Moving to Singapore this summer - thoughts about schools and all sorts of other things!

(21 Posts)
needabetternickname Fri 11-Jan-13 23:23:34

Hi all,

We're moving to Singapore this summer with dh's work and I'm hoping I'm going to be able transfer with my work, although that's still being discussed. At the moment I'm trying to do lots of research from a distance. I'm super excited, even though it's a little bit strange to be contemplating a move to somewhere I've never even set foot in!

My main concern is getting ahead of schooling waiting lists, given that they seem to be crazy, on the basis that this will probably in turn dictate where we choose to live. I'm conscious that this is a question which has been asked a lot already, so I've read some previous threads on here and done bits of research elsewhere but would love to gather some up to date thoughts.

Dd1 will be 3 this April so will be suitable to start nursery class at some of the schools in August/Sept, or reception in August 2014. Dd2 just turned 1, so we've got a bit longer with her.

I've got various questions, which I'm sure some of you can help with.

a) do you think the ideal would be to try to get dd1 into a nursery attached to a school, so she can continue through, or at that age might it be better for her to go to a separate preschool and maybe wait for a place to come up for reception year at the schools - or is it v unlikely to get a reception place if you've not been there for nursery year?

b) if we go with the school option, then I suspect our choices are going to be relatively limited, given that it is quite late in the day to get a place. It's likely that dh's company will pay for the fees, so we've got the luxury of being able to choose the place which we like best, without having to worry too much about the fees. So, which places would you recommend in an ideal world.

c) I've contacted TTS and obviously been told of long waiting list. As we're not likely to do a recce trip for another month or two and I'm not prepared to pay for deposits until I've actually visited any of the schools, it feels relatively unlikely that she'll get a place there. So in an ideal world, would any of you recommend it for a 3 year old? She currently goes to a Montessori pre-school in London for 3 hours a day and absolutely loves it, but it's quite a small v friendly and brilliant place, so stepping up to a big school, on top of getting used to having just moved countries may feel like a bit too much.

c) I've read great things about Dover court on here, in terms of size and supportive atmosphere, which really appeals, although also seen comments where people suggest that they would move kids to TTS or St. Joseph's or somewhere else which had a longer wait list than Dover court, if they'd been offered a place. Do any of you with kids at DC feel that way or are you really happy with it? I know I have to visit them ASAP to get my own sense of them.

d) has anyone been to one of the Dulwich College presentations? And if so, any thoughts?

e) any other schools which any of you have experience of and would particularly recommend?

f) finally, if I could plan things perfectly, I'd be able to transfer with my work but have some unpaid leave before starting work out there, so I could have some time to find somewhere to live, settle the girls in, find childcare, get into the swing of things...! So, what do you think is the minimum amount of time I'd need to do all of that, before starting work?

I'm sorry this has turned into such an essay! If any of you living there have the time to respond, I'd be so grateful. Thanks in advance.

My dds are at Dover court. Dd1 has been there for nearly 5 years, started age 3 in nursery. Dd2 started age 3 in nursery last August. We love the school, it's atmosphere, the caring atmosphere, there is so much acceptance of all students, regardless of their ability (there is a special need stream partially integrated into the main classroom for non academic activities) and a truly international atmosphere that I think you get less of at places like tanglin.

The infant school is fab. We do have niggles like the amount of paper sent home (notices are sent on paper, not email), the lack of PTA etc but on the whole we are very happy with the school.

I have heard that the senior school is excellent too and their exam results are great, but the classes are small as most parents seem to transfer their kids to tanglin, uwc etc for the facilities. Dover has a running track, pool (everyone swims year round), hall etc but its not in the same league as kayaking pools and climbing walls at the bigger schools, which probably are more relevant for teens than infant school.

Hope this helps. There are singapore expats on this board with kids at a variety of schools so you should get a balanced view. Personally as your dd is old enough to go to 'big' school I would head down that route, rather than changing in a couple of years. If you do want to send her to a montessori or similar, then tanglin, i think you would need to put her name down now for tanglin (not sure what the wait lists are like). Alternatively, put your dd2's name down for tanglin now. When she starts aged 3, your dd1 would be at tanglin normally within a term of dd2 starting (they have a sibling policy that gets siblings into school within a term or two of each other). I know plenty of people who have taken this route.

needabetternickname Sat 12-Jan-13 10:47:39

Hi Butterflies,
Thank you so much for this, that's incredibly helpful and much appreciated, so thank you for taking the time to reply. Dover Ct does sound like a really lovely and caring and diverse place, which is definitely my overriding concern. Do you feel that aside from the facilities (which doesn't sound like much of an issue) it otherwise is up to scratch academically. Whilst I definitely don't want them to be in some kind of hot house environment, I do want it to be good enough to stretch them. At the moment, it's likely that we'd return to UK after 3/4 years, so at that stage Dd1 would probably have to do entrance exam at 7 to get into somewhere, depending on where we move back to, so I'd want her to have the option to be in a position to do that, whilst primarily wanting her to have fun and enjoy it. Of course, we may stay longer, but that's the plan at the moment. Thanks again for your help.

