Thursday, 25 August 2016

Choosing What to Study at A-level

 Congratulations to all of you who have just received your GCSE results! Take some time to relax, catch your breath, and celebrate. You definitely deserve it.

A-levels are right around the corner – it might feel like you’re straight out of the frying pan and into the fire, but don’t fret. Your A-level choices are important so it’s vital to make your decision carefully, but with our top tips below you should be well on your way.

WHAT SUBJECTS SHOULD I STUDY?

What you study at the next level of education has a direct impact on the options available to you at University afterwards. If you’re looking at specific degrees – the sciences in particular – you want to make sure you’re not getting shut out of your preferred University because you haven’t studied a particular discipline. 

Start by skipping the A-level step entirely and look at University courses you might like. Check the entry requirements for each course, and make a note of what A-levels they’re looking for. Some may only look for one particular A-level or grade, whereas others may ask for up to three or four specific A-levels before they’ll consider your application.

Once you’ve made your shortlist, compare the requirements for each – you’re sure to see a trend in what subjects you need to study to move on to the degree you want.

WHAT IF I DON’T KNOW WHAT DEGREE I WANT TO DO?

Many students have no idea what they want to do at University and beyond. If this is the case for you, it’s best to keep your options open. Some A-level subjects will leave you with a broader spectrum of degree choices; these are known as ‘facilitating subjects’, and they make great choices for students who are undecided on their degree:

English
Maths
Chemistry, Biology or Physics
Geography
History
Modern and Classical Languages

The more of these subjects you take at A-level (for example, if you chose to do A-levels in English, Maths, Biology and History) the more options there will be available to you at University.  Alternatively, if you have a particular talent for something, such as art, sports or music, it is a good idea to take that subject as it will be useful and desirable for degrees relevant to your passion.

HOW MANY A-LEVELS SHOULD I TAKE?

The simple answer is four. Most students take four A-levels in their first year, and many drop one in their second year to concentrate on the other three. Some schools have General Studies as a compulsory fifth subject, but this will not count towards your university admission.

DON’T TAKE COURSES THAT ARE TOO SIMILAR

Variety is the spice of life, and also the key to a strong University application. Try not to choose multiple courses that are very similar to one another – such as Film Studies and Media Studies.

The three main Sciences are an exception to this rule, as many science courses require at least two of the three to be studied at A-level. However you should still avoid variations of the same subject if they are available to you, such as Biology and Human Biology.

WATCH OUT FOR SUBJECTS THAT AREN’T ACCEPTED

Some University courses have lists of ‘non-preferred’ subjects too, that they’d rather not see on your application. It’s a little cheeky, but Universities are looking for a specific set of skills for their courses most of the time so may choose to overlook certain candidates based on other unrelated subjects they’ve studied.

Don’t let this put you off studying something at A-level that you’re extremely interested in – a ‘non-preferred’ subject shouldn’t be an issue if studied in conjunction with a facilitating subject or two from the list above. 

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS ARE A GREY AREA

Although they should be taken at face value, Entry Requirements are not gospel. Every University will consider you an individual when you apply, and if your subject choices don’t match up perfectly to your chosen degree, it’s not the end of the world. Personal statement, interview, work experience, personal interests and portfolio all play a part in whether or not you are offered a place on a degree course and Universities are known to be somewhat flexible. Being prepared in advance is always the best course of action, but speaking to the course leaders at the University and showing your enthusiasm is always a back-up plan if you later find out a grade has fallen short or you’re missing a subject you wish you’d taken but didn’t know you’d need.

Look out for words like ‘Essential’ and ‘Preferred’ too – they mean just that. You may still get onto a University course without a ‘Preferred’ A-level subject in your repertoire. 

A-LEVELS ARE A BIG STEP UP FROM GCSES

The reason you take such a small number of A-levels is because they are studied in-depth and extensively. Be prepared for a big jump in difficulty, as well as what is expected of you, and the way you are taught. Self-motivation and independent study will play a much larger part in the next two years of your education, so whatever you choose, be sure it’s something that will hold your interest and not a fleeting fancy. 

REMEMBER THAT A-LEVELS AREN’T THE ONLY WAY

There are other options available to you, such as the IB Diploma. Vocational qualifications and BTECs are growing increasingly common too and are accepted by many Universities.

