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Moving to UK - 101 questions

(32 Posts)
pinkshoos Thu 23-Aug-12 05:03:35

I am Australian, my husband has had a job offer (transfer within international company) to Milton Keynes. We'd both like to see more of Europe and we only have one child of school age at the moment so it seems like an attractive option, at least for 2 or so years. I have so many questions though!

1. Where to live, we currently live in leafy suburbs of Sydney, however smaller English villages look nicer than the suburbs of London, Milton Keynes etc - thoughts?

2. Company is paying for rent. I have been looking at Olfsted reports for schools for 5y.o DS, there are many 'outstanding schools' but I presume they would need to know our actual address before offering a place. We'd be transferring mid-school year in the UK, would this present problems? Any advice re: finding a schoool before we get there appreciated.

3. DD will be 3 when we move. Does she have to go to pre-school or similar? Is pre-school subsidised? What age does compulsory schooling start?

4. Our furniture is not worth shipping over. if a house comes as furnished, does that generally include things like irons, Hoovers, lawnmowers etc? Starting to panic at the thought of replacing all household items...


ssssh Thu 23-Aug-12 05:31:36

I'll start the ball rolling then: I favour small rural towns over cities and suburbs - have lived in both and love where I am now (market town in Yorkshire). Milton Keynes is a "new town" built in the 1960's (or thereabouts - brain not properly on yet) so there's lots of concrete and roundabouts. However I'm sure that here are people on here who could fill you in with loads of helpful details about the area. There are lovely rural towns in the south of England but they don't come cheap because pretty much all of them are easily accessible from London.

Pre- school is subsidised: you get 15 hours free per week. Kids have to start school on the term after their fifth birthday, but if you've a summer born like mine they end up starting at 4. They don't have to go to pre-school but most children do these days: even if you don't want to use the full 15 hours it's a good idea to get them used to school routines and make friends with lots of children. Mine went to a place that was just wonderful and I don't think they would have found the transition to school so easy without it.
As for house furnishings, well, there are no guarantees. You would probably get a clapped out Hoover but not irons etc. Mostly it just means the big stuff but there are exceptions - and you would expect a lawn mower to be provided if the landlord wanted the garden looked after.
Phew, this has taken me ages to type as I'm half asleep, so you've probably had a load of help from fellow insomniacs! Good luck with everything!

ExpatinDXB Thu 23-Aug-12 05:35:21

You can look on ebay for second hand stuff too? Iron's etc?

mummytime Thu 23-Aug-12 05:52:06

You can get a cheap Iron from Tescos for about £5, so replacing stuff like that should be quite cheap. Every relocation package I have seen includes an allowance for replacing appliances, things like washing machines etc are normally included in furnished rentals, hovers maybe.
Milton Keynes was built from joining several existing villages together, so there are nice villages areas, and lots of nice villages nearby. Its centre is built on a grid system, with lots of roundabouts. It also has an Ikea, which could be useful for all kinds of low cost extra furniture etc.

Most children start school the September after they are 4. It is compulsory the term they are 5. However it a lot of England there is a real pressure on places, this won't cause you too many problems if you are living in your home ready to apply in the normal admissions round in the January your child turns 4. Class sizes for reception to year 2 (age 4-7) are caped at 30 by law. Oh the English academic year runs September to September, and the cut off for admissions, is a child being 4 on or before 31st August.

So your 3 year old should have no problems, but your 5 year old may not get into the closest school, although the LA has to give you a place within a reasonable time. This could involve some travel and maybe a less desirable school.

pinkshoos Thu 23-Aug-12 05:53:05

Thanks ssssh. My daughter goes to a daycare/pre-school at the moment where she is very happy, it is play-based though and they don't really focus on number and letter recognition until school over here. My son started school at 4 (a bit on the early side) so I'd be happy for him to stay at that level rather than go up a grade a few months earlier than he would if we were still in Oz, where school year starts in Feb.

Thanks expatinDXb I'd be happy to buy off ebay or gumtree.

pinkshoos Thu 23-Aug-12 05:56:58

Oh and the iron was just an example, I have a gadget-freak husband and we are an appliance-heavy household. We are yet to see the relocation package but good to know that they usually allow for replacing of household items.

pinkshoos Thu 23-Aug-12 06:04:15

Sorry, I am a bit confused about this bit:

5. However it a lot of England there is a real pressure on places, this won't cause you too many problems if you are living in your home ready to apply in the normal admissions round in the January your child turns 4. Class sizes for reception to year 2 (age 4-7) are caped at 30 by law. Oh the English academic year runs September to September, and the cut off for admissions, is a child being 4 on or before 31st August.

if we applied in admissions in January, would that mean we'd have to wait until September to start school?

ssssh Thu 23-Aug-12 06:12:30

For your DS you would apply in Jan, to start the following Sep in Reception. Then you get a letter in April to tell you which school you've been placed at. Your older child could start any time of the year, once you've found a place.

