Choosing school year groups

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.

University fees – home or overseas

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.


Special educational needs for relocating families

This is a large subject, and a complicated one – however, in this blog we want to highlight the importance of transparency and honesty when applying for school places.

A growing number of families are applying to schools in the UK – both international and native – and not revealing the true extent of their child’s special educational needs.

The reason for this is not clear.  Some parents, I think, are hoping that a new school “life” might change their circumstances.   Other, especially when moving from areas where children start school later than in the UK, are not even clear that their children do have specific learning needs.

The issue comes to a head in the first weeks of school.  Teachers see children disengaged or behaving badly in the classroom, or struggling to make friends, and the alarm bells start to sound.

In some cases the situation can be rectified, with the schools able to work with parents and specialists to re-bed the children in the light of a new understanding of a child’s requirements.

In other cases – and this has happened with three clients since the start of the academic year – the schools have stated that they cannot provide SEN support and the families need to go back to the start of the process.

It is not that school options cannot be found.  However the families have often put down roots, maybe they have other children at the same institution, and the change can bring both emotional and financial upheaval.  It is also time consuming, and the child can be out of school for a number of weeks.

It is essential that families reveal as much as they can about their children when applying for schools.  Shoe-horning a child into a school, if that school is not the right fit, can cause lasting damage to the relocation.

Independent schools increase fees.

Dean Associates’ has recently reviewed the 2012/13 school fees for independent schools in England, Wales and Scotland.

Our research has shown that, on average, private schools have increased their fees by 4% compared to 2011/12.

This is another modest increase, especially in comparison to the double-digit hikes that took place earlier in 2000’s.