Just before you (especially BFF) start to think I’m moving back, I thought I should provide a more “balanced” view of the UK—talk about the not-so-great-things.
- How the School System is Set Up–First, I want to state I LOVED the primary school my boys attended. I have no gripes about schools themselves, just the way the system is set up.
Children enter Primary School at age 4–into Reception class. They remain in Primary School through Year 6 (that would be the US equivalent of 5th grade). At age 11-ish, for Year 7, children move onto the High School until they turn 16. So there is no middle school. I really believe there needs to be an in-between. The kids are just too young to head onto HS like that.
The next part is still confusing to me, so bear with me. At age 16,when a child finishes HS, they are no longer required to go to school. They can graduate HS and be done with it—enter “the grown-up world.” Seriously. At age 16, who’s ready to be an adult. So although I love how kids get to be kids in the UK, and they are respectful, there is a problem at large with the “unmotivated” youth (they call them YOBS) who hang out on street corners drinking and become nuisances. If a child wants to continue with their education, they go to “Sixth Form”. My understanding is that this is more like a Junior College thing. They go for 2 yrs (?) and then take “A-levels” which are exams to graduate. The students can concentrate on a specific area of study while in 6th Form. After 6th Form, they can go onto Uni (i.e University).
- Dentists—never saw one while in England. Why? They are not known for their dental care. Or maybe I should say the English are known for their lack of dental care—both personal and professional. There aren’t enough dentists, and the culture has been that teeth don’t matter. It’s supposed to be changing, but I didn’t see it. We saw our own dentists on our trips back home.
- Doctors and the Health Care System—this, in my opinion, is a matter of “you get what you pay for.” England has a national medical system provided by the NHS (National Health Service). It was nice to see the doctor and go to the hospital and not get a bill. But it would have been nice to have greater faith in the system providing me health care. Some examples….
When you move into a town, you must find a GP office and “register.” GP=general practioner. There are no pediatricians or OB/GYN, unless you have a serious problem and you are referred to a pedi or OB/Gyn specialist. The whole family goes to the same practice. And you aren’t assigned one doctor. You see whoever is available. A little hard to build a relationship and have the doctor “get to know you.” If you become prego, your GP sees you or a mid-wife, and a mid-wife delivers the baby in the hospital.
Now I’m going to get into why PEDIs are important.
Shortly after recieving a Meningitis C vaccine (req’d in the UK, and it was OK’d by my US pedi), T’s body turned red. A reaction to the vaccine? A virus of some sort? Went to the GP. “I Don’t know what it is. Watch it for a few days. ” Nice.
One day after preschool, Little Guy “dislocated his elbow.” Actually, it’s called nurse-maid elbow and is fairly common in little kids. All you need to do is “twist” the elbow back in place. Sounds a lot worse than it is. T had the same condition when he was a baby. Really, not a big deal. I called the GP office….go to the hospital I was told. The ER doctor tried 3 times to twist the elbow back, no luck. Sent us to X-rays–all negative. Doctor tried again, still no luck. He tells me “Take little guy home, let him sleep on it, and maybe it’ll pop back in place.” Your kidding, right? The little guy can’t move his arm!! But what can we do? For the rest of the night, little guy did not use his arm, and IT DID NOT pop into place.
Next morning, I made an appt at the GP’s office, hoping a doctor there can help. The doctor takes a MEDICAL BOOK off the shelf, finds the page on “Nursemaid Elbow”, reads what to do and tries to twist the elbow. No Luck. (are you surprised yet?). He sends us back to the hospital for wrist xrays. Another set of xrays, and 2 other ER doctors later, the darn elbow is twisted back in place. What a horrid 24 hours. (and as a side-note here…..little guy got nursemaid elbow here in the US about 4 mths ago. As it was after hours for the pedi, we went to the emergency room. The Xray tech twisted the elbow back in place. We never saw a doctor)
Kids don’t get well visits either. If they need a vaccine update, they see a “Sister” which I believe is just a nurse, not an actual Nun, but I never verified that. Eye, ear, and height/weight checks are done with a nurse that comes around to the schools once a year. Parents are welcome to come to the child’s “appointment” and any developemental issues brought to the nurses attention by the teacher is discussed with the parent.