Pre-schools are play based here too, and the Reception year has a lot of play too. My DS has completed a year in Reception but was only 5 yesterday- he is only just starting to make sense of words and can't write much, but he's young, there is no pressure on him. They all get it in the end.

pinkshoos Thu 23-Aug-12 06:51:56

Ah I get it, thank you all for being so helpful.

chloeb2002 Fri 24-Aug-12 20:22:18

the one word springing to mind is residency....
If you have been given perm residency in the UK then school, childcare etc are supported/ free. However if yo are not then I think you have to be living in the UK for 12 months before you can claim to be resident. I know when I last returned to the UK from Aus i was told i was no longer deemed resident. It took a 6 week battle to prove my daughters citizenship and that i was also not a PR of Aus then to get NHS cover and pre school funding.

Coconutter Fri 24-Aug-12 20:58:51

I used to live near MK - it is a bit concrete-y, but on the plus side it means fewer traffic problems (because it was built with cars in mind) and it's brilliant for convenience. There are a fair few nice areas and housing isn't too expensive for this area of the country, plus pretty good transport links. Also has good shopping (of every kind!), indoor ski slope, theatre, cinemas, restaurants, climbing name it.

If you want somewhere with a bit more character Stony Stratford, on the outskirts, is lovely, or you could try one of the surrounding villages (Great Brickhill, Wavendon... Woburn is gorgeous but a bit more pricy). You also have places like Leighton Buzzard over the border into Bedfordshire, which has excellent links to London and seems pretty nice (small market town, with posh-ish village of Heath and Reach attached), and in the other direction Buckinghamshire, which has lots of very nice towns and villages. Milton Keynes is generally easy to reach because of the A5 and A425 roads.

Because it's kind of on the border of different counties you have three different school systems to choose from. MK does the normal primary age 4-11 and secondary age 11-16/18 schools. Buckinghamshire does the same but uses the 11+ system, where kids take an exam in the last year of primary school to determine whether they go to a grammar (if they pass) or upper (if they fail) school. Bedfordshire operates a three-tier system: lower schools age 4-9, middle age 9-13, and upper (not the same as the bucks upper!) 13-16/18. You might not be so bothered if your kids are primary age and you won't be staying more than a couple of years but it might be worth thinking about.

Oh - and I moved because my job did, not because I didn't like the area or anything!

Hope that helps... Good luck!

VegemiteOnToast Sat 25-Aug-12 02:50:12

That is fantastic advice, thank you! Woburn does look very nice indeed, as does Heath and Reach. I have a fantasy of living in a ye olde converted barn.

Still don't have any more details on timing or the package re; rent allowance which is frustrating.

sashh Sat 25-Aug-12 09:19:16

One thing to be aware is that UK houses have much smaller rooms, and from Oz you will notice a distinct lack of bathrooms / toilets.

Think kitchen, enclosed with doors, living room enclosed with doors, the only bathroom and bedrooms upstairs. That might not sound much of a problem but when you have muddy kids running up the stairs to use the toilet you might.

There is unlikly to be a wash room unless you are getting a new property, and no electrical sockets i the bathroom - just one for a shaver (it iis two pin, the rest of the house is three pin, but different three pin to yours).

Your visa should allow you NHS treatment and school places, I know student visas do, so resident ones should.

You don't have to put your kids in school, if you do then the schools are quite strict about time taken outside school holidays if you want to holiday in term time. Consider home schooling if you fancy skipping around Europe with the kids. In reality you don't need to do much education wise if you do spend time travelling.

Distances are shorter but there is more traffic so a journey can take longer than expected.

Air travel is not as cheap as it was but you can easily visit European cities as city breaks.

You will want to spend some time in London, you can do day trips but if you stay for a weekend it can be cheaper to book a break with tickets to a show (Lion king / Shrek are child friendly).

One piece of advice for your first winter. When your car frosts over (it will happen overnight, and can happen in a few hours while you are in a shopping centre) pour COLD water over it, or use defrosting spray. Warm/hot water will crack the windscreen.

Also if it snows, set off in second gear.

Be prepared for your kids to spend a lot longer inside because of the weather. Swimming pools are mostly inside.

If you get satellite TV you can watch ausie rules football, but I don't think you can on cable and not on terrestreal.

Alternatively Walkabout - Aus themed pub chain - show games on Monday afternoons.

aufaniae Sat 25-Aug-12 09:36:01

When is your DS 5?