I do feel that my dd is at the same leve or slightly ahead in terms of syllabus compared to children of friends back home in the state sector so I imagine they are on a par. We are in the process of applying to international schools in the us for a move this summer so wondering how those two systems compare.

Dover follows a British syllabus and teachers are recruited from the uk, Australia and South Africa. With such a transient population, it's in dovers interest to ensure that children can integrate smoothly into schools in other countries.

I'm sorry that I can't give you a direct response, maybe someone who has moved from the uk to Dover court can give you an idea of how the two compare....

londonmoo Sat 12-Jan-13 16:06:53

just adore it (typing on stupid phone, sorry!).
Most reviewers give it a thumbs up. We just had a very bad start sad OK-ish now...

londonmoo Sat 12-Jan-13 16:11:42

God, typed out a massive long message, thought I'd posted but chopped end off and now have put up a mad chopped off message. Sorry!
I will do this again tomorrow but we have mixed feelings about Dover. My message had very good and some not so good things to say - its a bit of a mixed bag. Hot on cultural diversity and charming interest in history. Good music dept. and sports pretty good. Scary teacher gave my DS bad start, having already been troubled by country move (aug last summer).
Things are better. Still not ideal. Academically below our small UK private school but on a par, I'm told, with most others, so not too bad.
Infants = adorable and caring.
Really v mixed but definitely not all awful. Luck of the teacher, I would say...

needabetternickname Sun 13-Jan-13 09:40:29

Thanks Londonmoo- sorry your message got lost. Sounds as if you made the move at exactly the same time of year as we will. Sorry to hear that your ds had a tough start and hope he's much more settled now. It's probably an advantage that we're doing it when they are that much younger as it should make the country move less traumatic. Would be great to hear your thoughts if you do have a chance to resend - I appreciate that it's just one experience but I'm really interested to head from as many people who have actual experience of all the schools we are looking as, as there's only so much you can tell from a website. Thanks again.

needabetternickname Sun 13-Jan-13 09:42:04

Thanks again for the follow up butterflies, that's good to hear. Hope your move to the US goes well!

londonmoo Sun 13-Jan-13 12:05:33

Hi again! Try again, typing on computer now. So plus points (all my opinion):
Infants (up to Y2) is broadly speaking a lovely set-up, warm and structured. It's great to have a pool and lessons every single week year-round, not every Singapore school does that. Good grounds, lots of running space and a track. Music seems lovely.

In Juniors it's a bit more dotted with a couple of scary teachers and the independence levels shoot up from Y2-Y3 so if that's when your DC are joining (like mine) there's that huge leap to cope with too, and if you get a scary teacher (like ours) then that leap-taking and the transition and everything bundled together can often be unsupported - as we found.

Things are more settled. The bus was stressful for him but he is coping well. Now we have the normal Sunday-itis - by Monday he is hopping about as usual. Last term every single night was sad and every morning depressing. Now it's just business as usual. The teacher is and always will be scary; some kids in our class are fine with that. Some are not.

One of the things my son loved straight away is the canteen, where you can buy treats and snacks; that's helped a lot. He likes the food which is criticised by some as being sub-standard: he loves it.

The standard of teaching is lower than our school at home but we were at a little private school. Some people in our class say their kids are striding ahead of what they have been used to back in the UK. You have to take into account what people have been used to. It's a very mixed bag.

If we ever move I shall miss the wide cultural range and the passion for history and locality. I shall not miss the archaic carrier-pigeon approach to messages. I have a full file from just one term, and if I need to get an urgent message across I hike into school and lean over a desk. Bonkers. Surely in 2013 an email system should be in place? Won't ever happen, apparently.

Most of my friends adore it there; only a small fraction have not got on well. Sad to say but it's the sort of place where you just need to try it out. For infants I would say you are 98 per cent guaranteed to have a good experience, and then the transition into juniors won't be so bad because you'll already have been there a while. Good luck!

