Enrolling children in school during lock down

Enrolling children in school during lock down

What happens with regards to children joining a new school when you move house, or country, during lockdown? Is it even possible?

For State schools the government has provided recommendations to councils that they only process in year applications if the child is classified as vulnerable or the parent is a critical key worker. The list of occupations in this category can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

Some of the councils will also process an in year application for a child recently arrived in the UK as they acknowledge that, as they are new to the country, they will not be receiving remote teaching from anywhere else. Of course if the children do not speak or understand English then they won’t be able to do the school work remotely anyway and if this is the case then it might be better to find a tutor that can provide them with remote English as an Additional Language lessons.

If you have recently arrived in the UK and your applications will not be processed until restrictions are lifted then you may want to encourage your children to engage with the online lessons provided by the government’s Oak National Academy https://www.thenational.academy/. There are over 1,000 lessons available across all the age ranges and covering all subjects and they include instructional videos by teachers.

If you have moved within the UK then the expectation is that your child remains on role and receives remote teaching from their previous school until restrictions are lifted.

If you are fortunate to move into an area where schools handle their own in year admissions then you may well find they are more sympathetic to your situation and will enrol your children.

For families considering fee paying Independent or International schools the transition is much easier as they have adapted their entry process and can now offer everything from a tour, testing and interviews virtually.

If you would like further advice and support we would be happy to assist. Contact us today!

#schooladmissions #relocation #education #lockdown

Secondary Allocation Day Results and Appeals Advice

Secondary Allocation Day Results and Appeals Advice

Following secondary allocation day on 2nd March, many parents may have received a secondary school offer they are not happy with, or in some cases may not have received an offer at all.

It can be very disappointing to have missed out on places at preferred secondary schools. If you are in this difficult position, you may well be feeling anxious, angry, frustrated, unsure and worried about where your child will end up going to school in September.

We understand that this can be an incredibly stressful time for parents who are now having to try to work out what to do next. The path ahead can be a minefield of waiting lists, second rounds of allocations, looking at alternative schools that may have places, trying to understand the appeal process and deciding whether to try an appeal – whilst at the same time trying to manage your own and your child’s expectations realistically, and also reassure your child confidently that it will all work out and they will be just fine, even when everything is still up in the air!

Appeals are not easy to navigate, there is a lot of work to be done to prepare and get things right. Securing a ‘back up’ school place is also a very important part of the process. Appeal hearings themselves can be quite stressful experiences, there is such a lot riding on the outcomes, emotions can run high, and how you approach the hearings and prepare for them can be crucial to your chances of success.

Our advice in a nutshell:

  1. Remain as calm as possible!
  2. Research alternative back up schools, and accept a place at another school somewhere.
  3. Request an appeal by the deadline given in your allocation letter – in most areas these will be heard around June time.
  4. Prepare your ‘reasons for appeal’ very carefully – consider getting advice on this from an appeals expert.
  5. Remain as calm as possible while on the waiting list, and through subsequent rounds of allocation while you wait for the appeal hearing. Very often places can come up from the waiting list at any point right up to September.
  6. Prepare for the appeal hearing by carefully reading all the paperwork sent to you about the school, and come up with some key questions to ask at the appeal hearing. An appeals expert can really help with this, and can coach you on your best approach.
  7. Attend the appeal hearing on the day in person, prepared and with appropriate questions to raise, and ready to confidently outline your reasons for appeal.

The good news is that we can help with all this!

At Bowker Consulting we offer bespoke advice for parents who need guidance on the school appeals process, and on what to do next. Our support for appeals is arranged on an hourly basis, so you can have as much or as little help as you need. We can arrange a telephone consultation call to talk it all through, provide help preparing your reasons for appeal, research on all alternative options, assistance with looking through all the appeals paperwork, and coaching on the best approach in the appeal hearing to ensure you go in ready and confident, to maximise your chances of success.