If you’re still unsure or anxious about your A-level choices, speaking with an Education Consultant can help clear up any concerns you might have. The Independent Education Consultants have a team of experts on hand, ready to give you the advice you need to make the right choices and get on those tricky pathways to Higher Education and future careers. Why not give us a call on 01865 522066 or email consultants@independenteducationconsultants.co.uk today?

This post by Lauren Bowman. 

We offer a wide range of services and expert advice on your child's education.


Email claire@independenteducationconsultants.co.uk or contact Claire on 01865 522066 for an informal discussion on how we can help.

For more information, www.independenteducationconsultants.co.uk


Friday, 5 August 2016

Your UK Boarding School Family

 With September coming up fast, some of you will have children heading off to boarding school for the very first time. It’ll be a strange and daunting experience to wave goodbye and have your children away from the family but do not fret: there is a network of teachers and friends ahead of them who will become just like their school family. Here is a breakdown of the people who will be taking great care of your child in their new boarding school:

  • Housemaster


Most boarding schools are made up of several houses where students sleep and spend time when they’re out of class. Each of these houses is looked after by a Housemaster or Housemistress (also known as a Houseparent) who works with the Matron to ensure all the pupils in their house are happy, healthy and enjoying their time in the school. They are your child’s first point of contact and will ease them into their new lifestyle with gentle guidance and reassurance. Houseparents ensure the rules are followed and homework is done at the right time, but they are also there to encourage respect, friendship and a lot of fun. A boarding house can feel like an exclusive club for the students there – and the Housemaster is the club leader.

  • Head of Boarding


The Head of Boarding is your port of call for general guidance, should you or your child need support for something not covered by their Housemaster or Housemistress. Providing advice on settling in and encouraging adaptability and open-mindedness, whether your child is from the UK or Overseas, the Head of Boarding oversees student welfare and the staff to ensure the school provides the best boarding environment possible. 

  • Matron


The Matron is in charge of the wellbeing of the students in their boarding house. They are there to look after your child if they feel ill, and often Matrons are trained nurses. However, their role extends much further than this – one day they may be helping with homework, providing snacks and choosing movies, and the next providing a shoulder to lean on and a kind ear for students who just need to talk. They are there to ensure the boarding house is a safe and friendly space, and to nurture your child during their transition into a young adult.

  • Tutor


Your child’s Tutor is like a personal teacher, responsible for overseeing their academic progress during their time in the school. They may have a small group of students they work with, but there will also be opportunity for one-on-one meetings where they can set goals and overcome learning concerns. If you have any questions about your children’s studies, they will be your first contact so it is important for you to establish a good relationship with them too.

  • Head of House


The Head Boy or Head Girl of your child’s boarding house will be a senior student who is chosen to support their fellow students throughout their time in boarding school. They are a link between students and teachers, a mentor, and they are on hand to help with academic, social or personal problems students might face.

  • House Captain


If your child’s boarding school has a separate House Captain, this boy or girl will represent and organize their boarding house for school events. They take an active role in social activities, so they are on hand to help your child get involved in boarding school life.

  • Prefect


Prefects are students elected from as early as their first year in school to help their peers settle in and uphold the rules. They are often also in charge for organising student events like film nights and fundraising days, and might have a group of new students they look after. Being a prefect is a big honour and big responsibility – listening to other students’ worries and teaching them the values of friendship and hard work.

  • Student Council


The Student Council is the go-between for your child and the school community.  They work directly with staff to address issues in the school community and can have a real impact on the way the school is run. If students have an issue, they can take it to the Student Council, who will discuss it and take the issue to the Head and Deputy Head until a mutual solution is decided. They also arrange school-wide events like dances and parties, and will also pass any department messages on to the students. The Student Council is your child’s voice in the school, and your child can go to them with any issues they might have.

  • Guardian Family


If your child is boarding in the UK from Overseas, your child will need a UK-based guardian, appointed by you, as an in-country emergency contact. Their guardian will care for them on exeat weekends and half-term holidays if they are not returning home and attend parents’ evenings and events on your behalf. A guardian family is a home-from-home, providing a welcome break from the hectic routine of school life and caring for your child’s wellbeing locally when you can’t be there. English guardian families like those at the Guardian Family Network (www.guardianfamily.co.uk) are typically professional people with experience in education and children often build long-lasting trusting relationships with their ‘UK family’.

