In Scandinavia Secondary transfer happens around the age of 13 years. Together with all your friends from Primary, you’ll be automatically transferred to the nearest Secondary. No preparations, entry exams nor interviews needed. In England the situation is very different. And this is why and how we avoid the ‘exam factory’ phenomenon.
All children belongs automatically to the nearest school in Norway. And as this is a combined primary and middle school, no transfer or pressure of grades are needed before the age of 16. And even then everyone has a right to move on to their final 3 years of Secondary before the choose to move onto higher education, a gap year or work life.
The school you see in the above image is the Uranienborg School in Oslo. We used to live 200 meters away from this school, and both our girls would have attended this school if we didn’t choose to move to England.
Having to start school, read and write from the tender age of 4 was all new too us. This followed by grades, tests and mock exams throughout Primary. Then attending Open and Taster Days from age 9 in Year 5, applications in the following summer and autumn before the exam rush kicks off Autumn Winter at the age of 10.
We had to navigate us way through state, private and public schools, what schools to aim for and learn the different entry processes and deadlines. And we had to deal with the differences; In Norway more or less all children attend state schools and move on to universities which is too financially supported by the government. There’s state schools in England too. With a strong believe in state system we entered both our girls into the state school. This is a tiny village school with a passionate Head and devoted team of staff. Our girls have been cared for, nurtured and stimulated throughout the years and we don’t think for a second that any other school could have provided any finer education, academically but also on a personal level. Then moving onto Secondary, and we were faced with a daunting prospect. We were simply not prepared for a transfer, from a local primary school with less than 200 pupils to a Secondary with 1250 pupils up to the age of 18.
So we made the decision on going down the selective school route… Where competition is fierce! And then suddenly we found out about tutoring, Kumon and Bond books. Parents were discussing schools, often lead by the Sunday Times Good school guide, and not necessary so much considering their children’s ability, talents or interests. And hysteria was spreading, like a winter flu, among the parents before transferring down to their children. “You will not get in anywhere without tutoring!” was the harsh words our eldest daughter faced in Y5. Another mum stopped me in the high street asking if I was mad not preparing my daughter for the exams. The words “gamble with her future” was used by her to describe our philosophy of natural ability and our relaxed attitude towards learning.
We are now facing round two, with our youngest in Y5 and I’m avoiding the school gates gatherings and coffee morning at all costs. Because ‘What Little A did Next!’ is entirely up to her! We will together with her primary school support her and guide her -and enjoy the process together with her.