Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Senior school entry pre-tests and assessments or 11+ - why a rejection letter is not the end of the world.

At this time of year, many parents are faced with results from their child’s recent senior school entry pre-tests, interviews, assessments or for some, the 11+. Our consultants have been congratulating many who have received the good news they were hoping for from their first choice school.

However, sadly there have also been parents who have come to us to ask for help since their outcome was not so positive. Here are a few tips from our team of consultants which have come in handy recently, while we have been offering advice and support to parents at what can be a very tricky time for all.

Bad news on the result front presents a confusing challenge for parents as to choosing the right alternative. It tends to lead to a worried frenzy of reviewing your child’s academic potential. Asking if you applied to the right schools, seeking to identify curriculum areas where your child may have struggled in the entry process, questioning whether you should have prepared or tutored them more, are all factors which seem to spring into parents’ minds at this time.

Coupled with questioning your school application and preparation strategy, there’s also the primary concern of how you support your child through the sense of rejection they may feel at a young and sensitive age. This can be a knock to both confidence and self-esteem for some and needs careful handling.

Always talk about your list of potential school choices in a positive way. Until you have a confirmed outcome, it is important for your child to believe they will succeed and you will be proud of them, whatever school they join. Your child will thrive better if they attend a school which challenges at the right level, rather than scraping in by their finger nails and battling their way through the next 5 years, just to keep their head above water.

Phil Hallworth adds a few key points on supporting your child at this tricky time below:

Don't confuse your own feelings of disappointment with those your child - they are very different things. However you feel about it remember that he or she will be feeling wretched about letting you down and will feel a 'failure' - however hard they tried and however bright they are. Don't allow your own crushed aspirations to prevent you from doing the right thing for your child by way of love and support at this difficult time. He or she needs to know that there is a right school for them where they will be happy and where they will succeed (and remember, TIEC can help you find it!)

Finally, Phil suggests accepting that maybe you chose the wrong school in the first place and now need to re-think school choice more realistically in the light of this rejection.

To start this process, the first port of call should be your prep school Head or senior schools adviser. If the results are unexpected or there are unusual circumstances which may have affected your child’s performance, these are better presented to the senior school admissions team as an objective opinion from your current school, rather than the emotional pleas of a worried parent. Prep schools are called this for a reason, so ask them to use their relationship to support your appeal, if they confirm that one is appropriate. Hence, as soon as possible, seek guidance on the next steps from your current school and follow their advice.

If they advise revisiting your school choices, try to disregard confusing dinner party banter and school gate chatter. Torturing yourself with the success stories of others while you are handling disappointment will not help your mood. Your child will have different strengths, interests, personality and learning needs compared with many of their peers. Remain positive, think through pros and cons of alternative schools via evidence from your own experience of visits to the schools and you will more quickly find a way to resolve things.

For those yet to face the gauntlet of 11+ or senior school pre-test, interview or assessment results, the most important advice of all is to be realistic from the outset and plan your senior school applications accordingly. Listen to advice from their current Head and other senior staff and make every effort to match up their academic level or other talents and interests, to the right senior school choices. Aiming high is important as children will often respond to a challenge by performing better. However, make the goals and challenge realistic, not pie in the sky.

We are blessed with a whole range of senior school choices across both the state and independent sectors. Whatever your child’s strengths, interests and learning needs there is a right school for them, if you remain open-minded and realistic.

Do you need some advice on planning your senior school choices after a recent rejection letter? Our friendly team of consultants are here, waiting for your call.

Call Claire on +44 (0)1865 522066

Email consultants@inependenteducationconsultants.co.uk

Visit our website via the link http://independenteducationconsultants.co.uk/prep-to-senior-school-choices-at-11-or-13/

Friday, 16 October 2015

Choosing the best #school for your child's #education

Gathered from his own experiences as both a teacher and parent, here are some thoughts on State vs. Independent schools from Brian McGee, our Director of Consultancy Services.

With many parents in the middle of the annual round of open days and school visits, the issue of how to choose the best school for your child is at the forefront of our minds.

With so many leading figures in our society coming from independent schools, it seems that the 7% of pupils attending these schools gain an enormous advantage later on. This would lead us to think that paying for an independent education is an obvious step up for our child – if we can afford it. Independent schools offer academic excellence, confidence and a well-rounded approach to sport, the arts and culture. The recent TV programme ‘School Swap – the Class Divide’ could not have highlighted more effectively the difference in opportunity between the young people from the good state school and the obviously successful independent school.

My own experience as a parent, having sent my children to both state and independent schools, is somewhat mixed, however, and as a head of Sixth Form in an excellent state school, I frequently came across pupils who needed to be rescued from a damaged experience at an independent school. This was not a fault of the schools, but simply that a particular school may quite simply be wrong for the child. All schools, state or independent, have their own character and this gives them their ability to offer a child a nurturing environment. But sometimes the style of the school creates an environment which is just not right for the child, perhaps because they react badly to academic hothousing or the pressure to achieve on the sports field.

Of course, money is also a huge factor. I recently spoke to a family who had decided that, rather than spend the considerable cost of school fees at an independent school, they were choosing good state schools and topping up their child’s education with private lessons and clubs, and high quality family holidays. Others who have decided that a boarding education will offer their child the all-round education they will thrive on have chosen one of the many excellent state boarding schools (see www.sbsa.org) which offer outstanding opportunities at a third of the price of an independent school.

