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Moving back to the UK - Residency, In-Year places & Waitlists - Catch-22!

(30 Posts)
CataKiwi Mon 23-Nov-15 21:09:14

We're planning to move back to London from New Zealand in 2016 and the first peg in the ground is finding a secondary place for our 13 and 15 year olds starting in September. Both are musically gifted so we'd like to be able to find a school within commuting distance to the City to match.

This is the dilemma - Quite apart from the scarcity of in-year places anywhere, and the reluctance for schools to take in-year admissions for year 11, the Catch-22 is this : We can't waitlist until we are resident and we can't move until we have a school place because that determines where we live.

If we move immediately to get a good spot on a waitlist then our kids are going to be out of education, sitting on their hands for 6 months on the off chance something materialises.

There must be a way - we'd need some advice !

LIZS Mon 23-Nov-15 21:15:08

If you were to move sooner you might get offered places before September, which would particularly benefit your dc1. The only way to secure places in advance is in the independent system, is that a possibility even if only to y11/gcse. You may even then be able to negotiate going back a year to enable a 2 year gcse course.

LIZS Mon 23-Nov-15 21:28:25

I'm also not sure what you mean by a "good spot". Order on state school waiting lists isn't first come, first served but determined by criteria such as distance from home to school, sibling link, religion/parish where it is affiliated etc. Each school will differ. So if someone else applying moved closer or had a sibling admitted to another year , for example, your position could go down. Likewise if your dc2 got a place your dc1 might go up the list.

CataKiwi Mon 23-Nov-15 23:02:27

Thanks LIZS. I didn't realize waitlists were so dynamic. I'll look closely at some preferred schools for their order of priority and see what can be exploited there. The idea to repeat year 10 for our dc1 to transition into the GCSE mainstream is a good one although he might find it a bit socially unpalatable !

CataKiwi Mon 23-Nov-15 23:04:15

One other question : Are all councils obliged to find you a place if you live within the boundaries ?

tiggytape Mon 23-Nov-15 23:06:48

It really is a very chicken and egg dilemma.
Until you have an address - a UK one at least even if not your final UK destination - you cannot apply to schools. Until you are in a position to apply, no school can offer you a place.
It is not going to be possible for you to secure state school places from outside the UK and have them ready and waiting for you when you arrive to buy a house secure in the knowledge that you have definite school offers nearby.

Most people in this situation and in a position to live anywhere tend to try hedging their bets. So instead of moving to a town with one absolutely amazing school and 3 less good ones, they try to focus on areas where there are quite a few local schools that would be acceptable and hope at least one will have a space by the time they move there.

In busy cities many schools, especially popular ones will be full. You can appeal for a place after they officially reject you (but again you cannot do so from outside the UK) however that will take time and isn't guaranteed. So some people also try to focus on less crazy areas in terms of population density (although that is trickier in London) and aim for schools that they know have vacancies and hope those vacancies still exist by the time they manage to move and apply.

It may seem harsh but there is a general scarcity of school places and the system does not allow spaces to be saved or earmarked in advance. You have to be physically resident and in need of a place to apply and get one.

CataKiwi Mon 23-Nov-15 23:51:40

Thank you tiggytape for such a comprehensive response. It was rather naive of us to assume we could choose! If we had an address but the dcs were still in NZ, would that qualify as residency?

LIZS Tue 24-Nov-15 06:42:53

I think that would be a question to ask the LA . Surrey for example allow you to apply a month before moving from overseas, assuming you have a confirmed local address.

meditrina Tue 24-Nov-15 07:24:41

The only people who have the right to apply from a future address (whether abroad of within UK) are members of the Armed Forces on the strength of a posting order or a CO's letter, or other qualifying government staff (returning from abroad).

For everyone else, it is up to the LEA to decide if they want to do more than their stat obligations, and what their policy for those not yet resident will be. It is definitely something to ask your council.

