London school guide by Dukes Education
On the British education system
The British education system is long-established with a strong sense of tradition, and yet is not afraid of progress. At the core of the educational offering from the UK’s most world-renowned schools is a well-balanced educational experience. High academic expectations and standards run parallel with outstanding facilities and abundant opportunities beyond the classroom, to develop all round excellence. The pupils benefit from teaching excellence and small class sizes, ultimately providing a platform to prepare them to go on to leading universities
Almost every parent planning to relocate who comes to me is, first and foremost, attempting to wrap their head around the building blocks and the terminology of the system. This, in itself, is highly challenging, with the British Education system being divided by age level (key stage) and by type of school. The very first step for every newcomer must be to educate themselves on what the school system looks like from end-to-end. This is particularly important because early choices at prep school level, for example, can have an impact on which senior school a student is able to attend.
Once parents have a strong grasp of the way the system works, they must begin as quickly as they can to develop an understanding of the admissions processes and how to navigate them successfully. This is, without question, the biggest challenge I find my clients facing when considering London as a destination. Though it can be daunting, I always reassure them that, although London’s dense population leads to highly competitive admissions at all key stages, it is also a very mobile city. Last-minute places can and do come up, even for the most sought-after schools.
On choosing a school in London
To choose a school in London you need to do three things: consider what suits your child and what he/she needs; research the options given your geographical location in London; and, most importantly, seek advice.
Good schools in the UK often vary more than schools in other countries and will offer students very different experiences. Researching each option individually is of the utmost importance. Not every academically excellent school will necessarily be the right school for your family.
Recently, I worked with a family who came to me with a specific school in mind, just because they recognised and knew the school’s name and reputation. However, through learning and admissions assessments such as a mock ‘Head’s Interview’, we were able to identify that elements such as learning preferences, pastoral care, and extracurricular activities meant there was another school in which their child was more likely to really flourish. I work with such families to find the sought-after places available at their match schools, and to help them make that crucial early contact with the school. I recommend seeking advice because this all-important process can be highly challenging for parents moving to London to do on their own, without the in-depth understanding of the school cultures, or the network in education to reach out to, to make early contact.
The advice given for preparation will depend on the age of the child. However, parents moving to London are often surprised to discover that they can expect a competitive process from the age of 3 upwards. The informal process at 3 develops into written assessments in at least Maths, English and Verbal Reasoning by the age of 7, and more beyond this age. Preparation, particularly if your child is coming from a different educational system, is as good as essential. Most of my clients find tuition highly beneficial, helping them to fill in any gaps between the syllabuses, prepare them for specific assessments, and immerse them in the new style of education they will experience in the UK.