Moving to a new city is a challenge in and of its own. Moving with children adds a lot to your already overblown ‘to-do’ list.
You have to find the best place to live for you and for them, you have to take care of the integration process and more. The amount of times you will be getting yourself in the shoes of a counselor, a coach, a friend and a psychologist is off the charts. But hey, those are the usual joys of parenting. You knew what you’ve signed up for.
That noted, few of the obstacles you’ll be fighting your way through during the relocation process are as vital (ergo as intimidating) as finding the perfect school for the kids.
I get what you are going through and I am here to help.
For starters, let’s focus on the positives: London is a remarkable place for children. Not only is it a diverse cluster of opportunities sprinkled with a handful of benefits for our youngest, but the smoke boasts having some of the best schools in the country.
In simpler words, your precious ones will be getting the royal treatment from one of the best educational systems on the planet.
The application process
It is not too hard to apply to a school in London or anywhere else in the UK for that matter. Picking the preferred school type is the tricky part, because we have not one, not two, but three of them.
A state school is the go-to choice for many expats. It is state-governed and state-funded hence you won’t be paying a fortune for the education of your children.
The fact of whether your kids can apply for schooling in the UK depends entirely on your visa but most of the more permanent ones do allow you for entry.
The rules are simple and pretty straightforward:
- If your child is at the age of 4+, your application is to be submitted between January and September of the year you wish to start the classes.
- Secondary school applications have a deadline before the end of October prior to the year you will be entering school.
- Other age groups have no such restrictions.
The school will still process your application and it may very well reject it based on the fact that there are much fewer seats available than applicants, especially in the more well-known schools.
There are also international schools in London. They are beloved by many expats because of their flexibility. You can study based on the American education system or a French one in an international school if you will. There are also IB’s or International Baccalaureates available.
The application process in these schools is different from their state-held counterparts. Most of the International schools are privately held, hence the rules of admission vary from case to case. One thing can be said for certain – your previous grades as well as recommendations for teachers matter. A certain level of English or other particular skills may be demanded as well.
Lastly, there are the public or “independent” schools. They are also privately funded and the application process flows by the same rules as it would in an International school.
State schools of London
As I have already said before, state schools are one of the most popular options for expats and, obviously, Londoners themselves. Why?
- They are much more affordable.
- The curriculum is diverse and there are many after-class activities to choose from.
- The kids who are attending a state school become a part of a community as not only do they learn together, but they also live close to each other.
- Public schools are established and have access to support from the government.
Not to say that a state school is perfect though. There are still many disadvantages to consider:
- There are many students attending these schools. The classes are overcrowded.
- There is a much smaller pool of talented teachers.
- There are obviously issues with discipline.
- Individual attention to a pupil is an unaffordable luxury in a state school.
Luckily, there are amazing state schools that have managed to mitigate the cons and are now on the same level as many private schools in various fields.
Take a look at the Lady Margaret School for once. It is a school for girls only but this is more of a strength than a weakness. The smaller number of pupils has allowed for the school to a) tech better and b) manage the discipline more efficiently. What do we have in the endgame? 70% A-B scores across all students.
Then there is the Fortismere School that is a home away from home to 1,700+ boys and girls. The school is proud with a welcoming atmosphere and a neck for friendly rivalry between the ‘houses’ of Rhodes, Ephesus and Colosseum. 71% A-B scores prove that Fortismere is on the right track.
Private and International schools
Private and International schools are essentially one and the same with the only difference being that the latter offers access to more educational programs from other countries. Label this fact as a major plus but do note that the remaining advantages are nearly identical.
- Private schools offer a more challenging curriculum.
- The benefit of smaller classes allows for an individual approach to each student.
- Private schools can afford better teachers.
- More resources, books, equipment, etc.
- Steel-solid discipline.
- The confidence a private institution with a loud name and a history endows on the pupils.
Private schools have a series of disadvantages worth considering as well:
- First and foremost, they are expensive. The fees kick off at £7,000 per year and can go as high as £35,000+.
- There is a large gap between the students from different classes. A kid with less wealthy parents might have a few trouble or even experience bullying in school.
- Many of the private schools have an emphasis on religious education.
- Diversity is practically nonexistent in private schools (this can’t be said about International Schools though).
To sum things up, picking the best school in London is an impossible task. All of them have strengths and weaknesses that are worth considering. Just go for the one that goes well with your kids and you’ll surely make the right choice!