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Moving from US with 6yo, where to live?

(52 Posts)
americexit Mon 12-Sep-16 19:02:37

Hello Mumsnet, first post here.

My husband's company is moving the family (of 4, two kids 6 and 2) to London sometime in January. We are currently in downtown Washington, DC. and sending our 6yo to a local public (state) school. DH will be working near St. Paul's Cathedral.

We can not afford private schools, so are looking for some good state schools to help us narrow down our search. We have a few expat friends in the Nottinghill area, but none of them have school-age kids. We'd like to live near them though, and be relatively close to Central London. We can afford around 3000/month rent for a 2-3 bedroom.

So...where should we live?
What schools should we research?
What should our strategy be to try and secure a good spot?
We are open to home-schooling as a short-term option.
What else should I know?


Shurelyshomemistake Tue 13-Sep-16 20:15:26

Ok, so, if your eldest is 6 now and was six before 31 Aug 2016 he will need a place in a year 2 class. If he was six after that date he will need a place in a year 1 class.

In central london you will need to find a school with a place. So, you pick an area with a few decent schools and .... hope! Essentially you need to be at the top of the waiting list for your preferred schools. The good news for you is that wait lists are not held in order of when you joined it but how closely you match the admissions criteria. Each council will have a brochure with these in. Round here it is mostly distance-based but some schools give priority to the most holy as evidenced by attendance at church/mosque/synagogue/temple and/ or baptism or non-christian alternatives.

It can be a bit complicated but london does usually have high pupil mobility and so spaces open up smile

Shurelyshomemistake Tue 13-Sep-16 20:20:29

Sorry: that was not totally clear. Most schools seen as desirable in london (and even many less rated ones) will be full in year 1 and 2. The main intake is before this: reception year or pre-year 1 year.

I would find a place you fancy living and go from there. Your local council will have to find you a school place somewhere and if you dont fancy it you can home school and stay on (lots of) wait lists.

Once you ard settled in an area then people on here can tell you approx h

Shurelyshomemistake Tue 13-Sep-16 20:24:44

Oh for goodness sake! What is wrong with me?!?!

.... how likely you are to be near top of waiting list for particular schools.

yeOldeTrout Tue 13-Sep-16 20:33:44

3000 in $ or in £?

sqidsin Tue 13-Sep-16 20:43:12

Have you looked at Highbury/Islington? Lovely area and lots of families including some US expats! And easy bus/cycle to St Pauls.
Yes, all decent state schools will be full. However, places become available all the time as there is (in my experience) a lot of movement of families with children that age.

What you want to do is ensure you are at the top of the waiting list for your desired school. Most state schools use distance as one of the top criteria (unless you can meet the usually-strict church attendance criteria for faith schools), so your best bet is to find a place to rent as close as possible to your desired school.
If it were me, I'd pick a broad area (e.g. Islington), then identify 3 or 4 schools within this (use council website/ofsted/word of mouth) then look for places to rent v v close to any of them and see what comes up!

americexit Wed 14-Sep-16 00:45:46

Thanks for your responses...

It's £3000 ( i just googled how to make the £ symbol on my american keyboard, might as well get used to it.)

What's the travel between Islington? What's the commute like to St Pauls vs from Notting Hill? I've actually researched Islington a bit, but DH is drawn to NH b/c we know a couple people there. I'm visiting in October will visit both areas.

What schools should I avoid? Or rather, how should I know what schools to avoid? Or, are there schools it would be better to home-school instead of send my son (while we wait for a better spot...). I know that's a loaded question, but all answers and opinions will help me sort it out. son is pretty typical (would rather play with Legos than go to school) He's bright and good at math math while struggles with reading and writing. He is not reading yet...but close. He's got a solid foundation, but his brain isn't clicking to put it all together.

Also, my 2 year old daughter. What should I be thinking for her? Washington DC has universal preschool that starts full-time school at age 3. What's the norm in London? (I have mixed feelings on starting kids full-time at that age, but you can really beat free...)

Thanks again!

Thisismynewname123 Wed 14-Sep-16 09:09:54

Without knowing schools in the areas you're looking at, I'd say starting point would be to check the most recent Ofsted reports.

Your daughter will be able to attend a private nursery. I think 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 30 hours of nursery funding per week. My children are older, so I'm not sure how this works in practice, as I think it can be a struggle to find those funded places. However, nurseries for 3 and 4 years are often attached to a school with the assumption they will then move up into the school from the year in which the child turns 5 (although the school would need to be applied for separately in the appropriate year).

yeOldeTrout Wed 14-Sep-16 09:22:16

I think both NHill & Islington are in zones 1-2, so both would be fine. Less than 1 hour commute each way.
People may live 2 hours out & commute to London daily.

mrsmortis Wed 14-Sep-16 10:05:07

Are you on a corporate relocation package? Or are you coming under you own steam? If so have they given you a relocation agent? I've done this sort of move a couple of times and I've found that the relocation agent was really helpful. How long are you likely to be here? Are you looking for furnished or unfurnished?

