A common issue for families relocating into England is which school year group their children should join.
The English academic year runs from 1st September to the 31st August. Children start school in the academic year in which they turn five – what is called the Reception year.
However, many other countries have different academic years (for example Australia follows the calendar year) whilst other countries (for example the USA and, closer to home, Scotland) offers parents some choice as to when their children start a school.
Recently we have been helping a family who were moving from Canada to England. They had a thirteen year old son who would be due to join Year 9 in the English school system. However, because of his dyslexia, the child had been held back one year and was in the equivalent of Year 8.
The family had been advised by the local authority that their son could only be accepted into his proper year group and that no exceptions could be made.
Even when there are no special educational needs and a family is simply transferring from a different school system, councils tend to be inflexible to the idea of taking children out of year group.
So what can be done?
Many independent schools are able to be more responsive to family needs, judging less on age and more on academic levels. However, even independent schools will lean towards putting children in with their age group for social considerations.
The independent school route does not necessarily mean taking on the burden of school fees. We are increasingly finding that both state “academies” and “free schools” are taking a more flexible approach.
However, even if the local council does refuse to accept an out of year group entry, it is still worth pursuing the issue with the school itself once a child has started. Headteachers are often best placed to judge how to develop each child’s potential. If they feel that the level of work is not appropriate, they may well “move the furniture” to allow the child to fall back to a more natural level.
One of the biggest challenges for British families living overseas arrives when their children apply for a university place in the UK.
There is a sharp difference between the cost of British university tuition fees depending on whether the student is viewed as a home or an overseas student. This gap still exists, despite the rise in tuition fees for many students across the UK.
Top level fees for a home-fee student are capped at £9K per year. For an overseas student it can be as much as £20K depending on course and university.
When reviewing a UCAS application form, a university will see an overseas home address or school location and immediately request more information from the family to ascertain if they have the right to claim home-fee status.
Families need to show that they would ordinarily be resident in the UK for the three years prior to the course starting, but for temporary overseas work postings.
Information that needs to be presented may include copies of passports, relevant sections of employment contracts, proof of address within the UK, evidence of regular return trips to the UK and tax / NI status.
A letter of reference may be required from the employer.
Each university will make its own decision on fee status and so families will need to provide this information to each institution that raises the query.
For any questions, please contact Nathaniel Price on +44 1646 661 646.