From NZ to London - a lot of questions!

(23 Posts)
jennolan Thu 01-Aug-13 09:31:39

Hi everyone,

We would really appreciate all help and advice you can offer for us to make a successful shift to your part of the world for our ds. We are looking at shifting to London at the beginning of next year for a fixed three year period.

At the moment, we're trying to get our head around a few crucial points. Obviously, it is very hard to judge a school when you're 12000 miles away. We've been looking at various Ofsted reports, and some Dept of Education tables, but in our experience you need to walk around a school and get a sense of the school's culture and atmosphere to differentiate between the truly good schools, and the ones that "test" well. In an ideal world, we would have successfully applied to be admitted to a school before we actually arrive, but we accept that might be a little ambitious. Are there any secrets to judging a school's success?

Our ds currently attends a single-sex state school in NZ. He's in a mid-stream in Year 10. We are quite happy for him to attend a mixed school, and we have some links with the local C of E here, so might be able to get him into a religious school. One of us will be working near Westminster, but will be commuting by car. The other will probably need to rely on public transport. We have seen other discussions here mention good schools to the north of London (East Barnet etc), but we're not fixed in this area. What really worries us is that he will be joining his class six months after it has started, and some schools might be reluctant to take on someone who might initially drag down their statistics. If might be that he will need some after school tuition to get him closer to where most of his classmates will be. Has anyone had any experience with this situation? How did your child manage? Is it too much to expect for them to catch up? His birthday is late August, so is there a chance he will be pushed forward to the GCSE year? That would really concern us.

Should we approach schools directly to see if they have any spare spaces, and their thoughts on accepting children mid-year, or is it better to talk to the local council? How big is a school's local catchment? How far do most children travel to their school, and do they usually walk, bike, or use public transport? From what we understand, you typically lock in your GCSE subjects in year 10, but how do you decide how many subjects to take? So many questions! Sorry, we've got so many things running around in our minds, but to be honest, our ds's education is one of our biggest worries.

Thanks for any help you can offer.

titchy Thu 01-Aug-13 10:03:20

You need to let us know his dob - your yr 10 may not be ours! If he's about to be 14, then yes he would go into year 10 this September if you were here. He would not be pushed into a different year group irrespective of when you arrive, unless you go down the private route.

GCSE choices tend to get made during year 9, and study starts September of year 10 (and some schools actually start the GCSE syllabus in year 9....), so he will have to be very flexible about what subjects he does as timetables will have been fixed.

The earlier you arrive, obviously the less catching up he has to do, but he will have to do some catch up as he'll have missed the first part of the year - be prepared to get a tutor, and be prepared for him to maybe do less subjects than is usual so he can concentrate on those (a normal GCSE load would be 10 or 11 subjects - he may be better off doing 7 or 8).

YOu cannot apply to a school until you are actually physically living in a UK address, and you apply to the council, although you can of course phone schools to visit, and see if they have vacancies. The good news is that if there is no vacancy within reasonable travel of your house (for secondary this could be an hour and a half each way...) the council HAS to force a school to take your children, although it may not be the school you would choose.

Lots of children walk to school, lots get the bus, lots get dropped off! In London bus travel is free for under 16s.

HTH

PhoenixUprising Thu 01-Aug-13 10:14:48

A state school that has a place can't refuse to accept your child.

Probably best in the first instance to approach the council and find out which schools have places, rather than approaching each school. As probably most of them won't have places.

And leave it till you get here and see what London, and different London Boroughs, are really like. You might totally change your mind about where you want to live.