We have advised many families over many years through the appeals process, and though we can never promise a particular outcome that may be beyond our control, we know that families who have us working alongside them stand a significantly stronger chance of success at appeals.

More importantly – every single family we support ends up with a solution that they are happy with.

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

Article written by Deborah Gregg, March 2020

© Bowker Consulting Ltd. 2020 All Rights Reserved

Which Comes First – House or School? Part 2: State Schools in England

Which Comes First – House or School? Part 2: State schools in England

‘Which should we find first – the house or the school?’ This is one of the most common questions we are often asked by relocating families, and the simple answer is, ‘it depends!’

You may have read our recent blog for families considering Independent schools or International schools, which can help to secure great school places before you move – click here to read more. Today we’re continuing our conversation to answer this question, this time focusing on local state schools.

For many families who want to look at local state schools for their children, it is a very different picture and involves lots of preparation, research and then often taking a leap of faith! It is vital to have both a good understanding of how it works, and reasonable expectations for the outcome for your child.

The good news is that in many areas of England you will find great local state schools, offering a fantastic education for your children, with no fees to pay! However, the challenge for relocating families is about actually securing available spaces in the schools, and finding your way through the rather complicated application process.

In almost every area in England, you can only apply for local state schools once you have secured an address, and in most areas you can’t apply until the children have actually moved and are resident with you in your new address. This can leave things up in the air and needs to be managed carefully.

If you opt for state schooling there is always a degree of uncertainty about whether the local schools will actually have spaces for your children by the time you move and apply. Unlike in some other countries, children are not guaranteed a place at a particular school based on where they live. You can express a preference for which schools you’d like – which will be considered – but the actual school you are allocated will be dependent on a place being available in that classroom for your child, at the time your application is processed, after you have all moved in. If you live next door to a fantastic top-performing school, you may well find it to be full, and you would then be offered an alternative school nearby.

For families choosing state schools, it is always helpful to consider both house and school at the same time, before committing to a property.

It makes sense to decide where to live based on good quality big-picture overviews from reliable sources, and also more detailed relevant information on specific schools in the area, as your search narrows. Depending on the ages of your children, and the stages of education they are in, this can be crucial. Whether you are applying for the main entry points into school or occasional ‘In Year’ places, this can make a huge difference on the application process and your chances of success. Understanding whether your plans are realistic and ensuring you have a number of options to fall back on, will help you to steer your way through this process with a good outcome.

Informed decisions can be made initially by considering the performance of schools, exam and test results, and Ofsted school inspection ratings. Vast quantities of data is available – the key is knowing what to look for and how to best interpret it! This should be used, where possible, alongside information from the schools and Local Authorities about the current picture of availability or waiting lists, which can be a helpful starting point. Sourcing and collating this information can be incredibly time consuming and this is one of the areas that having the support from an experienced education consultant can really make a difference.

Of course, it’s worth remembering that available places can change on a daily basis as families move in and out of areas – the situation can feel like shifting sand. By the time you have actually finalised your home, moved in and had your applications processed, the situation with spaces in your preferred school may well have changed but if you have taken on board the guidance your consultant provided you should still have some sound alternatives available.

So, to answer the proverbial ‘chicken or egg’ question – which comes first, the house or the school? For relocating families looking for state schools, the answer is to consider both at the same time while deciding where to live, but you will need to secure the house and move in before you can apply for the school.

Receiving high-quality personalised schools information and assistance can ensure that you are making really sound decisions on where to live, to minimise the risk and to maximise your chances of your children being allocated places at great schools when you move.

The good news is that we can help!

We specialise in helping families through this whole process, so your children have as smooth a transition as possible to their new school.

At Bowker Consulting we have been successfully helping relocating families for many years. We provide bespoke research and advice on all types of available schooling as required, including International schools, Independent schools and local state schools. We work closely with parents, relocation companies and schools to ensure a joined up service is delivered every single time.

Do contact us to see how we may be able to help you.

Article written by Deborah Gregg February 2020

© Bowker Consulting Ltd. February 2020 All rights reserved.