The key is to make good use of the visit or open day opportunities and gauge your child’s feelings carefully. The fixed open days are often a showcase event which gives some insight and information, but to truly get the feel for the school it is important to visit on a normal day and walk around while classes are on. Meet some teachers and talk to pupils – they are very honest! Of course, talking to other parents is also valuable, but do remember that your child is an individual and what is right for someone else’s child may not be right for them. We ended up sending our children to different schools because their needs were different. Start with your child and who they are and what they enjoy and you will not go far wrong.

For details of how our team of friendly, experienced consultants give advice on choosing the right school for your child, please give us a call on +44 (0)1865 522066

Or you can email Claire Coker on consultants@indepedenteducationconsultants.co.uk 

Monday, 21 September 2015

10 Tips for getting started on the framework and first draft of your Personal Statement for #UCAS application

Now the Sept term is in full swing, many year 13 students will be turning their minds to university courses for next year and getting started on draafting a personal statement for their university application. 

Here are our 10 quick tips to get you started. Often first putting pen to paper can be the hardest part.

  1. Start with your interest in the course. This is your chance to show why this course is what you want. This should take 60-75% of your statement.
  2. Be reflective. Where did your interest in the subject start? Don’t say ‘From an early age’! Be specific. A little narrative here is good, but get into some detail which is academic.
  3. Give some detail: books you’ve read which have deepened your knowledge or thinking; lectures or TED talks you’ve heard. Don’t just list them, engage with the subject and ideas. Don’t lie – only cite books you have actually read.
  4. DO talk about your A levels or IB! You are applying for an academic subject and these reflect your academic interest and experience. Relate them to the course without forcing the connection.
  5. Broader experience related to the course is very valuable indeed. If you haven’t had a chance to set some up before applying it’s still worth trying to organise it and say what you’re planning, as this could come up at interview.
  6. Relate your Work Experience to the course. Even if it’s a retail job you will have learnt transferable skills.
  7. The UCAS plagiarism software is incredibly sensitive. DO NOT copy models from the internet.
  8. Write in a formal style but DO NOT get your Mum to write it – it will be obvious.
  9. If you can, give some idea of your career aspirations, even if these are likely to change. It gives an insight into who you are.
  10. Don’t mention any problems or health issues – the statement should all be positive. These issues should be dealt with in the reference.

We are offering one lucky winner the chance to win a free hour with one of our team of consultants to kick-start the draft of their personal statement. To enter before the closing date of the 24th September enter your email address by CLICKING HERE

For more details about our services to support teenagers with making a strong application to a UK University through UCAS, visit our website by CLICKING HERE

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

#Parents - Is your child starting #boardingschool this September? A few tips from our experts on handling #homesickness.

Receiving countless sobbing phone calls and miserable emails from your child when they have just started at boarding school for the first time is a heart wrenching experience for parents. The mobile phone call, text and email has made this particularly challenging to manage as a parent, since it makes contact with home so easy and available at times of sadness. 