Berthatydfil Tue 24-Nov-15 07:31:30

I don't think you will be able to get an out of year admission in the state sector so your 15 year old will probably go into year 11.
Independent sector may accommodate this though.
Do you have to move now ? It's going to be very hard for your 15 yo to catch up with less than a year to go to GCSEs.

prh47bridge Tue 24-Nov-15 08:06:14

As others say, each LA can set its own policy on when they will accept applications from families moving into the area. Some are more helpful than others when dealing with families moving in from outside the country. Many will insist that you exchange contracts on a house purchase or sign a rental agreement before accepting your application. A few will refuse to accept an application until you are actually living in the area.

Schools may be reluctant to accept new pupils in Y11 but ultimately they have no choice if they have a place available. If they are below PAN (Published Admission Number, i.e. the number of pupils they will admit to each year) in Y11 and you apply they must offer you a place.

I don't think you will be able to get an out of year admission in the state sector

If you want your child to enter out of year the LA and/or school (depending on the type of school) must look at your case individually and make a decision. They cannot simply impose a blanket policy. Given that the government has signalled its intention to allow parents to decide if their child should go into a different year some LAs/schools will be more willing to accept this than previously. However, it is still likely that most will refuse.

DeepBlueLake Tue 24-Nov-15 08:05:59

Could you prolong the move by one year? that way the 15yo won't be falling slap bang in the middle of GCSEs and come at the start of A Levels having completed level 1 NCEA.

If not possible, NZ and UK education are very similar, especially in subjects like English, Maths and Science. So I don't think it will be a total disaster if you move at the beginning of year 11 if your child is fairly academically able. Just there will be a lot of catching up in subjects like Geography, history etc with case study notes.

Ancienchateau Tue 24-Nov-15 08:24:52

I was going to suggest waiting a year. Where I am from (SW London/Surrey) for example, there is a lot of movement after Year 11 when DC move to colleges or private schools to take a'levels which frees up space in (the many new) state 6th forms. If your elder DC gets a place, your younger DC will move higher up the list as a sibling and will be able to start the 2 year GCSE course without having to cram.

CataKiwi Tue 24-Nov-15 08:56:30

Thank you all so much for your help - Mumsnet clearly never sleeps. Although we are quite deeply invested in the idea, we will need to take a deep breath and face up to the practicality of it and ultimately what is best for the kids. We will be visiting London in January for a few days to pick a few more brains !

@DeepBlueLake - do you know if NCEA is recognised in the UK and would therefore support a 16+ application ?

OneMoreCasualty Tue 24-Nov-15 09:01:40

The LA should not let your children sit out of education for six months - if you moved tomorrow I would expect you to have a space somewhere either shortly before or shortly after Xmas. The converse of this is that if you are offered an in year place, you have to take it up within a reasonable time (reasonableness varies but a matter of weeks not months)

OneMoreCasualty Tue 24-Nov-15 09:04:49

And yes, each council is obliged to find you some kind of school space in a reasonable timeframe. Not becessarily close by or for both kids in the same school.

mummytime Tue 24-Nov-15 09:09:50

My DDs Sixth form college has quite a few students arrive from overseas, and works hard to find out he most appropriate courses for them. Her previous school also had someone arrive (from Greece I think) in year 11 and designed a timetable to enable her to get 5 GCSEs in a year.

For music there are lots of good opportunities for extra curricula music, and if they are good you might want to consider one of the music colleges' Saturday schools.

DeepBlueLake Tue 24-Nov-15 10:18:29

I am mostly sure that Level 1 NCEA is GCSEs, Level 2 is AS and Level 3 is A Level.

I am sure NCEA is widely known in the UK and so long as your child gets decent grades like merit or excellence endorsed in Level 1 (just depending on what the grade requirements were for the 6th form) they should get accepted into 6th form and like mummytime says there will be a few international students around. It certainly won't be unknown to them.

I have never had any problems with my NCEA grades being on my CV for applying to jobs here in the UK.

