Many expat parents relocating to London choose to send their children to international schools, as this allows them to continue in the same education system they followed in their home country. As well helping to reduce the stress of relocation, as your child does not have to get used to a new education system, international schools enable children to maintain literacy skills in their mother tongue. Most international schools also provide a strong ‘English as an Additional Language’ (EAL) programme.
All education systems have their advantages: the formality and frequent testing of the British and French systems contrast with a more informal approach in the US system. If you are relocating to London (or to another capital city), you will find that you have the option to choose between four main systems: British, US, German or French.
If you are relocating with your family, here are some tips to consider:
The US System
American School of London (ASL) in St John’s Wood is excellent and takes of many nationalities, although eighty percent of children have at least one parent who is a US citizen. It follows the American system of education, has superb arts and sporting facilities and excellent pastoral care.
Just outside London, in Surrey, there is the American School in England, known as TASIS, which also has a good reputation. It offers students the opportunity to study the International Baccalauréat and offers boarding, with currently 20 nationalities on the boarding programme.
The French system
The Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle in South Kensington is a real feature of this French part of London. Students are mostly French, but some come from other cultures and nationalities too. The school has a strong focus on languages and arts.
The German system
The German School is based in Richmond, Surrey, within easy commute from central London. The school aims to facilitate the social integration of German students to the UK, whilst maintaining their connection to their language and culture. The school follows the German curriculum.
The British system
Day schools: both state and independent
The majority of schools in London follow the British system of education. Competition is fierce in the capital for the best schools and application is advance is advised. However, as London is an international city, there is a lot of movement with many families leaving to relocate abroad. This means that places, even in the most popular schools, do become sometimes become available in the middle of the school year. This is good news for families coming to London mid-way through the school year. Contact an independent education consultant with an in-depth knowledge of London and UK schools to negotiate with the school on your behalf.
Boarding is an option for families wanting the flexibility offered by this system. For those busy families that travel for work and may not always be at the school gates at 4pm, weekly boarding is great. Children can return home at weekends for quality family time. Most schools are very flexible- you child can weekly board or stay at the school for weekends if you are away on a longer business trip. Pastoral care at most British boarding schools is now superb- they are a world away from the traditional images of packed dormitories and inedible food. However, it is important to speak to someone who knows the individual schools well to find the one that would most suit the personality and academic needs of your own child.
Home-schooling- an additional option
Home-schooling is a valid option if you are relocating, especially at short notice. Home-schooling gives your children time to gently settle into a new city and a new home without having the added pressure of having to settle into a new school environment.
Some children relish change and enjoy meeting new people. If you have a very sensitive child, or a son or daughter who finds change difficult, home-schooling helps to smooth the period between moving and starting a new school. Many families find that the school they prefer has a waiting list. Instead of opting for another school, they choose to have their children home-schooled for a period- whether it be for a short period, for example three to six months, or for a longer time.
Specialist tutors who are experienced in home-schooling, will also be sensitive to the changes that the family are adapting to, and will create tuition programmes to fit in with your family’s specific needs. Home-schooling programmes can cater for several children in the family. In addition to academic subjects, programmes can include yoga, music and sport to provide a balanced day for your child.
Whichever system you decide on, it is important to do your research and find an option which is best suited to your child and your family. As London is such an international community, most schools are very welcoming, being accustomed to receiving enquiries and applications from international parents and families relocating to the UK. Relocating to the new city can be daunting, but with many networks in place to support new arrivals, your family should be well-supported.