Category : expat kids

Caring for the Relocating Family :The Education Dimension


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When helping families relocate internationally, it is important that to consider needs of the whole family and their school-age children.

The greater the understanding of the key differences between global education systems, the more successful the assignment is likely to be. We take great care with our school placements and individually- tailored home-schooling programmes to take into account cultural, linguistic and education system differences.  It is vital to ensure the happiness and wellbeing of the dependent family. 

Bridging the differences between global curricula

Wherever a family is relocating, it is important that the differences between the education system in their previous home country and the curriculum of the host destination school of choice are recognised. This will allow the family and the school to plan accordingly.

A Comparison of 4 education systems

Here we compare four education systems with that of the UK and suggest steps to ensure a smooth transition.

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US versus UK

As the US and UK have a shared language, it is often assumed that the education systems in the two countries are broadly similar. However, the differences are numerous!

Children moving from US to UK schools need to be prepared for the fact that the UK has more nationally-assessed exams to contend with. In the US, although children are assessed at the end of every school grade, the examinations are not national and for the most part, have little bearing on their progression from year to year. The standardized tests in the U.S. tend to be state mandated instead of federally mandated. In New York, many high school students take the Regents exams which test the core subjects- but the exam system will vary from state to state. Therefore, GCSE and A level exams of the UK are a culturally different experience for US children.

In addition, the US system is more generalist whereas the UK is more specialist. In US schools, as in the French Baccalaureat, students have more opportunity to study a wider range of subjects for their High School Diploma. There is more focus on sport, music, drama and art and as a result, a move to the UK can seem restrictive at first to US students. Mathematics in both countries is also taught very differently and this must be taken into consideration when settling a US family into a UK school

Culturally, children in US schools tend to be praised more- which is a positive attribute. Children who have previously studied in the US system should be prepared for the fact that recognition of achievement in UK schools can be less effusive.

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China versus UK

Chinese citizens often view what are considered strict schools in UK, as positively Bohemian. When selecting the best education solution for pupils who have previously studied in the Chinese system, you should bear in mind that they will be unused to some UK teaching styles. For example, class discussions and individual research methods may be unfamiliar to students who are more used to receiving information that teachers impart to them.

Another key area of support for Chinese pupils will be English language learning. The Chinese language has a logographic system – with symbols representing the words themselves as opposed to the UK alphabetic system. Stress and intonation patterns are also different as Chinese is a tonal language. Because of these fundamental language variations, Chinese learners may require extra time to read English texts. Organising the right English language support for Chinese pupils, with the school, specialist tutors or the Local Education Authority (LEA), is essential.

The GCSE and A level exam system should present no problems for a child moving from the Chinese system as students in China are accustomed to a rigorous national testing system, being mostly graded on a standardized national exam and the National Higher Education Entrance Examination.   Children educated in the Chinese system will usually be more advanced in Mathematics than their UK counterparts, and we always consider arranging additional support to enable them to maintain their level.

 France versus UK

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Like the US system, the French is less specialist than the British and children have a very rounded education up until the age of 18.  For students working towards the Baccalaureat in the French system, there is the option to select one of three specialist streams:  Scientific (sciences), Social and Economic (Economique et sociale) or Literary (litteraire).  For all three streams, though weighted differently, students study foreign languages, sciences, mathematics, humanities and the arts.

For families moving from the French system to the UK, we consider recommending schools which offer the International Baccalaureate to maintain the breadth of subjects. For families relocating with small children, it is worth noting that in France, children start learning to read at six years old, as opposed to four or five in UK Reception classes.  Families who would be uncomfortable with the earlier school starting age, may also opt to enrol their children in an international school which follows the French education system.

 Russia versus UK

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Like France and many countries in Southern Europe, Russian children do not start formal school until six or seven years old, so enrolling in a UK Reception class at aged four or five is unusual. In Russia, children continue in secondary until the age of 15, or 17 if they wish to continue to university afterwards. Final examinations in Russia vary in content to UK A levels and GCSEs- pupils are examined in at least five subjects, including two compulsory written exams (composition and Mathematics) and three elective exams.

At 15 years old, students in Russia take examinations leading to the issue of the State Certificate and at 17 years old, they work towards the Final State Certificate which qualifies them to take entrance examinations for higher education.

As in the case of native Chinese speakers, we ensure that Russian-speaking students have specialist support in place to further develop their English skills.  The main challenges to language learning for Russian pupils include the differences between the Cyrillic alphabet and Latin alphabet and the difference in phonology which makes pronunciation of some English vowels challenging.

Conclusion

Transferring to a different school system can be mystifying and confusing for both children and parents.

When settling a family, we draw on our knowledge of different education systems, and linguistic and cultural differences to ensure our client’s relocation is both happy and successful.