Here are a few pointers below which may be useful in terms of coping with this situation as a distressed parent which may help to see your child settled and happy at boarding school as soon as possible:
  1. On the first drop off day, try not to hang around in the boarding house for too long before saying your goodbyes. Help your child to unpack and to make their space feel homely, ensure they have met up with someone else in their dorm to chat to and then, with as little fuss as possible, take your leave.
  2. Listen to your child’s Housemaster or Housemistress and trust their experience and competence in supporting homesick children. If they are in regular communication with you to reassure you that there is no need for concern as they have the situation well in hand, then believe them. Houseparents take their responsibilities very seriously indeed and you can rest assured that if, in their experience, they felt there was a need for concern as your child was experiencing greater distress than is usual for a child who is away from home for the first time, they will immediately let you know and discuss with you how best to address the situation.
  3. Children are kept very active and engaged during their first few weeks at boarding school. They will be taking part in a very busy programme of study and extra-curricular activity. It is only in the odd few moments of downtime that your child will start to feel sad and to miss home, since there really isn’t opportunity for this most of the time. Sadly, it is in these occasional miserable moments when your child will tend to phone, text or email you, leading you to believe that they are feeling sad and distressed all of the time.
  4. Don’t give in to emotional blackmail. You have chosen to give your child an amazing opportunity to develop independence and experience a diverse range of opportunities within their education. They will make close friends that last a lifetime. You have made this choice for the right reasons so try not to take seriously any miserable communications from your child, which may imply that you do not care or are in some way cruel. Quite the opposite. You have made a self-less decision in giving your child what you believe to be an amazing opportunity. Your child will look back on their time when they are older and thank you for the decision you made, you just have to hang in there through the rough part at the beginning.
  5. Never let your child know that you are upset too. If you can feel yourself welling up when talking to them on the phone, let them know quickly that you must hang up the phone as you have a pan boiling over, someone is at the door or something similar. If you are worried that this may happen try to communicate with your child by email when they cannot see that the happy cheerful messages from you are written through sobbing eyes!
  6. Likewise try not to get cross and angry, rather provide a listening ear as to how your child is feeling. Getting cross may lead to your child thinking that you are not on their side in dealing with their homesickness. They must know that you are aware and understand the difficulties they are facing and that they have your full support in learning to cope.
  7. Try not to contact your child too often during their first few weeks. Some boarding schools do not allow phone calls to and from home in the first few weeks, but even if the one your child attends does, try to resist the temptation to do this too often. You are bound to be worried about how they are settling in, worrying if they have made friends and what they are up to. Remember, if your child is happy and busy, it can be very unsettling and upsetting to suddenly take a call from home, reminding them that they are away from you for the first time. If you are worried or feeling out of the loop as you have not had any contact with your child for a while, get in touch with their Housemaster or Housemistress, who will happily update you on their progress in settling in. The school will call you if they are in any way concerned. Ask yourself are you contacting your child for your benefit as you are missing them, or for their benefit?
  8. If you have family friends with an older child at the same school, try to seek discreet information via them as to your child’s welfare.  It may reassure you to know there is an older student looking out for them. Hearing from another pupil that they experienced the same feelings of homesickness and got through it and are now happy, can sometimes be more convincing than hearing it from you. They may be able to share some gems of information as to how they coped. Children can often respond better to peers who are closer to the experience and who command respect.
  9. Try to avoid discussions with your child over the phone about what you have been up to with their younger siblings who are still at home, as this only emphasises what they are missing out on in being away. Instead focus your conversations on asking your child what they have been doing, who are their teachers, what friends have they made, what sport and other activities have they been doing, and what are they looking forward to in the following week?
  10. Set benchmarks of things for your child to look forward to so the first term can be divided into small chunks of time that is easier to cope with at the start. E.g. Give them a calendar for their wall and write on it the first time you can go to school to see them play in a sports match, the first exeat and the exciting things you have planned for them when they come home.
  11. Never make a promise you have no intention of keeping, for example to take them away from the school if they are still unhappy at half term, Christmas etc. Once your child feels that there is a way out for them if they do not settle, they may dig their heels in and be determined to remain miserable until your deadline has passed so they can come home. Better to let them know that there is no alternative in terms of school option and that they need to try harder to settle in.
  12. Praise and reward your child and let them know how proud you are of their efforts and achievements. 
  13. Most importantly of all, remember you are not alone in supporting your homesick child. Try to meet up with friends over a coffee and share your experiences and concerns. Knowing that you are not alone and what you and are child are going through has been faced and overcome before will be a great reassurance and support at what can be a very difficult and challenging time for any parent.

Do you need some help with reviewing boarding school options for your child at age 11+, 13+, or 16+? 

Give Claire a call on 01865 522066 to find out how our team of friendly experts can help you or email her via consultants@independenteducationconsultants.co.uk

Visit our website for more details http://independenteducationconsultants.co.uk/international-parents-choosing-the-right-boarding-school/

Monday, 24 August 2015

Thinking of applying to #university at Oxford or Cambridge?

A few thoughts this week from our Director of Consultancy Services, Brian McGee, in answer to those who perhaps feel the Oxbridge application process is unfair.

We frequently hear news about super-bright students who fail to get a place at Oxford or Cambridge and the cry goes up that they are biased against candidates from particular groups. The truth is quite the opposite in my experience.

Oxford and Cambridge universities have worked incredibly hard to make their selection processes as comprehensive and fair as they possibly can, with a raft of procedures to ensure that only the very best candidates in each cohort are offered a place. This is in stark contrast to other elite universities in the UK, who appear to be so overwhelmed by the number of applicants for each place that their systems sometimes seem quite simply a lottery and quite unfair to many candidates.

Oxford and Cambridge have the advantage of the college system, which means that applications are directed to the admissions tutors in each college, who, along with their admissions teams, assess each application individually against carefully constructed selection criteria for each subject. These criteria are open and transparent and published clearly on their websites.

Students applying to Oxford and Cambridge will have submitted their prior qualifications and marks, predicted grades from teachers, a detailed personal statement and a reference from their teachers. In addition to this, Cambridge ask for extra detail about results and an additional statement to address the candidate’s specific interest in the Cambridge course, as they realise that the UCAS statement requires a broad brush expression of interest in five possibly quite different courses. Oxford have increasingly developed their own tests to supplement the increasingly unreliable predicted grades.

Both universities interview significant numbers of applicants in order to ensure that they haven’t missed something on an application and to iron out the problem of highly-crafted personal statements which are not a reflection of the candidate’s own interests and aptitudes. Far from being the threatening and eccentric experience of folklore, these interviews are carefully structured in order to test an applicant’s thinking skills, usually aiming to move away from the student’s comfort-zone to areas they have not considered before, so that the true signs of critical thinking and curiosity begin to emerge. The interview process is explained very clearly on the university websites and in the various visits they make to schools and colleges, so that candidates will know what to expect.

Once this process is complete, both universities then carry out a systematic moderation across colleges, so that a good candidate in one college is not compromised by an unusually strong cohort for that year. Oxford does this during the interview days, with applicants often being interviewed by two or three different colleges during their stay. Cambridge uses the Pool system, which enables college tutors to draw an exceptional candidate from the pool if they feel they deserve a look; they may then re-interview that candidate before making a decision.

No system is perfect and both universities acknowledge that many very good candidates will be disappointed, but compare this with other universities, some of whom simply do not even appear to have read some applications, and it becomes clear that these two institutions have truly tried everything they can to develop open, transparent and fair systems.

