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Help: Would you move a reluctant 16 yr old from India to the UK for A levels?IB diploma

(65 Posts)
BetteDavisthighs Wed 11-Sep-19 12:22:33

Hi, I posted this in Living Overseas but am also posting it here.

Hello. I am new here and looking for help with a v difficult situation. Pl be gentle! Sorry, this will be long but I am trying not to drip feed.I am a life-long expat and trailing spouse of Indian origin. Moved around a lot when kids younger, now back in Mumbai, India ( my hometown) for the last 6 years. My husband just got word that his job here has been eliminated. He has been offered a new job in London, but not on an expat package as previously. ( his employer is phasing out expat packages), so no school and rent covered. He is 50 and there are v few jobs in his industry, so not much negotiation possible.

DS is 15, and in Grade 10 of the IGCSE and doing v well at an academic IB school which sends most of the class to Ivy Leagues/Russell Group unis overseas. I assumed he would move with us after finishing out Grade 10 here, but he has surprised me by announcing that he does not want to move for the next 3 years. His suggestion: he asks my mom to move in with him and he finishes out his entire education in India. ( he's not keen on boarding school) For reference, he is v close to my mom who is in good health, and extremely savvy in all things to do with teens. ( not the typical Indian mom). He also suggests that I go back and forth between London and Mumbai, spending 6 months in each so he gets some supervision and help.

I have lived in the UK before and love it, and am so excited to return, even to Brexit Britain. But
have been told by British friends that it is extremely difficult to move kids at age 16. Also, I am told that he will not be able to adapt to state school, so I will have to fork out a ridiculous sum for private schools. I am open to him moving to A levels ( considering Southbank and the usual trio of Kings, St Paul's and City of London Boys). We can just about afford it as it's only for two years, and we have considerable savings and rental income. It might be worth it to keep the family together. But I am worried that he will take so long to adapt that he might mess up his A levels or the IBDP, and then his college chances will be blighted. At the same time, i think it's such a good opportunity for him to travel. But I guess he is no longer an expat child and is now more Indian than expat.

What would you do? I fear either option is going to end up a big mess. DH thinks moving kids at age 16 to a v different country is too tough to contemplate, I think he should suck it up ( but am not sure).

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LIZS Wed 11-Sep-19 12:36:08

A lot of dc move from overseas into the U.K independent system for sixth form boarding. You would be restricted by I.B schools but not overly so. Unless you need to live in central London there are schools in the suburbs which would cost less and be inclusive. Have a look at Whitgift in Croydon for example which offers both IB and A levels and has a diverse intake. Also offers full/weekly boarding if travel were an issue ( although a reasonable train ride from Victoria anyway). I would suspect your ds is fearing the unknown and reluctant to change system.

BetteDavisthighs Wed 11-Sep-19 12:42:54

LIZS, thanks for your input. I don't need to cling to the IB, which by all accounts is very stressful. As he's done his IGCSE, he can move to A levels as well, as he may well decide to continue his education in the UK. I am hoping for some diversity. But am not sure if he will get into the selective schools for sixth form. He's intelligent. but prob not brilliant? Am considering visiting them in November so he can get an idea of the schools there to reduce a fear of the unknown. I just think London is such a great place for a football mad teen!

Dh will have to commute to Canary Wharf, but he is willing to change trains, and do whatever it takes.

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berlinbabylon Wed 11-Sep-19 13:03:23

I would have said that it was easy to move at 16+, and there are lots of fantastic state schools, although I am not sure about funding for someone who has been non-resident even if he's British?

Can't see why he couldn't adapt to state school, lots of kids move from private to state at 16.

Do you need to live in London? If the job is in Canary Wharf your husband could commute from a lot of places where there are good sixth form colleges or school sixth forms.

