Experts by Experience: Adjusting to the British Education System

Learn from Khadeja, an Expert by Experience, about her advice to help parents understand the British 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 British education system. In addition to this resource, Khadeja has produced a guide to the British 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.

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 the UK 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:



Syrian/Middle Eastern System

British 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 the UK rely on technology for homework and communication with parents.


Last modified
Wednesday, March 10, 2021 - 15:47
Key things to do
  • Understand the differences between school where the family comes from and the UK
  • Read and provide Khadeja's resource on the school system which is downloadable in English and Arabic
  • Encourage resettled family members to take an interest and an active role in their child's education