Getting the American monkeys into an English school

So after securing your great new job in London, the next big thing for any family is figuring out where your kids will go to school.  Over the year leading up to our move, I trolled through endless blogs and message boards trying to figure out how I get the process started.  What I am about to tell you is in no way an expert opinion, but that of a mom who desperately just wanted answers and all but beat down everyone’s doors trying to figure out the best way to get them into a school as seamlessly as possible.

There are a decent number of all-ages American and International schools available in London, but they are costly (generally £15k – £20k a year per child). Some links can be found here:

American Schools in London: http://london.usembassy.gov/american_schools_uk.html

International Schools in London: http://www.londonpreprep.com/2011/09/london-international-schools/

Terms I’ve learned:

  • Primary = elementary
  • Secondary = middle school/junior high/ freshman & sophomore years of high school
  • College / year 11 and 12 (this is voluntary as kids technically graduate at year 10) = junior & senior years of high school
  • University = college
  • State = public
  • Independent = private
  • CofE or CE = Church of England / Christian
  • Specialty = If a school also focuses on certain career skills (i.e., technology, media, science, etc.)
  • Borough = County

I decided to base where I wanted to live on the schools in the area, but you may decide to do it the other way around. If you want to register your child for a state school in your area, you will all need to be physically living in the borough with your visas and proof of residency. They may be nice enough to give you piecemeal information, but you basically won’t get anything until you live there. Once you have moved in, the best thing to do is:

  1. Contact the school district for the borough you are living in (i.e., I live in Westminster and the school district website is http://www.westminster.gov.uk/services/educationandlearning/schoolsandcolleges/) and let them know you have recently moved from outside of the UK and you would like admissions forms posted to you. They will probably ask you for your children’s ages and your postcode to make sure you’re calling the right district.
  2. Using the list of schools in your district, do some online research on how far they are from your residence, what their website boasts of, and what their OFSTED scores are http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/ (these are usually inflated, but they’re a good start and will give you a good sense of the size and type of school).
  3. Choose 6 schools that you would consider (the admissions form will require you to list them in order of priority). They don’t necessarily all need to be in your borough, but the school district will only contact those 6 for you in order to get your children placed. I chose 3 in my borough in order of vicinity to our flat and the last 3 were good schools in nearby boroughs that I am comfortable with them travelling to.
  4. If you arrive before they break for summer, call the schools of your choice directly and request visits. We arrived during the summer so I’m banking on my research and applied for what I think I want and basically just crossing my fingers until September.

That’s what I know so far… in a nutshell. As I find out more I’ll add to this post.

Happy Expatting!

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