The relocation is planned; now do I choose the house or the school first?
Whether you are planning a relocation within London, the UK or from overseas, it’s important to plan your child’s schooling. Relocating families are faced with this question a lot: should we take care of the house, or our children’s school first? Well, the answer is that it depends on whether you want to put your children in an independent (fee-paying) or a state school.
School first: independent and international schools
The good thing about independent and international schools is that you can apply well before you’ve secured a house. So choosing a school for your children first and then securing a house nearby may be your best option. Once you’ve found the perfect independent or international school for your child, you can decide where to live. Keep in mind that you might find your perfect house further away from the school, so check the busing routes available or check how easy it is to drive to the school.
This can also help you to prepare your children’s transition to their new school: you can talk about it and go through the virtual visits or, restrictions permitting, physically visit the school before you move. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have arranged Zoom or Skype sessions with the head of the school and teachers. This has enabled them to reassure children if there are some concerns.
Finding the right school: your criteria
You will want to draw up a shortlist of the key attributes you want in a school. These criteria might include tuition fees, the pastoral care, the facilities, activities offered, academic results, language teaching, boarding options and the percentage of UK and international pupils. Careful research and in-depth discussion regarding your children’s needs and your expectations will be necessary to get the best fit for your child.
Independent school admissions process
Independent schools often want to meet your child, have them sit an entrance exam, take part in an interview and attend taster days before an offer can be considered. You may even be interviewed yourself by the Head teacher to see how your family will fit into the school. Leading independent schools will require registration several years in advance. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have arranged all entrance exams and interviews online.
International schools admissions process
International schools admissions process is often based on your child’s school reports, your questionnaires and teacher’s references. If your child’s previous school reports are good, an international school may be happy to offer them a place without meeting them in person. One of the most important parts of the process is that you ask all your questions to see if the school is the right fit for you and your family. For more details about international schools in London, read about our blog on American Schools in London and London French schools.
House first: with state (free) schools
The state school admissions process is different from that of international and independent schools. Places are allocated primarily on the catchment area which is how close you live to the school. There will be other factors at play. The state school admissions process requires much research and preparation, and sometimes hope. It is important to fully understand what is needed to apply to a state school and how to do it.
State school admissions process
State schools do not charge fees for school years. However, many of the good schools are full, and the process of securing a place can be tricky. Moreover, you can only apply to state schools if you have secured a house in the local area, and most of the time it is not possible to apply until your children are actually resident at the new address. The majority of state school admissions are made online through the local authority or council. If you are relocating outside standard application times (at aged 4+ or 11+) you will have to make an in-year application. With in-year applications there may be uncertainty regarding spaces for your children by the time you will have moved to the new address. Places available can change every few weeks, and children are not guaranteed a specific school based on their catchment area. You can and should give preferences when applying for schools for your children and this will be taken into account, but the school you will be allocated will depend on availability of places at the time of the application.
State schools: considering house and school at the same time
You will want to choose your place of residence based on extensive research about the area including the schools available. A lot of factors come into play when doing your research, such as the age of your children and which year group they will enter in – crucial exams could be right around the corner. You will need to ensure you have several options in case your initial plan falls through, and you will need to check if your plans are realistic. Some state schools, such as state grammar schools, have entrance exams at 11+. Learn more in our blog about state grammar schools.
Your research can, in the first place, be made through Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) reports and inspection ratings, which chart a school’s performance. You can also find results from previous exams on the schools’ websites. There is a large amount of data available online – it can become overwhelming very quickly if you don’t know what to look for and how to interpret it. Finding all the information you need can be exhausting and time consuming: hiring an education consultant makes a real difference when interpreting and sourcing all the data needed for your family.
Receiving assistance and advices from experienced education consultants can ensure you understand everything about the data and considerably reduce the stress of finding a school for your children. It maximises your chances of getting into the desired school, and you will be aware of any other alternatives were your initial plans to fall through.
How Lumos Education can help
As a small company, we provide a dedicated service for both our clients. Our Director and Senior Education Consultants each have over 20 years’ experience. This is reflected in our in-depth knowledge of both UK and international education systems. In addition to English, we can support families in several languages including French, Russian, Chinese and Arabic, meaning that all our clients can benefit from our high level of expertise. Please contact us for more information.