With attention to detail, the social and educational barriers can melt away and it is much easier to secure a happy outcome.

Please contact us for expert support with applications to both international and UK schools in London, throughout the UK and globally.

Relocating? Five tips to help your child make new friends


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Friendship is very important for children. Especially for expat and international children who have to learn to make new friends quickly.

See our five tips on helping your child to navigate the friendship maze:

  • Encourage confidence

Making new friends can be hard when everyone else already has their own cliques or friendship groups. Encourage your child to approach new people positively- smiling and being open to different personalities and ideas.

  • Joining in

Encourage your child to join school clubs and activities that he or she is interested in.  Going to choir or French club will enable him or her to meet other kids with things in common.

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  • Detecting the cliques

Explain about the cliques and groups to your child- little children may find these hard to understand.  Encourage your child to look for friendships outside existing cliques.

  • Knock-backs are normal

Sometimes your child’s overtures may be rebuffed.  It is important to reassure your child that this is normal- not everyone we want to be friends with wants to be friends with us.  Inspire your child to be themselves and celebrate who are they are.

  •    Celebrate new friends

Encourage your child to enjoy his or her new friends- invite them for supper, organise cinema trips and country walks.

Friendship is one of life’s great gifts and should be enjoyed to the full.  You can reassure your child that expat and international kids who move frequently, often develop a great talent for making friends easily.  This is a valuable skill which will serve them well throughout their life. 

 

Relocation anxiety: how to soothe your kids’ worries about relocating.


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Children perceive relocation differently

Many people assume that children, being young and adaptable, are more resilient to relocation than adults.  This is not the case.  In some children, feelings of anxiety and sadness can be very strong- even in expat kids who have moved many times.  Relocating with kids can be challenging but you can prepare for the top six worries that typically arise- making your child’s relocation smoother and easier for the whole family.

1)Not feeling prepared

In our mad dash to sort the new job, new house and new school, are we forgetting to prepare our kids? We need to ensure that we give them sufficient mental preparation and enough details about their new home.  Because we are so close to every detail of the move, we can lose sight of the fact that our children are not so well-informed.  Adequate preparation can help to allay these fears.  Take time to explain all the details about the new country and your new job.  Show your child photos of their house and read through the school brochure with them.

2) Fear that they will not make new friends

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Expat children worry about having to make the effort to find new friends.  You can reassure your child that other kids will want to hang out with him.  If you kid has relocated several times, you can tell him that this experience has helped him to develop great communication skills.  Many expat kids are very adept at making new friends and establishing positive relationships. 

3) Worry about being the new kid at school

No child likes being the new kid- and expat children will experience this often.  They can worry about other children disliking them, not knowing the school rules and eating unfamiliar food.  For some children, arranging a period of home-schooling in their new city, can help them slowly acclimatise to the new culture, before starting a new school. 

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4) Fear of an unknown place

Children worry about a place that they are not familiar with.   Reassure your child by giving him lots of information about their new destination, focusing on the positives- perhaps it is near a beach, has great cinemas, the opportunity to learn a new sport or to go sailing.   

5) Feelings of loss

Many children experience great loss and sadness. They may be anxious about leaving their friends, their girlfriend and their cosy home.  You can tell your child that these feelings of loss are completely normal, especially in expat children who have moved many times, and reassure him that you understand that he will miss his friends and his old home 

6) Anxiety about communication

Kids worry that no one will understand them, especially when relocating to a country with a new language.  They become anxious that they might get lost and they won’t be able to explain themselves to anyone.  You can prepare your child for this by organising language and culture lessons, before you move.  Get your kids excited about experiencing a new culture and a new language.   

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Preparing children, as much as possible, in advance of your move, can help to ensure a happy and successful relocation for the whole family.

How can I prepare my child for boarding school?


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Many of our expat and international parents have concerns about how to prepare their children for boarding school life.  For them, boarding schools can conjure up images of uncaring teachers, unpalatable food and homesickness.  We reassure them that modern boarding schools are warm, caring places with staff experienced in dealing with issues like homesickness and unfamiliarity with a new country or language. Here is some advice to help you settle your child into boarding school life.

Encourage independence

Allowing your child to take the bus to meet up with friends or to walk to the local shops on their own, helps them to feel independent and prepares them for boarding school life. If your child has never boarded before, take any opportunities for flexi boarding offered at his or her current school.  This will help your child to get used to the whole boarding culture.  

Get to know the school

Take advantage of any new parent open days which are normally held in May or June of the summer term before your son or daughter starts the school in the Autumn. It is reassuring for both you and your child if they are have already met their new friends and you have been able to forge relationships with other parents and teachers.  Do take the opportunity to grab other parents’ contact details so you can arrange meet-ups or phone calls over the summer.

