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.
Many parents ask themselves this question. Will my child have access to better opportunities? Will he or she thrive and be happy? And crucially, factoring in the cost of living in London and future university fees, can I afford it?
There has been a lot in the press recently about private (independent) schools and the pros and cons of educating your child independently.
Do the privately educated still dominate the British elite?
The Sutton Trust’s report “Leading People 2016” (1) found that professions like law, politics, journalism and medicine were still dominated by privately educated Oxbridge graduates. It is not just the traditional academic professions that are dominated by the product of independent schools either: many leading British actors and actresses were independently educated including Eddie Redmayne (Eton), Benedict Cumberbatch (Harrow) and Kate Winslett who attended an independent theatre training school.
But according to Fraser Nelson in the Spectator this week (2), this report omits to mention that “these leading establishment figures went to schools at least 20 years ago” and there is “more excellence in the state sector than the private.” This is an interesting observation and we will see whether the current generation of young people have equal success to their counterparts who attended independent schools
London’s state schools
In London, we have some excellent examples of both state and independent schools.
In the state sector, Tiffin Girls in Kingston and the London Oratory in Fulham are prime examples of free selective schools. Both boast outstanding results academically with the London Oratory being particularly brilliant for music. Both of these, and other London state schools, such as Greycoat Hospital School in Westminster where the Prime Minister, David Cameron, sent his daughter – are popular and heavily over-subscribed.
London independent schools
In the independent sector, St Paul’s, St Paul’s Girls and Westminster are among several internationally renowned schools where parents seek to gain places for their children.
As with the outstanding state schools, competition for places is tough, with many families disappointed every year.
How do I know whether state or independent is best for my child?
As a parent, choosing a school for your child is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. The real question is not whether state or independent is best, but finding a school where your child will thrive and be happy. Your know your own child better than anyone. It is important to trust your intuition and choose a school which you feel will benefit your son or daughter both academically and pastorally. And to remember that your decision is not set in stone. This simple fact takes the pressure off. If your child is unhappy in your chosen school, you have the power to change this.
If you do not find a school which you feel would benefit your child, or the school you have chosen is over-subscribed, you may wish to consider home-schooling for a period. There has been rise in UK families home-schooling. Families we have helped recently cited many reasons for doing so. These included sensitive children, who prefer the home environment and individual attention that home-schooling can offer, children retaking A levels and international families who have relocated to London for a short period, and after a busy move, prefer to have children educated at home to avoid additional stressors. Emma Thompson’s daughter recently chose to leave Highgate School and be educated at home.
For advice on London schools and home-schooling programmes, please get in touch with our team of education professionals at Lumos Education at info@lumoseducation or on 0207 6927448.