For more information on preparing your child for boarding school, look out for our Boarding School Preparation resources, coming soon to www.independenteducationconsultants.co.uk! These e-books, packed full of advice from our expert consultants, are designed to help you and your child through the transition as easily and comfortably as possible.

This post by Lauren Bowman.

We offer a wide range of services and expert advice on your child's education.


Email claire@independenteducationconsultants.co.uk or contact Claire on 01865 522066 for an informal discussion on how we can help.

For more information, www.independenteducationconsultants.co.uk


Friday, 29 July 2016

How to Keep Children Learning during School Holidays


 With the Summer Holidays underway, education often takes a seat on the back burner. Whilst this relaxing time is well earned for children who have studied hard all year, it’s not uncommon for their progress to slide, leading to slipping grades come September when classes begin again. It can be downheartening for parents and children alike. But as easy as it is for this to happen, it’s just as easy to keep learning alive with a little careful holiday planning.


Holidays are the time for all the school learning children have done through the year to be applied to the world around them. They will use the skills they have developed without realizing, whenever the opportunity arises. It is up to you to provide them with the opportunities… but here are our top ideas for activities and experiences to get you started:

1. If you are lucky enough to be able to take your children away during the holidays, allow them to learn for themselves about the different ways of life they encounter. There is no greater learning than first hand experience, and whether this is done in new cultures overseas or just in a new part of your home country, be sure to give them a chance to explore their unusual surroundings for themselves. New places hold endless learning experiences, from culture and history trips to rockpooling and building sandcastles on the beach.

2. If you are staying at home, don’t forget about the vast world outside your back (or front) door. Your home garden and local parks hold a world of discovery. Painting, drawing or photographing the plants, scenery and wildlife teaches creative and analytical skills and appreciation for nature, and might even develop into a new hobby. Let your children utilize their own creative thinking and construction skills by building a tent in the garden out of old sheets, or set up a lawn game like skittles or rounders to teach them about rules, numbers and teamwork.

3. Encourage them to keep a Holiday Diary. Not only does this promote writing skills, but also provides opportunity for other learned skills; have your child draw a map of the area they are visiting, or doodle what they can see, collect and label ticket stubs or photographs and write down the most interesting thing they have learned each day. The result will be a wonderful holiday scrapbook and something to show off when they head back to school in September.

4. Easy, captivating and free, reading is a great activity for the holidays. Even if you cannot travel, your child can still explore far off worlds in the pages of a book. If they are not big into reading, try audio books to get them interested. Try to implement ‘reading hour’ in the day to ensure they get time away from their TV or phone screen and enjoy some good old fashioned reading. If you are not already a member of your local library, get the family signed up there too, as they often offer more than books and CDs. Look out for author visits, story reading mornings and other activities.

5. Holiday Clubs are a great activity to keep your children busy, especially if you’ve got to be at work. Look for clubs that offer something educational that your child is interested in. Perhaps it’s a popular sport such as tennis or basketball, or something completely new like sailing, orienteering or climbing. Drama or music clubs are also great, and some clubs even entail a little of everything. These clubs are also a great opportunity to make sure your children socialize over the holidays instead of sitting in front of the television.

6. Maths might not be their favourite subject in school, but your child is likely to forget they’re doing sums when you’re letting them work out what they need to pay at a shop counter. If you give them pocket money, teach them to budget for days out for treats like ice cream and gift shop items, and allow them to help you count out what to pay the cashier. When shopping, eating out or taking a car journey, why not let the children estimate cost or mileage and whoever is closest wins a prize?

7. Experience days, like holiday clubs, are a great distraction that offer a vast range of activities you and your child probably never considered trying before, from water sports to trips down the Thames, and even falconry.

8. Plenty of websites offer educational games under the guise of pure fun. They can eat up hours of your child’s time without them realizing they’re all but sitting in a classroom – we’d recommend www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies, www.funbrain.com and www.knowledgeadventure.com. Just remember not to let them sit at the computer for too long!

