moving to UK for job in London - where to live, 3 kids...

(113 Posts)
milenalee Sat 14-Mar-15 10:49:37

Hello,

We are US citizens who have three children who have been attending the local German speaking Swiss schools for the last two and half years. My husband found a job he loves in London and so we must move...

Our kids are 9 years old in 3rd grade which I think is 4th class, 10 almost 11 in 5th grade (6th class?), and 12 in 6th grade.

We don't have a place yet. I would like to use state schools but we could sell our house in Seattle and use private schools. Perhaps we should for the girls and perhaps a girls' school would be better. But it's not a must of course.

What I don't want to do is move them around a lot. It's already tough for them to move and start a new school. I don't want to have to move them again once they do start a new school, unless it's the natural progression and all the kids are new.

My son has something called auditory processing disorder and is somewhat dyslexic. His education needs are very different from his sisters but he is also clearly in elementary school whereas they are already in secondary. At least his needs narrow down the pool of schools to consider.

Where would you choose to live if you had three children these ages? Generally I like to walk places but do not need to live in a city, rather hate crowded cityness. My husband would rather not commute more than 45 minutes to an hour each way.

It will be at least two months before my husband can start working. He has to get the visa first. So even if we rent a place early we cannot apply to local schools? If he is resident and we are still waiting for the kids to finish their year can we then apply?

Thanks so much for any advice.

WhatsGoingOnEh Sat 14-Mar-15 10:57:51

Move to Thames Ditton. I lived there and it's amazing. It's in Surrey, a suburb, and a very pretty village 25 minutes from Waterloo on the rain. Rent a house. Send your son to Thames Ditton Junior school which was a brilliant special-needs unit. Your girls can go to Hinchley Wood secondary school, an "outstanding" school just 10 minutes' walk away. None of these schools is private, they're just really good state schools.

As soon as you have a rental agreement you can apply for places, but they won't allocate your kids places until you're actually living there. Apply for places with Elmbridge Borough Council.

WhatsGoingOnEh Sat 14-Mar-15 10:59:08

Not was, HAS a brilliant special needs unit!

tomandizzymum Sat 14-Mar-15 11:02:41

You're going to get thousands of recommendations from all over London. To be honest each place is much like any other. All with ups and downs. You can go with a state girls school. Plenty of them and most of them are very good.
Areas outside London like Kent and Surrey have Grammar Schools as well, which attracts many but depending on where you are it may be more than 45 minutes commute.

As a Londoner I would recommend Clapham, Putney, Wandsworth, Chiswick, Kingston, Balham, Teddington or Ealing. There are other nice areas I just don't know them well. Avoid places like Streatham or Croydon. But that's just my personal opinion. Many live in those places and like them.

tomandizzymum Sat 14-Mar-15 11:05:58

add Blackheath, Dulwich and Greenwich to that list.

Finola1step Sat 14-Mar-15 11:13:45

The starting point could be looking at where exactly your husband will be working, what his transport links will be (underground and main train line) and work from there.

So for example, if he will be based a short walk from London Bridge station, then look at south London and Kent. But if he will be Paddington or Kings Cross based, your search area will be very different.

GoldenBeagle Sat 14-Mar-15 11:20:40

Not sure why you would avoid Streatham as it has excellent transport links, top state schools and a growing clutch of excellent cafes and neighbourhood restaurants.

But I agree, it is the route into work that is important.

The other issue is the difficulty in getting school places 'in year' - which means outside the usual admissions timetable.

Thames Ditton would be a lovely place to live - is the school over-subscribed, WhatsGoingOn?

tiggytape Sat 14-Mar-15 11:39:05

In reality, you will be looking for 2 different schools as the 12 year old will be at secondary school and the youngest ones will be at primary school. Your middle one is currently primary school aged until September when she will be of secondary school age.
If private is an option, many go from age 3 to age 18 but you very rarely get that in the state sector.

As you will be applying for places in-year when many schools are full, it is often best to look for an area with a variety of good schools rather than focus on one fantastic school surrounded by less desirable ones. This increases your chances of getting an allocated school that you are happy with. The council cannot create places - it can only give you a place in a school with a vacancy.

You cannot apply for a place until the children are physically resident in the UK. Not only is this part of the admissions procedure but, from a practical point of view, once the council allocates a school you have a week or two at most to accept the place and to start attending the school. They won't allocate a school and allow you to hold onto that place for weeks or months without starting. As soon as the move is complete though, you can apply straight away.

