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.