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How to choose the right school for your kids when moving to the UK

by 1st Contact | Nov 03, 2014
  • If you have children of school-going age and are planning to migrate to the UK, one of your main concerns will probably be which school to send your kids to. We’ve put together an easy-to-understand guide to help you choose the right school for your children.

    Approach your local council

    If you're simply looking for a good school in the area where you will be living, first approach your local council and get the details of every school in the area. You can then follow the “five tips for rating a potential school” below.

    Do you have specific needs?

    If your child has special needs, you will have very specific criteria and might need to consider a school outside your area. Your child might have a learning or physical disability, which would need to be catered for. The same applies if your child has specific interests or talents - you'll then look for a school that caters to these needs, rather than simply one in your area. You can apply for schools outside your local council area through your local council.

    Types of schools

    There are a number of different types of schools in the UK, including state-funded public schools, tuition-based independent schools, free schools (run by non-profit trusts) and academies, which are self-governing and funded partly by the central government and partly from private sponsorship.

    Do your research

    Once you've decided on the type of school you want your children to attend and have established which schools match your criteria, it’s time to do some research into a few of the schools you’ve shortlisted.

    Five tips for rating a potential school:

    1. Look at the school’s website. This should give you information about the curriculum, their admission criteria, special education needs and disability policy, behaviour policy and performance data. You should also be able to get an idea of the school’s culture through their website.
    2. Attend an open day. Most schools have open days where potential pupils and parents can take a tour of the school. This provides a golden opportunity to gain a good impression of the school, teachers and pupils. Have a good look around and speak to as many people as possible.
    3. Read the Ofsted Reports. Look at not only the most recent reports, but also a couple of previous reports, which will give you an idea of whether the school is progressing or declining between inspections.
    4. Check school league tables. These tables include exam results and will give you a good idea of the school’s academic performance. Don’t rely solely on these results though. Some schools have great results because they recruit academic performers and not because they are excellent overall educators.
    5. Ask questions. One of the best ways to glean information is to simply ask. Speak to the head of the school, to teachers, pupils, parents, neighbourhood shopkeepers and other expat parents. Ask about targets, bullying policies, staff turnover, discipline procedures, sporting performances and general reputation.

    Use these five tips to gather as much information as you can and then rate your potential schools, applying first to the school you have rated highest.

    Admission criteria

    With the exception of a few exclusive international and religious schools, children  in the UK are taught in English. Your child will therefore need to understand, speak and (depending on their age) read and write in English in order to receive a good education.

    It’s also important to note that if you are from a foreign country, your child might need to take aptitude and/or language tests to gauge their education level and place them in the right class. Other criteria which might be used by schools include the distance from your home to the school, your child’s academic performance and your child’s religion (in the case of faith schools).

    If you think we’ve missed anything, please add your tips in the comments section below.

    1st Contact does tax, finances and immigration. If you’re moving to the UK, we can help you get your visa, open a bank account, find a job, sort out those finances – and everything else in-between.

    We are a professional services company that specialises in cross-border financial and immigration advice and solutions.

    Our teams in the UK, South Africa and Australia can ensure that when you decide to move overseas, invest offshore or expand your business internationally, you’ll do so with the backing of experienced local experts.

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