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American moving to London for 3-5 yrs -- would you send your child to international school or English pre-prep (and if so, which one)?

(11 Posts)
alanthicke Wed 04-Nov-15 17:01:55

I am American, and i will be moving to the UK soon with my DH and our 6-year-old DS and 2-year-old DD. The move is for my DH's job, and we will be there for at least 3 years, but probably not permanently (although who knows.) We plan to live somewhere in west london, probably chiswick/fulham area. My DH's company will pay for private school so that is not an issue, but I am concerned about finding friends for my kids and also for myself. I don't know anyone at all in London, and my DH will be working a lot. I stay home with the kids, which I can't imagine doing it without some "mom-friends". I want to actually live in the UK and not just surround myself with other expats, but I don't want to spend 3 years being lonely. My kids are both very normal, bright, happy kids, who would probably fit in anywhere. I'm not so much worried about the little one as she only goes to school a few hours a week here anyway, but I want to find a good place for DS and hopefully send DD there eventually as well.
We are working with an ed consultant who says there are at least a few good pre-preps in west london that should have space for my DS due to other children moving out of the area. She also recommends international school of london or southbank international.
If you were in my shoes, would you choose an international school, where they are used to people coming and going and they make a specific effort to welcome and integrate new families, or do you think we would be able to fit in and make friends at an English pre-prep? If the latter, are there any particular ones in the area that would be more welcoming than others for an american expat?
Thank you so much for any advice or info! This is all new to me!!!

GinandJag Wed 04-Nov-15 17:21:26

At that age, and for that length of time, I would use a British private school, as it is not near any critical exam or GPA-accumulating time.

International schools are good, but they tend to be expat bubbles. You could be anywhere in the world. They are great if you are on the move from one international location to another very 1-2 years. Your child will settle quickly because there is no time to waste, but will soon find some of his new friends moving on every few weeks.

It should be very easy to make friends at a pre-prep as everyone is still fairly new. There will be a few American families who will go out of their way to show you the ropes and "translate" for you, but you will mix with everyone else.

alanthicke Wed 04-Nov-15 18:09:52

Thanks, GinandJag. That whole "expat bubble" thing is exactly what I'm trying to avoid. We aren't one of those families who lives 2 years in the UK, then 3 years in Hong Kong, then back to Dubai, etc. We've lived in the same area for 15 years and until this job came along for my DH, we weren't planning on going anywhere. We are VERY excited to live in London, but I think we will end up back here eventually.
Anyway, I feel like there are other ways for us to connect with other expats in London if we don't do international school. The consultant suggested a few American schools and we definitely didn't want that. I do think there is some value in the kids getting to know kids from all over the world, but I don't know if we would really fit in in that environment either, and I worry about the academics a bit, especially since many of the kids will be newly learning English. We will have a chance to visit the schools before we decide so hopefully it will be clear then.
Obviously I'm all over the place!

GinandJag Wed 04-Nov-15 18:15:08

Think how exciting it will be to go to your DS's cricket matches and stop for tea. You won't get that at an international school ;)

GinandJag Wed 04-Nov-15 18:18:00


When we lived in the US our children went to city schools. It was the right thing to do as they fully integrated into the community. They are American citizens anyway, so they got to experience life in its full. They know the Fifty Nifty song and played softball.

Lowdoorinthewall Wed 04-Nov-15 18:20:07

One slight issue may be that your DS could be a bit behind due to the differences in the education systems. When is he 7? If it is before August 31st he would be in Year 2 now (the last year of pre-prep).

Some of the pre-preps will be sitting pupils for 7+ which is VERY competitive and the children will be working very hard. If you don't want this and/or you think it might be a shock to your DS because he hasn't done much formal schooling yet then you need to choose carefully.

originalmavis Wed 04-Nov-15 18:25:43

It depends where you end up living. I can't recommend Newton Prep in battersea highly enough.

It will be chocca with Americans once the embassy opens but I don't think that's immanent.

It's a good mix of posh and not - the emphasis very much in the kids achieving in whatever field they enjoy - academic, music, dance, drama, science... Very nice atmosphere, good manners and behaviour, and happy kids. They do well on destination schools too and the head is a lovely woman. Also a good spread of the world represented but more families who have settled rather than 2 months here before posting to Guatemala. Better for kids not to loose their best mates every term.

The 'posher', more central schools can be more pointy-elbowed academic achievement at all costs. When you see a school psychologist advertising on the main notice board, run!

You will get cricket matches and tea at Hill House. I don't think they still fag though...

GinandJag Wed 04-Nov-15 18:26:42

That's a good point, low door.

If a child is entering the system at age six, it doesn't make a lot of sense to go to a pre-prep, where they have to leave at 7. Much better to go to a prep 4-11/13 prep school.

I would imagine that many central London independent schools rely on overseas families, so will be flexible about academic attainment on entry.

Children of that age are like sponges. When we came to the UK from the US, my DD (6.5) went from KG straight into Year 2 and was a non-reader. She was on the top table by half-term.


yeOldeTrout Wed 04-Nov-15 20:02:13

I'm American living in UK (for decades now).
International school without a doubt, in your situation. Because I don't think any of you will settle long-term in UK, or even if you come back to UK the kids need education that flows well to other countries.

I really wouldn't assume it's all ex-pat bubble, btw. Friend worked in an American school (near Nottinghill?) and it was a right mix of different nationalities.

eleven59 Wed 04-Nov-15 20:11:33

My kids are at an international school and it's been great for them. Even the youngest has an awareness of different cultures and languages. Its been a brilliant experience.

MMmomKK Wed 04-Nov-15 21:13:54

If you end up in Fulham - you will quickly meet friends with the neighbours and parents of the kids in school/nursery. They will be a good mix of local and international backgrounds, so you and kids will get quite a multicultural experience.

I wouldn't choose International schools as the quality of education in the private primary school would be better - and your kids would easily slide back into an American system - and will be ahead of heir peers, most likely.

I'd check out Fulham prep in Fulham - it's local, has a nice community , goes to 13, and co-educational.

As others have said, I'd not choose a pre-prep as they only go to 7/8yo and would force your son to go through unnecessary exams.

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