If you are not happy with initial allocations, you can be added to waiting lists of any schools that you prefer but which are full in the year groups you need. Living close to a school often gives you higher priority on the list than those who live further away even if they have been waiting much longer.

traviata Sat 14-Mar-15 11:44:34

The really important question is where your husband's job is based. It can take 2 hours to cross from one side of London to the other, so you really do need to start with his travel needs, as pps have said.

milenalee Sat 14-Mar-15 11:50:04

Thanks so much Whatsogoingon, tomanddizzymum, Finola1step and Golden Beagle.

My husband will be working near Liverpool station.

The big challenge with the London city area I suspect is applying so late to schools, I fear the good state ones will be full and only not great ones left...??

I was thinking of Brighton, just because it narrows down the search and it is always nice to be near the ocean. The commute looks just doable. It might even help my husband to have a train ride where he can get some work done. My oldest and youngest are ok with cities, but my middle child is very frightened by traffic, crowds, etc. So I'm not sure she will be ok with living in the city. We have always lived in places with lots of parks and very walkable. But it's hard to know if one child's preferences should dictate. Still, the others will be fine without cityness, only my husband would really benefit from being close to work and he likes the buzz of cities (but can be ok without it too).

milenalee Sat 14-Mar-15 11:53:49

One question: you have to be resident to apply but they don't hold places... but applying usually happens the previous october... so they must be holding places for early applicants, no?

How can they tell if the children are resident? If the parent is working and paying taxes but the children are finishing school elsewhere are you quite sure they can't apply to the local schools? Would it be better for them to start a new school at the very end of this years' school year? Because realistically we can't move until earliest June....

LIZS Sat 14-Mar-15 12:04:27

Hate to be the bearer of bad news but commuting from Brighton may well not be as straightforward and easy to work at peak hours, especially getting a seat for the journey home. He'd need to arrive at London Bridge which is undergoing significant building work for next few years then take bus/tube. Aside from that it is expensive to commute that far and live there. Look at a rail map and locations along lines into LB, Liverpool St and maybe Kings Cross. School places will be a gamble and unless you are going private you would have to wait to apply until you arrive. Your middle child would be moving from primary to secondary this summer but if you move soon you may yet get secondary place via waiting list in time for September start.

tomandizzymum Sat 14-Mar-15 12:10:30

GoldenBeagleI said it's my personal opinion, others like it, I just find it depressing.
I would think you can apply if your husband is a resident. Usually to apply for a school place via the local council though you need to provide proof of the childen's residency (such as their NHS registration number) but you will be applying directly to the schools so their criterea may be different. Be aware though that if the children are not actually residents yet then they will go to the bottom of the waiting lists. I would think that at year 4 and 6 (which you will be applying for) there will be very few children waiting for a place but don't rely on it. We left the UK when two of our children were in Year 3 and 5 and the places were filled immediatly (oversubscribed primary) so it will very much depend on the school. For good schools in Year 7 there will be waiting lists.

LIZS Sat 14-Mar-15 12:11:28

What do you mean by early applicants? Almost every 11 year old has just received the initial result of their October application which the vast majority will accept even if they go on a waiting list for another preferred school in case of movement between now and summer.

tomandizzymum Sat 14-Mar-15 12:18:23

I don't know what your budget is but property in Brighton can be similar prices to London and train fares are stupidly over priced. Have you considered Cambridge or Essex as an alternative? Cambridge is a fantastic city with fantastic schools. Essex is close to the coast. Also for Liverpool street you might want to look at East London. Lots of up and coming areas.

LIZS Sat 14-Mar-15 12:21:41

A lot of expat families live in the Weybridge, Cobham , Woking and SW London border area with Surrey to be near ACS campuses, which you may find more akin to your background. London and to an extent Brighton are very urban , far more so than cities in CH.

ragged Sat 14-Mar-15 12:24:58

Many parts of London are very walkable with nice parks and not usually that crowded.
I think you need to give an idea what your budget is for housing, and what your minimum housing requirements are (how many bedrooms, do you want to run a car & need parking included, etc). That will determine a huge amount.

TooSpotty Sat 14-Mar-15 12:26:50

Brighton to Liverpool Street would be quite a trek, and way more than an hour. You might want to think about Hertfordshire and Essex where you could be closer to the countryside if you think you'd prefer that?

