Placing English-speaking children in state school

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As soon as you start talking to schools they will want to see the school reports from the current school. If these are in Italian try to get them translated, at least into English, by the school that issued them.

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@ MitchM: Can't provide you with any Braunschweig specifics, but can just tell you that after three years of the Bavarian state school system, we are giving up and going home. We came here 3 years ago with all the same intentions you alluded to in your post ... love a challenge, want to immerse in a new culture, learn a new language etc. Our kids went full immersion German from day 1. I spoke German when we arrived ... not perfectly, but knew enough to be able to understand 90% of tv/radio, although had only learnt informally through having a German father who occasionally spoke German with us when we were kids.

 

While the kids have indeed learnt a new language and have had a host of new experiences they would never have had at home, the stress and strain on them and on our family life has been enormous. The level of support that is expected to be provided from home is signifiant and my husband and I have been completely overwhelmed on this front. (For the record: we both have post grad university degrees and 3-4 languages each ... so in theory should be able to handle 4th grade primary school contentat least!) Both of us working has been out of the question because it has been a full time job just trying to keep the kids' heads above water in the German system.

 

My recommendation to you is to investigate whether or not there is a bilingual alternative available where you are going. At least that way your kids will have an easier time staying afloat in the sytem for part of the time, and can then invest the energy/time they save there into what they need to learn/deliver in German. Plus, you as parents will at least have some visibility over what they are doing and could provide at least some support ... and the German system is built on support from home being forthcoming.

 

I know that you probably don't want to hear negative comments, but I think it is better that you know what you might be letting yourselves into before you take the plunge. We THOUGHT we knew what we were in for ... but had no idea just how difficult it would be in practice to pull off. Sadly, throwing in the towel has ended up being the best option collectively for the kids. It has been a devastating and confronting conclusion for us all.

 

If you do go local and can't find a bilingual alternative, I suggest you look for a ganztags privatschule (full day, private school) that offers homework supervision, smaller classes and smaller student-teacher ratios. For your youngest child, a spot at Hort (afterschool care) might provide her with some of the extra language support and homework supervision she will need. Also look what Nach-hilfe (after school tutoring) is available where you end up.

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Luckily then, they won't be moving to Bavaria.

It is thanks to Alois Hundhammer, Bavarian Kultusminister 1946-1950, that Germany today has a three-tiered school system. He re-introduced it against the ideas of the Western Allies who favoured a comprehensive school system. Besides, he re-introduced corporal punishment in schools.

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Thanks for your comments, mo3. Open to all advice at the minute. I do hope you will all get on better back home.

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I know that you probably don't want to hear negative comments, but I think it is better that you know what you might be letting yourselves into before you take the plunge. We THOUGHT we knew what we were in for ... but had no idea just how difficult it would be in practice to pull off.

 

Thank you for telling it like it is instead of sugar-coating everything. I'm sorry things didn't work out for you.

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