your kid to a school based on each school’s criteria and demand for places. If there is more demand for a school than room, then the selection criteria kick in. While proximity is a primary criteria for the secular schools, being participants in the religion seems to be the primary one for Anglican and Catholic. If I remember St. Hild’s there were about 12 ranked criteria.
Special Process: Obviously, if you move after the October deadline, you have to follow a different process. I’m not sure what people do for immediate entry since we didn’t face that issue, but I’m sure it is still directed by the council. We moved in the summer and were told by the council that it was too late for them to help us, so we needed to contact the school(s) directly that we were interested in. We live right near St. Hild’s, and another Durham student’s kids were already attending there and they liked it, so that was our first choice. The problem was that during August, no one is at schools–no admin staff, teachers, anybody. So we just mailed a letter in hope that someone would come in and reply, instead of us just hearing something just 6 days before school started. We did get a call about 2 weeks before term started and were told that we had a ‘tentative’ spot, but they couldn’t be sure until the week before school started. Later, when the typical in-service days started for the teachers, the head teacher (~principal) called us to come see the school. She showed us around like we had been accepted, and that was that.
There is no school bus system, so generally it is up to you to figure out how to get your kid to school. However, I think I’ve seen one of the public (i.e., private) schools that had their own school bus. If it is not convenient to walk or get dropped off, taxis are used quite frequently. In fact, it is very difficult to get a taxi around 8:30-9:30am and 3:00-4:00pm. The county does provide some help if there are issues, see here.
Other random information
Just about all schools have a uniform policy, which we like because it makes getting out the door in the morning that much easier. Languages are introduced earlier than the states, but not at a more intensive level until about year 6, but I think it all depends on the school. St. Hild’s has tons of free afterschool ‘clubs’ that tend to run for a term or half a term, e.g., football (~soccer), dance, lacrosse, etc.