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Moving to Cheltenham from U.S.

(13 Posts)
Maryland1 Thu 10-Jan-13 13:59:42

Help. I need all the advice I can get. Looks like we are to be relocated to Cheltenham from the U.S. this summer. Aside from a summer (many moons ago) in Oxford, I haven't been to the UK. We have 2 boys ... ages by the move will be 10 and 7. I think the school thing has me the most stressed. As it will be considered an in-year move, we can't apply for schools yet. They currently attend public school in Maryland (Maryland schools are ranked no. 1 in the U.S. overall). Both boys are quite bright by U.S. standards and having them in an academically challenging/stimulating environment is my primary concern. I could use any and all advice you have ... from how to go about finding a good school ... to where to live (and anything else frankly). I've done a lot of perusing these boards and have some ideas of where to start, but I'd love some updated info.

NowInGloucestershire Thu 10-Jan-13 15:25:29

Depending on when you arrive (school holidays here are the end of July - beginning of Sept) it sounds like your boys will either go into the end of Y5/Y2 or start in Y6/Y3, as long as they are still 10 and 7 by 31st August. If that's the case, depending on how long you'll be staying for, you'll need to consider catchments of secondary schools too, particularly for your eldest as he will only have 1 year left in primary. Pates is considered one of the top schools in the country for results but is selective, your eldest would need to sit an entrance test once he was in a primary school, however is less affected by where you live (if your son is bright enough). Otherwise Chosen Hill (parts of Up Hatherly/Warden Hill come in catchment I believe - the school is in Churchdown) is excellent, as is Balcarras (Charlton Kings), and Bourneside (Hatherley). These areas also have good primary schools. Leckhampton is a nice place to live with good primary schools, at secondary level I believe most end up at one of the above schools, catchment is divided which is why I didn't mention it above. Prestbury is also nice and has an good primary (St Marys), it is vastly oversubscribed at Reception level, but this may not be the case further up the school as people move etc. Bishop's Cleeve secondary is an additional option from there, which is another excellent school.
The council should have a list of primary schools as there's quite a lot of them! I'm also not sure if you go via the council or the school directly if you're moving in-year, but the council should be able to advise you of that.

Maryland1 Thu 10-Jan-13 19:28:49

Thank you so much. I'm making notes of all your suggestions. I've been told that we will need to apply directly to the schools once we get there. Don't have dates yet, but plan to let boys finish out school here for the school year (they finish late June). Yes, it sounds like they will be Y6/Y3 in Sept 2013.

More questions ... Do primaries teach foreign language? Our schools don't start foreign language until 6th grade (Y7). Do most primaries have music programs? My oldest plays viola with his school and would like to continue. How big are they primary schools? What does "sixth form" mean? I've been reading up on all of the differences between the US and UK schools systems, but I still have so many questions.

Smileyhappydaisies Thu 10-Jan-13 20:43:55

Hi Cheltenham is a great place to live - you will love it! My children go to a private prep school which has much smaller classes approx 17 per class rather than the 30 in the state primary schools. They learn French & Spanish, play in the orchestra and one plays in the strings group and one in the jazz band. They play competitive sport and are prepared for the grammar school entrance exams during the school day (aiming for the grammar schools mentioned above) - so saving on tutoring, although of course private means fee-paying in the uk. Primary schools vary in size and there are many excellent ones in Cheltenham, the thing to consider is what your boys strengths are and what they are used to. Sixth form means the final two years of schooling - children are aged 17 and 18 then. I teach and have 2 children of similar age and so am happy to help you with any Q's you may have smile

StMarksMostly Thu 10-Jan-13 22:09:42

Cheltenham is lovely. We moved in November.

Primary schools vary in size. Some are single intake (so around 30 pupils per year - 200 children to a primary school). Others have two, or even three classes of around this size per year. Many schools have around 60 children per year.

Our school system starts with reception (children who will turn 5 that academic year) and then the remainder of primary school is years 1-6. Some schools are just infant (reception and years 1 & 2) or junior (years 3-6). Often an infant and junior school will, though separate schools with separate management, share a site. An example would be Benhall School and St Marks Junior in Benhall.

Senior schools is years 7-13. Years 10-11 are GCSE and years 12-13 are A Level (or equivalent). Both are two year courses, so it important to try and stay put for the duration. Some schools run for the whole of years 7-13. Other schools stop at year 11.

The naming system for UK schools changed about 20 years ago and many people still refer to some of the years by their old name. Most commonly, years 12-13 are called 'sixth form'.

If you attend a school that stops at year 11, you will need to attend a 'sixth form college' for years 12-13 (assuming you decide to continue in academic study). Some children also decide to go to a college even if their school has a sixth form, for a variety of reasons. There is also some movement at this level more generally. For example, my female cousin attended a sixth form at the local boys school (which had a mixed sixth form) to get the subject combination she wanted.

