Moving from the US- schools in SW London?

(19 Posts)
fluturashqipe Mon 16-Dec-13 17:51:31

We're likely to be moving from the US to London in the next few months, probably south west London (or somewhere easy to commute into SW London). I have an 8 year old DD who is currently in first grade here in the US (so would be going into year 2- I think!), and little understanding of how schools work in the UK, though I have heard it's harder to get a school place than it is here. How do I go about looking for a school place?

LIZS Mon 16-Dec-13 17:56:52

More likely year 3 or even 4 if she turns 9 before end of August. first off contact the Local Authority covering where you plan to live - may be a county or London borough depending exactly where , or both if close by and ask about In Year admissions procedures. They probably won't be able to progress your application until you have a definite local address. Some schools may have spaces now but these may not be available when you come to apply. Where do you need to be , or within commuter distance of ?

fluturashqipe Mon 16-Dec-13 18:03:49

DD is only first grade at the moment- she was held back a year over here. Is it not possible for her to go into the corresponding year in the UK? We would need to be within commuter distance to Westminster.

mummytime Mon 16-Dec-13 18:55:19

In the state education system in the UK they will not hold a child back unless they have severe special needs, and even then it is difficult.
Most private schools in this area are selective. If you will have school fees paid you could look at the American schools.

Anywhere which feeds into Waterloo is convenient for Westminster, and someplaces further out can get you there faster than those closer (do not think of driving, the train is the only sane way to commute unless you have no choice).

However state schools will take her, and help her to catch up with here peers. It is quite common for children to arrive with no/very little English and still to fit in and catch up quickly.
If you move to Surrey they will not process your application until you have moved here. But all LAs have a legal requirement to find your DD a place "within a reasonable time" of you arriving, and can force schools to make an extra place if necessary. Also as she will go into a year over year 2 they can have more than 30 in a class, which will help.

Do not panic.

LIZS Mon 16-Dec-13 18:57:19

Doubtful unless she has an equivalent to a statement of SEN an even then it would be difficult to get agreement for one year , let alone 2. It is very unusual in England to be held back. You don't "retake" a year in UK as there is supposed to be sufficient differentiation in class to cater for a wide ability range. You might stand a better chance in the independent sector or with the American schools. If she is young for her year and you have Ed psych reports for example you could make a case but even then many don't cater for such situations and the problem might recur later when she is of secondary transfer age (11) and expected to rejoin her peers. Westminster is handy for Waterloo, Charing Cross or Victoria stations so worth looking along train lines from any of those.

SofiaAmes Mon 16-Dec-13 19:03:50

Kids generally start school a year later in the USA than in the UK. She should go into the year that corresponds to what she has been learning in the USA. But you may find that the state schools are fairly inflexible and often insist on things that may not make academic sense for you child. One thing that I found difficult to cope with in the UK is that fact that all the state/public schools are religion based (albeit to differing degrees). As an atheist I did not have a lot of options of good schools available to me in West London. If I had remained in the UK (which I did not) I would have sent my children to the American School in London.

Pooka Mon 16-Dec-13 19:12:04

Our state school is neither c of e nor catholic.

All state schools have an element of collective worship each week, regardless of whether they are community or church schools.

At out school it doesn't involve prayers. For example when nelson Mandela died, the children were asked to sit quietly and think about him. No religion referred to. There's a lot of quiet reflection at the end of assemblies on all manner of things - like "space probe has gone further than anything man made and beyond the solar system, can you all just sit and quietly reflect on space and the universe and what this means?". That sort of thing.

Dcs also learn about all religions. So will have an Easter bit, but later in the year will talk about Diwali or eid or Chanukah.

Pooka Mon 16-Dec-13 19:15:10

I am also atheist. Would not have sent dcs to a church school. But don't have a problem with the way they are taught about different religions at the state school they are at. While I don't believe in god, I find religion interesting as a concept and that's how it seems t be dealt with by the dc's school - not at all in a "this is the truth" way, but more in the "some people believe..." way, covering all religions. Apart from Scientology. So far wink

LIZS Mon 16-Dec-13 19:29:58

It is a difference though . ds' international school which had an American ethos was devoid of religion. Celebrations were shared in terms of social history rather than religious beliefs, which doesn't really happen here even in non church schools.

Pooka Mon 16-Dec-13 19:38:11

Oh I agree, it's a difference.

Just saying that despite being educated at same school, funnily enough, as dcs with same "collective worship" requirement, I'm a happy atheist - as it seems are the dcs so far.

I'm rather fond of the "quiet reflection" element of assemblies alongside the other "business" parts of assembly (which tend to be child p,sung instrument, children getting certificates, bit of chat about golden rules and maybe a choir singing video killed the radio star or some such thing).

Huitre Mon 16-Dec-13 20:49:14

Some of the American parents at our (state) school have told me that they really like the way religion is handled in the UK system (this is a very non-religious school, with a lot of quiet reflection, thinking about how to be kind/good to others, and when there are prayers children are asked to 'pray to your god if you have one and if you don't just think carefully about the words of the prayer' etc). They have found the emphasis on learning about all religions and sharing in celebrations that might not be part of your home culture very healthy.

