September 17th, 2012
London Secondary School Search
If you’re a parent of a child in Year 6, you are probably looking around at different secondary schools and considering your options. There are many choices in London, although sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough.
Some families have the added option of leaving their child at their current prep school and then applying to move on after Year 8. In past years, most girls moved on after Year 6, while many of the boys stayed. More and more girls are choosing the option of staying on at their current prep school until Year 8 and some are transferring to prep schools for that 2 years of being a big fish in a smaller pond.
So how to sort out your choices. It’s not easy and every parent wants to get it right the first time. Start with a list of schools that you are interested in, go see them all, even if you are not sure you’re interested, whenever possible, bring your child. Make a list of what is important to you in a school – class size, drama, art, sport, etc. and then right after each visit rate the school according to your child’s needs, including notes. Be realistic, if your child is a middle of the class kind of child, some of the top London independent day schools may not be in their reach and may just put them under pressure.
That should help to narrow your list to 3 or 4 schools that your child can flourish at. Look for the school that your child will fit into, enjoy and that will make your child stretch to their full potential.
I’ll be visiting schools with my daughter and trying to follow my own advice this year. I’ll be blogging about some of the schools we visit together.
August 24th, 2012
As the long days of summer end and autumn term is about to begin, it’s time to start thinking about school viewings. London Independent Schools hold open days beginning in September and continue through December. Parents of kids about to start Reception or transfer to secondary school would be wise to look up the schools around them and register for those school’s open days. They come up quickly and some fill up fast. It’s always best to go to as many open days as you can, private school is a big investment and it’s important to get the fit right.
Tip: Look now for open days in September and October – some are early in the year!
May 2nd, 2012
One of the most difficult things for many ex-pats to grasp is the number of really good Independent (private) schools in London. In some neighbourhoods, you’ll find 5 or 6 within walking distance of each other, all good at educating children in their own unique ways. When moving to London, we often advise families to find the school first, then housing second. That said, it’s a good idea to narrow down neighbourhoods and one way to do that is determine how long a commute the workers in the family are willing to make daily. Based on that, you can narrow down areas to search in. Despite the fact that private schools are all over London, it can be a challenge to find a space at one. It’s always a good idea to start early and be open to different schools.
March 28th, 2012
As luck would have it, the day I brought a client to visit ACS in Cobham was a bright sunny day. We both thought that the school was impressive, regardless of the weather, but a sunny day always makes things sparkle a little bit more.
The school has great facilities, including big bright classrooms, a library jam packed with students, an inviting 25m pool, a healthy kitchen and big playing grounds. The Interactive Learning Centre was truly amazing. It is a state of the art auditorium equipped with audio and video conferencing, as well as a voting panel at each seat. We were told of a debate the IB Students had with an IB school in Canada – what an opportunity. The overall atmosphere was a friendly inviting one.
They offer an American-based curriculum starting in the early years and ending with either an IB Diploma or an American High School Diploma and are accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The kids who decide not to do the complete IB programme have the option of doing either an IB Certificate in specific courses or AP classes. We were told that the kids leaving move on to Universities throughout the world, including top tier US & UK Universities.
Great facilities, combined with a solid academic program make ACS- Cobham a good alternative to GCSE’s and A-levels. In my opinion, it’s worth a look.
March 19th, 2012
Finding the right nursery school can be stressful anywhere you go, but in London there is a lot of pressure. If you put your child into nursery X will they get into the top independent schools? How do you know what is the best nursery for your child?
I suggest you sit down and make two lists:
1. Parent’s expectations - what do you expect from a nursery: reading, counting, quantum physics, entrance into a primary school…
2. Child’s interests – what are your child’s interests: playdough, pushing a shopping cart, finger painting, singing, space to run, space to sit quietly…
Put your list aside for a few days, and then come back to it. Are your expectations realistic? Quite often we expect far too much from our little ones and then become disappointed when they don’t meet our goals. If a child doesn’t read when coming out of nursery, is their future ruined? (I would answer no, but that’s for a future blog.)
After you have put some thought into what you are looking for, schedule tours at the local nurseries and get an idea of the environment. Can you picture your child sitting on the carpet in the circle listening to a story? Is there outdoor space where the children can run and play? If not, where do they go for exercise and how do they get there? Are the children there happy?
Nursery is the first step in your child’s educational journey, it’s up to you to make sure it’s a positive one. If you instil a love of learning early, it’ll make the journey smoother for all of you.
March 19th, 2012
I just read the latest 2011 Knight Frank report on Super Prime London and their definition of what they thought ‘Super Prime’ was. This is how they defined it in their report:
When does Prime become Super-Prime? There is no hard and fast definition to the prime London market, although £1m has generally been accepted as the entry point. Similarly the super-prime market lacks a formal definition. Our view is that £10m is the appropriate starting point, which effectively means this segment encompasses the top 1% of the whole of the central
I think if you talk to people involved in London properties, they might have a different definition to what prime and super prime is. I would define prime and super prime as not only by their value but more by their location. The common descriptions of Super Prime seems to be Belgravia, Knightsbridge and Mayfair. Prime could include Kensington, Chelsea, Marylebone and Notting Hill. Some may include St Johns Woods in Prime but it seems that not everyone would agree SJW is in Prime London.