Is that money committed to rent or if you found somewhere cheaper to live could you use it for schooling? If you were willing to live further out (still about an hours commute for your DH) you could get a nice house for significantly less than that. For example this is in Colchester (about 50 mins from Liverpool Street which is 2 stops on the tube from St Pauls):

t4nut Wed 14-Sep-16 10:12:09

Lego, not legos - another thing to get used to. Along with 'wrote to me' not 'wrote me' and 'maths' not 'math'. You're going to have fun with English English rather than American English.

drspouse Wed 14-Sep-16 10:12:52

3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 30 hours of nursery funding per week

It's still only 15. It's hard to get this entirely free because the nurseries will often require parents to take an extra hour or so before the free session/after/the hours don't add up to the exact times of the sessions.
Many parents who don't work will use this as e.g. 3 mornings and for those that do/those that want full time, they just add the free hours onto paid hours.

sqidsin Wed 14-Sep-16 10:27:12

Hi, I only know Islington/Highbury area, don't know Notting hill at all I'm afraid. Commute from Islington area would be 30-40 min I think - check

Good schools include William Tyndale, Canonbury, St Johns Highbury Vale, Joan of Arc, Yerbury, but there are others. Check school websites for admission criteria or you could try ringing them. St Johns is Church of England (Episcopal) so if you have a record of church attendance in the US you could jump to the top of the waiting list as long as you live in the immediate area (parish). Joan of Arc is Catholic so similar admissions criteria. Others are distance-based and competition is fierce.

In Islington area there are nurseries attached to some schools which are free for 3/4 yr olds, but also there are some separate "playgroups" which are basically preschools usually running mornings only for 2-4 yr olds. They do charge but are relatively cheap.

However, having said all that - Islington is a long way from Notting hill so you'd be about a 45 min- 1 hr journey from your friends!

Solasum Wed 14-Sep-16 10:34:26

Notting hill is central line commute to St. Paul's.

If you look on The Rightmove website for properties to rent, there is a schools checker tab, which will tell you which are the local schools. It will give you an Ofsted number, 1 is outstanding, 2 is good, 3 satisfactory. Only look at 1 and 2s. For more information, you can either
Google the school name and Ofsted or maybe click through from Rightmove to a full report about the school at the last inspection, which will tell you a bit about the culture there, behaviour, activities etc.

Kids travel free.

TinyTear Wed 14-Sep-16 10:58:08

notting hill is easy to st paul's, just get the central line.

hampstead is handy to get there too - northern to embankment and then circle to blackfriars (i work near there)

don't know about notting hill, but in hampstead there is usually a bit of movement in later years at primary school as many people move away - also a very international area with people from US, Canada, France, Japan, etc... so many end up moving throuhout the schooling system...

chamenager Wed 14-Sep-16 10:59:19

Applications for state school are based on your address. You will need a confirmed address in order to be able to apply - in some places, you will need to have already moved in. When a school place is offered, you are expected to take it up within days, or it may be offered to another child.

It is true that all 'desirable' state schools in London will be full, and you can only hope to get in by waiting list.

Once you have moved/have a confirmed address, you apply for a place, and the LEA offers you one - they are obliged to find you a place. However this place could well be in a random school that is generally seen as undesirable (hence places available) and it could be quite a distance away, requiring your child to travel for e.g. 45 minutes on public buses or such. In which case you'd probably decline the place. That means that the LEA is no longer obliged to find you a place. But at the same time you apply to the schools you wish your child to attend directly, and go onto their waiting lists. Your place on the waiting list is determined by how well you fulfil their admissions criteria. (If you are religious and would consider a faith school, it would be a good idea to find out now what faith criteria some of the faith schools in your chosen area apply. They may need a letter signed by your priest, or weekly signed church attendance slips, so it would be good to get started in collecting any such 'evidence'.)

Meanwhile, you HE your child.

Now in September 2017 (presumably) your eldest would be moving into Y3 which is Junior School (YR-Y2 are called Infant School). Some schools are through primaries, YR-Y6, but other schools are just Infant Schools or just Junior Schools (Y3-Y6). Junior Schools obviously have their main intake at Y3. Applications close on the 15th January 2017 at which point you need to be resident at the address you wish to apply from. So that would be a point to keep in mind! If you manage to have moved by then, your application to Junior School would be on equal footing as everybody else's (except where Junior Schools have named feeder Infant Schools and give first priority to children who have attended those schools).