I'm thinking he's probably in the intake which are meant to start school this September?

My DS is 3, he'll be 4 at Christmas. We'll be applying in Jan and he'll start September next year.

VegemiteOnToast Sat 25-Aug-12 12:06:50

He was 5 last March, he is in 3rd term of school in Sydney.

aufaniae Sat 25-Aug-12 13:42:04

Your DS would be going into Year 1 this September, so the January application thing doesn't apply to him, that's just for children starting in Reception Class.

It will for your DD however. When does she turn 4?

If she'll be 4 before the end of next August, then you'll need to put her name down in January for Sept. If she'd only just 3 now then it'll be the following year.

For your DS, you will need to apply for a school place for him in a class where places have already been allocated as his peers will have already started school last September. If there's a space then simple. If not then he'll be put on a waiting list until there is.

For normal admissions I think schools usually prioritise DCs who have a sibling at the school. I wonder if it works like this for the waiting list also? If so the your DD having a place could help your DS move up the waiting list, but you'll need to check that - I'm only guessing at that bit!

aufaniae Sat 25-Aug-12 13:44:22

There is intense competition for school places in the UK. You need to do your research to find out if a house is in catchment for a school, don't assume it is just because it looks fairly close on the map!

The council should be able to tell you how far the furthest child was who was admitted the year before.

VegemiteOnToast Mon 27-Aug-12 11:43:24

Wow, the school situation sounds terrifying. Is it best to find out which schools may have places and then try to find a rental near there?

MrsSchadenfreude Mon 27-Aug-12 17:58:54

We moved to a small village outside MK six years ago, from overseas. We just rang the headmaster of the primary school we liked the look of for the DDs and asked him if he had space. He did, so we moved there and they duly went to the school. I think if you move to a village, there is less pressure on places - there were three primary schools within about two miles of where we were, and it wouldn't have been a problem to get into any of them. We were north of MK, near Stony Stratford.

MistyB Mon 27-Aug-12 18:44:09

If you can find out from colleagues what the package is likely to include, it might help alot. You might well be able to rent a well furnished property complete with white goods, small appliances and kitchen crockery etc.

Otherwise, consider whether it is really not worth shipping your own things, especially if your DH is a gadget freak! It would take alot of effort and cash to fit out a completely empty house (and it is more usual in the UK for mid to high priced properties for families to be unfurnished) and you would presumably leave these behind after two years. The company will have considered this if this type of move has been done before.

Also, schooling may well have been considered and relocation help may be available. If the local school is over subscribed, it could be full with a waiting list. There are cases of people who have had to find a school with a place and then rent a house in the village and after months of applying appealing and home schooling. Though MrsSF's information is more relevant to the area you are looking at.

HomeSearcher Tue 28-Aug-12 14:25:57

pinkshoos - In answer to your initial questions...

Milton Keynes is a great place to live and work, but in my opinion surrounding villages such as Great Brickhill offer so much more.

The local primary school, High Ash, has received an 'outstanding' Ofsted report for the last two years. On their website is a PDF Booklet entitled "In Year Application Guide" which will explain everything you need to know about applying for a school place in Buckinghamshire outside of the normal transfer times. (

With regard to furniture, there are companies that specialise in whole house furniture rental - most UK rental properties are unfurnished, except for white goods.

Feel free to drop me an email if you need any more help.

EdithWeston Tue 28-Aug-12 14:36:04

Watch the dates really carefully for school entrance.

For a reception place starting September 2013, e national applications round opens this autumn and closes mid-January - unified national deadline. If you are here in time (you need a UK address to apply from), and you can apply before the deadline, you will receive equal consideration with all other candidates.

Apply after that, and your application will be treated as late, and offers will only be made from the places left over after the main application round has been dealt with. This can reduce your choice significantly, and if the mist local school are full, you will have to face a lengthy/awkward commute, possibly to a school yo don't like much. Though you have to be offereda place somewhere.

VegemiteOnToast Wed 29-Aug-12 14:31:29

Thanks everyone. Once we actually get some details and timings I may contact a few of you by PM. So frustrating being in limbo!

(I changed my username BTW)

VegemiteOnToast Sat 22-Sep-12 11:52:03

No update - still waiting for an official offer.

I have another question though, can I hold my August '09 daughter back so she starts school age 5 rather than age 4? She's much vaguer than my son and I just can't see her being ready for school in a year!

PestoSandalissimos Sat 22-Sep-12 12:17:08

Yes, they don't have to go to school until the term in which they turn 5.

However, you may find by doing this, that there are no reception class places left in the school you prefer though. As they will already have been allocated at the beginning of the school year.

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