Monday, 17 September 2012

PROPERTY ARTICLE: The School Dilemma. Copyright SvD.

The School Dilemma

One the tasks I frequently have as a relocation agent is to help clients find schools for their kids. I, myself, took the whole school search aspect of my job as pretty straightforward- how wrong was I!  Never in my wildest dreams did I have any idea of how difficult it can be to match a rental property with a state school for children to attend. Many clients come to me tearing their hair out at what they consider the injustice of it all. And here’s why….

When a client comes over to live in London, they typically have an idea of where they would like to live. Usually they have friends or friends of friends who recommend a certain area over another. The client will ask me to first explore their accommodation options in that particular area. I then have to remind them that if they plan to send their kids to state funded schools – i.e free to attend and not paying schools- there are certain requirements that are cast in stone.

Firstly, the parents need an address. In other words, they need to prove that they do indeed qualify for their children to attend a state school as they need to live within the catchment area for that school. Proof consists of utility bills. The parents usually cannot do this as they are moving into the area and will have no tenure to show. The school will therefore reject them outright.

Secondly, the waiting list for performing and high-end state schools is several miles long. So even if the parents  manage to scrape together the required proof of address, they will probably end up at the bottom of the waiting list- behind those with a longer tenure in the area.

Thirdly, siblings are given preference. If a sibling is already attending the school, their sibling will move up the waiting list. So the parents who have just moved into the area slide further down the waiting list.

Fourthly, it is pretty pointless moving into an area in the hope that the child(ren) will automatically qualify to attend the preferred school. The nightmare chicken-and-egg scenario is a costly mistake to make- there are zero guarantees that once the family moves into the home in their preferred location that the children will qualify to  attend a nearby state school.

Fifthly, parents should be aware that places only become available towards or at the end of each term when families move out of the area and kids change schools.  But by that time, the family hoping for a place will have had to abandon their quest altogether as again, there are no guarantees and waiting lists typically get longer, not drastically shorter.

The best time to stand any chance of securing a place is to keep in constant contact with the registrar at the schools- an exhausting and time-consuming task.

Failing that, I typically advise families to give up on their preferred location and I find them an alternative area where with any luck, they will be just as happy and their children will settle into a great school.

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