One more story you’ll get a chuckle, or at least a “HUMPH”, from…..last spring I developed pneumonia. It started out just not feeling well, maybe strep throat, can’t remember. But on my 2nd trip to the doctor, he diagnosed pneuomonia and sent me for chest x-rays as a “just in case”….but here’s the kicker….the x-ray report won’ t be ready for 3-4 weeks. Some good those x-rays do, then, huh?
So for all these reasons I’ve experienced I’m a bit hesitant to go to a National Health Care system. We have it too good here in the US.
The other “not so great” UK points I want to make are rather minor in the grand scheme of things, but rather annoying……..
- Beef—The Thomas family loves beef. In England, the beef tastes like lamb. And if you’re not a fan of lamb, the beef is just not going to be good. And unless you buy mince (aka Ground beef), the cuts are very tough. I braised and stewed and roasted for hours and it all I got was tough beef. Blech. Needless to say we ate a lot of chicken and pork during our 2 yrs in England. HOWEVER…..once every 3 months or so, we’d go to the Manchester Costco (YES WE HAD A COSTCO!!!!!) and splurged on Aberdeen Angus steak. At the time, due to the currency conversion and the strong British Pound, we paid about $50 USD for 3 pieces of steak. But it was soooo tender and tasty. The body needed the iron. MMMM. But still not as good as the US. But a nice substitute.
- Sweets and Crisps—the predominant “snacks” given to children, unless you opted for fruit and veg. The kids there LIVE on sweets and crisps (aka Candy/chocoate and potato chips). No goldfish, wheat thins, teddy grahams. The cheerios had a sweet sugar coating on them. The granola bars were different. We did find ritz crackers and nutrigrain bars. But you know when you go to an american grocery store, the Potato chips are on one side of the aisle? In England, Crisps line BOTH SIDES of the aisle. It’s realy incredible.
- Weather—of course. For those of you reading this from the Boston area, do you see the weather today (or yesterday for that matter)…gray, drizzly, about 50 deg….that was our weather for 2 summers…yes SUMMERS. It sucked. The best month each year was April—-sunny and 75ish. On the other hand, the winters were milder than Boston. The temperature rarely went below 32 deg F overnight, and the daytime temp was between 45-55 deg F. If it snowed it was a thin layer that melted within an hour or two. However, those winters had this bone-chilling dampness which wasn’t great. But I didn’t wear any HEAVY sweaters or my ski jacket, which was nice for winter. But there was our first summer, where I don’t think little guy wore any shorts….humph.
- Reservations—this was a bit difficult to get used to. Unless you are going to a pub or McDonalds, we needed to make reservations at restaurants, like TGIFridays (yes, they are in the UK). We had to make reservations to go bowling. Or to go ice-skating. To swim at the town pool during “family swim time” only the 1st 25 people were allowed to go in. Try exlpaining/apologizing to 3 young boys all excited to go swimming that you were 5 minutes late and couldn’t go! I think that unless you participate in one of the 3 major UK past-times (soccer, rugby, or shopping) what’s left-over can’t accomodate all the people in the UK, so reservations are required, or careful planning. Whereas here, we have baseball, and hockey, and football, and basketball, and dance schools on every street corner, and karate, and gymnastics….a lot more to do…and a lot more to schedule….which is maybe why we here in America are always running around and exhausted, and less family time. Hmmm…I might be on to something.
Well, thank you for letting me share. And no, I don’t believe we’re moving back (can’t promise or predict anything). But I hope you understand why I wish I can take the Best of America and the Best of England and mesh them together.