Amrapaali Wed 11-Sep-19 13:12:14

Kids can definitely adapt. I know a few friends who have come here from India with teen kids. (It seems much more difficult GOING to India at that age)

The main question is: does your DS want to come? If he is reluctant, he may not commit fully to the new school/country/environs IYSWIM? But yes practically it is possible. GOOD luck smile

QuaterMiss Wed 11-Sep-19 13:13:11

I’d have said the only good reason for changing schools at any stage is either an unavoidable parental move, in the case of a younger child, or a noticeable improvement in academic prospects. From what you say there would be no such improvement. He’s doing well at a good school, with great university prospects. So why move him? Particularly when there is a clear plan which would enable him to stay where he is.

If you’re keen for him to experience teenage life in England then surely he, rather than you, could travel for some holidays.

I honestly can’t see the advantage in moving a reluctant teen at such a crucial time.

FanDabbyFloozy Wed 11-Sep-19 13:55:59

What about 6th form at a grammar if he's academic enough to get in with his results? The disclaimer is that I don't know how the more academic state and private schools are viewing iGCSEs now that the GCSE is more prevalent.

I would worry that if you leave him in India, he will elect to spend his university years there and the family will be split up for a very long time.

I would move him after his iGCSEs whether private or state.

Comefromaway Wed 11-Sep-19 15:03:56

When is he 16? Is he due to take his IGCSE's next year in May? If so, then moving during the summer after exams have finished is the ideal time.

It would be incredibly difficult to move him if he is not due to take his exams until May/June 2021.

However A levels are very different to what he may have expected with the IB and it's a big ask to ask someone who has clear expectations of what his pathway would be to move. I'd allow him some choice at this stage in his education.

BetteDavisthighs Wed 11-Sep-19 15:25:45

Thank you all for the thoughtful replies; clearly a difficult decision because everybody has a different opinion. My own opinion changes every few hours.

I am struck by the posters who said it is easy to move at 16, and after a bit more research I realised that there will be a lot of new students at sixth form including girls! smile He is used to a co-ed school. So maybe I am being too cautious.

Amrapaali, assume you are Indian by the name. Yes, certainly it is much harder to move to India than the other way around, but DS seems to have got used to the noise and chaos, or just made good friends, I guess, whom he is reluctant to leave. smile As for wanting to come, he is not keen but not digging his heels in either, if you know what I mean. Maybe might change his mind.

Quatermiss, I hear you. I am just worried that the IBDP is so intense he may not be able to come out to visit us and his dad, who has very little annual leave, will lose touch with him.

Fandab, in re your point. "I would worry that if you leave him in India, he will elect to spend his university years there and the family will be split up for a very long time."

I think this is unlikely. Further education in India is quite poor and he is keen on either the UK or the US ( where I have close family). The US will of course mean more being apart.

Comeformaway, sorry if I was unclear. He will be 16 in May 2020 and also doing his exams then. So if I move him, it will be in right after his exams, in May-June 2020. My older daughter ( who is off at Uni) did the A levels and I think they are much easier and less stressful than the IB.

I am thinking of maybe trying for a few sixth form schools and see how he does. Maybe he might really love London when he comes to see it ( he hasnt been there for some time).

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nowaytoclever Wed 11-Sep-19 18:23:50

@BetteDavisthighs I am of Indian origin too and my personal choice (it's personal, so please take it for what it is) would be to do as your DS says. I have a DS who is a similar age and they go through so many changes at this time and I would be hesitant about adding one more major change to the mix. Changing a school system is hard in itself, finding new friends as a teenager is hard, finding new hobbies/communities etc is hard and if he struggles with even one of these aspects, it might affect his confidence. More importantly, I would keep his schooling to the "known" so he can go to the best possible universities after school. I look at IB schools in Mumbai and their entry results into UK uni is FAR more impressive than the entry results from a regular UK state school (I am generalising, but you get the idea). He is more likely to do academically better where he is.

However, parental control/support is very important at this stage as well and I would do what is needed to give him that, which may involve you spending a lot of time in India with him.