Having said that, most of London has plenty of parks, and outside very central London you'll find it easy to see green space.

For schools, the applications for new starters at 5 and 11 close in January (primary) and October (secondary). Children do not then find out what place they have till the spring before they start in September. Any other child applying at any other age will be treated as an in-year applicant, and so sits outside that process. Your middle child would be the only one that would be the position of needing a place in the first year of a school (year 7) unless you end up in one of the rare places with middle schools. They are likely to be the hardest to place as schools start off full and places may then appear as the kids progress through the school. Any popular state school will be full in year 7 already so that will be your biggest challenge.

If your son has a diagnosed learning disability and requires additional support, he may be eligible for a statement (the name for this has recently changed but you'll find most people still using or understanding this term). I'm not sure how quickly you'd be able to achieve this as your local authority needs to organise assessments, although it may be speedier if you have existing evidence of support needs and diagnosis etc. but it's unlikely to be in place before he starts school. Nevertheless it would enable you to specify a school that can meet his needs, so it's worth exploring.

WhatsGoingOnEh Sat 14-Mar-15 12:29:42

The council (which allocates school places) looks for proof of residence. Such as a Council Tax bill (the tax you pay for living in a house in a certain area), where your kids currently go to school, bills for gas and electricity, etc.

It's stressful applying for a school place before you move. I did it last year and it was nerve-wracking! But the schools staff were lovely on the phone abd really helpful.

They won't "hold" any places for out-of-town applicants. The first kids to get the places will be the most local, or the ones with siblings already in that school. But the waiting list will change ALL the time as families move in and out of the area.

When I applied for my youngest son to go to Thames Ditton Infant school, he didn't have the first round of school places so was was put on the waiting list. We were actually allocated a place at a school 4 miles away! (I was so upset.) That was in the April. By June, he had got a place as a family with twins had moved out of the area, freeing up two places.

I really miss it there. I moved due to divorce and having to buy my own house - I couldn't afford to buy there so I moved away to my hometown. Again, I had to apply for school places at a weird time, but it was (again) fine. Although the schools here, which aren't as good, are more over-subscribed than in TD! There have been about 60,000,000 houses built in my hometown and all the schhols are full. sad

milenalee Sat 14-Mar-15 12:33:10

Yes I see from victoria to liverpool adds 25 minutes! OK cross that. Does everyone think it is best to move earlier and have them not finish their year here? THen we would be applying in June instead of July.

I do hope I can get the girls into the same school!

WhatsGoingOnEh Sat 14-Mar-15 12:34:37

I second NOT going for Brighton. It's way too far away. There are three international schools in Surrey, and the county is leafy, pretty, with good commuter links. (Wahh! I sound so homesick!!!) Plus there's loads of historic things, like Hampton Court Palace, the Royal parks (Bushy Park, etc); there are three racecourses, motorways to everywhere else in the UK, it's only 90 minutes to drive from Surrey to the coast for holidays... Why did I ever move... ;)

TooSpotty Sat 14-Mar-15 12:37:20

There'll be no difference in all likelihood between applying in June or July.

If you get your older girl into a school, your younger will automatically go to the top of the waiting list as a sibling (as long as this is school policy so do check). That would make her very likely to get a place in September as it is pretty common for kids not to turn up at the start of the year, even in very popular schools. If not September, then soon after. But be prepared for a nerve-wracking wait and for her to perhaps attend a school you're less happy with while you wait.

WhatsGoingOnEh Sat 14-Mar-15 12:37:43

It might be better to move in June. But it really depends on how many kids want places at the schools. Honestly, choose an area that looks promising, and ring the Schools Application Department in that local council. They'll tell you how many kids are on the waiting list, and if there'd be any places in the current years. They'd be helpful! They'd also tell you what you need to do, and by when.

LIZS Sat 14-Mar-15 12:37:55

Probably June would be slightly better than July but as long as t s early July (which iirc Swiss school terms do) it probably won't make much difference. Uk state schools close 3rd week July to End August so that period is more tricky to get responses.

WhatsGoingOnEh Sat 14-Mar-15 12:39:34

I'd say move in June, as most families moving into an area will do it in the summer holidays (end of July through August) if they can. So if you swoop in in June, your kids will nab places that might easily be full by September.

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