kday Sun 13-Jan-13 13:00:31

Hi,
Nothing to add re Dover as my kids don't go there but if you're DH's employer is paying the school fees you may find they are prepared to pay the registration fees for two schools to get your DC onto the list so schooling doesn't bring the move unstuck. My DH's company did that. It's usually a few thousand dollars to register for an international school. Little preschools will be much cheaper.
The thing that comes to mind when I read your OP is that a lot of these issues are ones that people will have lots of different views on - its really a matter of personal taste and personal circumstances as to whether you like a small preschool separate from an international school - I started DD1 (who had just turned 4 when we moved to Singapore) in the preschool of an international school because she had already had to leave her London nursery school and I didn't want her to have to make another change when she reached first grade (5 years). DD2 was 2 and I didn't enrol her anywhere until 8 months into our move and then I chose a little preschool near home so she could do a few hours a day a few times a week, instead of the more full on international school experience (every day/longer days). She'll move to the international school later this year.
I guess another thing for you to consider is given you'll also be working (I'm not) do you need a preschool that is more like daycare - with longer hours? Local nurseries will be far better than international schools if you do. Tanglin, for example is only mornings at your DD's age. You may be planning to have a helper and she could do pick ups and childcare in the afternoon but you have to think if you'd be happy with that if it will be for long hours. Helpers are wonderful, but they are not often trained in any kind of childcare/infant development and English will be their second language. It's not an option to have an "English nanny" here. There are local nannies though, although they are very expensive. Sorry - I'm just adding more things for you to think/worry about!
Lastly, I'd take as long as you can in unpaid leave to help settle in. My kids were pretty good (they were very little, which helped) but I found it hard to find my feet. I've done the expat thing before and not had that problem but I think it's worth having some time to settle in because you just don't know how it will be for any of you until you get here. Good luck.

Merlion Mon 14-Jan-13 04:35:35

My DS has just last week started at SJI. I think your DD would be eligible for entry in January 2015 (there is no attached nursery so you might want to look at other options till then - there are lots available and you shouldn't have too much problem getting a place). I'm not too sure what the waitlist situation is like for that year but do know that my DD who is due to start January 2016 is already on the waitlist (there is no sibling priority) but it is very transitory so worth putting names down if you decide you like the school. Obviously it's early days yet but so far so good. The campus is lovely as it is still fairly new (opened 2008)and it is one of the few international schools that offers daily Mandarin classes and follows the Singapore Maths curriculum. We like the fact that it is a smaller school (630 pupils and is now at capacity). There is very much a community feel and we like the weekly virtues idea. DS is in a class of 22 and I counted at least 10 different nationalities so definitely diverse! I also have friends with older children in the school and they are all happy with it.

A friend of mine went to Dulwich to visit (she's a supply teacher at TTS and also has 2 young dc). She was impressed especially as the Head is keen to encourage lots of sport and also musical instruments for all but I haven't heard much else and the opening seems to have been delayed as it was originally due to open last year.

As Kday has said you would need to consider childcare arrangements if you are working FT. I work PT (mornings only) but my DS is on the school bus as of this week as we don't live that near to the school and work is in the opposite direction (there are lots of threads on here about school buses but DS is used to it as he went on one to pre-school as I wasn't particularly happy with my helper doing drop-off and pick up in a taxi especially as she'd have had to take my youngest with her all the time when she was only tiny. We were also allowed to provide a booster seat for him which they kept on the bus so I at least felt he was secure). I would say that from what I've seen and heard day care isn't comparable with what you can expect to receive in the UK. Of course the decision over getting a helper or not is not an easy one but depending on the industry you work in and your employer they can be fairly inflexible over working hours etc due to the fact that the majority do have helpers/parents/grandparents doing the additional/wrap-around childcare. At least that is my experience!

needabetternickname Wed 16-Jan-13 21:22:09

Hi all,

I've just written a really long response to the various recent posters but our incredibly intermittant wi-fi has managed to lose it for me, so I fear this will be a little shorter. But thank you for taking the time to reply to me and for such useful/interesting insights.
Londonmoo thanks for coming back and writing more about Dover Ct. Much appreciated. My DDs are still young - at the moment only 2.9 and 14 months, so we luckily wouldn't be comparing to any school in uk and transition would just be from DD1s current nursery, which we love. So they'd be entering into infants, which sounds as if that's a good thing. I'm really glad that your DS is a bit happier and more settled this term and hope that continues. It must have been a really tough transition for him.
Kday and Merlion - thanks to both of you for taking the time to respond. You've both raised a really good point about the childcare/need for wrap around care if I do end up working close to FT. I'm not sure why this hadn't really occured to me but what you say has made me really stop and think about what I'd want and how best to plan things for us all with the move. The reason I'm so happy with DD1's pre-school arrangement, which is 3 hours a day every morning, is because we've got a wonderful brilliant nanny at home looking after DD2, doing DD1's drop off/pick up on the 4 days I'm at work and then looking after them both in the afternoon. Of course, I'm far less likely to be comfortable with a helper, however lovely, doing that much childcare, so it does make me doubt my desire to transfer/work straight away. Hmmmm.
Merlion - thanks for your thoughts on SGI. A friend of mine has registered her DS for them, so I already had it on my radar but her DS hasn't started yet, so it's great to know that you're having a good experience so far. How Catholic is it (hope you don't mind me asking!). Hard to tell from the website - obviously a strong part of their philosophy, but it doesn't seem to be restricted to only catholic children. Although I assume that the majority are.

