25th July 2018
The international school provision in the UK, particularly around London, is almost as developed and varied as its restaurant trade. Families can find institutes offering European, Asian, and American curriculums, with bilingual French, Arabic and Mandarin schools increasing in number each passing year.
The majority of relocating international families we assist usually have children studying either the IB or British curriculums in overseas schools. For them, they may decide to stick with what they know, or take a leap of faith into a more British institution.
The main considerations they need to make are lead time and entry point, curriculum, environment, and long-term educational plans. As for all ‘rolling stone’ families, the challenge is to achieve a balance which will keep the whole family as happy and as connected as possible.
By far the biggest challenge for relocating families is the lack of notice they usually receive. Most of the families we assist receive just 6-12 months’ notice, often even less. Given that some of the more traditional private schools can require families to register a minimum of 12-18 months in advance of entry, new arrivals can find that they are left with relatively few options. It’s always possible to find solutions, but much harder to find a school that meets every single requirement.
A further complication can be when students are arriving at an irregular entry point. The usual entry points for traditional schools are the September when a child is 11, 13, or 16. If a space is available, some private schools will offer what they call ‘occasional places’ outside of these entry points but, again, availability will be that bit harder to come by.
This is when international schools really prove their worth. They are, by design, far more flexible on timelines and entry points. There is a more transient, liquid cohort and these schools are more readily able to consider and cater for students on a more ad-hoc basis.
Some students we support are unfortunate enough to be moving in the middle of their iGCSEs or A-levels. This proves incredibly complicated and, excluding a few that offer specialised one year GCSE programmes for international students, most traditional private schools will usually not consider such cases. International schools or private sixth form colleges are usually in a position to offer more flexible, bespoke programmes for such students.
There are some notable exceptions but, in the main, traditional private schools achieve higher academic results than international schools. This is, of course, solely concerning the British curriculum of GCSE and A-levels, plus the IB Diploma in sixth form. As always, keep in mind that a school’s average results tend to be a better indicator of their entry requirements, as opposed to quality of teaching. With a more transient body of students (and often teachers,) most international schools are not academically selective, and nor do they have the luxury of the levels of continuity in a more traditional school. However, international schools are generally able to offer a much wider range of curriculum options and have greater flexibility to adapt to a particular student’s unique requirements.
It is also worth considering that all schools pay particular attention to a student’s current level of English. A good range of traditional schools will be able to offer support for non-native speakers of English, though this is obviously an area where international schools specialise. Julian Davies, Head of high-achieving Abbey College in Cambridge explains this model, “All students are streamed into academic English lessons that sit alongside their main course. This means that their English level is improving throughout the duration of their study, regardless of the level at which they join. The teachers at this school also undergo continuous professional development in areas relevant to the backgrounds of international students. For example, at Abbey Cambridge, we consider all subject teachers to also be teachers of English.”
To offer a summary on curriculum: Parents will need to choose between the variety and flexibility offered by the limited number of international schools or adopt the UK curriculum and unlock a wider range of international and, more specifically, traditional schools.
13th December 2018
12th December 2018
10th December 2018