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London’s top international schools

11 Sep

A large part of this website is dedicated to finding the best British independent preparatory school for your child, but in reality a fair share of internationals prefer their children to be educated in an international setting, particularly in a setting that nurtures entrepreneurship, groupwork and creativity rather than constant testing and test preparation. If this sounds like you, in order to provide useful information you, I also want to feature London’s top international schools here. I will start by discussing the top options that start at the Reception age/primary level, but I will also mention the top IB schools in London and what choices of primary schools might lead there.

Top international primary schools

Hill House International Junior School – discussed in detail here and here, Hill House is a family-run Swiss school that does follow the National Curriculum of Britain and does prepare children for the British 11+ and 13+ exams, so it is probably your most British international school. It does have 50% of children from international families and focus on arts and music as well as sports and games far more than your typical British school, and it also houses a campus in Switzerland that children attend for hiking trips and music courses in the Summer and skiing in Winter. This is a great choice for parents who like the international model but still want their children to have the option of continuing at British boarding schools or getting into the selective London day schools.

Southbank International School – this is a very popular school among internationals with three campuses in Hampstead, Kensington and Westminster. It is co-educational, very much follows a more American learning style (group work, communication skills, independent field research) and 90% of students come from international families (exact mix of nationalities is detailed here). Children can start at nursery aged 3 and continue on all the way to the IB. IB results are not as top notch as other IB schools discussed below, but keep in mind that many of the pupils take the IB in their second language English, so it may not be fair to compare the results to British IB schools.

International School of London – I only just found out about this co-educational international school for children from 3 – 18 that offers the IB as well. I do not know anyone who attends this school and therefore cannot say anything about it yet – if you have a child attending this school and would like to contact me, please contact me via email or leave a comment below.

French Lycee – more than international, this school follows the French educational system but is extremely popular among internationals, even though only few manage to make their way in. Due to a good number of French citizens of Arab and African descent, and well as children from mixed couples, the student body is fairly international, which is reflected in a breadth of GCSE and A-Level language choices students can make, such as Russian and Arabic, that is not offered at most London secondaries. Pupils can choose to pursue British or French educational qualifications at age 14. It is notoriously hard to get in – to find out how to get in through the back door, read this blog post.

American School in Londonanother very popular school in St John’s Wood that is very hard for non-US citizens to get into – 80% of students have at least one parent with a US passport. The school takes children aged 4 all the way to 18 and provides “American education with a global outlook”.

Top London IB schools

North London Collegiate – Average point score per pupil 40.0. Highest score in IB in Europe, just ahead of boarding school Sevenoaks, this girls’ school in Edware, Middlesex, accepts girls from Reception age onwards via assessment.

King’s College Wimbledon – Average point score per pupil 38.7. also one of the top performers in the IB, King’s College Wimbledon with its co-educational Sixth Form does have a junior school attached that admits boys at the 7+ level.

Godolphin & Latymer School – Average point score per pupil 37.2. Very popular girls day school in Hammersmith that also has stellar A-level results. All the top prep schools featured on this site, such as Glendower Prep, Falkner House and Kensington Prep send a large share of girls to this independent secondary school.

This compares with 33.0 scored by students at Southbank International School in 2011 and 31.0 scored by students of the International School in London. Keep in mind though that a) any exam would favour native speakers of English and b) not all girls at North London Collegiate and Godolphin do the IB, many take the A-Level instead, so the IB results only represent the results of those students chosen to take the demanding IB – the A-level results of these schools are stellar as well though.

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How to get into the French Lycee London

10 Sep

Two new series I am starting here is to feature the top international schools in London and to discuss excellent value for money if not free alternatives to private schools. One of the most popular alternatives to preparatory and private secondary schools is the French Lycee in London. It consists of the main secondary school Lycee Charles de Gaulle in South Kensington, but it also has four attached Lycee primaries in South Kensington, Clapham, Fulham and Ealing.

You may have heard from others that the French Lycee schools, particularly the one in South Kensington, are impossible to get into. I have heard even Russian multimillionaires and managing directors at investment banks expressing hope that their children could get into the South Kensington Lycee, to no avail (“the French Lycee in South Kensington is impossible to get into!”, I often hear them sigh. But I wouldn’t write this post if I didn’t know a way in, would I? Here’s how.

The most common route to the French Lycee is for French nationals resident in London to register as early as possible for entry into the Lycee. Even in the Lycee de Fulham, I have heard of French parents who couldn’t get their children in if they hadn’t registered them shortly after birth. The Lycee does reserve places for French nationals just moving to London, but for those already located in London, places are very tight (the precise admissions criteria give preference to siblings, then to French nationals arriving from France, followed by French citizens in London, followed by other francophone families – details in French here).

But given that places are restricted to French nationals, the Lycee realized it had a problem serving French families in London, particularly for those opting the A-Level route in the English section of the Lycee Charles de Gaulle: interacting solely with children of other French nationals at the French Lycee, many French parents in London were unhappy that their children did not learn English as well or make friendships with non-French children and many of them opted for international schools or private British schools to prepare their children for university life and the UK job market.

For that reason, in 2006, the French Lycee launched a new initiative at its primary school Ecole de Wix in Clapham: a cooperation with the local primary school WIX housed in the same building for a bilingual intake managed by the council. Each year, 28 children are accepted into the Reception class, 14 chosen by the Lycee Francais, 14 by the Wandsworth council according to the same process as other community primary schools, I.e. via proximity to the school. The great benefits of this bilingual track is that children can learn English and French equally well, share the classroom with a group of French, British and other international children, benefit from the high academic quality of the French Lycee education, and what’s more, have a guaranteed place reserved at the Lycee Charles de Gaulle for secondary transfer. This model has proven extremely successful in two ways – the academic standards are so good and pupils so motivated that in a standardized exam administered in all French schools in 2010, the bilingual Wix children outperformed average French primary pupils (see press report). In addition, places at the bilingual track, which is free of charge (as opposed to 600GBP charged to the Lycee intake), are so highly sought after that the catchment area has shrunk to a mere 0.2 miles. This is the downside – the intake is limited to those families living in a very small distance to the school, and with priority given to siblings, the catchment area is likely to shrink further.

Due to the Wandsworth council success, 2010 saw the launch of another bilingual track at the Ecole de Fulham in cooperation with the Holy Cross Primary school in Parsons Green.  28 students are admitted via catchment area and split up in two class of 14 each, to match them with another couple of 14 each chosen from the French Lycee intake. The popularity of this programme is growing fast, with the catchment area shrinking from 0.7m in the first intake that started in Sep 2010 to 0.5 miles in this year’s intake, and it is likely that the catchment area will continue to shrink in coming years.

Moving into the catchment areas of these schools could get your child access to very good quality education, the opportunity to grow up fluent in English and French and benefit from a guaranteed place at the French Lycee in South Kensington for secondary transfer. Does that sound like a good alternative to private school to you? If this sounds interesting but you are not planning to move to Fulham or Clapham any time soon, I recommend watching the other Lycee primaries closely for similar bilingual programmes of this type, particularly the one in South Kensington.

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