Also it may be useful to know that in Infant School, YR-Y2, schools CANNOT (except in rare, exceptional circumstances) take more than 30 children per class - so when the school is full, it's full. However from Y3 onwards, they can and do take more, if space allows. So from next September, when your eldest would start Y3, you have much improved chances of getting into a school. The process then is that you apply for a place, are rejected due to being full, then you go to appeal.

One thing to perhaps consider: If you can afford to pay £3000 in rent, you could also consider living somewhere cheaper and paying part of that money for private school fees. There are some American Schools outside of London but within commuting distance. That would be something I'd consider, especially seeing as you are moving back to the US system after a quite short time.

Regarding your younger child, she qualifies for 15 hours free 'childcare' from the term after her 3rd birthday. So if your child was born Jan-Mar, it starts in summer term, if her birthday is April-Aug, it starts in Autumn term, and if it is Sept-Dec, it starts in Winter term. I think it is 30h if both parents work, or will be soon. These 15 hours can be taken up in private day nurseries, private or state nursery schools, or at qualified childminders. You can choose to send your child for fewer hours, or for more and pay for the difference. With childminders and private nurseries/nursery schools, you may be able to send your child sooner, but you will have to pay the fees up until your free funding kicks in.

Applications to these places are usually directly to the nursery/nursery school/childminder. You don't have to have moved already in order to secure a place, but you may have to pay a deposit (e.g. £50). Some will be flexible and take your child for e.g. 2 whole days (9-3) and a morning, others will have set times e.g. 5x 9-12.

Solasum Wed 14-Sep-16 11:06:35

Not all private nurseries will take the funded nursery hours.

princessna Wed 14-Sep-16 11:23:00

Something to think about is that £3000/month is not really a lot when it comes to London rental prices especially if looking at 2-3 bedroom place. Would definitely say Notting Hill is out of this price range (in my experience). You can try looking north with Northern Line running to Moorgate which is a short walk from St Paul's.

americexit Wed 14-Sep-16 17:16:18

Thanks again...lots to process. Might be freaking out a little bit. Deep breathes. It's all going to work out, right.

DH's company will be paying out relocation costs as well as provide us with some temporary housing for the first months when we arrive. We're still waiting to get a specific list of what the package includes. We're also not quite sure what his salary will be (he's up for a raise, then a COL increase, then conversion to pounds) so we may be able to afford more. We would prefer an unfurnished apartment (furnished apartments are uncommon here).

We are willing to sacrifice space for commute. My DH's hours are strict 8a-6p and we'd never see him if he had a 60-120 minute commute. For my mental state, I need to feel close to some action. Otherwise I will feel really isolated. I've read several places it's harder to meet people in the UK than the US.

All that said, I've looked at towns beyond NH...but I am not sure what areas are good (safe, walkable, close to grocery and other stores) and bad (crime, isolated, poor schools).

Shurelyshomemistake Wed 14-Sep-16 17:35:37

It's dead easy to meet people in the UK, particularly in big urban areas. Don't worry about that smile

Shurelyshomemistake Wed 14-Sep-16 17:36:32

Nowhere in London is truly isolated either.

mary21 Wed 14-Sep-16 18:07:07

Pick an area with lots of good schools so if your local school is full the one you are allocated will still be good. Richmond is one such place and very family orientated. You could have May be too far out for you. People say London isn,t friendly but if your children are at school/ nursery you will quickly meet people. If you want to be more central Greenwich may be worth a look. Nottinghill, Kensington and Chelsea will be very expensive.
Most areas in London are close to shops for groceries etc.
Yes schools are over subscribed but there is quite a mobile population so school places do come up.

MarmiteMakesMeHappy Wed 14-Sep-16 18:15:53

I came on to say Rich,one as well.

We live in East Sheen (in borough of Richmond). Low crime, leafy parks, gorgeous area, loads of families and no bad primaries. My DC primary is OFSTED Outstanding with a waiting list, but there does seem to be movement and spaces available every term.

I have lots of friends round Westbourne park and Notting Hill and if I visit in the evening it's a 20 minute drive via Barnes and Hammersmith.

And finally, I worked in St Pauls for a while. It was a bit if a schlep - around 50 mins - but that's pretty standard for living in London

Worth a look for sure.

MarmiteMakesMeHappy Wed 14-Sep-16 18:16:25


Stupid iPad

atticusclaw2 Wed 14-Sep-16 18:23:31

As an aside regarding your son. I would spend time getting him reading. If he's going into the second term of a year 2 class then the vast majority of the children will be reading and many will be free reading (which means they are off the book scheme). In order to get him settled as soon as possible and not make him feel like he is different I would really focus on that in the run up to your move.

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