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

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