9. Craft projects are like online games but without the computer screen. Look up crafts online or pick up a book of child-friendly crafts at your local library and get gluing, colouring and collecting! A good place to start is at www.thecraftyclassroom.com.

10. If you’re in the UK, you’re likely to come up against some wet weather this summer. If you’re going stir-crazy in the house, don’t forget about all the fun day trips available to indoor places: theatres, museums, art galleries, science centres and indoor attractions will keep you and the family busy, dry, and still learning. If you’re more adventurous (or the weather is good) try farm parks and wildlife walks. Take some activity sheets with you to make sure you keep their minds ticking and let them soak up the experience.

Our best advice to you is just to get out as much as you can, and don’t worry – as long as your children are exploring and having fun, they will be using those skills and important lessons they’ve learned in school!

This post by Lauren Bowman.

We offer a wide range of services and expert advice on your child's education.


Email claire@independenteducationconsultants.co.uk or contact Claire on 01865 522066 for an informal discussion on how we can help.

For more information, www.independenteducationconsultants.co.uk


Thursday, 14 July 2016

How to make the most of the Country Life Future Schools Fair in London


The Country Life Future Schools Fair is this Saturday July 16th at the Bluefin Building in London. Register for your COMPLIMENTARY tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/country-life-future-schools-fair-london-tickets-19292464280

Now you’ve registered, here’s how to optimize your time invested once you are there.

1. Prepare a list of questions that you might like to ask each of the schools when you visit their stand. Make sure you ask the school about their application and entry process as well as when the key dates might be for any testing or interviews, as well as the next open day. If you are looking for urgent last-minute places, ask about the place availability in the year group that is of interest to you and any deadlines for registration. If looking for sixth form, ask about IB or A Level and specific subjects if your child has certain areas of interest.

2. Plan the time of your visit carefully. It is best to be there when it is quieter as the school exhibitors will have more time to speak with you to address your individual questions. The busiest times are likely to be mid-morning through to lunchtime.

3. As soon as you arrive, highlight in the fair programme the schools that are on your short-list and where they are located so you can plan an order to visit their stands. Try not to be distracted on route by schools offering balloons and stickers, at least until you have met with all the schools on the list you prepared in advance!

4. Upon arrival look at the daily programme of speakers for the seminars and make sure you make a note of the times of any that are likely to present information which is of particular interest to you. You will also find this programme online so you can plan your time of attendance accordingly. This is a great way to get some free advice from highly regarded education experts, including the heads of independent schools. Click here to view the seminars and speakers: https://futureschoolsfair.com/london-2016-seminars/

5. When you arrive at the stand, is the person you meet open, friendly and welcoming and happy to answer your individual questions? Are they keen to give you their sales pitch or are they happy to listen to what you have to say and address your issues and queries? Make notes of your experiences so you can recall afterwards.

6. It is always a good sign when you meet the Head at an event such as these as it demonstrates that he or she sees communication with parents as a priority. Heads are busy people so there may be a perfectly understandable reason as to why they are not there at the time of your visit to the stand, but it might be beneficial to ask if the Head will be attending at any point in the day. At this stage remember it is just as important to decide which schools may be wrong for your child, as it is to decide which one is the right one.

7. Come to the Independent Education Consultants stand and meet with one of our experts to talk through your school short-list and to seek an independent opinion, as well as to see if there are any options that you may have missed.

8. You might like to read the Good Schools Guide reviews for your chosen schools to get an independent opinion about their provision to help you see through the marketing speak. You can read this by subscribing online at www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk You can also buy a Guide on the day to take home with you.

9. If you have pre-tests or assessments coming up soon and would like to give your child some extra support at home, talk to Galore Park at the event who are a key provider of online and printed Common Entrance resources for parents.

10. To make planning your visit easy, you can read the tips for visitors here: https://futureschoolsfair.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Transport-Hotels-PDF.pdf

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Why Visit The Country Life Future Schools Fair This Saturday?


With only 3 days to go until The Country Life Future Schools Fair in London on Saturday 16th July, here are a few tips from our independent consultants on why YOU will find this exclusive, complimentary event useful.

1. School decisions are timely. The research, admissions and assessment process to secure a place at the right day or boarding independent school takes up to two years. If you are facing a move of school within the next two to three years at any age or for whatever reason, this event is an invaluable research tool for you.