With respect to SW London and American children (I am in Richmond) it usually seems to be the case that they catch up pretty fast despite having had a year's less formal schooling - most schools in this area will have experience of expat children of various kinds. Ours has American children in every year who generally only stay for a few years at most. If your child is in the year below her 'real' year, it may be harder for her so in your shoes I would look for a school that is used to dealing with children who arrive with less or different schooling than usual and one that's experienced with SEN as it is likely that your daughter might need a lot of help to catch up and feel comfortable within her year group. This may not be the 'best' school on paper and I would advise posting in whichever local MN might be appropriate for current information on schools. No state school will let you place your daughter out of her year group without really very significant additional needs, and possibly not even then.

When will your daughter turn 9?

fluturashqipe Mon 16-Dec-13 23:04:31

DD is literally just 8- she will turn 9 in December 2014. She should be in the second grade but was held back a year and redid kindergarten. How severe do special needs have to be to justify holding a child back a year in the UK? She has no diagnosed learning difficulties, dyslexia etc, but English as an additional language and until she was fostered had a less than idyllic home life- don't want to go into too much detail on here. I fostered her when she was 5, adopted age 7. It is unlikely I will be able to afford private schooling.

Huitre Mon 16-Dec-13 23:20:03

Your daughter would be in the year above mine. She would now be in Y3 and would be in Y4 for the next academic year beginning in September.

If she has no diagnosed learning difficulties, you would have no possibility of holding her back a year in the UK state system. The difficulties would have to be extremely severe to make this happen. However, if you choose a sympathetic school, they will do their very best to help her catch up and be included. There are plenty of schools that are accommodating and kind and inclusive. There are also lots of schools that have useful experience with children who have been fostered and/or adopted or who have had difficulties in their home lives. I would recommend visiting schools before making a choice - ring the local council, ask where there are places, go and see the schools.

There is a child in my daughter's class who has no English at all. He arrived from Russia a few weeks ago. DD's class are being very kind - they are used to children arriving with very little English so I am sure a child who actually speaks English would be fine in a London state school.

Private schooling would not be particularly good in London for a child who is working behind her year group - most is very academically selective.

Devora Mon 16-Dec-13 23:30:24

From Westminster you can get to many, many parts of London. I live in Richmond, which has fantastic schools and is an easy commute by train to Waterloo (15 mins walk over the river to Westminster) or by tube straight in. House prices are high, though.

If you were a UK citizen and your child adopted domestically you would get priority access to state schools but I'm pretty certain that will not apply in your circumstances, sadly. But you might get some good advice on the adoption board, should you want to join us over there.

SofiaAmes Tue 17-Dec-13 04:05:11

The issue I had with religion was not how it took place within the school day. I never got that far. It's that the good schools in our area all had as part of the point system for getting in, a component where you had to attend church/synagogue/mosque and get signed off as being a diligent worshipper in order to get into the school. As an atheist, I was not eligible for these points which made it impossible for my dc's to get into the good schools. I have absolutely no issue with my children learning religion at school, or even (as in the case of my dd who found god at 4 years old in a family full of atheists), attending religious school (my dd went to jewish day school last year). I did however, have an issue with pretending that I was religious in order to get my child into a good school. This issue may not be the case outside of London, but where I lived in West London, it was absolutely an issue.

tiggytape Tue 17-Dec-13 09:30:41

How severe do special needs have to be to justify holding a child back a year in the UK? She has no diagnosed learning difficulties, dyslexia etc, but English as an additional language and until she was fostered had a less than idyllic home life

It is very rare for children to be held back a year in the UK. With no diagnosed additional needs, it would be impossible unless you pay for private school (and even then it would only be 1 year not 2 - she is currently Year 3 age in the UK. EAL is not classed as an additional need).

For state schools, it only happens when a child has diagnosed or recognised additional needs at such a high level that their consultant and other experts involved in their care write to the Local Authority and strongly push the case for holding them back. Even in those circumstances though, the LA will not always agree to this. It is felt that it is better for a child to have 1:1 support in the correct year group for their age than to be placed in the wrong year where they'd need less support. The classes though will have a wide range of abilities because of this and this is generally dealt with well.

Elibean Tue 17-Dec-13 09:39:33

I would agree that its very rare for a child to be held back a year. OP, I would look for a school with fantastic pastoral care - it's hard to choose a school without going to look at them, though.

We're in SW London, and our dds' school is very child centered and has a higher number of EAL kids than almost any other school in the Borough - nearly all of whom are doing very well. There are very low numbers of EAL kids at most of our local primaries.

What area were you thinking of moving to?

Pooka Tue 17-Dec-13 11:09:03

Sorry sofiaames - got the wrong end of the stick.

I agree about the unfairness of the situation in areas where schools are mostly tied to a particular faith.

If I was PM I would stop schools from receiving any state funding if they have faith-based admissions criteria.

But fortunately, where I live there are only a couple of faith schools that I might have been in catchment for if I was religious. The rest take all-comers! smile

tethersend Wed 18-Dec-13 00:08:49

It is very rare to admit a child outside their normal age group, but the Admissions Code (2012) does make provision for this.

Section 2.17 states:

Admission of children outside their normal age group - Parents of gifted and talented children, or those who have experienced problems or missed part of a year, for example due to ill health, can seek places outside their normal age group. Admission authorities must make decisions on the basis of the circumstances of each case, informing parents of their statutory right to appeal. This right does not apply if they are offered a place in another year group at the school.

I would argue that the OP's DC has experienced problems, and the fact that this was recognised by the US authorities may help the argument.

However, the differences between the US and the UK school systems may mean that being held back a year may not be as beneficial as it seems- in other words, it is not a like-for-like comparison.

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