How do you define prime and super prime properties in London?
March 14th, 2012
For those involved in property in London, the term ‘off market’ is a common and much sought after term. What does it mean? It’s interesting as I talked to several people recently at a property networking event and asked them this question and they often had a different definition.
My definition of an ‘off market’ property is a property that is not available to the general public and is not advertised anywhere (magazines, newspapers, web, etc.). However, when I asked others, it goes beyond that to many other definitions. It could also mean that the property is extremely exclusive and only known to those that are in the know. It could also mean that estate agents have no access or knowledge about it. As soon as an agent has ‘touched’ or somehow been involved with the property can often devalue the property immediately. There is a list of other definitions but these seem to be the general consensus. If I have missed any others that are important, please let me know.
My sister in law asked why anyone would want to sell their property or buy a property that is ‘off market’. It’s ‘off market’ for a variety of reasons but I see properties off market for two key reasons. The first being confidentiality and the second being exclusivity. The off market property is appealing for a lot of high net worth (HNW) individuals. It’s appealing for the HNW sellers as they often do not want any of their friends, contacts, etc. to know that they are selling their property for a variety of reasons. They are very keen on keeping their financial transactions as private as possible. The buyers are often attracted to the off market property for the same reasons. Many are able to keep the transaction private by registering the property in a SPV/off shore account.
My very clever sister in law also pointed out that a private and confidential transaction is not attainable because all property transactions are recorded in the land registry and everyone has access to it. While she is right that it is indeed all recorded and available, she is also wrong in that when bought through an off shore/SPV company/vehicle, it can often shield the buyer and seller on the transaction. That is why you sometimes hear of buyers of expensive properties being somewhere from Russia, etc. but nothing more. Putting properties in off shore companies is not always about tax structuring.
February 23rd, 2012
Looking for a fun educational day out that the whole family can enjoy? Why not take your kids to the V&A Museum in South Kensington. Start at the information desk in the Sackler Centre for arts education on the lower level where you can collect a themed activity backpack. We tried out the Time Traveller pack and wove our way through the Medieval and Renaissance periods hunting down hats in a tapestry, identifying leather cases and trying our hand at a wax seal.
While some of the kids were hunting down objects from our backpack, others spent their time in the galleries sketching horses, rabbits, and the shields they found in tapestries. We brought packed lunches, so when the kids became hungry we headed back to the Sackler Centre Lunchroom to eat.
Before you go:
- Check out the V&A’s website before you go, they often offer courses for kids during the weekends and school holidays– www.vam.ac.uk
- If you opt not to get a backpack, choose one or two galleries to visit, many kids love the old clothes and costumes on display. Maybe choose a gallery based on what they are learning at school.
- The backpacks are free to borrow and are available every day.
- Pack a lunch or head to the café when your child gets hungry –nothing can ruin a trip to a museum faster than a rumbling tummy.
- Bring a sketchbook per child, coloured pencils, rubbers (erasers) and pencil sharpeners.
- Admission to the V&A is free, but they do have a donation box at the entrances.
February 13th, 2012
Finding a school in London can be daunting for those living here, but how and where do you start if you are transferring from overseas? Before you start your search you need to ask yourself the following questions:
Where do we want to live? Look at the commutes from different neighborhoods to you and/or your partners place of work and choose a few neighborhoods. If you plan on traveling on public transport, are you willing to switch trains? Take buses? Take the rail? How many switches are you comfortable with?
Private or State education? Are you willing to pay the private (independent) school fees or would you prefer to send your child to a state school? (In some parts of the world you would say public school, in the UK public doesn’t equate with government funded.) If you choose state education, be warned that you’ll need to live close to the school you choose and will need an address before you can enroll your children into the school. It can be difficult to get a place in a state school, but not impossible.
British school or an International school? If you are moving with young children, you may consider putting your children into a British school. However, if you are here for only a few years or your child is over 13, it may be difficult to move your child in and out of the British system and an International school may be a better option.
Once you have answered these questions and narrowed down your neighborhood choices, you can begin your school search. There are hundred’s of Independent schools all across London. Most schools at the primary level will encourage you to live close to the school; traffic in London can be terrible in the mornings and if you are able to walk to school or take a short bus/tube/train ride, your school run will be easier.
Be prepared to come and visit the schools prior to your arrival. Your child may have to sit in for a day or take an exam prior to being offered a place at a school.
Finally, start your search early! If you get stuck or are finding it overwhelming/confusing, ask for help from someone like me. Getting your kids settled in a school they like is the first step to a successful relocation.
February 8th, 2012
It’s really amazing how quickly properties in prime central London are getting snatched up by investors around the world. If it’s priced right and in the right location, it’s gone within a week. I recently had an experience with an off market property in Knightsbridge that was at a great price. Within 4 days of hearing about it (and it being available to buy), an offer and sizable deposit had been made. Also, this was not a £2m priced property but £20-25m property.