Two great pieces of client feedback this week:
From an American client – “Thank you for all your assistance. With a huge move like this, it was so helpful and we greatly appreciate it!”
And from an Australian family – “We very much appreciate your help and expertise. You have made our job of finding a school significantly easier.”
At the heart of an education assessment lies the creative tension – common in many aspects of life – of what a family want, their “aspirations”, and what is actually feasible on the ground, the “reality”.
Aspiration is sometimes viewed as a bad thing, certainly in the state sector, but I definitely see it as a positive – parents wanting the best for their children.
We want the circles Aspiration and Reality to overlap as much as possible – the wider the overlap grows the more school choices a family will have to work from.
There are many factors that impact on the overlap – global mobility policies, for example funding of independent school fees, would be one.
Yet there are other factors that can be manageable with good guidance and advice, some out of the family’s control “on the ground” , others within their “family influence”.
Over the next few weeks we will take a look at these factors and how to mitigate and adapt.
We received wonderful feedback from a client, moving from Australia, shortly after Christmas.
“Thanks so much to you for all your great advice and motivation – your insight has really brought results – I appreciate your professional and well considered assistance through this process, it has helped tremendously.“
It was a complicated move. One child moving into Year 11 (GCSE year) and one into Year 8. The younger child had also had SEN requirements.
State schools were the only option and they had to be in London, where places in the stronger schools are always at a premium.
The first thing Dean Associates always aims to do is establish an agreed strategy with the family.
This needs to be both positive and realistic. Spaces can open up in schools that are full but you also need to have a workable Plan B in place.
For this family, we looked at the longer-term aim – ie which school would they like to have their children in September 2017.
The home search was conducted to find a place close to the school, not just in catchment but around the corner from the school gate so that the children moved towards the top of the waiting list.
We then worked on gaining entry for the younger child on appeal, given the child’s SEN requirements. This meant drawing together a strong case as to why the child should attend the school above others in the area.
This being successful it then gave the older daughter sibling priority on the school waiting list.
By chance – and luck always works for the best prepared – there was some movement in her year group and she also found a space.
Throughout this process we kept momentum through constant communication with the local authority, the schools and the family.
We have recently helped a family moving back to the UK from Beijing. They had an 11 year old son looking for entry into a leading London day school for September 2016 and had been told that they had missed the deadlines for entry and were feeling rather desperate.
Supporting the parents we initially worked closely together to build a sensible strategy that would provide peace of mind – allowing them to reach for the higher levels but provide the safety net of a strong Plan B shortlist of options.
We ensured that they showcased their son’s abilities to the best extent – thinking about how to present reports, pull together supporting information from his current school – and then used our contacts in the admissions offices to ensure fair review of this portfolio.
Three schools said that they were prepared to move outside of their normal procedures to to test the son. Dean Associates then pulled together a preparation package including sample papers and insight into common tripping points.
We provided access to an online tutoring service that allowed the student to link to an experienced tutor in the UK who understood how the testing service worked.
We also provided some training and support for his interview which was managed via Skype, thus demanding a different set of skills to face-to-face interviewing.
The boy was offered a place in a school that is rated in the top 20 in England on academic results – the father commented;
“Dean Associates has provided an exceptional service. They gave us a strategy and worked closely with us at all times to ensure best practice. They were always available to discuss any concerns we had.”