Gabbitas answer your questions on moving an unhappy child, separate schools for siblings and how the UKiset helps with the transition to the British education system

My daughter is unhappy at school and this is now reflected in her behaviour and progress. We’re looking to move her but are concerned about how current school reports will impact future school choices. How best should we go about finding a school where she will be welcomed and also have a chance to thrive?

Unfavourable school reports are an issue that many parents face, and it can be daunting to get to the bottom of the reasons why. It is especially frustrating when they can interfere with attempts to enter a new school, where the child may perform better. It is important to treat this as an opportunity to use the problem to your advantage, and consequently help your daughter achieve her academic potential whilst also being happy.

My advice is to first talk to your daughter in an effort to establish why this is happening. Tell her that you recognise that she is unhappy, and you are thinking of changing her school. It could encourage her to talk about the issues she faces. Knowing these issues is beneficial for you too, as it will allow you to approach new schools more easily.

In some cases, it can be better to get an objective outsider to talk to her, as conversations between parent and child, especially relating to this subject matter, can be emotionally charged and therefore inconclusive.

Regarding finding the best school for your daughter, you should undoubtedly look for somewhere with great pastoral care, as your daughter may be entering at an unusual point of entry. It’s also a case of analysing current issues; is the current school boarding? Maybe try looking at day schools closer to home. Is it a big school? Perhaps your daughter may prefer a smaller, more intimate learning space.

Think about her subjects. If your daughter is sitting her A levels, schools understand that sometimes the wrong subjects are chosen, or perhaps she might be better suited to the IB? If she is studying GCSEs, there may be a subject she is more passionate about – use this to your advantage when approaching schools.Approaching the next school can be a tricky process, so it can be very useful to seek impartial advice on next steps or help liaising with schools.

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Separate schools for siblings need to be chosen carefully to ensure fairness, say the experts at Gabbitas

Our two sons are very close in age and also very competitive. Teachers have suggested it might be a good idea to choose separate senior schools. Can your school placement team advise on what we need to consider in making the decision?

It is lovely for siblings to have a ‘shared education’, able to reminisce over the breakfast table about the funny mannerisms of the Latin teacher or the quality of the food in the canteen, but unfortunately sometimes the same school is not the right option.

Children have a great sense of identity and fundamental ‘fairness’, meaning that rivalry can easily be started when one is performing better than the other academically (or socially). This is obviously not healthy and should be avoided to the best of everyone’s ability.

When choosing different schools for siblings, it should be a considered and sensitive decision. It is imperative to analyse the schools properly, so that both are on level ground to avoid any potential issues of unfairness that might arise. For instance, if one school has family ties – perhaps a parent or grandparent attended – but the other does not, it would be perhaps best to avoid it.

Logistics are another factor. The first person your sons will look for when they score a try or take a bow is you, so it is important that both schools are within similar distance to home. This is also something to keep in mind if you are looking at boarding: you do not want one son feeling that he has been sent further away than his sibling and therefore sees you less.

I would advise that you also try to make sure that both schools are on a similar level when it comes to academics, sport, drama, and co-curricular activities. Children should be proud of their school. If a child is happy, they are confident, and when confident they will thrive as an individual and reach their academic potential.

“There is more to the UKiset than just testing a student’s aptitude – your daughter will learn valuable skills”

I’ve been told that as my daughter wants to attend a UK independent school, it would be a good idea to take UKiset so her knowledge and potential can be accurately assessed. Can you explain more about the UKiset process and how schools use it? 

The UK Independent School Entry Test (UKiset) is a standardised assessment that effectively compares international students with their counterparts who have been in the British curriculum all their lives. As well as helping schools understand a student’s level of English, the resulting report generated by the assessment provides credible information on how a student like your daughter may perform within the school environment, as well as her aptitude for certain subjects.  

Many people like UKiset as the process is a relatively simple one. Registration is quick and easy, and once the test has been taken, students can choose to send their report to up to five different British independent schools (or if they prefer, to none at all). 

As well as having test centres across the globe, UKiset are now offering online invigilation, meaning that your daughter can take the test without having to organise travel, which of course has been made difficult due to the pandemic. 

Note that there is more to the UKiset than just testing a student’s aptitude. When preparing to take the test, your daughter will learn valuable skills. These will help ready her for other school entrance exams, as well as assisting her with achieving academic success in the independent school system. 

It is important to remember that each school will have different requirements and benchmarks for their applicants, however there is no doubt that a UKiset report will only serve to strengthen your daughter’s applications. It will also give you a good insight into her current academic level,  and this will give you the chance to help her improve in any areas needed. 

At Gabbitas we have recently launched our accredited UKiset Prep service, helping to prepare students for the test with targeted tutoring. If you’d like to find out more, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Questions answered by Gabbitas Education Senior Education Consultant Paul Kelly, Senior Education Consultant and SEN Specialist Anastasia Hatvany and Assessment Manager Xanthe Lynden.

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