JoJoSM2 Wed 11-Sep-19 19:31:26

I also think it should be quite easy to move for A Levels. And don't worry about needing to go private. There are some great state options especially if he's very academic. There are Sixth Forms attached to grammar schools (selective state schools) where pupils do achieve excellent results and university admissions. One of the examples is Wilson's School (also on the London Bridge line and then 2 stops to Canary Wharf).

This is the website where you can compare the stats for different state and private sixth forms.

In terms of your son's reluctance, might it help to fly him over to have a look around? Maybe take him to open days at schools. Also promise a long holiday at home to spend time with grandma and see his friends.

BarbariansMum Wed 11-Sep-19 21:25:39

No, I wouldnt move him unless he really wanted to be moved. I'd wait til 18 then think about the UK for uni.

leonardthelemming Wed 11-Sep-19 22:58:17

We had the opposite problem, although it was more than 20 years ago. DS2 did his IGCSEs at an IB school in Southern Africa. I was working as a teacher at the same school.

During the run-up to his exams he announced that there was no way he was prepared to do the IB diploma. Instead he wanted to do a specific combination of A levels which relatively few schools offered, one of which was in fact a state 14-18 school near our house in the UK. He proposed that he go there and live independently for the two years.

We were horrified taken aback but on reflection realized that it would be perfectly legal and that under UK law there wasn't really much we could do to stop him - not from moving out, at least, since by then he would be 16. We did suggest alternatives but he wouldn't even consider boarding school (having boarded for a couple of years previously). And there were no suitable relatives he could live with. So in the end, and with a certain degree of trepidation, we agreed.

We supported him financially of course, and in the event it all went very well. And he taught himself to cook...
Obviously we visited when we could, and he was happy that he could do his chosen course.

But I think this sort of thing depends very much on the individual. Some people may not be ready to live independently, or simply not want to. On the other hand, it might be another option to consider - for you to leave and him to stay, assuming that would be possible/legal in India. Of course, if your mother were to be willing to move in, and that's what he prefers, then that would be an even simpler solution. I certainly don't think you should force him to move to the UK. Can you even do that?

Michaelahpurple Thu 12-Sep-19 08:06:03

Definitely think bringing him over for a look around makes sense - see if you can enthuse him.

On independent options, consider city of London boys school - is much cheaper than some other options because of sponsorship from the City Corporation, excellent results and ethnically diverse student body (as have most London schools - ds2 is at westminster and more than half the boys in his year in his house are Indian or of Indian descent) but isn't as hard to get into as Paul's etc

dontpanicmrmainwaring Thu 12-Sep-19 15:01:09

op there are online schools that teach A level. eg interhigh, my online schooling. Would that be an option at all? then he gets to stay and he/ you gets the education?

physicskate Fri 13-Sep-19 01:20:48

Is he a British citizen? Would your husband get a tier 2 or Tier 2 Ict (if he also is not British)?

16 vs 18 could make a huge difference for visas...

BetteDavisthighs Fri 13-Sep-19 08:00:24

Thank you all for your v kind replies. I am v grateful that a MN first poster has got so much help. I will try to reply; apologies if I leave anyone out. I had another talk with DS yesterday and he is not completely opposed to the idea of moving. He has also agreed to visit schools ( both public and private), do the exams, see how they look, and then decide. DS is definitely a calm, reasonable teen ( or as calm as they get) and is not prone to drama or yelling. Likes to talk things over and make a reasoned decision slowly.

I really do not want to take advantage of my mom's good nature to do my parenting ( haven't even asked her yet), and I also worry terribly that DS may think we have left him behind because it's more convenientsad I have friends in London who said " Honestly it will be so much cheaper and more convenient to leave him behind" and that made me feel quite sad. I don't want him to feel like left baggage!

I am also not going to think of money at this stage because we have spent years saving on an expat salary- no expensive clothes, no posh cars- and I want to use it, if needed, to keep the family together.

nowaytoclever: understand entirely that these are v personal choices and I am not offended by your advicesmile . IB schools in India do often have great results. I don't know how since the teachers are often rubbish! I will say though that DS, while academic, is also pretty sporty, plays football and is an obsessive Spurs fan! The world seems to be much smaller these days, so am hoping he may make friends easier, given all the kids are doing the same things.