Do you need help with planning and writing your Oxbridge application or preparing for interview? 

We have a range of services which are tailor-made to support teenagers with each stage of this process.

For an informal discussion call Claire on 01865 522066 

Or email consultants@independenteducationconsultants.co.uk

For more information, visit our website via the link  http://independenteducationconsultants.co.uk/oxford-and-cambridge-university-applications/

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

As #GCSE results day approaches, here are a few tips on making the right subject choices for #Alevel or #IB

Year 11 pupils receiving their results this week may wish to review their A level or IB choices before the start of term. 
It’s very tempting to be swayed by strong results in some subjects, but you need to think very carefully about the combination you are choosing, so that you don’t close off any future pathways. Equally, don’t be persuaded to take subjects you really don’t enjoy because you have been advised that they are necessary. 
It’s certainly true that some professions require particular subjects. If you want to become a doctor you really do need to study chemistry. Similarly for many biomedical courses. For a degree in maths, further maths is critical and if your school doesn’t offer it you might want to think about switching institutions even at this stage. For engineering and computer science, maths and physics are the core choices. Many university courses have no required subjects, however. Law, for example, is completely open, though I’m always surprised by how much admissions tutors favour maths even here. 
Many universities now publish lists of ‘facilitating’ subjects, indicating the A level or IB higher level subjects they regard as being more rigorous. They also publish essential and desirable subjects for specific courses, so if you have an idea of what course you wish to study at university, it is certainly worth browsing through these. 
There is a lot of publicity around the science and technology (STEM) subjects, and the worldwide shortage of students with these skills. Students and parents might well be swayed by this, with good reason. But if you are a more creative or literary person, there is no point in trying to force yourself into a programme you will simply not enjoy or succeed at. It’s the most important choice you are likely to have made so far and it’s very important that you follow your own ambitions and interests. The UK is still a world leader in the creative industries and there are many opportunities for those with flair, talent and determination. 
Many able students study a language alongside other subjects such as sciences. This is clearly an advantage in the international world of work and is often looked on favourably by university admissions officers. Universities find it increasingly difficult to recruit students to languages courses, which seems so short-sighted in this global age.
Overall, a combination which suits your interests, grade profile and aspirations will work out best in the long run.

If you feel you need to talk through your choices at A level or IB, talk to your teachers or alternatively call our team of friendly, experienced consultants via the contact details below.

You can call Claire on +44 (0)1865 522066 or email Claire on consultants@independenteducationconsultants.co.uk

Visit our website to find out more via the link http://independenteducationconsultants.co.uk/choosing-sixth-form-subjects-and-career-planning/

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

One more sleep until #ALevelresults and #Clearing starts. Here are our last-minute tips to make tomorrow as stress free as possible.

Fingers crossed tomorrow brings more press coverage of 'the best A level results ever'! However, for those not so fortunate to secure their university place, here are a few tips from our team of education consultants on how best to handle the Clearing process.

  1. UCAS Track might update overnight, so you can check your status online before collecting your results
  2. Be prepared. Have your UCAS ID and personal statement to hand when you pick up your results
  3. If you go into Clearing, available courses are updated regularly on the UCAS website and individual university websites. They are also published in the Telegraph.
  4. You will be given a Clearing number, which you will need to hand before contacting the universities.
  5. If you find a course you are interested in, call the university to check. They may give you a verbal offer there and then.  You can take time to think before confirming your choice on UCAS.
  6. If you go into Adjustment, seriously consider this as a possibility – there are some great courses out there which you could upgrade to.
  7. The process is similar to Clearing. Call the universities first before applying online.
  8. If you do not get the course you are hoping for, you may wish to take time to consider other options, maybe a gap year with relevant work experience. Don’t accept a degree course which is not what you want.
  9. If you get a place on a course which is not your original choice, ask the university about accommodation and finance before making your final decision.
  10. Dont sit around and worry alone. Seek help and support so you gain the reassurance of being on the right path to finding the right solution for your future as soon as possible. Our friendly, experienced consultants are on hand all day and for the weeks to come. You can call Claire on +44 (0)1865 522066 or email Claire on consultants@independenteducationconsultants.co.uk

Visit our website to find out more via the linkhttp://independenteducationconsultants.co.uk/ucas-clearing-advice/

Monday, 10 August 2015

Preparing your teenager for #University - As #Alevelresults day approaches, a few tips for #parents

Phew! For most, come Thursday, those all-important A level results will be in the bag and your teenager is excitedly preparing to move on to the next stage of their life, by starting university in the Autumn. Here are a few tips to support parents in preparing them, so you can sleep slightly easier, once they have flown the nest.