  • Not sure whether to move school at 11+ or 13+
  • Unsure whether boarding is for you and your family
  • Confused by the pre-test and assessment process of many top schools
  • Unsure how best to support your child with assessment and interview preparation
  • Considering a change of school at sixth form
  • Want to change school to study the IB of alternative A level subjects
  • Looking for boarding school options post Common Entrance at 13+
  • Facing a move to London, so looking for international schools
  • Unsure of the financial climate, so considering boarding to future-proof your child’s educational stability
  • Last-minute change in circumstances means you are now looking for urgent school places this Sept 2016

Whatever your age and stage of education, this event ticks all the boxes for parents.

2. Researching schools via the web and dinner party banter can be very time-consuming, all-encompassing and full of confusion. Investing just one day in attending this exclusive, bespoke, one-off event in London will achieve more than months and months of lonely research at home.

3. School choice consultancy advice can be expensive and is often not independent. With an extensive programme of seminars throughout the day, as well as experienced consultants on hand to answer your questions, coming along to this exclusive, complimentary event will be the most worthwhile investment you have ever made as a parent facing future school choice decisions!

4. Over 50 schools in one place waiting to speak to you face-to-face. Ask about each school’s USP and how to apply with the schools directly. Build valuable relationships with the schools themselves. This is the opportunity to put your child in the lime-light!

5. Through the event partners such as Galore Park, The Good Schools Guide, Relocate Magazine, Simply Learning Tuition, Prime Purchase and of course The Independent Education Consultants, secure expert, independent advice on all aspects of your future school choice and entry assessment preparation.

6. Have a coffee or lunch enjoying the stunning view across London from the roof-top terrace of the Blue Fin building. Not usually accessible to the public, this is a London landmark that you will never see again! You can visit Borough Market afterwards, or even book a trip up the Shard. Why not make a last-minute weekend of it?

7. Can't arrange child-care. No problem. Bring the children with you. Schools are all about children so they would love to meet the whole family.

8. Not able to come? Please share the event information with friends and colleagues today, so they can benefit and perhaps share what they have learned with you afterwards. Word of mouth is important to us. Thank you.

Decided to join us? Now you’ll need to register for your exclusive, complimentary ticket. Limited number available.

It only takes 10 seconds to register completely free by clicking this link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/country-life-future-schools-fair-london-tickets-19292464280

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Brexit – opportunity or disaster for British independent schools in the UK?

British schools in the UK have for some time been a popular option amongst European families. Why?

  • Developing independence through sixth form studies of both the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme or A levels as a pathway to places at top universities in both the UK and Europe.
  • Accessing the all-round education approach across academics, sport and the Arts that is British education.
  • British boarding as a settled long-term alternative to frequent transitions between international schools when relocating families are working both in London and other financial centres of Europe.
  • Outstanding support for each child as an individual, including for those diverse educational needs.
  • Short-term placements of up to one year as a tried and tested route towards bi-lingual children with cultural understanding who are equipped to work in a Global world.
According to the ISC 2016 annual census of their 1,280 member schools, over 15,000 or 33% of international children attending ISC member schools are from European countries. Nearly 8,000 of these children, or 55%, have parents living in the UK.

It’s hard to argue with the significant benefits enjoyed by both European families and the UK schools who educate their children as a result of this free-flowing working relationship. So, it’s not surprising that many in the education sector are now asking what does Brexit mean for these children and their families, not to mention the implications for the schools themselves?

