Christmas is all around us…

Christmas is all around us…

It might be your first Christmas in the UK or perhaps you have lived here for a few years and are wondering about the weird, but wonderful traditions. The first sign the season is upon us, is when shops suddenly become very busy with people and you may wonder where everyone is hiding during the rest of the year. Starting in mid-November, you hear Christmas carols and songs everywhere and these will become real earworms.

The main priority of course is the Christmas shopping list; gifts, Christmas cards, decorations, mince pies (which are not made of mince), crackers (but not those that go with cheese), and of course the traditional Christmas dinner meal. This consists usually of a turkey serving a family twice your size, and Brussel sprouts which will inevitably be left barely touched.

If you have young children, you will be invited along to the school nativity play. As there are only three main characters, don’t be surprised if unusual costumes are required to be made and featured on stage; lobsters and octopus are classics, but other rare animals might have an appearance.

While in many countries the Christmas period is observed contemplatively, many British families enjoy this time of the year partying. Pantomime also plays an important part, which you may be surprised to know has little to do with miming but is more a slapstick comedy with audience participation.

Christmas Day traditionally involves getting up very early in the morning and unwrapping gifts, and then preparing the feast (often known as ‘dinner’ but eaten at lunch). Christmas crackers are always a highly anticipated part of the celebrations, each traditionally containing a party hat (inevitably tearing a couple of minutes into use), a small gift or toy, and of course the infamous ‘Christmas joke’ (yes, the British often don’t find them funny either). Feeling thoroughly stuffed and festive families retire to the sofa and the TV is turned on for the Queen’s speech.

If you need to work off some of the turkey consumed over the festivities, a walk in the bracing English cold (although very rarely featuring the snow for which most of us wish on Christmas day, despite the chaos that inescapably accompanies it) you may be surprised to find the otherwise shy neighbours excitedly wishing you a Merry Christmas.

Boxing Day is a particularly English tradition when the sales begin and often includes waking up early yet again, this time to go shopping (of course with the time-honoured English tradition of queuing…), returning home in time to watch the traditional Boxing Day sporting fixtures of football and horse racing.

Merry Christmas!

Article written by Katharina Grimm, December 2019

© Bowker Consulting Ltd. 2019 All Rights Reserved

Starting Secondary School

Starting Secondary School

As your child starts back at Primary school in the beginning of Year 6 you will become increasingly aware of the national deadline – 31st October – for applying for their Secondary school place. This is an important deadline, giving parents who apply on time the best chances of successfully applying for their preferred school.

The Secondary admissions process can be confusing and complex – taking time to understand it will make a big difference to the outcome, and make sure you ask for help if you need it.

How does the Secondary school application process work?

All local authorities use a computerised system to exchange details of applications with each other and co-ordinate offers of places to ensure each child is offered only one school with the aim of making the system fairer, with more parents being offered one of their preferred schools.

So what do you need to consider before you apply?

Make sure you attend open days/evenings for any schools of interest, and familiarise yourself with the admission criteria:

  • Not all schools give priority to siblings.
  • Faith schools will give priority to applicants that can demonstrate practice of the respective faith and normally require an additional form to be completed to support the application.
  • Some schools have a priority area and/or feeder primary schools.
  • Distance from home to school is often used as a tie-breaker, but there are schools that use random allocation (lottery). Councils will use their own in-house mapping system to measure distances and some have facilities on their websites which allow you to find your nearest schools.
  • Some schools require your child to sit a fair banding test and then allocate a percentage of places to each assessment band.

Note: if you are in an area with Grammar schools you will need to register your child for the test, usually in the May/June of Year 5. Tests are sat in early September so that you have the results before the application deadline and can prioritise your preferences accordingly. Admission criteria will be applied to all children that pass the test so it is always best to include a non-Grammar alternative as your final preference, especially if you live some distance from the schools.

Look at the allocation data from previous years:

  • How many people applied for the schools you are interested in?
  • How far down the criteria did the council go before allocating the last place?
  • How close to the school did the last child allocated a place live?

Make sure you will be able to get your child to school as usually no assistance will be given if a school is within 3 miles of your home address.

Once you have completed your research make sure you list the schools in the order you would prefer. It is always worth including your nearest non-selective school, or catchment school, as your final preference and make sure you list as many schools as you can, don’t leave a preference blank.

Checks will be made by councils to determine whether an address declared on the application form is that of a second home with the main home being elsewhere, and some residential arrangements will be considered to be temporary arrangements. If the council finds a fraudulent application is being made they will withdraw an offer.

Finally, the school preferences you make are treated equally. The offer you receive will be for the highest preference school that can offer a place to your child when the oversubscription criteria have been applied to all applications and they will be added to the waiting list for any higher preference schools that are over-subscribed.

Need some help or advice? 

Bowker Consulting has helped thousands of families over many years to navigate the school admissions process, and always deliver a friendly, personalised service, to ensure the very best possible outcomes for each family and each child. For relocating families, or those needing some help to understand how to maximise their chances of success for their child’s application, having an experienced Education Consultant working alongside them can make all the difference.

Click here to contact Bowker Consulting today, and find out more about how we can help you!

Article written by Debbie Bowker, October 2019

© Bowker Consulting Ltd. 2019 All Rights Reserved

Entry years deadlines – impact on relocating families

Entry years deadlines – impact on relocating families

Whether you are moving around or into England with children needing a place in a State school, the usual process is to make an in-year application through the council in the area you are moving to. These can be made at any time of year and are processed on receipt, meaning an outcome is usually known within about 20 school days.

However, if your child is due to start a new phase of schooling, normally starting Primary school age 4 turning 5 or Secondary school age 11 turning 12, the situation is very different. These are called entry years and due to the volume of families making applications they are processed in a very different way.

So how does it work, and what do relocating families need to know?

The entry year application process is co-ordinated across the whole country to make it as fair as possible and ensure no child misses out on a school place. As you can imagine this takes a long time to process and so there are set deadlines for making on time applications – October 31st of the academic year before starting Secondary school and 15th January of the academic year before starting Primary school.

All applications made by these deadlines are classified ‘on time’ and will be processed through the councils’ co-ordinated scheme before any ‘late’ applications made after the deadlines are considered. This often means the most popular schools have already allocated the places they have available, known as the PAN (Planned Admission Number), and are therefore full so any subsequent applications will result in the child’s name being added to the waiting list and another school being offered.

This can be a bewildering situation, say in April, for a family moving into or around the UK, to face. Their child needs a school place for the following September, but all the ‘good’ school places are gone!

This is where the advice and support of an Education Consultant from Bowker Consulting can make all the difference.

The Consultant will carry out specific research into how school places were allocated in previous years, and also liaise with schools and the councils regarding current availability and waiting list situations. Using their extensive knowledge and experience, the family are then guided towards areas where they stand a good chance of securing a place at a great school even though they are late to the process.

There is always movement in the school population between when the first allocations are made and when the children actually start at the school in September. Ideally, a relocating family will want to make strategic decisions about where to live, to ensure that their child is near to the top of their preferred school’s waiting list whilst still receiving an offer for a place at a great fall-back option.

All this can be achieved with the right advice and support.

Click here to contact Bowker Consulting today, and find out more about how we can help you!

Article written by Debbie Bowker October 2019

© Bowker Consulting Ltd. October 2019 All rights reserved.

Welcome to our Bowker Consulting Blog!

Welcome to our Bowker Consulting Blog!

Here you’ll find interesting articles written by the team, on a range of topics that we are frequently asked about when we support relocating families. Contact us here so that we can notify you of future articles that may interest you. And do let us know if there is anything you would like to see covered here – we welcome your suggestions!

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