When families with children relocate, schooling is often the most important part of the move - and the most stressful. Families worry about how the children will make the transfer from one country and schooling system to another. They are concerned about whether the new school will be a good one and how the children will cope with language and curriculum differences. What’s more, the effects of the changes in environment, when they return home as well as when they leave, should not be underestimated.
For parents, the decision to accept an international assignment can hinge on whether or not the children’s education will suffer. For organisations relocating employees with families, the challenge lies in showing parents the benefits of the range of education options available to them and their children. Being able to visit schools, orientate themselves with the emotional and practical aspects of the new institution, and apply for and be offered a place at their school of choice can make or break a move.
Education in the UK has suffered a little during the recent financial climate, presenting some issues for people moving into the country. While many of the good private schools have survived this trend, some schools were forced to close. The more competitive institutions found that they had to once again market themselves in order to make sure they were running at usual capacity. As a result those top British private schools in London and the South East that were traditionally always full, now have the occasional spare place to offer a child moving from abroad. Some of the smaller, less competitive private institutions have been forced to offer more for the money in order to adapt and suit the financial climate, and thus have become far more attractive to parents.
International schools offering the International Baccalaureate and American curriculum are still well supported by incoming families where companies will foot the bill for school fees. These schools are usually the most expensive, and only affordable for those who do have a company allowance. The last couple of years have seen a rise in fees at International Schools and UK private schools generally.
For families relocating to the UK and looking for places at our very good state schools, there can be many obstacles to overcome. According to Government statistics, a record number of primary and secondary state schools are now full. Factors such as the rise in immigration, a baby boom in the UK and the recession-fuelled exodus from private schools, have made a contribution to this. Parents wanting a state school place for their child must plan carefully. Local Education Authorities in the UK will only accept applications from families living in the area with proof of residency, and even then there is no guarantee of a place at a preferred school. This usually means that a family must select a property without knowing if they will be able to get their children into a school. Added to this, some schools now have responsibility for their own admissions, and trying to understand the system can be quite confusing for the incoming parent.
Using an education consultant as a first point of contact for the family throughout the move provides a familiar face that will be there to guide them through any potential problems, thus making the move seem much less daunting.
Companies like Educatus offer a variety of consultancy services and guidance to the relocating family and the relocation industry. See the Educatus website at www.educatus.org.uk for more information about what they do and how to get in touch. Additionally, you can follow them on twitter @Educatus_ for regular updates, tips and information on relocation and schooling.