  • Firstly, the advice is not to panic. Keep calm and carry on! New regulations regarding EU nationals studying in UK schools should take at least 2 years to agree and implement. UK schools have been quick to reassure families from across Europe with children already in UK schools that it will be business as usual for the foreseeable future.
  • UK independent schools as a whole are a force to be reckoned with, contributing significantly to the economy as a whole. With a Global reputation for excellence, I just can’t envisage a situation where they submit to changes in visa rules without a fight to retain their international element. Just as they did with the charities commission, professional bodies such as ISC will be lobbying key decision makers to present a strong case for the status quo. I believe that it’s highly likely their voices will be heard when it comes to Brexit immigration negotiations and retaining the rights for EU nationals to gain easy access to study within UK schools and universities.
  • Making lemonade out of lemons, there is recent evidence to indicate that some international families appear to have seen the recent currency fluctuations in Sterling as an opportunity to now access the outstanding British school system at a reduced cost. If you’re buying education in Euros or Dollars, you now get more bang for your buck. With British international schools overseas retaining high fee levels, suddenly the UK-based schools look appealing, even if it means boarding. Last-minute enquiry numbers for Sept 2016 entry from new European families looking to join a UK independent school are up!
  • In other parts of the world, international boarding school parents have seen a similar opportunity due to currency fluctuations and are looking to pay a number of terms school fees in advance. At least in the short-term, cash flow in UK schools should remain strong allowing continued investment in facilities and resources to maintain their outstanding reputation across the world.
THE COUNTRY LIFE FUTURE SCHOOLS FAIR

The post-Brexit, not to be missed, opportunity for parents to meet UK schools face-to-face

Does UK-based British education have last-minute appeal to you?

Register now for your complimentary invitation to this exclusive event for parents ON SATURDAY 16TH JULY IN LONDON. Click this link for more information and to register. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/country-life-future-schools-fair-london-tickets-19292464280

Not to be missed! Your opportunity to meet over 50 British schools face-to-face to discuss your child. An extensive seminar programme on the day will offer lots of useful tips on how to make this happen. Independent Consultants will be on hand to advise and guide you each step of the way.


Need more information about The Country Life Future Schools Fairs - visit the website www.futureschoolsfair.com

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

10 Top Tips For Expats Planning An Application To British Day Or Boarding Schools

Though your children may be well settled into an international school overseas, in these unpredictable times, a back-up, 'return to the UK day or boarding school' plan is a good idea.

Here are a few tips from our education consultants.

To get advice on your school choice decisions from both schools and education consultants, why not register now to attend our complimentary exclusive client event in London on 16th July 2016?

Click here to REGISTER.


  1. Think 2 years ahead. Family circumstances change unpredictably and last-minute places are always feasible. However, whatever your family situation now, it’s far less traumatic and stressful to think and plan ahead for schools at age 11+, 13+ and 16+ where possible.
  2.  Gain a better understanding of UK school curricula such as Common Entrance, IGCSE, A Level and IB. The traditional rigour and skills-based approach of some British schools may vary from your current international school. Be sure to find the right fit for your child to succeed.
  3. Focus on all-round education. Academics are crucial. However, British schools also like children who offer a great deal to the community as whole. Whether that’s in sports, the Arts, Music or chess, a can-do attitude and a willingness to have a go are what schools are looking for.
  4. Consider location and future proof your school choice by keeping options open. Even if your current preference is day, having boarding as an option may prove useful later on.
  5. Prepare your child for interview. Body language, posture, selling yourself, thinking on your feet, giving an opinion and why. These are not things that come naturally to all children, so a little coaching and practice might be required.
  6. Current school reference and reports are important. Prepare now and set goals for your child at their current school when it comes to reports for effort, contribution and assessment grades.
  7. Pre-assessment tests can be tricky. Keep calm. Giving your child some help with exam skills and question formats that may be new to them, such as non-verbal or verbal reasoning, will help them to perform at their best. Tutoring too much can be counter-productive so be cautious. However, you need to give them the confidence to understand the test formats and hence tackle the tests confidently.
  8. Be ambitious but also realistic about your child’s potential. Finding a school with the right balance of academic challenge, alongside relevant broader opportunities and strong pastoral care will lead to the most successful outcome.
  9. Build a rapport with the school registrars. Put all key dates in your diary well ahead. Return communications and paperwork promptly. First choice and back-up schools are important for peace of mind. However, if schools are no longer of interest, let them know as soon as possible, so another family can have your place.
  10. Use an independent consultant. They can be a good sounding board to discuss thoughts on schools as well as add options you may not have thought of. Find a consultant who does not claim commission from schools for referrals so the advice is truly independent. Fees vary hugely so shop around for quality at the right price.

This post by Catherine Stoker.


We offer a wide range of services and expert advice on your child's education.


Email consultants@independenteducationconsultants.co.uk or contact Claire on 01865 522066 for an informal discussion on how we can help.

For more information, www.independenteducationconsultants.co.uk