A Brighton Diary: Primary Focus

Note: This is the ninth part in an on-going series chronicling my study abroad trip in Brighton, England. I am joined on this trip by my classmates and friends Cassie JenkinsClaire RobertsonVy NguyenJhocelyn AlvaradoMorgan CollierAbigail Pennington and Susan Salvo, led by director of student publications, Andy Coughlan.

Day 9 — June 20

Before we ventured to London, Andy wanted to show us more of the everyday life of a person living in Brighton. His sister, Barbara Walker, has worked at Middle Street Primary School for 25 years. Is there a more perfect place to see everyday life than at a school?

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The school is tucked away, creating a quiet place for its students even in a busy city. Photo by Olivia Malick

Andy also wanted us to see how primary school (or, elementary school as it’s known in America) is different in the U.K. from our own upbringings.

The first difference is the fact that in late June, kids in Britain are still in school (and would be until late July). American schools operate on a “harvesting season” system where, obviously, we have a long three month break beginning in late May/early June to late August.

We were given a tour of the school by a couple of year five (or fourth grade) students. They showed us their classrooms, playrooms and shared their daily schedules with us.

We all learned how different their schooling was to ours. Having grown up in America, specifically in the Bible-belt, I was shocked and impressed to learn that fourth graders were learning about sex education. Nothing too hardcore, just a basic understanding of their bodies, which I think America should seriously invest in.

I didn’t have a health class until I was 13 and had already gone through a lot of puberty — after I most needed guidance. I think it’s awesome that kids are taught at a young age about their bodies and how they’ll change — they’ll be better adolescents and adults for it.

Progressive curriculum wasn’t the only noticeable difference. In the U.K., three and four year-olds can get up to 570 free hours of childcare each year. Meanwhile in the U.S., the average family spends up to $1,230 per month on child care. It’s a price too many can’t afford.

It really makes you wonder how some countries can function without sucking all of the money out of their citizens while others *cough* America *cough* can’t seem to do the same.

I also loved the fact that this school focused on individuality. A lot of schools in England require uniforms, including primary schools. Middle Street is an exception to the rule, however, and there is no required uniform. The subject of uniforms has both its pros and cons but I, for one, think it’s healthy for kids to be able to express themselves through their clothing.

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This picture at the front of the school tells you everything you need to know about it before seeing anything else. Photo by Olivia Malick

I learned on this little field trip that it’s important for societies to learn from each other. Maybe in the future we can learn a thing or two about teaching our children.

For more information, visit www.middlestreet.brighton-hove.sch.uk.

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