Published: 17 Nov 2021  |  Category: Education  |  Stage: We have welcomed a family

Experts by Experience: Adjusting to the English education system

Learn from Khadeja, an Expert by Experience, about her advice to help parents understand the English education system

As part of our Experts by Experience project, we interviewed Khadeja who was resettled to North Devon in 2017 with her husband and three young children, about her and her children’s experience in adjusting to the English education system. In addition to this resource, Khadeja has produced a guide to the English education system for newly arrived parents in English and Arabic that you can download from this page. Also, check out Gill’s resource on helping families adjust to the UK’s system from a Community Sponsorship Group’s point of view.

Much of the information included in this resource is also relevant to the education systems in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Khadeja’s experience

Originally from Syria, Khadeja’s family lived in Jordan before being resettled to the UK. Before the Syrian conflict, Khadeja had been attending teaching school to become an Arabic teacher for GCSE and A-level equivalent students. Thanks to her academic background in teaching, Khadeja was able to approach schooling in England in a very practical way and clearly distinguish some differences between the Syrian/Middle Eastern approach to education that can help other resettled parents understand the new system. Below are some main differences she’s found between the two systems:

DifferencesSyrian/Middle Eastern SystemEnglish System

Teaching Style

Predominantly theory-based

A strong focus on writing and repetition

Very little/no homework; school and home are kept separate

Physical and practical

Showing instead of telling

Lots of homework including online learning at home

Even young children are expected to put in lots of extra time working at home


Top down approach to punishment- children are not often given space to express guilt and ask for forgiveness

Little space is given for children to express guilt or say sorry

Teachers involve parents if a child has been naughty or bullied

Teachers are reassuring and build confidence with children to work through their problems

Children are encouraged to talk through their issues

Parental involvement

School and home are considered separate

Parents not expected to interfere in their child’s school life

Parents take responsibility for homework

Parents updated on child’s progress and any disciplinary issues

School communicates regularly with parents about administrative changes or special theme days

Advice for Community Sponsorship Groups

Khadeja recognizes that not all parents will be as involved as she is since she has a background in teaching and is genuinely interested in her children’s learning. For some parents, groups may need to spend more time explaining what their children are doing in school, help them to get involved and also help them understand why it is important to become interested in their child’s education. Also, groups should make sure the school knows that the parents will have a different perspective about their role in their child’s education.

Advice for newly-resettled parents

Newly-resettled parents should focus on their own English learning in order to keep up with their children. Otherwise they will find that a few years after arriving in the UK, their children will speak English perfectly and they won’t be able to help their children learn.

Parents should also familiarize themselves with technology and the different systems used by the school. Schools in England (and the rest of the UK) rely on technology for homework and communication with parents.



Guide to school in the UK - Arabic version [279.3KB] Download .PDF

Guide to school in the UK - English version [128.3KB] Download .PDF

UK/Syrian school system comparison - Arabic version [217.7KB] Download .PDF

A Guide to School in England and Wales (Dari) [322.7KB] Download .PDF

A Guide to School in England and Wales (Farsi) [303.6KB] Download .PDF

A Guide to School in England and Wales (Pashto) [326.8KB] Download .PDF

A Guide to School in England and Wales (Somali) [190.8KB] Download .PDF

A Guide to School in England and Wales (Kurdish Kurmanji)) [197.7KB] Download .PDF