I had a happy childhood. Of course I hated or laughed at all that communist staff but I was so lucky with teachers at school and plenty of friends. I hope my kids will remember their school years with happiness and warmth too.
I started school at eight and this didn't stop me (or any of my friends in Russia) from getting to universities and colleges we liked. I've been shocked when at the time my kids were something like 3.5 or 4.5 a nearby school head teacher knocked on our door and said its time for my little ones to go to their Nursery (just for a couple of hours first). As I didn't have any friends in this country, nobody for my kids to play with, and I wanted to do more art at home, I decided, OK, lets do it. It wasn't easy for my son to fit in at first. Once when he didn't want to get inside after a play time, a teacher grabbed and pulled him and he, scarred, baited her in the arm. Needless to say we received a very angry letter from school, got really terrified and had to apologise.
We and kids started to have colds continuously. And little ones started getting head lice. My husband and me we haven't had them at schools - full stop. My mother-in-law didn't had this problem in Britain, same my mother in Russia. Even in my grandmother times, during famine and incredible poverty of 1920s on the boundary of Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia, they didn't had much of this head lice issue. So why its so bad in modern British and Welsh schools? Well it either 1) parents don't care for the welfare of their kids so much now; or 2) headlice got more resistant to treatment; or 3) kids are starting school too early when they can't understand that they shouldn't touch each other heads; or 4) they encouraged to sit on the floor rather than at desks as we did, and that helps little insects spread; or combination of these.
In Russia kids haven't been allowed to walk (almost everybody walked, of course) in school wearing outdoor shoes. You had to have a pair of clean ones to change. NOT HERE. All that dogs, birds, rabbits, cats droppings on the way end up in the classroom... Where everybody sits on the floor. Brrr...
There is a VERY STRANGE attitude to sweets in school. They are encouraged! Its your birthday - bring sweets for everybody, you have been good at studying - get a sweet. School parties of course only have sweets and cakes to eat. No surprise, the life expectancy is falling.
When we decided to move to Wales, people were saying how better the schools there are. We were delighted to here about it. What a disappointment! Our children had been doing joint writing for about a year, but here they have been FORBIDDEN to do this. Only typing (I can't TYPE letters at all!). They had started a foreign language (French) but now have to forget about this because they are learning a little bit of Welsh (why not have both?). They also had to go back to reading very simple books again. At least now they have a free swimming lesson a week (but my daughter said they DON'T HAVE P.E. IN WINTER). My husband can't forget his football at school in any weather, and I quite enjoyed skiing for 2 hours a week through winter wonderland in the park next to the school (the park is long gone under some apartment blocks in Moscow, but that's another story). So they start early but they exercise less... Here is a good recipe for childhood obesity. Plus school meals. In England kids actually had some organic food for their dinners. Not here - and that's for the same price. And some form of potatoes almost every day.
Two more things make me really sad: encouragement of football and pop / rock music culture. When I was at school we were told to strive for the best. If its music, it should be quality music. We don't listen to much pop or rock at home. It's not OUR culture. Now my kids are preparing for their Christmas concert and they have to pretend TO BE ROCK OR POP STARS. Something called X-factor? I have no slightest idea what it is (I only know X-files :). In England we had to choose if we want to send the kids to school discos or not. Here in Wales they are hold in SCHOOL TIME. And foolball. We don't watch sport. All we see is drunken and swearing supporters we have to share trains with. Why our kids should be pushed towards that?
Sorry for some bitterness. Of course there are lots of positive things. Religious education has been good so far (I haven't had any in my time). Kids had interesting trips to farms and theaters. There are quite a lot of male teachers (unlike when I was at school), and most teachers looks like clever and friendly people. And there are affordable music lessons for everyone. I sort of admire home education enthusiasts but I wouldn't be able to do this. At least not alone. Anyway, hopefully, everything will be for the best.