The value of education consultants

Education consultants can provide a wide range of useful services for time-pressed relocating parents. We outline these services, providing tips on finding, and getting the best from, a consultant.

The value of education consultants
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The following article is from Relocate Global's Guide to International Education & Schools 2018/19 which is packed with expert tips and information for those relocating and the professionals supporting them. 
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We know that finding the right school for their children is a top priority for relocating parents. For employers, it is essential that employees’ children are assured of a place at the school of their choice, to enable the family to accept an international assignment or a domestic relocation.With the number of international schools increasing at an astonishing rate and options across state, private and international schooling to consider whatever country you are moving to, it makes sense to bring in an education expert to help you navigate the system and make informed decisions, particularly where school places are scarce or you are working to a tight time frame. The earlier you can apply for a school place, the better.
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Looking for advice on education and schools in the UK? This article also appears in our 
Guide to Education & Schools in the UK
Education consultants can be found in most regions, either in the current location or in the region you are moving to. They should know which companies support particular schools and the locations expatriate families prefer to live in, to help you make your choice. They will also be able to take into account the education system your child is moving from and any particular requirements, make an efficient search for places and recommend shortlisted schools to visit.

Why use an education consultant?

Finding a home in the right location is vital, but juggling the need to be within comfortable travelling distance of both school and work can be tricky. Discussing the specific needs of your move with an education consultant can really help with the property search; their knowledge of local property and schools may save a lot of time and worry.In some countries, such as the UK, it is important to have a permanent address in the school’s catchment area before an application for a state school can be considered.An education consultant familiar with the relocation process will be able to coordinate with a relocation or destination services provider (DSP) sourcing suitable accommodation. Some relocation management companies (RMCs) have their own in-house education consultants, while others use the services of particular education consultants.In an ideal world, employers would plan to move families to coincide with the start of the academic year. In fast-paced, competitive global markets, however, this isn’t always feasible, and companies may need to move their employees to take up an assignment to meet business needs.An education consultant can be particularly helpful in sourcing schools at short notice. A good consultant should know which schools may have places. It is always worth checking if there are vacancies in the child’s year group, as families move all the time.A consultant should know the market and understand the fluctuations in school-place availability caused by expatriate movement in certain sectors, such as financial and oil and gas. A group move or special project in an area can influence availability, but can also lead to school places becoming available. A consultant can help with the timing of the move and the application.In a group-move situation, the independent advice of an education consultant can make all the difference to the number of families accepting a relocation offer in a new location, whether this is a domestic group move or transfer to another country.

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International School of London (ISL)

State or private education?

Not all relocating families are looking for private, fee-paying education. In many countries and regions, particularly where language is not an issue, the local state system may provide education in the right location that is equal in quality to that provided by fee-paying schools. However, it may be helpful to seek the advice of an education consultant with knowledge of the local state system and the quality of schools in your chosen area, as these can vary considerably.Some consultants deal solely with finding private fee-paying schools and will not be familiar with the process of sourcing schools in the state system, so make sure you select a consultant who is familiar with state education if this is what you require. They should also have knowledge of the private and international schools.
  • If you are not sure whether to opt for state or fee-paying education, a consultant who is familiar with both state and fee-paying schools is ideal.
  • If you are unsuccessful in obtaining a place in your chosen state school, engaging an education consultant to help with an appeal can be very worthwhile, as this can be a complicated and stressful process.
  • If you are only considering fee-paying schools, make sure your consultant specialises in this area and has good contacts and relationships with the types of schools you are looking for.
  • If an international school is your priority, make sure your consultant knows all the international-school options, as these will be limited to certain places. Typically, these will be economically vibrant locations that attract international businesses, or within the locality of embassy or government offices. If there aren’t any international schools in the location you are moving to, ensure the education consultant understands your requirements regarding curriculum, language, cultural awareness and numbers of international students.

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Planning and making the most of school visits

It is always good to see a school in term time, when the children are there, so that you can gain a better appreciation of the culture of the school and the quality of the education it provides. When you are planning school visits, it is important to check if the school is in session. Remember that state schools, private schools and international schools may have different term dates.Private schools and international schools should be happy to show parents and children around their premises at any time of the year. Try to avoid busy periods such as exam times, as all the facilities may not be available to view.It is not usually possible to visit state schools out of term time or in busy periods near the end or beginning of term, but an education consultant who has a good relationship with local schools may be able to arrange a tour when the school is closed.If you are making an orientation visit to the new country or location ahead of your relocation move, or to help you decide if you want to accept the move, school visits can be incorporated. An education consultant will liaise with the relocation agent or destination services provider to schedule them.In the case of private schools, international schools and selective state schools, your children may be required to sit exams or tests, or undergo an interview. All of these can be arranged by an education consultant, to be incorporated into the orientation visit.

Finding the right education consultant

  • Choose your education consultant carefully, and make sure they are familiar with supporting relocating families. Those who deal specifically with relocation clients will understand the time frames and requirements regarding a move, including home search, orientation, removals and visa issues. They will be used to dovetailing their support with relocation management companies and destination services providers.
  • It is important to feel that your consultant understands the needs of your child and any particular education requirements. If your child has Special Educational Needs (SEN), for example, establish that the consultant you engage has experience of settling children in appropriate schools and understands the schooling options and support available.
  • If your child has a medical condition, ensure you have the relevant information to hand. Again, reassure yourself that your education consultant has the expertise to support your child’s needs.
  • Education consultants usually offer a number of services, with different price points depending on the level of support you require. This can range from supplying basic information to a complete hand-holding service where school appointments are arranged and you are accompanied on school visits. Fees vary considerably from country to country and between local areas. Consultants specialising in obtaining school places in top fee-paying schools may be very expensive, but be prepared to negotiate. You should be able to obtain an idea of basic fees from the websites of most reputable consultants, or via your initial enquiry.

Getting the best from your education consultant

  • When appointing an education consultant, check their knowledge of school systems, curricula and state, private and international schools, and make your choice accordingly. Ask them to tell you about clients they have helped in similar circumstances, and request testimonials and references.
  • Establish a rapport with your consultant, and ask questions around your child’s particular requirements. Be wary of anyone who over-promises that their organisation can deliver school places, particularly in popular locations.
  • Your consultant can guide you through the application process. You should compile a comprehensive folder of information about your child’s education records and achievements, to pass on to a new school and to help with the application. Remember to ask your current school for records as early as possible. If a school is closed for the holidays, they may be difficult to obtain.
  • Be prepared to work through solutions with your consultant, and be open to exploring other options if you can’t secure your first choice.
If you would like help with school search and/or access to education consultancy, contact Fiona Murchie at Relocate Global, +44 (0)1892 891334 or enquiries@relocatemagazine.com
Relocate Education Guides are must reads for relocating families and those supporting them. Order your copies today.
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For more education and school related news, visit our Education and Schools pages.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory© 2018. This article first appeared in the 2018 edition of the Guide to International Education & Schools published by Relocate Global, 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 Relocate Global. Relocate Global accepts no liability for the accuracy of the contents or any opinions expressed herein.

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