Which Comes First – House or School? Part 1: Independent & International Schools

Which Comes First – House or School? Part 1: Independent & International Schools

‘Which should we find first – the house or the school?’ This is one of the most common questions we are often asked by relocating families, and the simple answer is, ‘it depends!’

For Independent (private) and International schools, you can apply well in advance of your relocation even before you have secured a property. This is a massive help for you if want to firstly choose your children’s school, apply and secure places for your children, and then find a suitable home nearby or on the bus route for the school.  

This way you can really ‘get your ducks in a row’ and have everything in place before you move. It can also help you to prepare your children for their transition to their new school. You may have taken them to visit the school ahead of your move, and they may have already seen first-hand the building, cafeteria, sports facilities and playgrounds, and met some teachers and classmates, all of which should bring them some reassurance as they will know what to expect when they arrive and start school. If they haven’t been able to visit with you in person they will at least have been able to have a good look with you at the website for their new school, maybe even had a chat on Skype with the Head or class teacher, and you can talk with your child about the school, to help them to begin to get prepared and excited about joining in all the lessons and activities on offer.

There are many different criteria to take into account when looking for the right Independent or International school for a child, depending on the individual requirements for each family and child. It can be a real challenge for parents to research this and decide which schools to shortlist – it can help to get some ideas down on paper, about what matters most to you for your children’s education.  

Of course one key factor to consider are the fees charged by Independent and International schools, which can vary significantly in terms of tuition fees (from around £15,000 up to £30,000 per year) and then all the extras (e.g. meals, busing, equipment, uniform, trips, specialist tuition for languages or music etc). Each school also varies in terms of what they can offer, e.g. overall size, profile of nationalities, facilities, curriculum, religious ethos, extracurricular activities, boarding options, languages and support.

Some schools may have waiting lists, and occasionally may not take children into certain year groups that are more tricky, for example when coming towards crucial exam years, and often a certain level of English language is required, particularly for older pupils. Occasionally schools may be flexible regarding which year group your child would join, to make sure they have a smooth landing, depending on what is right for your child. All this will take careful research and discussion to get it right.

An additional challenge is to then navigate any entry requirements and assessments – this is not always straightforward and varies from school to school. International schools tend to have more paperwork to complete with the application (e.g. teacher recommendations, reports, student essays or questionnaires) but may be happy to offer a place without meeting your child in person. Independent schools will usually want to meet your child, and there are often entrance exams to sit, taster days to arrange and interviews to be held before an offer may be considered. You may even find with some Independent schools that you – as parents – are also ‘interviewed’ by the Head, to see if you are the right fit as a family for the school. Don’t be afraid to come with a list of questions to ask the school – to see if they are also a right fit for you!

When the right school is found and secured you can then focus on deciding where to live. You may want to live close by if you want your children to walk, cycle or scoot to school. Alternatively the house of your dreams may be slightly further away meaning you need to look at any bus routes offered by the school or consider how practical the drive to and from school will be. The decision is yours.

State schools

Some families may be looking at local state schools, where it is a very different picture and involves lots of preparation, research and then taking a leap of faith! It is vital to have both a good understanding of how it works, and reasonable expectations for the outcome for your child.

As there is such a lot to consider with state schools, we’ve written a separate blog post all about this in Part 2, which you can find here.

Need assistance? We can help!

We specialise in helping families through this whole process, so your children will have as smooth a transition as possible to their new school. Receiving high-quality bespoke schools information and assistance can ensure that you are making really sound decisions on schools for your children, to help you to decide where to live that will work for your family.

At Bowker Consulting we have been successfully helping relocating families for many years. We provide personalised research and advice on all types of available schooling as required, including International schools, Independent schools and local state schools. We work closely with parents, relocation companies and schools to ensure a joined up service is delivered every single time.

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

Article written by Deborah Gregg, February 2020

© Bowker Consulting Ltd. 2020 All Rights Reserved

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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