  1. Help them to familiarise themselves with the town or city where they will be studying including the campus layout, location of faculty teaching blocks, public transport, location of the supermarket etc. A visit a few weeks before they start might help with this.
  2. Do everything you can to assist them to secure a place in a hall of residence. Being among other ‘Freshers' in a hall of residence, rather than a rented house during year one, will make finding their way around and meeting new friends easier and give a gentler acclimatisation into University life, especially if they have, to date, been living at home.
  3. Help them to plan the clubs and societies they will join during Freshers' week. University is a fabulous opportunity to try a huge variety of new and exciting sports and activities and those who get fully involved from the outset will make new friends and hence settle quickest.
  4. Organise their finances by opening a bank account. Shop around for the one that is offering the best student incentives and ideally chose one which has a branch located close to the university or even better on campus.
  5. Spend some time going through the importance of budget planning and monitoring cash-flow carefully. Advise against credit cards and un-authorised overdrafts.
  6. If the timetable structure of their course looks like there might be time for some part-time work to supplement their student loan, help them to get a CV and application letter ready and to start to research places where they might seek employment once in situ. Talk them through body language and basics of interview technique. Reliability, looking respectable and a friendly personality will be the key factors to get across. Review pictures and comments on their Facebook page as many potential employers will now review these before taking on young people.
  7. Have some fun in the kitchen helping your teenager with planning and cooking healthy meals on a budget. Reproducing some of mum’s home-cooked dishes for new friends will be a positive way to cope with homesickness in the early stages.
  8. Have a serious chat about safety, keeping gadgets and tech safe, managing drink, turning down drugs and coping with peer pressure to do things which they may feel are out of their comfort zone.
  9. Find out what the local GP arrangements are for students and register them.
  10. Advise against taking too many possessions with them for the start of the first term. Some things are essential, but having too much will cramp their living space and be too hard to keep track of. Homely but uncluttered is best. Valuables should be minimal. Make sure key items are covered by appropriate insurance.
  11. Advise against taking a car until they have seen where they will be living and investigated the parking arrangements. If they do chose to take a car, drink-driving should be discussed.
  12. A bike is a good investment and don’t forget lights and a high-vis top.
  13. A laptop with a good size screen will be crucial. Consider getting a separate mouse, keyboard and ensure they have the latest up-to-date software. Consider how their work will be backed-up and a few USB sticks might come in handy.
  14. Agree how you will keep in touch. Email, text, mobile, Skype. Give them space to explore this exciting new stage of their life, but explain your need to hear from them every once in a while, to be reassured they are happy and safe.

If Thursday does not bring the outcome you hoped for, our team of friendly, expeienced consultants can offer advice on the Clearing process. 

Please call our team of consultants on 01865 522 066

Visit our website for more information via the link below. 


Thursday, 6 August 2015

What happens if #year12 students fail to get the #grades they need at #ASresults time next week?

Waiting for AS results is always a stressful time; solid AS results are so critical to the choices available for A2 and university offers. With the introduction of new AS courses in September, those in Year 12 have an even more complicated set of decisions to make this year.

Many schools require a minimum level of pass grade at AS to qualify a student to proceed to A2. In previous years the option of resitting an AS level alongside A2 courses, or even resitting the whole of Year 12, were a good option for many. But with new specifications coming on-stream, this is not such a straightforward decision.

Students in maintained schools no longer have the option to re-sit Year 12 as the funding has been withdrawn. Many students in independent schools will find themselves in a similar position. This might mean that a total rethink of academic and career options is required, including the possibility of pursuing a vocational or apprenticeship route. I have known many students over the years who have switched to a BTEC or similar programme and proceeded very successfully to university.

Those wishing to re-sit individual modules or AS courses have a much more complex decision to make. Many subjects will be based on completely new specifications, with the new AS becoming a stand-alone qualification which does not count towards the full A level. It is likely that most students in this situation will simply have to proceed to A2 and re-sit individual modules without the benefit of being able to sit in on AS lessons.

Some students will simply not have the AS grades they hoped for to present a strong case to their chosen universities about their potential at A2. My advice here is not to panic; the university sector is changing rapidly, making many more options available to students. Good advice from your HE adviser is crucial here as many doors might remain open with the right advice.

It certainly isn’t easy being 17 these days! But with the right advice, the options available are better than ever. So don’t panic on results day. Be proactive and get good advice.

Our team of friendly, professional educational consultants are on hand throughout the A level and GCSE results period to offer a listening ear and some helpful advice on the best way forward.

Give us a call on 01865 522066

OR email Claire via consultants@independenteducationconsultants.co.uk

For more details visit our website by clicking the link  http://independenteducationconsultants.co.uk/a-level-results-need-to-re-sit/

Friday, 31 July 2015

Why #Clearing Has Become The New Way To Apply For #University

Since we welcome Brian McGee as a new full-time addition to our consultancy team from Monday, we thought a few of his wise words on UCAS Clearing might be useful for those awaiting A Level results this August.

As A level results day approaches, many students have traditionally waited with bated breath to see if they have been successful in gaining their chosen university course through UCAS, dreading the thought of being pushed into the mad scramble of Clearing.

But in the last two years all that has changed and Clearing now provides a way for proactive students to gain access to courses which are very attractive and possibly of a higher calibre than they might have hoped for. 61,300 applicants secured their university place through Clearing in 2014 and this figure is likely to be higher this year.

Many universities, including 14 Russell Group institutions, have now opened up Clearing places in advance of the August 13 deadline. This is partly in response to students such as IB candidates who gain their qualifications earlier, but it is mainly because the Higher Education sector has been blown wide open by the lifting of the cap on university places offered by each institution.

So, what does this mean for the astute student and parent wishing to make the best use of this opportunity? Well, if you start to look at the Clearing courses available now, you have the chance to be ahead of the pack. This could even mean considering applying for a higher level course through Adjustment if you feel that your grades might be better than you’d hoped. You may also have second thoughts about a course you applied for possibly ten months ago and feel that another course might suit you better.

