If you are being sent on a corporate assignment and are taking your children with you, it is important to begin addressing the issue of schooling prior to your departure, to ensure you and your family settle well at your destination.
The location of your chosen housing will not only need to be determined by the location of your office and commuting times preferred, but also by the school selected for your children. Consequently, starting your planning early can help you to make well-informed choices and give you the best chance of securing places at your preferred school(s).
1. State Schools
- To secure a place at a state school, you will have to live within their ‘catchment zone’. This leads to a bit of a ‘chicken-and-egg’ situation when you are coming on assignment from outside the UK, as the location of the school is likely to determine the housing, but you cannot apply for the school place until you have secured a home!
- Additionally, most good state schools are extremely oversubscribed, so you cannot always rely on a place being available, particularly if you are coming to the UK at short notice, or for a shorter assignment. (The National Audit Office (NAO) is warning that a quarter of a million extra school places will be needed in England by autumn 2014 to meet rising demand, so this isn’t a problem that is likely to go away in the near future.)
- You must apply for state primary school places by 15th January, for your children to start in the following September. For secondary school places, you need to apply even earlier (by 31st October). As such, if you are arriving in the UK outside of these times, it can be even more difficult to secure state school places for your children. If you require your child to start at any other time in the year, you will more than likely be referred to the local authority.
- Once you have found out which schools have places, your local council can give you a booklet about schools’ criteria and how to apply. Admissions criteria are different for each school. For example, schools may give priority to children who have a brother or sister at the school already, who live close to the school, from a particular religion (for faith schools), who do well in an entrance exam (for selective schools e.g. grammar schools or stage schools), who went to a particular primary school (a ‘feeder school’) or who are in care or being looked after (all schools must have this as a top priority).
- Before applying for any schools, it is really important to find out more about them. You can find out more about a state school by looking on their websites, visiting the school, reading the school’s most recent Ofsted reports, checking school league tables (which include exam results) and talking to other parents about what they think of the school.
2. Independent (fee-paying) Schools
- Securing a place for your child at an independent school is often an easier process than for state schools, though be prepared that they do still get full due to their popularity and limits on class sizes.
- The first stage in your search will be to find out what schools are close to the general location that you are planning to move to. Websites such as Find A School and the Independent Schools website can be helpful to get an initial list together, but from that point onwards, the time consuming process of desk research begins.
- The school’s own websites can be a great source of information, as are the more objective inspection reports provided by Ofsted and the Independent Schools Inspectorate.
- Once you have decided on the schools that would be suitable for your children, the laborious process of ‘phoning them all begins! Much as this can be time-consuming, it is also an excellent opportunity for asking questions to ensure that you find a school that your children will be happy in.
- When you have a short-list of schools that match your brief and have spaces, visiting them is incredibly important. It is only by walking around the school, chatting with the Head and their wider team, and meeting some of the current pupils, that you can get a true feeling as to whether your children will be happy there.
As you can see, securing school places in the UK can be an extremely time-consuming and complex process. The Relocation Consultancy provide a range of services to help locate and secure school places for your children. These help to make the school finding process a great deal less stressful for you and your children, and are incredibly efficient in terms of your time.
The Relocation Consultancy are experts in destination services and provide a range of options to support families moving to the UK. For a FREE consultation on the services that may be suitable for you, call +44 (0)118 947 0029 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternately, you can find out more about our services at http://www.therelocationconsultancy.com/relocation-services.