Most state schools will only do a very nominal amount of foreign language at primary, if at all. I wouldn't worry about that. Schools vary a lot on music lessons - some have more than others.

Does that help a bit?

cheltchatterer Fri 11-Jan-13 07:23:50

We moved to Cheltenham from the U.S. a year and a half ago with three children. The boys were then aged 10 and 8, and the daughter 6. We love it. The school system is very different from the US, not just in types of school, but how the curriculum is structured, the school day and what is/isn't expected from parents. Feel free to pm me and I can answer any questions further about life here.

Maryland1 Fri 11-Jan-13 16:23:46

You all are amazingly helpful. Thank you so much.

Smileyhappydaises, private school might be an option for us, as husband's employer has indicated they might cover (or help cover) the costs. I think I would prefer a state school primarily because it seemed like the privates were mostly religion-based and I would prefer one that was not and have been told that the state schools are generally quite good. However, I do feel like we will need to keep our options open and may apply to private as a backup if we end up not being happy with our public choices given that we are moving in summer. If you are up to providing insight into specific privates, would love to hear it. smile

Stmarksmostly, that was hugely helpful. It has been difficult to piece together a picture of how the system works since people are usually focused on particular years. Thanks! Do the specific school websites usually have details on programs (like music) offered or is it better to reach out to them to get the details?

Cheltchatterer, will PM you! smile

StMarksMostly Fri 11-Jan-13 16:33:55

School websites are generally pretty vague. They will talk about music lessons being available, or perhaps list a few instruments. If your son plays a particular instrument I would contact the school direct. For example, they may do violin lessons but be able to arrange for the same teacher to do viola with your child if he/she can play and teach both.

One thing to be aware of is that UK schools generally seem to be less 'program' orientated than US ones, from what I have seen. Things like music, drama and sports are, of course, offered, but often in a more free-flowing way than in the US. At senior school this is very marked.

Do you understand yet about OFSTED reports and how to find them, and would you like a bit of background on them? They do have to be taken with a pinch of salt, but can be useful.

If there is anything else you would like to know, just ask. DD1 only starts school in September, but I know a bit and my mother is a primary teacher, so I've lived with a lot of it from the other side!

Do you know yet whether you will be working?

Smileyhappydaisies Fri 11-Jan-13 17:43:03

Hi again Maryland1
happy to do pm if you would like smile, we relocated so I guess many of our concerns are then are what yours are now. All will be well, it's a great place with a lovely community smile

Maryland1 Sun 13-Jan-13 13:44:42

I could probably use some background on OFSTED. I assume it is similar to test result reporting in Maryland which reflects school performance. I have not gotten deep enough in to start examining specific schools yet. I know here, the reports can be misleading, especially in situations where the school has, for instance, a strong program for delayed or challenged children in addition to other academic programs.

As for me working, we are going over for my husband's job. He'll be near GCHQ. While I previously worked as a lawyer, I have been a stay-at-home mom for a while now. I was just at the point of considering looking for part-time work now that both boys are solidly in school when this move came up. Not sure where that leaves me. Maybe while the boys are in school, I'll become a professional sight-seerer. That's a job, right? LOL.

StMarksMostly Sun 13-Jan-13 15:56:50

OFSTED isn't really test result reporting. That would be SAT results (tests taken in years 2, 6 and 9 - I think I've got that right). OFSTED is the school inspection system for public schools. They visit schools and report on all aspects of a school, including things like whether they are pushing the most able pupils hard enough, community engagement, etc. They can be misleading, as they are inevitably a snapshot. Also, comparing reports in different years (they are normally inspected about every 3 years I think) can be misleading as they get different pet issues, etc. However, they an be a good starting point for learning about a school.

The website is here and you can search for any school. Many schools also link direct to their report on their website.

If your husband will be near GCHQ I would think seriously about what side of town you want to be. We are right near there, but a friend in Prestbury was moaning recently that it can easily take half an hour to get across town in the mornings. An area like Leckhampton might suit you if your budget stretches, though I'm not sure about sneior schools there.

llsharman Mon 18-Feb-13 23:10:02

We are planning a move from the US to Cheltenham/Gloucester or maybe closer to Bristol, so we'll be eager to find out how you get on.

Our biggest trick is finding a school for our daughter who will turn 16 on September 3rd 2014. We will be finding a place to live based on school choices. We are hoping to find a school who will accept her into a 3-year 6th form situation, since entering Y11 has been strongly advised against.

Maryland1 Tue 19-Feb-13 01:26:04

llsharman, when is your move? Have you already started searching for a home? We are currently in a holding pattern waiting for company to finalize relo details. I do find the school situation daunting. I wish the schools pulled from concrete geographic areas. Apparently, since we will be moving in the summer, will be looking for open spots once we have an address. It is a bit unnerving, but hopefully it will all work out. I keep reminding myself what a great experience my children will have from this move. Good luck to you and keep me posted.

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