GCSEs are 2 years over here. So half way through Y10 is already part way through GCSEs

crazymum53 Thu 01-Aug-13 10:17:02

The school years in NZ and UK may not be the same. dd and her cousin in NZ are both in Y8 at the moment but her cousin is a year younger.
If your ds is born between Sept 1998 and August 1999 he will be in Y10 in the UK in September 2013/Jan 2014 so hope that helps.
Flexibility about GCSE subjects is quite limited. The following subjects are compulsory: English language, Mathematics and Science (this is a combination of all 3 Sciences and most students would take the "double award" which counts as 2 GCSEs). Many schools would also have English literature as a compulsory option and some faith schools insist on RE.
I am not in London so cannot recommend specific schools.

jennolan Thu 01-Aug-13 11:10:54

Thanks everyone. Just to clarify, ds was born on August 13 1998 - which would make him Y9?

crazymum53 Thu 01-Aug-13 11:15:56

No he would be 15 later this month so that means he would be Y11 in September!

Lilymaid Thu 01-Aug-13 11:15:59

Ooh, that is difficult. That makes him just finished Year 10 going on to Year 11. In the UK Year 10 and Year 11 follow a two year course leading to public exams at the end of Year 11. If he arrives at the school at the beginning of next year (if you mean January 2014) Year 11 students will be concentrating on mock GCSEs and the run up to the exams in May/June.

titchy Thu 01-Aug-13 11:43:03

Ah, no not at all ideal... Next May all kids in his year group in the UK will be doing GCSE exams. Many subjects also have controlled assessments which are mini-exams taken earlier in the year which count up to 25% of the total mark.

Is there any way you can delay the move till next summer, then concentrate on finding him a place in a college to do GCSEs over one year? (Average to higher ability English students would normally expect to start A Level courses straight after GCSEs, but 6th form and further education colleges also cater for lower ability kids who don't manage to get decent GCSE grades.)

Or look at an international school if you can fund it - and they're not cheap!

mummytime Thu 01-Aug-13 16:53:08

Or do HE to get through some GCSEs? Try the Home Ed board here.

To echo what the others have said, the January of Y11 is not really a feasible time to enter the English education system. GCSE courses are usually 5 terms of study followed usually by half a term of last minute revision and exams. Your son would be missing the first four terms i.e. 80% of the course.

If this were my son, I would home educate him from January to June, then try to get him into a further education college in September 2014. Many of them have 1 year GCSE courses which would enable him to have some GCSEs by the summer of 2015.

crazymum53 Fri 02-Aug-13 11:47:30

I would recommend contacting international schools in London as they may be more familiar with the programme he has been following in NZ and may have a January intake. There are also private colleges (often British council accredited) that have an intake of students in January and it would be possible to pay fees per subject at this type of college.
As you are planning to return to NZ rather than staying permanently in the UK you may be better looking at an international school. GCSEs and A levels may not be the best qualifications for your ds to study if you are not staying in the UK long-term. Internationally recognised qualifications such as iGCSE or IB would probably be a good option. The IB would be accepted by universities in NZ, if that is what your ds is planning to do in future.

jennolan Fri 02-Aug-13 12:09:25

Again, thanks everyone. It really has caused us to question whether this is the right move at this time for all of us. Our family and friends have been very supportive and argue that ds will learn ultimately come out ahead having had the chance to experience new countries and cultures. I'm not so sure, because I worry that when we return to NZ he will have no UK qualifications, will have no NZ qualifications and will be behind his peers. Crazymum53, we've had a look at some of the international schools in central London, and we're not sure we can afford the tuition fees. Most seem to offer the IB as well, and I'm not sure ds is really suited to the high academic standard. IB is definitely recognised by NZ universities, so maybe we'll have to take the financial and academic plunge and extend ourselves.

luxemburgerli Fri 02-Aug-13 15:00:33

Hello jennolan. I did this the other way round - up to Y8 in UK, then shift to NZ. I would echo what others have said, definitely a bad/impossible time to move into UK in Jan of Y11. If you're really set on the move, there are probably ways around it - e.g. home edding until he would start Y12 the following Sep, or not coming until the following Sep.