Focus on friendships

As well as arranging summer meet-ups with any children you have met on the open days, find out if any children from your child’s previous school will be joining him or her at the new school… and use your networks to find out if any of your friends’ or colleagues’ children will be joining your child there.  It can take a while for your child to build new friendships, so any familiar faces on the first day of school will be very welcome.  

Focus on fun

Over the summer holidays talk to your child about their next school, get them excited about the fun side of the school- the new activities, sports and subjects available for them there.  Have a look at the school’s website and brochure with your child.  Take them out to buy their school uniform and stationary-  and make this an enjoyable outing by including a trip to their favourite restaurant or cinema.

Get organised

Make sure that your child has all the right uniform, including PE kit and stationary.  The writer of this article sent her daughter with the wrong PE bag on the first day of her new school and it did not go down well!   Most children, especially teenagers, want to fit in with their peers.  So being well-prepared can help to avoid any mishaps.  

Be open

It is important to discuss with your child the feelings that they might have when they are aware from home for the first time.  Homesickness is very normal and once your child realises this, if the issue arises, it will be much easier to cope with it.  Ensure your child knows which tutor or teacher he or she can talk to if they are feeling a bit low.

At Lumos Education, we offer advice on finding the best boarding schools and how to prepare children for boarding school life.  

Please contact us for more information

There’s Something About a Convent girl….


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Question: What do Germaine Greer, writer; Ana Patricia Botin, Chair of Santander and Anya Hindmarsh, designer, all have in common?

Answer: They were all educated at Convent Schools.

Convent School girls can be found in a wide range of successful and prominent careers all over the world. The list above also includes Carmen Cahill, Founder of Virago Press; Anne Nightingale, news presenter); Antonia Fraser, (writer); Carey Mulligan (actress) … and this is far from exhaustive.

Convent Schools are not the same as they were in the 1940s and 1950s and since Vatican II in 1959, which heralded the dawn of a more modern Catholic church, the rules have been considerably relaxed. Gone are the days of fasting for Lent, offering it up for Purgatory or keeping holy pictures tucked into cardigan pockets. Nevertheless, Convents all over the world continue to provide a nurturing educational environment in which many girls thrive.

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Why are Convent Girls often so successful?

The answers to this are many, varied and, of course, open to debate:

An all Girls’ Education

Girls educated at all girls’ schools tend to perform better academically. Many girls will ‘dumb down’ when there are boys in the classroom, to appear less intelligent. For the Convent Schools which remain all-girls, this is not an issue. All girls’ communities can also be very supportive, with teachers understanding the career and personal challenges facing girls in today’s modern world.

Nuns as Teachers

Although many convent schools today are no longer run by nuns, some still have significant religious members within their community. Nuns do not have the demands of homes to run and husbands and children of their own. So arguably, they have more time to dedicate to teaching and to the education of their young charges.

Discipline and Work Ethic

Discipline often comes naturally to a Convent Girl. Many schools have a very structured environment around homework, ensuring that work is handed in on time and any departure from this structure is not widely tolerated. So girls learn early how to structure their academic study and this enables them to manage the many demands on their time as they move into the world of work.

Spiritual life

The Catholic faith is a fundamental part of life at a Convent School. Many successful Catholic women have cited their Catholic faith as something which has inspired them and provided both solace and guidance during testing times in both their professional and personal lives.

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Convent Schools Today

Convent schools in London

In North London we have the hugely popular La Sainte Union on Highgate Road. The school is not fee-paying and it is constantly over-subscribed due to its excellent results and high reputation. La Sainte Union now admits boys in the sixth form.

Convent Schools in the UK

Just outside London, Woldingham in Surrey occupies a prominent place amongst Catholic schools in the UK. It remains all girls and offers a happy and varied education.

The highly successful New Hall, in Essex, alma mater of Anya Hindmarsh and Leonora Carrington (painter) has just started taking boys. St Mary’s Ascot, the doyenne of British convents and alma mater of Marina Warner (writer), continues to top the league tables and takes girls from all over the world, all of whom are practicing Catholics.

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Convent Schools internationally

New York

In New York, Manhattan there is the highly sought-after Convent of the Sacred Heart, part of the wider Sacred Heart group of schools which also includes Woldingham in the UK.

Italy

Florence boasts the excellent Instituto del Sacro Cuore (Institute of the Sacred Heart), which now also takes boys. The renowned Trinita dei Monti Convent, romantically situated on the Spanish Steps in Rome, was closed in 2005, as the Order of the Sacred Heart no longer had the nun-power to staff it.

Convent schools across the world remain popular choices for both Catholic and non-Catholic families looking for a strong educational environment for their daughters.