Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Early education in New York

It doesn't seem to matter where in the world you live, applying for your child's first school place leaves even the coolest of parents blowing a fuse!

Moving to a new country is even more intimidating, believe me! After we moved to New York we had to wait almost a year before our son was eligible for any state education, yet he could of already had a year under his belt in the UK! 

Pre-K, Kindi, Elementary school, it's all so confusing, so here is a little guide to help you out if you have under fives in New York! 

What is Pre-K?

Pre-Kindergarten to give it its full title was only introduced a few years ago in New York and remains completely optional, parents are under no obligation to send their little ones. Despite being a relatively new initiative many parents chose take full advantage, but I was also surprised to meet some mums in the area who have chosen to keep their kids at home an extra year. 

Pre-K I would say mirrors what a child would learn/do at nursery level in the UK, yet children start when they are four (almost 5 in some cases)!

I was very sceptical about this at first, as I worried that my 4 year old was going to be left behind his British peers. Upon relaying these fears to my son's teacher and doing a little research myself, there appears to be a lot of support for starting more formal learning slightly later and allowing younger children to learn through their own journey and enquiries. 

This also makes for more engaged and eager learners throughout the rest of their school careers. Apparently. 

What is Elementary school?

Elementary school in New York runs from Kindergarten to Grade 5 or from age five to 10, so New York kids will finish roughly the same time a British kid would finish primary school. 

What is Kindergarten?

Most kids across America start Kindergarten when they are five (which can mean almost six in some cases) and as you would expect mirrors UK reception class with a slightly more structured learning than Pre-K. There is still lots of time for exploration, play and naps! Unlike Pre-K it's not optional in New York. 

Despite the slightly slower introduction to phonics and the like, by the time kids finish Elementary school they will be completely caught up with a UK primary. 

How do you apply? 

Most children in New York attend their zoned school. But as you might expect a good school is like a magnet for families so sometimes a zoned school can become full. Priority then goes those with older siblings at the school, then after that it’s a lottery by the NYC Schools computer who in the zone gets the remaining spots. But there are wait lists, so hope is not lost if you don’t get an offer for your zoned school in the first round.

Sound complicated? It is! 

Visit the NYC Department of Education website for all the application info you need. 

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