This article was written by expat Alexandra Yanik of MoveHub, an online platform designed to make moving abroad easier for everyone. Thank you, Alexandra!
Moving to a new city with children is tough enough, but moving abroad with them opens up a new set of worries. Whether this is your first move with the whole family or your fourth, our tips for moving to London with family will help put your mind at ease.
Finding a School in London
If you already have a job sorted before you leave, the next most important research task is to find a school for your children. There are many different options to consider; state or private, single-sexed or mixed gender, faith-based or not, UK curriculum or International Baccalaureate (IB).
All children aged five to 16 must be in full-time education and can receive a free place at a state school. If you live in your desired school’s catchment area, you have more of a chance for your child to be admitted to an oversubscribed school.
A state school is free, and though many top London schools are private (also referred to as public schools), there are a number of highly rated state schools, some of which are so successful that families will move inside the postcode catchment area for that school. Several private schools can be costly to match their reputation, but have their own benefits, such as a greater range of extracurricular activities.
There are also quite a few international schools in the capital, and have a deep understanding for the support needed to successfully help relocated children, both in the classroom and outside.
If you have a child that requires special education needs (SEN), most schools and colleges should be equipped to assist.
To begin your search, have a look at the latest Ofsted report, run by the governmental Office for Standards in Education, to see which ones are highly rated. Once you have made a list, and have the time for a visit, most schools run open days for parents and prospective pupils.
Useful online resources for parents:
Understanding the UK curriculum: http://www.hmc.org.uk/about-hmc/projects/the-british-education-system/
Map of London schools: https://www.london.gov.uk/webmaps/lsa/
School term dates by borough: http://myschoolholidays.com/
Family Friendly Neighbourhoods in London
London is made up of 32 boroughs, each with their own unique neighbourhoods from which to choose. While wealthy expats move to charming Kensington, Richmond, Mayfair, and Chelsea, London has more to offer than these costly central locations.
The North London areas of Finchley and Muswell Hill are near to many highly rated schools of all types, and feel more like a suburb than living in a city. Finchley is serviced by the Northern line, and both areas have access to buses to take you where you need to go.
Southeast London is home to Herne Hill and East Dulwich, both of which are becoming increasingly trendy places to live due to the large park, good schools, and decent transportation links.
The areas of Wimbledon and Wandsworth Common in Southwest London are serviced by trains in addition to the Underground and Overground lines, and have decent schools and access to a few of London’s many green spaces.
Renting in London
Finding a place to live in London with your family can be overwhelming, but doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- The further away from the centre of London, the cheaper and, usually, larger flats and houses you will find.
- Generally speaking, south of the river is cheaper than the north, while parts of East London have cheaper, newer buildings due to the decimation of the area during WWII.
- When looking for a flat or a house in London, don’t just rely on the tube map; there are many modes of transportation keeping boroughs well linked to the centre.
- Sites such as Rightmove and Zoopla are great tools for getting to know property types, prices, and areas prior to moving to London.
- Some prices may include utilities and/or council tax while others may not. To double check the council tax band of your area and therefore affecting the price, use gov.uk’s valuation list.
- It is common for letting agents and landlords to request a UK guarantor to cover you in case you cannot afford your rent for any reason; or they can ask for six months of rent up front.
Whether it’s signing up for membership at your local gym, meeting other parents at your children’s schools, or going to an expat event by meetup.com, becoming a part of your new community is simple in concept.
However, the first few months will be a whirlwind of adjusting to your new lives, settling the children into school, exploring your new neighbourhood, and getting into the rhythm of your job.
Don’t fight those urges of homesickness; rather use them as motivation to find a piece of your old life in your new city.
Remember, London is beautifully diverse culturally; no matter where you come from, you will always find something here that will remind you of home.