Whether you are thinking about moving your child to a new school locally or contemplating looking further afield for your child’s education, for families living abroad you need to start thinking about it earlier than you may think. Sara Boomsma of Gabbitas Middle East shares some key milestones to consider when planning for your child’s educational future.
Choosing a school
Choosing a secondary school for your child can seem a far-off dream when you are still getting to know your child’s new Year 5 teacher but actually by this stage the next move should be firmly on your agenda. Too often our advisers meet with parents who are delighted to tell us that they have found the perfect school for their Year 7 child, only for us to have to gently break the news that they have missed all the registration and assessment deadlines and that all the places in that school have already been allocated.
When to move
One of the challenges for international families is that for many they are not quite sure how long they will be here and when they may have to move; whilst jobs and economics can play a role in this decision, we would argue that education should also be a key consideration where possible. There are certain transition times, particularly at secondary level, which make moving a relatively straight forward process both in the UAE and the UK, such as Year 7 or Year 9 respectively or Year 12. However, there are some that you definitely need to try and avoid; moving in Year 11 or Year 13 in the British system would mean moving half way through a 2 year exam programme GCSEs or A Levels and similarly with the International IB programme once you start in Grade 11 you are really committed to two years.
So how can you avoid disrupting your child’s education at critical stages and give them the best chances of success without restricting the family’s movements? Information is key! And the earlier the better. One of the many services we offer our clients is the ‘Education Road Map’. Starting a few years before any key transition points are on the horizon, we identify a range of schools both here and in the UK that would be suitable for the family given their potential location or family ties. An education road map can then pull together of all the options and choices and key dates that everyone needs to be aware of in order to secure a place at the chosen schools and to be sure that no deadlines are missed.
Schools in the UAE
For many British curriculum schools in Dubai the Year 7 entry assessments take place in the November of Year 6. Registration dates will often be early in the autumn term and because of the competitive nature of the applications these deadlines are rigorously enforced. Prior to the registration there is plenty to prepare for; information days in the schools, taking your child to look around, collating all the information required for submitting an application, notifying the child’s current school. Then it is important to be aware of what form the assessments will take, the dates they are offered and what preparation your child will need to do to be in the best frame of mind to take the tests.
Schools in the UK
If you are considering applying to schools in the UK, then you need to start even earlier. Highly selective schools such as Winchester College, will want to meet your child when they are still in Year 4. At this point they will have the opportunity to meet up to three Housemasters and registration must be submitted by the end of Year 5. Students will then be invited to take the ISEB Common Pre Test in October/November of Year 6 and if successful they will be invited back for interview between January and March of Year 6. If offered a provisional place at this point, a student will still need to take the Winchester Entrance exam in the April/May of Year 8 before being able to take up their Year 9 place. So a 5 year process from start to finish.
Other well-known schools operate a similar timeline with Eton requiring prospective students to be registered by the summer of Year 5 and others by the first term of Year 6. Many UK schools such as Wellington College, Charterhouse or Bradfield, require prospective pupils to sit the ISEB test in the November of Year 6. Successful candidates will then be invited for interviews and assessment days the following spring. So, for families considering this option it is best to start early and be prepared even if you decide not to action it later on.
For a move to 6th form the timeline is less pressured. Most schools will expect you to be registered by the September and many will offer assessments in the November of the year preceding taking up a place. But again, it is wise to be aware of all of the dates and the requirements for entry.
There are, of course, a wide range of other schools in the UAE and the UK who operate more of a rolling programme of admissions, so there is absolutely no need to despair that all avenues will be closed! There will always be great schools who will have a less rigorous approach and be happy to accommodate a last minute application.
Being forewarned is to be prepared and arming yourself with an Education Road Map can give you a clear time line, a heads up about the when you need to act and how your child needs to prepare and most importantly peace of mind so you do miss out on a place in your child’s dream school. Interested in sourcing an Education Road Map for your family? Get in touch with us today.