I take it your eldest is currently y10 in NZ and going into y11 next year?

catslife Tue 24-Nov-15 12:13:11

I agree with the previous poster that you need to check carefully which year groups your children will be in as the NZ school year and UK school year aren't the same they could be different.
I have a dd (who has just turned 16) in Y11 in the UK my DB has a dd almost a year younger (just turned 15) who will be starting Y11 in NZ in January.
In London (and most big cities in the UK) they are used to pupils relocating from abroad and the fact they are moving from an English speaking country is an advantage. Even independent schools would be reluctant to educate an English speaking pupil out of year group.
I wouldn't expect the curriculum to be that different for Maths, English and Science. However there could be some differences in History, Geography and MFL. Music grades from Associated board for playing or theory are international and therefore transfer from one country to another. Grade 5 is roughly equivalent to GCSE for both playing and theory and some sixth forms may accept this instead of GCSE.

CataKiwi Tue 24-Nov-15 21:45:03

Our 15 yr old DS will start yr 11 in NZ in January and it will be the first year of national standard exams (NCEA). He'll be 16 next October.

The timing of results might be an issue as he would sit the exams in Oct-Nov 2016 with results coming out in January 2017 - after the 16+ intake in the UK? He's currently Grade 8 piano and also composes actively so there should be some specialist music channels we can explore. He's a GATE student (as is our DD) so I would expect his grades to be good.

Thanks again - you are all making this easier for us to get our heads around !

tiggytape Tue 24-Nov-15 22:26:53

If he turned 15 last month then he would be in the current Year 10 in England.
Those children go into Year 11 in September 2016
Year 11 is the GCSE year - the year that they take exams for the subjects they have chosen to study. The exams are taken in the summer of 2017.

Music ability is very rarely considered in terms of school places. There are some state schools where music aptitude (not ability necessarily) can lead to priority for a place in Year 7 (the time when children all move to secondary school) but such schools are very rare. At this age, it might be more a case of ensuring the schools you look at or strive to move close to have strong music departments, orchestras, choirs etc and then supplementing school work with lessons and extras outside school.

JellyTipisthebest Wed 25-Nov-15 05:21:46

I think the tricky this is the age of your children. If you can get to the uk befor the younger one starts uk year 10 but after eldest one has done ncea so could do years 12 and 13 in the uk might be best. It you choose a 6 form collage it might not mater if he starts 6mth late. From what I know about ncea which is not much have a dd in year 9 also in Gate it seams that its a lot more working on your own and self learning that gcse's are. (we have been here nearly 3 years. I did gcse's)
In the uk children starts school the sept after they turn 4 and go into year R then it goes years 1- 13
My dd is in year 9 here but goes into year 10 after Christmas in the UK she would be in year 9 and not move into year 10 until next sept she her her birthday between sept and dec

It does seam so much easier to move uk to nz good luck it so hard tiring to work out what is the best for our kids so the education is ok

catslife Wed 25-Nov-15 08:32:16

I would recommend looking at international schools for your eldest child as these often have a January intake for pupils moving from the Southern hemisphere. (I used to work in one outside London which had students arriving from Malaysia etc.) Unfortunately most international schools are fee paying. State sixth forms don't (usually) have a January intake - all pupils start in September. Further education (FE) colleges may run short courses for 16+ year olds starting in January which could be an option for a few months while he applies for state sixth form joining in with his UK peer group in September. The deadline for sixth form applications is approx December-Feb for a September start.

Potterwolfie Wed 25-Nov-15 19:13:08

We moved back to the UK earlier this year, into the house we had owned for 12 years prior to living overseas for three years, and even with an address, we weren't permitted to apply for a high shool place until our feet were physically back in the property. We appealed and were successful in getting a place at our heavily oversubscribed preferred school, but it was a horribly stressful time.

My advice would be to listen to the likes of prh, admissions and tiggy...their advice is always invaluable!

CataKiwi Wed 25-Nov-15 20:30:11

Thanks @Potterwolfie - out of curiosity, what was the basic argument you used for your successful appeal ? We have even heard of people who attempt to apply using a friend's address but the schools must surely be too wily for that.

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