Download the Telegraph Clearing 2015 app so that you are ready on the day to act fast, or see their Clearing website.

For these details take a look at our top tips for students and parents in our recent blog post  http://futureschoolsadvice.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/less-than-4-weeks-to-go-to-alevel.html

Remember, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone for fast independent advice.

Call 01865 522066 to talk to Claire about your query.

OR Email Claire via  consultants@independenteducationconsultants.co.uk

Monday, 20 July 2015

Less than 4 weeks to go to #ALevel #results day. Are you waiting for your future to be secured through #UCAS?

It’s distressing opening that envelope on A level results day to find you haven’t attained the grades you need to confirm your place on the #university course of your dreams. If you find yourself in this position on Thursday 13th August, try not to despair. There’s a chance you might still be accepted if your grades have only slipped a little and if not, as long as your grades are reasonable and you are prepared to be proactive and flexible, you should secure an alternative.

Here are our top tips to make the day as stress free as possible and to ensure the best possible outcome, whatever you’re faced with.
  1. Be available at exam results time. If you’ve only just missed out on your university offer grades, check your status in Track as your place may have been confirmed anyway. Congratulations!
  2. If your status is unchanged, there’s no need to panic yet. If not confirmed or rejected by mid-morning, pick up the phone to the university admissions team, as they may not have made a decision on your application as yet. Be calm and ask when you might hear and let them know you’re still really keen to study with them.
  3. If the answer is no but your grades have only been missed by one or two marks, so your school may be recommending a re-mark, call the university to explain. Be calm and polite. Places are very competitive so unless your school or adviser feels you have a strong case to ask the university to re-consider, it’s probably not worth the call.
  4. If your first choice university answer is no, consider your back-up offer carefully. Before accepting, ask yourself if this is a course you really want to study at a university you wish to attend. A minimum of three years study on the wrong course in a location you don’t enjoy will seem like a very long time.
  5. If you find yourself without a confirmed place at either of your course options, act quickly to find an alternative.  It can be difficult to be motivated and enthusiastic at a time when you are experiencing disappointment, but the key to success is to get involved in the Clearing process as early as possible.

UCAS Clearing allows those who have not secured a place on their chosen course to research places on alternative courses. It can also be used by those who did not accept any offers received during the UCAS application process or applied too late for their application to be processed via UCAS.
  1. If you are eligible for Clearing, Track will say ‘you’re in Clearing’ or ‘Clearing has started’. If it is taking a while, it may be your university choices are taking a while to decide on places.
  2. Look at the official Clearing vacancy list online via UCAS or via The Telegraph by clicking here http://clearing.telegraph.co.uk/
  3. Seek advice from your school or an education consultant. Their familiarity with the Clearing system will give you a head-start in using it effectively, as well as assist you to quickly find courses of interest. Vacancies get snapped up so it can be useful to have expertise to support you, in being effective and speedy to move forward with anything that interests you.
  4. Keep an open mind when viewing the course vacancy lists. You do not need to stick to your original course of study and may find alternative courses that did not occur to you previously.
  5. Keep an eye on the Clearing information on a regular basis. Courses that were full can sometimes have vacancies later, so always be up-to-date with the latest information.
  6. Contact universities with courses of interest as soon as possible. Have your exam results, your UCAS personal ID and Clearing number to hand. You will find your Clearing number will appear automatically in Track
  7. Once you have found some places on courses which interest you through the UCAS website, call your chosen universities. They will put you in touch with the admissions tutor and you will have the opportunity to ask questions about the course and to tell them a bit about yourself and why this course interests you. Prepare a few questions in advance such as will they provide accommodation and make sure that you have practised selling yourself over the phone. Try the lift test. If you had one minute in the lift to tell them why they should offer you a place, what would you say?
  8. It might be useful to have a copy of your personal statement to hand, just incase there are things in it that might be useful to highlight, in response to questions you are asked by the admissions tutor.
  9. Ideally you should visit the university campus before making a final decision, but be prepared to verbally accept or decline an offer on the spot. With this in mind, it is a good idea to telephone the universities in order of your preference for the courses they are offering.
  10. To accept an offer which has been made to you over the phone, you need to enter the course details on Track via the ‘Add a Clearing Choice’ button. If the university then formally accepts you, confirmation will appear in the ‘Choices’ of Track and UCAS will follow this up with an official confirmation letter in the post.
  11. If you are not formally accepted by the university the ‘Add a Clearing Choice’ button in Track will be re-activated and you can add another course form the Clearing list.

Good Luck!

Some useful website links for step by step advice during Clearing.

Clearing places search tool click here http://search.ucas.com/

OR Give us a call and our friendly professional team of education consultants will be very happy to help you.

Call +44 (0)1865 522066

Email consultants@independenteducationconsultants.co.uk

Visit our website http://independenteducationconsultants.co.uk/applying-to-uk-university/ 

Friday, 10 July 2015

Choosing the right #British #boarding school - Ten Top Tips for #international or #expat parents.

