A Good (British) Education by Catherine Kelsey of Gabbitas, published in the American.
The British education system is renowned the world over, and since the financial crash in 2008 has become a popular destination for a significant proportion of international students who are now adding value and diversity to almost all leading British schools.
Why are British independent schools so highly regarded
British independent education remains at the forefront of educational innovation and creativity. Each school has its own distinguishing features and special qualities, though all impart the character and confidence that is the hallmark of an independently educated child. Such schools prepare children for life and open doors to the most prestigious universities and career opportunities worldwide. But it’s not all Eton and Harrow or Oxford and Cambridge. There are hundreds of other schools in the country that offer tremendous teaching, facilities and opportunities to suit your child.
How can you navigate the British education system if you don’t know how it works?
Inevitably, the earlier you start the better, as places at certain schools get snapped up pretty quickly. So as soon as you know that you are relocating to the UK, find a good education consultant who will spend time with you to understand your needs and ambitions and those of your child. You will have a lot to do at this time; finding the best place to live, understanding new banking, legal and tax systems, organising removals, learning a new culture and so on. Being able to leave things like to schooling to a firm of experts can really ease the burden of a big move overseas.
What is meant by a ‘good’ education consultancy?
By ‘good’ we mean a company that has a strong track record of success, good connections within the sector and who isn’t working for a particular school on commission and who will therefore tailor their advice and support to you and your child. Good companies will have strong credentials and are often recommended by past clients or your employer. They should also be able to help you if you haven’t been given much notice for your move and therefore require ‘emergency’ school places.
How can you ensure the advice you are given is ‘independent’?
The UK education consultancy market is jammed full of one-man-bands; people who have placed their own children into a school and then decided overnight that they are now experts in this field. But these companies tend to rely solely on school commission, so how can they ever be independent? A good education consultant will work for you and your child and not the school, and be able to help you search for nursery, pre-prep, prep and senior schools anywhere in the country as well as advise on boarding, universities and career choices.
You need to like them too, as to ensure success the consultant needs to get to know you and your family extremely well and should accompany you on school visits and orientation days. They should also be keen to look after your child every step of the way through their education journey, helping you through the good times and the bad and keeping you abreast of new opportunities and challenges.
What about entrance examinations & application processes?
Most leading schools require some form of interview and international student entry test – often UKiset [UK independent schools’ entry test] – so check your education consultant can help prepare your child accordingly and support them with tutoring and interview practice if required. They will also guide you through the application process and help you ensure you have all your child’s records ready and available.
How much does it cost?
Fees vary from company to company. Most good education consultants will charge an hourly rate or provide a packaged service that can be tailored to your needs. As highlighted by Gabbitas, the increasing demand for education consultancy shows how much value parents place on using these services:
“The British education system is very good and people spend a lot of money on it, but if you get it wrong it can be a very costly mistake. Some of my clients come to me before they’ve even had their baby, so we can hold their hand from beginning to end – cradle to career as it were. We also have clients whose parents and parents’ parents have been looked after by Gabbitas because we offer such a personal service and can open so many doors.”