Applying for school places out of term time

Getting the timing right when moving children to a new school is just one of many things on the relocating family’s to-do list, but what if a move inevitably falls outside of the usual school admissions rounds? We take a look at how parents can best manage the process.

St Georges British International School Rome

St George's International School Rome

Parents certainly have their work cut out for them when a relocation move results in their child changing schools. From negotiating the formal state-school admissions and ensuring minimum disruption to their child’s studies, to arming themselves with all the necessary paperwork and forms.

English state schools

In England, the deadlines for first applications to state schools are in October for secondary schools and January for primary schools, both for admission in the following September. In this case, parents usually apply to the local authority in which they live for places at their preferred schools (although in some counties it is the individual schools themselves that deal with admissions.)Relocating families will clearly struggle to fit into that neat pattern, and often find themselves in a position where they fall outside what is called the ‘normal admissions round’ and face applying as an ‘in-year’ admission.In recent years the UK government has done much to speed up the process of in-year admissions. Parents should in the first instance contact the Local Authority in the county in which they are applying to find out how to apply.School search and education advice - connect with our in-country expertsWithin the normal admissions rounds, parents find out which school their child has been allocated on ‘National Offer Day’ – April for Primary Schools and March for Secondary Schools. In-year admissions are different and vary according the Local Authority in which you are applying, but the timescale from application to allocation of a school place can take between two and six weeks.London offers a wide range of excellent schools. Parents can choose between co-educational international schools, single-sex A Level schools, as well as co-educational A Level schools. Students relocating from abroad will, however, find the admissions to schools that offer GCSEs very restrictive unless they time it absolutely perfectly for Year 9. Perfect timing for Sixth Form is essential.For those considering applying to grammar schools via the 11+ route, they should consider that for younger students, admissions to UK schools via the 11+ exams presents a particular problem, unless they are fully prepared and immersed in the UK system.

Independent and international schools

Typically independent and international schools operate a rolling admissions programme, which means that parents are free to apply at any time for a place at the school. While these schools do not come with the complications inherent in English state school admissions, getting the timing right and navigating the paperwork still requires careful attention, no matter where in the world the family is moving.Even choosing a starting point at the beginning of a term or semester can be preferable in terms of both an academic and psychological standpoint as often local students will be returning from a holiday and embarking on something new in the curriculum. It enables a relocating child to share a ‘starting point’ in some small way.“Prior to making a school choice, the best option is to call the school to confirm space and book in a tour to view the school,” explains Julie Yorke, former director of admissions at the Australian International School (AIS) in Singapore, a school which teaches the IB, IGCSE and Australian curriculum. “Once a decision is made, most schools have a fairly concise online enrolment process. Normally the requirements include a copy of the child’s birth certificate, passport and most recent school reports.”Places at good International and independent schools do fill up quickly, however as Praveen Muruganandan, director of admission and advancement at The York School in Canada explains, “There are a number of excellent independent schools in Toronto. Relocating families have the benefit of a range of options (co-ed, single-sex, IB, AP, Montessori, Waldorf etc.) based on their interests. Many independent schools fill up by the spring preceding autumn entry, so relocating families initiating a late school search may have more limited options due to availability.”Communication, advance planning and creative solutions to obstacles are likely to become second nature to the relocating parent moving a child in-year, but it is worth reminding families that the process must start as soon as they are aware they are going to be relocating.“It is never too early to start inquiring about a school place,” says Erin Woodhams, director of admissions at the British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park, a Nord Anglia school offering personalised education to children from the ages of three to 18. “Many schools will be able to help you through their process remotely if looking from abroad.“When beginning your search for a school, try and connect with as much of a school’s community as possible – teachers and current families, not just admissions staff,” she says. “They will be able to give you some perspective of their experiences and help answer your questions.”A spokesperson for The American School in England (TASIS), an international school based in Surrey, explains the school’s approach to supporting relocating families.“Whether you arrive in August or mid-way through the year, the School’s orientation programs help families settle in to the adventure of living in England. Familiarization and support programmes run by TASIS England parents help our families to integrate into the community, make friends, and learn about life in the UK as they transition to a new culture. The Buddy Family program ensures that newcomers are welcomed by a TASIS family with children of similar ages; the Parents’ Information and Resource Committee (PIRC) offers topical seminars throughout the year on settling in and living in England; and the active TASIS Parents Association (TPA) offers many opportunities for involvement with a busy calendar of community events.” 