The UK system is not usually so unwelcoming and hard to navigate. It is just that education is split into Key Stages (KS1-5), with exams at the end of each key stage (Y2, Y6, Y9, Y11 and Y13). The closer you get to a set of exams, the harder it is to move.

mummytime Fri 02-Aug-13 17:24:13

I would add that the key two school years not to move in are years 11 and to a less extent year 10. Moving in/at the end of year 12 can be hard, but can be overcome by repeating year 12 if necessary.

lljkk Fri 02-Aug-13 17:38:26

I hate the English secondary education system, all this early specialisation & inflexibility from y9/10+. Friend who is designing a Uni course was telling me stories the other day that only reinforced all my prejudices.

We are looking at shifting to London at the beginning of next year for a fixed three year period.

I am also foreign so have looked at this a lot.
Did you mean coming here in January 2014? If it was sept'13 I would think school could scramble to help him get 5 GCSEs by end of yr, but January is too late.

Many if not most 6th form colleges run one year catchup courses for kids who have no GCSEs, they usually offer up to 5 and only the most basic options: English, math, double science, business studies is very popular, maybe a language. But he can get up to the highest marks in each, so valid qualifications.

With 5 GCSEs C/B grades he can get into most 6th form colleges the following yr (starting 6th form a yr later than usual is not that uncommon).

With HE as an option he could independently study from Jan-May for a slew of IGCEs (one-off exams) that would give him GCSE qualifications to start 6th form college in Sep 2014. BUT, it's increasingly hard to find a venue that offers IGCSE to HE candidates (HE'ing friends were explaining to me). So requires more research.

So he could come here in Jan'14, lark about or HE, enrol in a catchup course or HE for 5 months, still get to 6th form etc. It's a set of options we have seriously considered for DC.

ZZZenagain Fri 02-Aug-13 22:14:41

could he board in NZ and get through his examinations there?

jennolan Thu 08-Aug-13 07:50:11

Hi folks,

Boarding would not really be an option as part of the appeal is exposing ds to one of the greatest cities in the world.

We've talked to a couple of former English secondary teachers, and one mentioned that there is the possibility for schools to show some flexibility in terms of what year ds would enrol in - that is, there is a good chance that he could enrol in year 10 rather than year 11. Has anyone heard of this happening?

titchy Thu 08-Aug-13 08:06:48

Happens all the time in private schools, but almost never in state schools. However a state school MAY be prepared to timetable some of his subjects with the year below if you knew you were staying for two years, then admit him to sixth form to do the second year. It's a very big ask of a state school though and you'd have a battle.

Eastpoint Thu 08-Aug-13 08:51:51

This would be a really hard time to move him socially as well, friendship groups will be well established.

SlowlorisIncognito Thu 08-Aug-13 20:56:48

If he did enrol in year 10, I think you would face issues with his GCSEs still. A levels are a bit more flexible, but usually GCSEs are only funded if you sit them in or before the school year in which you turn 16- this may make schools reluctant to enrol him in the year below. It is very rare in state schools for children to be in a different year, which might cause social problems as well.

I think you would be better off moving next summer and having him go to college from then on. He would also probably have an easier time socially, as he wouldn't be having to fit into already established friendship groups, everyone would be in the same boat. Three years would then be enough to get him through some GCSEs and A levels/IB meaning he would at least have some quallifications.

jennolan Thu 15-Aug-13 13:27:25

Can anyone suggest where I can get a comprehensive list of state schools in London that offer IGCSE courses?

Needmoresleep Fri 16-Aug-13 08:09:12

Not an answer to your question but take a look at Ashbourne and similar and do the GCSEs in a year. The better of these colleges recruit good and motivated international students who eventually hope to study at UK or US universities. Not a school obviously but there are social advantages in being in a cohort where everyone has started at the same time.

jennolan Fri 16-Aug-13 09:13:01

Thanks Needmoresleep. Seriously looking at this option, possibly not with Ashbourne, but a similar provider.

Another option we're looking at is enrolling ds immediately in a series of Cambridge IGCSE courses through an organisation like National Extension College, to be studied in NZ in addition to his NZ schooling for around three or five months, and then enrolling in a State IGSCE school when we arrive in London, with a view to doing an intensive single year and looking for 5 subjects in 2014.

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