Teaching: Texas vs. London

Welcome! The idea to write this post came to me when I was supply (substitute) teaching in London and I realized just how different the school system is here. There are several big differences between teaching in the US and teaching in the UK. Please be advised that this may not be true for all schools in the United States and the United Kingdom, these are just my experiences and my views and opinions. I am still getting my bearings in teaching in London and I do not know everything about the school system yet, but I am fast learner and will update this post accordingly.

In no particular order, here are the differences.

Classroom supplies provided by the school

Break Times/Lunch

The students and teachers get a 15 minute break in the morning, usually around 10:30. They go outside to run around and play, they also have this time to enjoy a snack. The older students have to bring their own snack while most schools provide healthy snack for the younger students. Typically it is, apples, pears, bananas, tomatoes and cucumbers, the kids gobble them up, even the raw unsalted and dressed tomatoes! Who knew? During that break there are TAs and teachers monitoring the kids play. Everyone has one day a week to monitor, I have Fridays at my school.

Lunch breaks work very different than they did at my school in Houston. There is a full hour for lunch and recess and the teachers do not monitor during this time. My students have a bit of play time before eating and once they are finished eating they tidy up their dishes and can go out to play. They do not have to wait for the rest of the class to finish eating.

Their lunches are served on reusable plates with metal or plastic cutlery depending on their age, reusable water cups and a water pitchers for the kids to serve themselves, if able.

Some schools also provide a plate of fresh veg on the tables. Before eating their dessert, they have to ask an adult that is monitoring. The adult makes sure they ate a sufficient amount of their main meal before allowing them to have their dessert, be it a cookie, brownie or fruit. As for the main meal, I haven't paid much attention to what my school serves, but will do so this week and will update the post.

Homework books

School Supplies

At all the schools I supply taught at and the school I am teaching at now, the school supplies are provided for the students and teachers. Every subject has a workbook (what we Americans might refer to as an Interactive Notebook). The pencils, markers, pens, highlighters, rubbers (erasers), scissors, rulers, dry erase markers, glue sticks, tape, and the workbooks for all subjects and homework are readily available as needed. The students are allowed to bring their own pencil cases with their fancy pencils and such, but this is regulated differently at each school. At my school they are allowed to have them starting in Year 5 at the teacher's discretion.

It is the same for teacher supplies. My school's marking (grading) system is a bit intense and I will talk about it more in a bit, but they provide us with the pens and stamps we need.


Teacher Assistants

Teaching assistants are common here. Depending on your school's budget you could have a teaching assistant dedicated to your class or one for the year level. A teaching assistant is a magical being. They help with preparations for lessons and homework, help keep your classroom decorations and working walls up to date, they do the reading logs with the students, will take your lower level children out to do their spelling test, and assist you with giving guidance and support to students who need it during independent work. My TA is the most amazing person ever, she has helped me understand and comply with the requirements of my school and marking and getting my room ready for the students. Starting next week I will only have her for the first half of the day, during English and Maths, and the second half of the day she will pull-out students to given them a more focused small group lesson. They obviously go through trainings and some get a certificate to be TA, which gives them the skills needed for helping students learn.

Handwriting and spelling workbooks


Marking here is very intense. I only have experience teaching maths, science and Texas History so I do not know how intense marking english work in the US is, but its super hard here. I am going to try to make this easy to understand, so please bare with me. There is a workbook and homework workbook for each subject and every piece of work that is put into the workbooks needs to be marked. The marking of right and wrong for the questions is pretty typical, if it is wrong I put a red dot and tick or check for those that are correct. For english we check spellings and grammar and sentence structure with the typical marks. All of my marks are done in red pen, all my TAs marks are done in purple pen and any corrections the kids make are in green pen. My TA and I each have a stamp that says, 'Independent Work', 'TA Assisted', 'Teacher Assisted' and each assignment needs one of those stamps. For deeper marking on longer writing pieces we highlight pink for things we like and green for things that need improvement.

Three times a week, for Maths and English, the students need a 'Green Pen Question'. This is a question you put at the end of their work to further their learning and they need to be differentiated according to the students ability. For example, we were practicing reading and writing numbers up to 1 million, for my challenge 1 students I ask them to write a 5 digit number in words, for challenge 2 they were asked to write a 6 digit number in words and for my challenge 3 students they were asked to write a 7 digit number in words. Sometimes, if I noticed that they did well writing the numbers in words but had trouble reading the words and writing the numbers, I would give them a number in words and have them write it in digits. Does that make sense?

An example of an english GPQ (green pen question), for challenge one I would have them rewrite misspelled words 4 times, challenge 2 would answer 'explain how the grandmother is caring' and challenge 3 would answer 'describe the grandmother's personality'. We are currently reading The Witches by Roald Dahl.

If the students are doing an assignment in a group we take photos of them working and create and print a page with the photos, learning objective and date that will be pasted into their workbooks.

Every assignment in the workbooks has to have the date and LO.

Differentiated Lessons

We should all be doing this already, I just wanted to point out that when they do book scrutinies, they look for differentiated assignments and GPQ. As teachers we know what level the students are on but let them choose their own challenge and generally they choose wisely. They know how they did during the lesson and their understanding of it and choose their challenge accordingly. However, there a are few students who like to choose challenge 3 when they aren't quite there, when they do this I ask them to try challenge 2 first then move on the challenge 3. For the students who choose challenge 1, I ask them to try challenge 2 or 3 first, depending on their ability.

The School Day

My students arrive in the classroom starting at 8:40 and dismissal is at 3:15. Learning starts at 9:05 after the register (roll) is completed. Twice a week there is a whole school assembly during which the students receive awards, one team player and one start student per class. Other things happen there such as announcements, once I have attended more I will update this section to give more detail about the assemblies. There are also teacher lead assemblies and class assemblies. I am not sure what the teacher does at a teacher lead assembly because we aren't required to stay for those so I guess I will find out when it is my turn. The class lead assemblies are when a class gives a performance about they are learning or have learned during that term. I will give more information on these as they occur for me.


I teach at a Catholic school so we prey in the morning, before lunch and before we go home. One subject we teach is Religion, which isn't just Catholicism or Christianity, they also learn about other religions and their celebrations. At my school we hold mass during assembly time, though I am not sure how often that happens. We will find out.

This post was getting a bit long, if you made it this far, congratulations! As I said above, I will update this post as more information comes to me. This is reflective of all schools in London/UK or in Texas/US, these are just my experiences. If you have any questions please them in the comments below.

Would you be interested in an in depth post on the marking scheme?



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