  • Consider your parental aspirations for their future, in tandem with your child’s individual talents, personality and needs. They must feel ‘at home’ in the right type of environment to enable them to meet your aspirations.
  • Get to grips with the British curriculum and decide what format and teaching styles will best suit your child as they transfer from their school outside the UK.  Understanding the age and school years for school transition, for example prep to senior school at age 11 or 13, will make the entry and settling in process less tricky.
  • Look for an extensive 7 day a week programme, ideally with lessons on a Saturday morning. Weekends can be lonely if there’s not enough to keep busy.
  • Be wary of schools offering flexi and weekly boarding, if total boarding numbers are small. A high percentage of full boarders is crucial.
  • Extend your search area outside the South East. Considering flight routes from regional airports instead of just Heathrow and Gatwick, opens up a whole host of great full boarding schools across the UK. With generally speaking less competition for places, chances are you might have more choice of schools, especially if you are looking at short-notice.
  • International schools raise children who are very culturally aware and who feel comfortable within a global community. Review the percentage of international pupils at your short-listed boarding schools. Will your child feel more comfortable in a UK school with a higher percentage of international pupils? Or are they more suited to a largely British school community, with only a sprinkling of international children.
  • Ask about parental communication and reporting. Technology now allows for sophisticated web-based feedback and reporting systems for parents. Some schools even stream live video of lunchtime concerts or plays. This will ensure you still feel part of your child’s life at school, even if you live overseas.
  • Meet the head and the houseparents when you visit. These key people will shape your child’s future, so you need to agree with their educational philosophy and feel you can build a good working relationship with them over the years your child is at boarding school.
  • Food is important. In-house dining creates a homely pastoral feel, whilst for fussy eaters, central dining may offer more extensive choice.
  • Be wary of in-country experts who give advice in return for a financial incentive from schools. Advice from an independent source is crucial.

Would you like advice on choosing the right British boarding school from our team of professional, friendly, independent education consultant experts?

Give Claire a call on (+44 )1865 522066

Friday, 19 June 2015

#University open days are a crucial part of choosing the right course, when it comes to making your #UCAS application

Exams are nearly over and Year 12 students are knuckling down to their year 13 courses and beginning to ask themselves 'What next after school?' 

For those planing on applying to university, tuition fees means students are committing themselves to significant investment in their future, through university study. As such, careful consideration must be made regarding the course of study, to gain the best possible return on this investment, when it comes to employment and a career.

June sees many universities holding Open Days, an important opportunity for sixth form students to review course options before submitting their UCAS application in the Autumn. 

A website is a good way to start research, but a visit enables you to take in the atmosphere and ask specific questions. Most universities allow you to to book to visit their Open Days online.

Prepare a check list of questions, so you leave the day feeling fully informed about both the course and what it would be like to study at the university itself.

Here are some suggested questions below:
  1. For your chosen course, what is the weekly contact teaching time and how does the system of tutorials work?
  1. How is the course assessed – how much is project work as opposed to exams?
  1. How many places are offered on your chosen course each year?
  1. How are applicants evaluated, e.g. are interviews part of this process?
  1. Does the course include time in industry, work experience or opportunities overseas?
  1. Do current students recommend the course?
  1. What careers advice is available?
  1. What percentage of last year’s graduates from this course gained employment and what types of jobs have they secured?
  1. What clubs and societies are offered and are the facilities for sport, the Arts etc. likely to match your interests?
  1. What is the policy for accommodation in the first year? If this is your first time away from home living in a hall of residence will make it easier to meet new friends.
  1. Do you like the atmosphere? You will be living there for at least 3 years so need to feel at home in the environment you choose. Campus style universities or those that are located around a town have a different feel.
  1. Are there good bus routes or secure areas for bicycles for travel to lectures? Think twice about taking a car. Parking can often be difficult and cars are very expensive to run.

Do you need some assistance with reviewing your university course options or with making a strong UCAS application?

Our team of friendly professional consultants are here to help. For an informal chat about how we might help you, call Claire Coker on +44 (0)1865 522066

or Email consultants@independenteducationconsultants.co.uk

You will find more information by visiting our website via the link below


Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Congratulations prep school leavers! #commonentrance

Tomorrow will see a buzz of excitement among prep school leavers, with news of Common Entrance results for the majority of children leading to a confirmed place at their chosen senior school. Sighs of relief will quickly turn to excitement as the summer holidays approach and then gradually thoughts will turn towards making a new start, as they move on to their future school.

Here are 10 tips for parents to prepare your child over the summer, so they are ready to hit the ground running in the larger, more independent, hectic environment at senior school.
  1. Keep their brain ticking over with reading books from the local library, visits to art galleries and museums, doing puzzles, playing scrabble, subscribing to online maths programmes etc.
  2. Review joining information now. Return forms in plenty of time. There may be first-come-first-served timetabling choices to make, such as which extra language or musical instrument to take up, or booking in a mouthguard fitting.
  3. Run through the pupil handbook together to establish daily routine and rules. Getting into trouble in the first few weeks will be a set-back in the settling in process.
  4. Look over the extra-curricular programme, discussing which have most appeal. Planning school runs and other family commitments will be easier if you have an idea of when school commitments might be.
  5. Request email and phone numbers are circulated amongst form or house groups. Make contact with other families to arrange joint activities over the summer. Starting a new school alongside familiar faces is far less daunting.
  6. Gradually increase independence, for example catching the bus to the local shopping centre to meet friends for a couple of hours.
  7. Be firm on time-keeping and give advice about keeping themselves and valuables safe. Encourage your child to act responsibly and solve problems themselves.
  8. If boarding for the first time, practise housekeeping skills such as keeping a tidy bedroom, keeping track of possessions, changing a duvet cover and putting clothes into the laundry daily.
  9. Buy new uniform as soon as is practical, bearing in mind summer growth spurts. Leaving this until the last week of the holiday means items are more likely to be out of stock and the shops will be insanely busy with those doing everything at the last-minute. Name everything clearly and securely, including techy gadgets, chargers, trainers and in particular sports kit, which often tends to disappear.
  10. If starting a new sport such as lacrosse, hockey or rugby, book a pre-season summer course to get to grips with some of the skills before term starts. This will boost confidence and give them a head-start in September.
For the very few for whom results day brings disappointing news, firstly seek and listen to the advice of your prep school Head. They have strong relationships with senior schools and know your child well, so will be best placed to advise and support you in securing the right alternative school to the one you had your hopes pinned to.

