When searching for, and choosing, a school, families are understandably very keen to shine a spotlight on school performance, examining reports, performance data, taking counsel from friends and colleagues.
However, one underestimated element of a school relocation is common courtesy when dealing with the schools and the staff within them.
It can often be the small things – a word of thanks after a meeting, listening politely to a headteacher explaining his philosophy – that can unlock a more rewarding and lasting dialogue with a school.
Some parents do view schools as service providers – there is some sense in that – but it is softer more emotive service that they provide. They should not be treated in the same way that one would negotiate a deal on renting a house or getting a quote for transporting one’s household goods.
Here are my top five tips for parents, based on some very recent feedback from schools:
1. Ask, don’t demand. Many individuals are viewed as VIPs within their own companies. However, it is helpful to remember that a tone of voice used in an office may not be appropriate when talking to staff within schools.
2. Remember schools are busy places and the staff have huge draws on their time helping the children who are enrolled in the schools. Therefore, try and be flexible with your own time to help facilitate a meeting or the supply of information.
3. Having visited a school, a quick email or call of thanks (however short) can have a significant impact further down the line.
4. Don’t try to bully schools – if a space is not available trying to force open an opening, based on personal or corporate importance tends to have the opposite effect than intended. A gentler, more consensual approach is always more rewarding.
5. Remember those coming after you – many families from your own company may be moving into the area and considering the school. Although always trying to be fair, school staff do remember those who behave poorly and the company they were attached to.
Dean Associates provides a quarterly preview of the main education stories that could have an impact on corporate relocations and future planning.
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International schools – an update
Our Spring survey of the established international schools in the London area is showing that the demand for places is still extremely strong.
This demand is most keenly felt in the middle and high school grades and in the early years (ages 4 to 6, Pre-K to Grade 1).
The American, International Baccalaureate and French system schools are particularly busy and families may need to think flexibly if aiming for those schools for a start this Autumn.
There have been some innovations in the market. A new, central London IB School – The Halcyon – opens this September. A new bilingual French-English School – L’Ecole Internationale Franco-Anglaise – is also enjoying its first year in Maryl
The latest Budget (March 2013) announced a reform of childcare funding.
Under the Government’s proposed Tax-Free Childcare initiative, eligible families will get 20% of their yearly childcare costs up to £6,000 per child, paid for by the Government. This could mean payments of up to £1,200 per child, per year.
This will replace the existing employer managed childcare voucher scheme.
Working single parents or couples (both must work) earning less than £150,000 each year will be eligible though the scheme will exclude those already getting universal or tax credits.
GCSE reforms shelved
The Coalition government has put the brakes on the controversial reforms of the English GCSE system that were to be introduced in 2015.
Opposition from teachers and academics caused Michael Gove, the education secretary, to call his reforms “a bridge too far.”
However, it is likely that a new draft of the Government’s policy towards public examinations will be floated in the next three months. The new announcement is likely to be of interest to English families currently posted overseas.
Anger at wealthier families “buying” their children places in grammar schools has led a number of councils to search for a “tutor-proof” 11+ exam.
Grammar schools are academically selective state schools – the combination of free schooling and excellent results proves extremely enticing for parents.
Parents often organise for children to be tutored outside of school to fireproof them for the tests.
Kingston, Buckinghamshire and Kent council – both popular return destinations for expatriate families – are now looking to find a testing process that will override such tutoring.