Each quarter we track the trends in our business; where our families are coming from, what they are looking for and what are their needs. The most notable change for Q1 was a sharp increase in the number of families with children requiring English language support. Click the image to see it full size.
The introduction of “free” schools was one of the more controversial innovations of the Coalition government of 2010-15.
Free schools are state schools funded by direct government outside of local authority control. Over 400 free schools have now opened.
Supporters assert that they give parents real choice and drive up educational standards whilst critics argue that they are a waste of money, diverting public money away from areas that have a greater need for investment.
Should a Conservative led government take hold, the free school plan is due for expansion. There are 500 additional schools in the pipeline. This is again likely to incite debate, as many schools are planned for areas that have solid existing school provision.
If Labour take control, then no new free schools will be opened. Existing free schools will be free to continue to operate as before, though some observers think it likely that they will be drawn back under local authority control over the duration of the parliament.
It is worth remembering that free schools are an extension of the academies policy introduced by the Labour Government under Tony Blair. This has allowed existing schools to move from local authority to central government control. The key difference between the Labour and Conservative positions is whether money should be invested in new school – through free schools – or within the existing school network.
Late Spring is traditionally a time when school places come under greater demand as families finalise plans for the new academic year. Below is an at-a-glance overview of the current state of play.
Most international schools have now completed their re-enrolment process for the new academic year, and thus have a clearer idea of their availability.
The major international schools in central London are showing very restricted places, even in the newer options, such as Halcyon School. We would advise that options are reviewed as early as possible to ensure that a proper back-up plan is established in the English system.
Outside of central London, the major international schools have a little more flexibility, though this is the time of year when there is usually a surge of applications, and we are seeing a definite increase in activity again. Again, early action would be recommended, even if families are in the early stage of considering a move.
As with every year, the growing French population in London means that places are very hard to come by in both the government sponsored and independent schools. This is the same situation in other country-specific schools, such as the German School in Richmond and Japanese School in Acton.
For those planning a move for the new school year, state schools are normally unable to clarify their position on availability until early June.
The indications are that spaces are much tighter than normal, especially in some areas that have traditionally been positive hunting grounds for relocating families, for example Richmond upon Thames and Kingston in south-west London or Didsbury in Manchester.
Increased birth-rates and immigration have also seen bottle-necks created in the formal application points of Reception (age 4) and Year 7 secondary (age 11). Over a third of families missed their first choice Reception choice, more than that at secondary level.
Families moving into the state sector will have to consider how to build a strategy to maximise their chance of a school place. Again, early planning is advised when possible.
For those families moving with company support for tuition fees, there is some flexibility in the system.
Popular schools will tend to be full, especially in major urban areas such as London, Reading, Manchester and Edinburgh, though even there occasional spots have bubbled up as families hand in their notice.
If families are happy to look at more rural areas, then schools places are often easier to come by.
The last few years has seen a great deal of innovation in the international sector in the UK and September 2015 will introduce a number of new international schools for families to explore.
Newland College is a new International Baccalaureate school opening near Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire. A co-educational, secondary school, it will accept applications for Grades 6 to 8, then grow organically up to Grade 12.
Newland College is the sister campus to the International Community School in NW1, London, which itself is moving into new premises for the new academic year offering a greater range of facilities.
Halcyon School, which was opened last year by a group of parents and is already working at capacity in many grades, will be welcoming its first IB diploma students in September 2015.
Another significant development is a broadening of school choices for families looking for a French or bi-lingual education.
The Lycee International de Londres, Winston Churchill will be opening in September offering the French national curriculum. The school has been opened to deal with the large number of French families now living in London and is accredited by the French government.
This demand from French families has also led to the independent school, Ecole Jeannine Manuel, opening a new campus in central London. French families will also have a new secondary school available to them as L’Ecole Internationale Franco-Anglaise expands its offering.
As ever, spaces in many international schools are in great demand so early applications and planning are sensible.