We're due to visit in mid March, so I'm making appointments for as many schools as I can in that time, as I'm really reluctant to pay registration fees for any of them until I've been able to visit and get a feel, although that does, of course, delay our ability to get onto waiting lists and therefore make it very unlikely that we'll get a place at any of the schools for DD1 in August. Hmmmmm. It's so tricky!

I'm also going to look at some pre-schools/nurseries as we may end up doing that for both of them for the first year, especially if I do end up working out there too. It would enable them to both be together, which could be a good thing. So any recommendations would be much appreciated.

Thanks again to all of you for your responses/thoughts, I'm v grateful and it's been really useful. And if anyone else has more to add, please do so!

pupsiecola Thu 17-Jan-13 00:32:17

Hi there,

My two sons are at Stamford. They've not found it easy to settle in Singapore in general. The school has been mostly brilliant in helping them/us. Although I had to demand action recently for my youngest son who needs some learning support but they responded very well indeed and things are improving there.

Good luck!

papooshka Thu 17-Jan-13 10:56:37

Hi
not really got much to add re schools, apart from SJI which is very popular and have got a few friends with their kids there and they love it!

Regarding preschools I can highly recommend 'The Childrens Place', my DD was there for 4 years and my son is still there. Its a really great nursery, fantastic teachers, great atmosphere, very friendly and small and at the end of a no-through road so its very quiet. Its in an old black-and-white (old colonial houses) with a massive garden.

You can do mornings only or till 3pm or till 5pm and from 2 days to 5 days, they are very flexible.

SingSung Thu 17-Jan-13 15:05:23

Hi,

I have three children at Stamford (and we're English not American) - it's excellent. I also teach there, so can vouch for the fact that it's utterly professional. State of the art new facilities, great vision for the future and some really interesting educational initiatives.

As a parent, I have looked around most of the schools here (and just across in Malaysia) and for us it would have been SJI / Marlborough Malaysia next and a v v v watchful eye on Dulwich.

Good luck with the move!

Moving2Zurich Fri 18-Jan-13 06:43:36

We moved from Italy to Singapore in 2010 with my job. DH went on paternity leave for 6 months to help care for the kids (nice company, nice husband smile

My oldest son started at Overseas Family School in K1, he is now Grade 1. We like the school, the campus and the environment. My second son (2) goes to the Thinking Box.

DH is now back at work. We have a live-out nanny who comes in from 9-6. She helps with school pick up and general cleaning after the kids. We decided not to have a live in help and instead have a housekeeper who comes in once a week. Luckily DH work is flexible as I tend to travel with mine.

We love it here, although now prepping to move to our next posting, Zurich hmm

kday Fri 18-Jan-13 08:57:24

Hi Moving to Zurich. Sorry to hijack but just wondered how you found your live out nanny? If you used an agency would you mind PMing me the details? Best of luck with your move. Switzerland is fabulous.

needabetternickname Wed 23-Jan-13 13:35:32

Thanks for the recent posts and apologies for taking so long to come back and say thank you. The Children's Place looks great - will definitely add that to our list of places to look round when we come out in March. And I'll also take a look at Stamford - not actually one I'd come across before, so great to have another recommendation.
Thanks again. And Zurich - I'd also be really interested to hear how you found a live-out nanny. Obviously haven't decided yet what option we'll have but it's good to know that that's a possibility.

Merlion Thu 24-Jan-13 03:16:54

Sorry I realised I hadn't got back to you re Catholicism at SJI. We are not Catholics and judging by DS class I don't think many of them are either! It's certainly present but more values/virtues based than anything else. They are certainly given awareness of and celebrate all other local festivals/religious holidays etc. If you are Catholic and want your children to attend mass then they can as there is a chapel on site. I think the Secondary School, which is still quite a local school at the moment until starts to combine more with the elementary school which is an International School, has a much higher proportion of Catholic students. It hasn't been an issue for us so far anyway but we don't have particularly firm beliefs in any direction smile.

SSMulligan Tue 06-Aug-13 04:24:17

Hi Need -
quick question to your quite old post. Have you moved, and did you decide on schools? I'm asking because I'm currently doing a reccie in Singapore, for Jan 14 relocation, and I honestly have no idea where to start! Am due to visit DC later today. I have a boy starting Reception in sept in London (he'll be 5 in oct) and a 3 year old girl, so DC sounds idea. if we can get in... Interested to hear how your plans panned out. thanks!

pupsiecola Tue 06-Aug-13 08:44:27

Gosh it's so funny reading my comments about the school now, 6 months on. My, how quickly things can change! Suffice to say I would not recommend SAIS unless your child fits their very narrow ideal.

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