Why should parents consider an international school in the UK?

Mark London, head of marketing at ACS International Schools, explores why families should consider an international school when relocating to the UK.

ACS International Schools
Every parent knows from personal experience that the time they spent at school can affect the rest of their lives; it is an important decision. But with over 2,500 independent schools to select from in the UK, it can be difficult choosing the right school.By asking some key questions, we can help narrow down the search and ensure parents make the right choice. The approach taken at all four ACS Schools, three in the UK and one in Doha, Qatar, considers the child and the family first, so that any decision is based on their individual needs and aspirations.Independent and international schools all tend to offer smaller class sizes, outstanding facilities and a high-quality education, but the first question most relocating families will consider is one of location:

 1.     Where will you be living – now and in the future?

Work location will almost certainly be the main factor in choosing where to live in the UK, and which schools to consider in the area. But relocating families should also look at the bigger picture and consider if another international move is likely in a few years’ time. If so, then following an internationally recognised education programme such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), rather than a domestic one (such as the British national curriculum), is a sensible choice. The IB was designed to meet the needs of internationally mobile students, and enables easier transition between schools and countries. Furthermore, it is a qualification that opens doors to universities across the world. If the family might end up relocating to the US for the long term, then it might be beneficial to consider a school offering an American-based curriculum (ACS schools provide this option). This flexibility can be especially important if parents have several children with different needs or wishes; no matter how different, they can each thrive and follow their aspirations in one school. 

2.     When are you relocating, and how does this affect school options?

Families might be required to move to the UK at any time during the academic year, and this can pose a problem with state and independent schools that are geared to September start dates for all new students. British schools also have strict cut-off dates for applications, and will often be full in year groups where there is not a new ‘intake’.An international school is geared up to manage the needs of relocating families, as they operate a ‘rolling admissions’ policy. Students can join ACS’s schools at any time of year and the Admissions teams work all year round to help families through the enquiry, visit and application process.“I was so fortunate to spend just a bit of my academic career at ACS. My only regret is that I was not able to remain for my entire high school career.” ACS Cobham student

3.     Do you want to ensure your children will feel welcome and make friends?

It is important that children are happy. International schools are especially knowledgeable in how to help children feel settled and make friends quickly. For example, ACS runs a ‘buddy’ scheme for new children and has a pro-active parent community, to help families settle and feel at home more quickly.All ACS Schools have dedicated counsellors, whose role is to help children to adapt and find their feet, and to provide support such as time management skills. This resource is critical in helping students cope with the stresses of relocating to a new school, and to ensure they can work well, make friends and thrive.“I learnt so much not only academically but from the open-minded system, it was such a pleasure to wake up and go to school every morning.” ACS Hillingdon

4.     Do you want your child to learn about other cultures, but still value their own heritage?

An international school will teach different subjects in an international context, according to nationalities of class members. For example, in an IB class, educators won’t teach history from the perspective of one country, but use examples of historical themes and change from across the world. Students will develop a global mindset and learn about many different cultures. And while helping students to develop impeccable spoken and written English language skills is important, ACS also has a Native Language Enrichment (NLE) programme. As the school community represents over 70 different nationalities, the NLE programme runs a comprehensive range of classes and activities to enable learners from around the world to continue to study their own culture.“ACS allowed me to be myself and make self-discoveries. I developed life-long friendships with classmates and feel connected to people all around the world.” ACS Cobham

5.     How important is access to a top university place?

Access to the best universities is extremely important to parents. A traditional private school in the UK will be aiming to send its children almost exclusively to British universities. An international school will be preparing students to go to the top universities in the UK and the rest of the world. Although many ACS alumni have attended universities in the UK, almost as many have studied at institutions across the globe and every year students secure their chosen places in countries ranging from the US, Australia, Japan, France and Argentina.The IB is an ideal programme to follow if parents wish their children to be comfortable and confident to go to university and live or work with people anywhere in the world. Advanced Placement courses are also highly regarded, particularly by American universities.Research conducted among university admissions officers in the UK and US, by ACS International Schools, has shown that the IB Diploma is considered the best education to help students thrive at university, as it develops qualities such as independent thinking, creativity and self-management skills better than other post-16 qualifications.The full research report is available to read on the ACS website, but what really matters to parents is how school children feel themselves. All four ACS campuses are IB World Schools with over 30 years delivering the IB programmes, while ACS Cobham and ACS Hillingdon also offer Advanced Placement as a pathway to university. Comments from ACS alumni show the value of these programmes:“What lasting qualities did studying the IB at ACS give me? Overall better prepared for university than any A Level student. My English, grammar and writing is still better than work colleagues who didn’t go through the IB. The IB education put me ahead at university and is still yielding me benefits in work today.” ACS Egham“Having completed IB and AP courses, I found university to be a breeze, I felt wonderfully over-prepared and confident.” ACS Hillingdon“ACS was the best school I ever attended until I enrolled at Harvard many years later for graduate school.” ACS Cobham

6.     How can I be sure that I’m choosing the right international school?

Visiting the potential school is an ideal way to see if it will be right for the family. However, sometimes coming to an open day, or calling in for a personal tour, might not be possible if families are currently living overseas.Here the experience of old students or alumni can be invaluable. Again, parents should ask the school for evidence of its success to help them make an informed decision. Over 500 previous ACS students shared with us what their experience was like, and, as you can see, it is a great choice for families from all over the world.

What qualities have you gained from attending an ACS International School?

Greater respect and tolerance for other cultures85%
Greater self-confidence through making friends with people all over the world79%
The confidence to live and work anywhere in the world78%
A better education through experiencing different approaches to learning64%
The ability to learn and be happier through freedom from traditional school cliques and attitudes44%

For more news and features about education in the UK and across the globe, visit our Education & Schools section. 

The following sections may also be of interest: International Assignments, Culture & Language

Guide to International Education & Schools

Relocate Global’s annual Guide to International Education & Schools provides a wealth of advice to anyone searching for a new school in an international setting, and offers insights into what it takes to make the right school choice.


Relocate Global is a supporting member of COBIS (Council of British International Schools) Relocate Global is a supporting member of COBIS 

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