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.
This always seems to be the last consideration for many parents, confident in their globalised offspring’s resilience and ability to adapt. However, a school’s environmental and cultural factors are paramount to a child’s comfort and success.
Firstly, where is the school located? If you are moving as a family, you may need to choose between living in a central, urban location, or a leafier, suburban neighbourhood. From there, you may need to consider commuting times for parents and/or children.
When considering location, parents should take into account a school’s facilities. It is usually true that some of the more centrally-located international schools lack the rolling playing fields, cloisters and turrets of a more traditional British private school. Most schools in central London struggle for the same space and sprawling facilities as a school out in the leafy home-county commuter belt. If parents want a school with its own theatre, swimming pool, sports centre and fields, they are usually going to have to look that bit further out of town.
It is worth keeping in mind that a lot of ‘out of town’ schools will offer weekly boarding options. This is increasingly popular with busy, British, city-worker parents, who afford their children more idyllic and focussed school settings during the week, then reunite as a family on a Friday evening.
Once settled on location and environment, parents should also consider the social and cultural side of things. It’s first imprtant to dispel the myth that a traditional British private school is the exclusive domain of the white, establishment classes. The Independent Schools Council actually reports that just 66 per cent of current UK private school students come from White British backgrounds – compared to around 81 per cent of the population at large. Additionally, in 2017 private schools spent around £1 billion on fee-assistance, which supports students from lower-income families. So, whilst academic ability and good behaviour are a given, a student’s background is largely irrelevant. An international student should not feel out of place in a traditional UK school, and such schools are experts at fostering their own school culture and community.
Despite the widespread diversity in traditional schools, international schools will contain almost entirely international students, and a greater proportion of students who are new to the UK. There is often a more transient, temporary culture amongst staff and students.
The ultimate consideration is how well a child will ‘fit in’ in the new school. Will they be joining at the same time as other new students, or will they be the only ‘newbie’ trying to break into an established group of friends? Will they struggle to keep up with native English speakers, or will they feel out of place in a class where the majority are less than fluent? Will they be obliged to play rugby on a freezing Wednesday afternoon in February?
As always, it’s about attaining the right balance for your child, and finding the environment where they will feel comfortable and confident and will be given the platform to pursue their talents and interests.
Long term educational plans
At Education Advisers Ltd, we nag our clients about the benefits of making an ‘Education For Life’ plan. For us, thinking as far ahead as possible helps a family map out the preferred educational route for their child, and anticipate the challenges and opportunities that may lie ahead.
When taking on a new role in the UK, families need to consider whether they will be off on another assignment after two or three years. Will the next move be the perfect time for their child to switch, or will it create no end of stress and disruption at a crucial time?
If the plan is to stay for just a year or so before moving on to pastures new, an international school is more likely to provide a convenient, more transferrable curriculum. These schools are perfect for the international, jet-setting families, and for students who require a softer, more temporary landing.
Families may, however, be planning to stay for a minimum of three years, or even indefinitely. It could even be the case that, when it is time to leave, the child (and parents!) would benefit from the continuity of a boarding school.
As with any decision for their child’s education, families have to simultaneously consider the short and long term. Once you have an outline of where you are and where you plan to be, you can begin to fill in the finer details and make a fully informed decision. No one knows exactly what the future holds, but the UK is the ideal place to map out an ‘Education for Life’ regardless of where it may lead next.
This is Part 2 of the article, read part 1 here
17th December 2018
14th December 2018
13th December 2018