Securing a school place out of term time

Schools are rising to the challenge of supporting the last-minute moves often demanded by today’s fast-paced global business world. We find out what it takes to secure a school place at short notice.

UWC South East Asia

UWC South East Asia

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The following article is from Relocate Global's Guide to International Education & Schools 2017. Packed with information on education around the world with expert tips for those relocating and the professionals supporting them, the guide is a must read for:
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Finding school places for their relocatees when schools have broken up, particularly over the long summer break, can be a headache for HR teams managing international assignments and domestic relocations. However, if the business is driving a move, HR global mobility professionals and their outsourced relocation management companies have to deal with it.Luckily, destination services providers and education consultants are well versed in helping families to move at short notice.With the oil and gas industry still depressed and the mining industry cutting back, organisations in these sectors have been pulling employees out of certain locations, which obviously affects schools in these areas, and international schools in particular. This can enable parents from other sectors to find places.Certainly, with so much global economic turmoil and, in the UK, the triggering of Article 50 following the result of the EU referendum, there will inevitably be companies reviewing their relocation plans. There is also a lot of project activity and movement around growth.Of course, this can mean inbound and outbound moves to the relocation hotspots highlighted in various global mobility reports, and to lesser-known destinations, too. As emerging markets become more mature, they are looking for inward investment opportunities, as well as attracting companies keen to get a foothold in new markets. Inevitably, this will impact on employees with families.What can be done to keep up with business drivers? Fortunately, there are plenty of options, and schools are becoming more practised at supporting last-minute moves and flagging up late availability of places in individual year groups.International schools, in particular, have a long track record of stepping into the breach when employers need additional places. At Relocate, we are continually encouraging HR professionals to visit schools in their area – state, independent or international – and to understand admissions procedures. Attending open days and events for new parents is a great way of getting up to speed, so that you are ready when you have to place a family quickly.Linda Kavanagh, dean of admissions at ACS Egham International School, has some useful advice for HR to pass on to parents. “Summer can be a difficult time to get hold of the teacher references that many schools need as part of the admissions process. Teachers are either away on annual leave or else may be in the process of moving to a new school themselves, so prioritise getting these references before your current school breaks up for the holidays.”Like many international schools, ACS International Schools in England and Qatar practises rolling admissions, so late-arriving families can still be accommodated in some grades. Employers are encouraged to look around the schools on behalf of relocating parents.For anyone relocating from Scotland to England with children, it is worth remembering that the summer term ends considerably earlier in Scotland, so there is a chance to finish the academic year there and enrol in a school in England for a short period before the end of term, taking advantage of some school places that may not be available in the new academic year.

Understanding how school admissions work

Understanding how admissions work in a school can be your passport to success. The Secondary School Admission Test Board’s (SSATB) 2015 International School Admission Industry Report revealed that there was little operational standardisation across international-school admissions. Admissions at international schools differed widely, in terms of both the numbers and the titles of admissions staff.The report highlighted the most effective marketing tools from the admissions perspective. Among these were referrals from families of pupils currently or formerly at the school, school tours, videos, relocation agents, HR managers, social media, and newsletters and magazines.Although the SSATB is US-based, judging from my visit to April 2016’s Council of British International Schools (COBIS) conference for admissions and marketing professionals, the experience is pretty similar.The conference was hosted by the Prague British School. Its team had done an excellent job of putting together a programme that reflected the challenges of forward-thinking international schools and provided professional development opportunities in key areas like digital and risk and security.Certainly, that audience was keen to engage with the employer market. They recognised, in particular, the value of video to tell the story of their schools. Social media was also playing an increasingly key part in their marketing strategies.HR and relocation professionals should be able to glean a lot from school websites, and these are set to grow in importance.Schools that deal regularly with incoming relocating families understand both the pressures on the employer and the parents’ perspective. While appreciating that it is ideal to visit a school well ahead of decision-making, they realise that sometimes video and live Skype have to suffice.At Relocate’s International Education Forum in February 2016, ISL’s Heather Mulkey recounted having to, on occasion, take a laptop round the school to reassure an anxious parent.Many international schools are extremely good at meeting the needs of relocating families. Presentations by ACS International Schools, TASIS and Marymount at the forum gave examples of the steps they take to support employers and relocating families. These include parent groups, who play a huge role in settling families and ultimately retaining talent for their employers. See relocateglobal.com for details.Vicky Seehafer, director of admissions at Hong Kong International School (HKIS), reinforces the point. “Our parents are very actively involved in the school community, from volunteering in the classroom and serving on the Parent Advisory Group to chaperoning on field trips. The Parent Faculty Organisation is an important part of our community and also runs programmes to help settle incoming families.”

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The British School of Brussels

The benefit of enrolling in summer schools

Though it brings a host of opportunities, relocating to a new country can be stressful, particularly for children, who must cope with a change of school as well as unfamiliar surroundings.By accustoming children to their new school and giving them the chance to make friends, summer schools can help to instil a sense of belonging before the academic year begins. For parents, they have the added advantages of freeing them to focus on the many things that have to be done following a relocation move, giving them a feel for the school and its facilities, and enabling them to meet other parents in their new area.“Many of our families, and new families especially, send their children and teens to the day sports and drama camps in August, to help them connect with future classmates, build friendships, and gain confidence in new surroundings,” says Mary Mitchell, associate director of marketing and communications at Surrey-based TASIS, The American School in England.Each summer, hundreds of students aged from four to 18 journey to Lugano for the TASIS Switzerland Summer Programmes, which feature intensive language programmes and exciting activities in visual and performing arts, as well as access to adventures around Europe.

Options available to help children learn the language

A priority for any family moving internationally with school-age children will be to acclimatise themselves quickly to their new country. Children will be faced not only with challenging language barriers, but also with new academic programmes.Fortunately, there are a growing number of options that help students to immerse themselves in a new language and culture alongside an emphasis on supporting the child’s first language as part of their integration into a new school.Many schools run holiday courses, often in the summer, which are also designed for international students. These combine language teaching and/or academic study with other social, sporting and cultural activities. Courses like these can provide children with a taste of school life ahead of enrolment, and help to develop their language skills.International Study Centres are dedicated to preparing students for education in their new country. Chris Lewis is director of studies at Bishopstrow College, an independent International Study Centre in Wiltshire that offers English- language and academic-pathway programmes to prepare international students aged from seven to 17 for entry into British boarding schools in the UK.“We recognise that schools are looking for skillsets that international students do not always show, on paper or in interview,” he says. “We have identified the skills and knowledge required for an international student to be successful, and deliver courses that enable these students to adapt and excel in British schools.”Bishopstrow College offers courses throughout the year – a useful fact for employers to know.
The International Guide to Education & Schools is designed to help relocating parents make informed education choices.
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  • Parents: Access the free digital guide here or purchase a print copy here
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This is a revised version of an article first published on our website on 28 June 2016For related news and features, visit our Education & Schools section.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centre© 2017. This article first appeared in the 2017 edition of the Guide to International Education & Schools, published by Profile Locations, Spray Hill, Hastings Road, Lamberhurst, Kent TN3 8JB. All rights reserved. This publication (or any part thereof) may not be reproduced in any form without the prior written permission of Profile Locations. Profile Locations accepts no liability for the accuracy of the contents or any opinions expressed herein.