Paperwork: school records and teacher references

There are tricky times of year to watch out for when making a start on gathering school records. Linda Kavanagh, dean of admissions at ACS Egham International School, believes that the summer period can pose unique problems.“Teachers are either away on annual leave, or else may be in the process of moving to a new school themselves, so, if you know you are moving before the summer, prioritise getting these references before your current school breaks up for the holidays,” she says.“Starting this process as soon as possible, once you know you are set to move, will avoid stress and the possibility of your child being between schools, which everyone wants to avoid.”A spokesperson for Shanghai Community International School in China agrees with the need to apply for places as early as possible, “We operate on a rolling basis, meaning that we can review candidates and offer enrolment throughout the entire school year.Offers of enrolment are subject to space availability and candidate qualifications. As a school operating near or at full capacity in most divisions, we encourage parents to apply as soon as possible and our experienced staff are available year-round to assist.”If the move involves children with special educational needs (SEN) or a requirement for extra support in lessons, then more forms and paperwork may have to be completed as part of the admissions process. Admissions staff advise that several weeks should be factored in on top of the normal planning process to ensure that parents find a school that suits their child’s needs.

Helping children to fit in

No parent wishes to see their child struggle with an in-year school move, so any amount of advance planning could be hugely beneficial. When visiting a school or finalising admissions or registration paperwork, picking up textbooks or reading-lists ahead of time can give some students a chance to get a flying start.Many international schools are extremely sensitive to the needs of relocating families. Often, as expatriates themselves, admissions teams at international schools are experts in accompanying families during their transition – they understand a variety of national systems, the local school system and, above all, the importance of ensuring a smooth integration into a new school. They also appreciate that the safety and happiness of a child in school is the first step to a successful stay in a new country.A spokesperson for Mougins School, situated on the Côte d’Azur in the South of France, which caters for pupils from three to 18, explains the range of support on offer to relocating families. “Relocation can be challenging for all the family and, at Mougins School, pastoral care is readily available. The Administration can help with the acquisition of visas, house rentals or purchases, advice on the social security system, local after school clubs and the multitude of questions families will have when they first arrive.“The Orientation afternoon for new students before school commences will provide essential information concerning the school day. It is an opportunity to meet tutors and discover one's classroom, make the acquaintance of other students, purchase essential material and, for the parents, make contact with members of the Parent Teacher Association, a dynamic group who organise social events throughout the year and provide a warm welcome to newcomers. All these elements help to make a smooth transition into a new environment and ensure that all relocating families feel reassured that the choice they have made is the right one.”The success of a relocation is, to a large extent, dependent on the happiness of the accompanying partner and family. This is perhaps not surprising given that more than 50% of international assignees relocate with children and one of their greatest concerns is how the move might affect their children’s education and future career prospects.It’s widely accepted that children learn most effectively when they feel safe and secure both at school and at home. In fact, the Cartus Global Relocation Survey confirms that after ‘changing business conditions’, the most likely reason for a business assignment to the UK to fail is ‘the inability of the family to adjust’.Caroline Breeds, UK corporate relations consultant at ACS International Schools, says, “To ensure the best quality support for families, ACS places great importance on ensuring families experience a smooth transition and works closely with relocation professionals to make sure it goes well. The three top three helpful things ACS provides once a family has joined the school are: the school parent group activities; a buddy family system (the pairing of a new family with an existing family of the same nationality); and the numerous events and projects held throughout the year, which involve all the family and help them feel welcome.Ms Breeds adds, “We’re proud of the strong support we provide at ACS and how it underpins successful relocations. It’s always important for prospective parents to check just how the schools they are considering contribute to the transition process. It really can make all the difference to a family’s happiness and wellbeing.”International schools often place a strong emphasis on parent groups, which play a key role in helping families to settle into the new community. Mr Muruganandan of The York School emphasises the importance of these kinds of groups, “Families moving to Toronto for the first time will find the York International Parents (YIP) group an invaluable resource for orienting families to the country, city and school. YIP supports families’ transition to life in Toronto – working to support parents as well as students to build valuable social connections and provide practical information.“The school also has a Student Citizenship team that works with the Admission team to support the students and families’ transition – helping them to build relationships before the first day of school. This has proven to be a huge benefit to all in supporting a healthy transition.”
Relocate Guide to International Education & Schools 2019/20 watch the video
This article is from Relocate Global's Guide to International Education & Schools 2019/20 which is packed with expert tips and information for those relocating and the professionals supporting them. 
For volume options, co-branded editions, digital or online licence agreements and advertising opportunities, contact Fiona Murchie at +44 (0)1892 891334 or email 
Relocate Global Guide to International Education and Schools 2019 2020

Now available as an ebook on Amazon! Simply download from Amazon onto your Kindle, mobile phone or tablet to read wherever you are!

Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online DirectoryFor more education and school-related news, visit our Education and Schools pages.© 2019. This article is an extensive revision of an article that first appeared in the 2018/19 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.

Related Articles