If you would like an independent viewpoint, in tandem with that of your school, our team of friendly consultants are here with a listening ear and a big box of tissues, to advise and support you in reviewing your options.

For advice on choosing the right senior school please contact us to speak with one of our expert education consultants. 

Or Call 01865 522066 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

An A to Z of tips and questions for #parents, when choosing or visiting a potential #school.

Whatever age and stage of education your child has reached, planning their next school can be a confusing and sometimes even daunting process. Dodging the minefield of gossip at dinner parties can be tricky, not to mention handling passionate advice from family members who are keen to relate their own experiences. Below are a few tips from our education consultant team, gathered through years of experience supporting parents with their future school choices. Whatever your dilemma or concern, chances are we have heard it before and can offer an independent perspective on how to move forward in the best interests of your child as an individual.

Academic level of the school MUST match that of your child. It should present them with challenge to aim high, but be realistic.

Boarding school pros and cons. It’s important to understand 21st Century boarding rather than thinking boarding is still as it may have once been when you were at school.

Curriculum strengths differ on a school by school basis. For example in areas such as Science, Sport, Music, Drama, Art. These need to match those of your child so they will feel engaged and inspired.

Dyslexia or other learning support. Does the school use teaching methods and styles to suit the individual child’s needs?

Extra-curricular opportunities which will match the talents and interests of your child. Inspiring your child to try new things is an important part of an all-round education.

Full-boarding should have a 7 day a week programme, particularly if you live overseas.

Guardianship policy. Does this give you the reassurance that someone is looking out for your child while you are overseas?

Head’s philosophy of education and strong leadership is important. Do the school ethos and values match yours?

Information technology should be noticeable on a tour around the school. Is it gathering dust or is it being used creatively to compliment work in the classroom?

Keep your options open with the range of schools you short-list. On the other hand, try not to visit too many or you will get confused.

Location in relation to home must make school runs practical if day school is your preference. Does the school have lessons and sport on a Saturday and how will this integrate with your family life at home? If your child is boarding, would they prefer a rural countryside campus or perhaps a school located in a town or city? Do you need to be close to airports or train links?

Meet the Head when you visit and ideally try to go on a normal school day when you can see the school in action rather, than when it is on show, perhaps on an Open day.

Nurturing self confidence and self-esteem vs. a more competitive, driven environment. Your child’s personality must suit the environment for them to thrive.

Option blocks for subject choices at GCSE and in the sixth form. Are some subjects compulsory?

Parent portal on the website. Does this provide easy access to information about your child and what is happening at school day-to-day, to enable you to  monitor their progress whilst at school, especially if you live overseas.

Qualifications offered for example 11+ CE, GCSE, IGCSE, A Levels, IB, EPQ. PreU

Reporting, evaluation of effort and progress. How does the school ensure parents are kept informed?

Single sex vs. Co-ed and which suits your child?

Teachers’ specialisms and classroom ‘feel’ and atmosphere. Does the school appear traditional or present a more in-formal approach to learning?

Uniform policy, colour and style. Is this worn in both the lower school and sixth form?

Visit the schools at least two years before the September of entry. Places can fill up quickly, so allow enough time to meet the criteria of what can sometimes be a lengthy and competitive admissions process.

Wifi and the use of ipads, laptops and smartphones. Technology is now a crucial part of education for the future.

‘EX’eat and weekend policy in boarding schools - how often will your child be permitted to come home and if you live overseas how often will they need to stay with their guardian?

Your gut feeling about which is the right school is the one that matters. Try to put aside dinner party banter, family input and tradition or league tables. None of these consider schools from the individual perspective of your child.

‘Zeek’ advice from your current school Head, Housemaster or tutor. They know you and your child well so can suggest schools which match your academic aspirations, as well as the skills and interests of your child.

Do you need advice with choosing the right school? Our team of education consultants can help.

Visit our website for more information by clicking the link below.

Here is what our clients say about us:

“I have been singing your praises to anyone who would listen and will happily spread the word. I wanted you to know that through all the oscillation, deliberation and concern, my husband and I have gone back to your crystal clear words of wisdom. It helped so much coming from someone with intelligence and experience on this confounding subject and has helped us take this giant leap of faith. Thank you. I believe we are finally on right path for our daughter.”

Call Claire on 01865 522066 or email consultants@independenteducationconsultants.co.uk