Michaelahpurple: I appreciate your mention of the ethnic diversity in London schools. I would like a bit of that certainly, though my daughter who is at uni overseas has made friends from every country possible, and is v clear she does not want to hang out with other Indianssmile So DS may be that way once he gets used to the idea. English is our first language so no language or similar issues.

Physicskate: we are all Indian citizens. Lived in the UK before but for only 2.5 years; not enough to stay. My husband will get a Tier 2 General Visa ( not intra company transfer). I am not sure about what you mean about 16 versus 18. Do you mean if we want to aim for an ILR in the future? I haven't yet gone into the intricacies of the ILR. Definitely plan to do so soon, but it's 5 years away anyway, and who knows where we will all be.

Leonard: what a brave decision! Glad it turned out ok. DS wd definitely not be able to live on his own, but would be a easy going ward for granny, if that is what we decide.

I may report back here once we finish going around London schools.

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AnotherNewt Fri 13-Sep-19 08:13:11

King's used to offer only IB after GCSE, now it offers A levels as well, so that is probably the school in London to go for.

But never underestimate the importance of your teen being happy. Moving school is a big thing, and even those who actively want to do it can find it tough to settle in to school routines and fit in socially, and by the first Christmas almost a third of the active teaching time has passed. Add an international move, and a teen who does not want to do this, and it becomes very challenging.

If you can afford London school fees without terror, then you can probably afford plenty of flights (for you to pop over, and for him to come to you every holiday)

If you are looking ahead to university fees, read up on UKCISA

LIZS Fri 13-Sep-19 08:15:27

Think at 16 he would be viewed as a dependant but possibly not as an 18yo.

physicskate Fri 13-Sep-19 09:21:42

If he would like a realistic prospect of being able to stay in the uk long term, he should come with you at 16 as he would be able to get a Tier 2 dependent visa. He would then be eligible for ilr after 5 years, provided your husband remains a TIer 2 worker and he remains your dependent (which can include being a student). This would enable him to take up any work he wishes upon leaving university.

If he decides to go to a uk university and move at 18, he would need a TIer 4 visa which does not lead to ILR and he would almost certainly have to leave the UK after university (though a two year post study work visa is possibly reintroduced, it won't lead to settlement). If 18 upon initial entry, he would need to qualify for all visas in his own right.

I know 5 years can seem a terribly long time, but should you decide to stay in the UK long term with your son, he needs to come with you when you immigrate, or it could shut the door on you all living in the same country.

BetteDavisthighs Fri 13-Sep-19 12:54:08

Physicskate and Lizs,

Completely appreciate your views on the ILR issue. You are lovely to take the time to explain this. I am exploring this with a lawyer and it will be a consideration.

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physicskate Fri 13-Sep-19 13:34:05

In my (extensive) experience on uk immigration fora, lawyers don't always have the expertise they claim... I'm happy to point you in the right direction too, if you need some guidance.

JoJoSM2 Fri 13-Sep-19 13:44:09

If your son is academic and sporty, have a look at Whitgift School.

Sherry19 Fri 13-Sep-19 14:02:13

The biggest adjustment will be to the weather!

Good luck to you both and hope it works out for the best.

I'd prefer to keep my kids with me - if at all possible. Why not bring him over for a visit if you can get some cheap-ish tickets before next summer? You could have a look around some schools together?

Also, you could pop on some London-focused movies. Notting Hill, Paddinton 2 etc :D That might do the trick!

BetteDavisthighs Sat 14-Sep-19 10:37:47

I have to say I am quite taken aback at the complicated procedures for entrance tests, interviews, then conditional offers: the whole shebang necessary for the selective schools. And then a conditional offer dependant on IGCSE grades. Some schools are ok with us taking the test here at the British Council, but others want us to come all the way to the UK for the test, then come back again for the interview!

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