I am a supporter of the British school system which might surprise some of you. Actually, most Finns probably won’t believe me, so I feel the need to explain myself, based on my own experiences as a mum of a Sixth Former.
Firstly, and most importantly, education is totally free until you’re 18! Yes, there is no paying for any books or materials, not even in Sixth Form! This means that everyone has the chance to get a solid education all the way up to A-levels, without having to rely on wealthy parents. All we are asked to pay for are school dinners, which normally are less than £2 a day with a wide variety of foods available to choose from.
Secondly, British schools offer something that I really appreciate; they concentrate on developing social skills and encourage the students to express themselves, debate and to question things. There are very few jobs in the world, where you can survive and be successful without social skills, i.e. what is the point of having fantastic grades, if you cannot work with other people and confidently put your point across in a group of colleagues or in front of some potential customers?
Lastly, I must mention school uniforms which are a great idea. No hassle in the mornings of what to wear, everyone wears the same smart clothes and no-one is trying to impress their classmates with the latest design gear. School uniforms are readily available in most shops and are normally extremely affordable.
But wait until your child reaches Sixth Form…this is when it all changes and the fun begins. You see, Sixth Form rules state that students must wear business attire to school. There is nothing wrong with that, but business suits, blazers, jumpers, shirts and shoes don’t come cheap.
As son’s last year in education and Sixth Form starts this week, this meant an imminent shopping trip to Bluewater shopping centre with its’ 300 shops was on the cards. Despite my worst fears that the mall was going to be packed, we found it fairly empty and two pairs of business trousers, two formal shirts, two jumpers and a formal winter coat were promptly purchased in a variety of fashionable, trendy shops. You see, unfortunately my 17-year old will only wear clothing items from trendy shops as he seems to think Gok Wan is suddenly going to appear at his school doing spot checks!
Walking back to the car son triumphantly pointed out that we had only spent 1 hour and 38 minutes in the shopping mall. I was less triumphant, realising I had been spending over £2 a minute. “You are a very lucky boy” I commented, “We could have gone to ASDA and got this all much cheaper”. He looked at me horrified: “ASDA??” “Yes”, I replied slightly annoyed “I sometimes buy clothes there”.
“Oh, but that’s because it’s your preference” son replies. Wrong move. Very wrong.
“Out of preference!!!” My voice had suddenly gone high pitch, trying to conceal my rage that my son thought I’d prefer to shop in a supermarket rather than in a fashionable shop. “No, I shop in ASDA because that’s all I’ve got left after spending all my money on your clothes!”
It was a quiet drive home. I think son needs a few more lessons in life by his Finnish mum.