American Interest


L-J Andrew visits Knightsbridge School to find out why UK independent schools are one of the biggest draws for families relocating from the US

Buoyed by a strong dollar and wealth creation during the pandemic, record numbers of American families are buying homes in London. The slump in the pound drew American buyers in, at what equated to a near 30% discount, increasing sales rates to some of their highest levels in recent times.

London has always been a popular city due to its historic pedigree and sense of community. It’s particularly appealing to families relocating from America wishing to keep their children’s curriculum as consistent as possible. Independent schools in the UK have some of the best reputations in the world, combining history and tradition with cutting-edge learning and preparation for the workplace beyond. They offer a great opportunity to experience another culture, learn languages, make friends abroad and enjoy adventures. For families that believe life is about getting out of their comfort zone, London offers precisely this.

Furthermore, having international students, broadens the British education offering, as Magoo Giles, Founder and Principal of Knightsbridge School highlights: “‘Welcoming international families to our school brings new ideas, opportunities and adaptable thinking as well as keep everything fresh and open to change.”

But every journey starts with a single step, looking for a place where the values align with yours as a family. You are, after all, choosing a trusted partner with whom to help raise your child or children. It becomes imperative to identify what’s important to you and remember to ask any and every question if there’s something that’s not immediately apparent.

Advice from one parent who has made the move and whose children study at Knightsbridge School, is: “Definitely do your research. Remember when moving from overseas, a big part of your life and assimilation to London will be via your chosen school. I can't stress how important it is that whatever school you join, it has to have a sense of community and openness.”

Although selecting the right school is a priority when relocating your family, the bureaucracy around it may seem daunting and become the straw that, alongside visa applications and citizenship papers, breaks the camel’s back, and is certainly not something you want to face alone. As Shona ColaÇo, Head at Knightsbridge School, identifies: “We’re the family, the support network and the social life for parents/families who are new to the city and sometimes the country. At KS we take this responsibility seriously; our wonderful parent reps reach out to new families, making sure that they know that the friendly faces they see in school will be there when they need help, be that finding a child-friendly eatery, a dry cleaner or a playdate for their 6-year-old.” A personalised approach that relishes success, as one parent attests to: “Our eldest daughter applied and had an assessment with the team and it was very straightforward and relaxed. My other two were in the nursery at KS so went straight through. However, having been involved with the school, I know that Mary (KS Registrar) and the team do a great job answering all your questions and are particularly helpful when families are moving from abroad. I’m often asked to speak with new American families to help them transition and offer a sounding board.”

However, once research is done, a school is selected, the application is complete and a child has been accepted, the next stage may be the hardest, especially for the child settling into their new school. Children who have moved to the UK from overseas will naturally feel nervous, so it’s key to make sure they feel stable and have access to resources to really feel part of their new school. This can be done in a multitude of ways, from school clubs, to one-to-one consultations or buddy systems. But, Magoo highlights the key way to welcome new international students is: “By having a very kind, energetic and busy staff body as well as an exciting and dynamic parents association that leads with heart and a welcoming and autonomous outlook: the TEAM (Parents& Staff) delivers for the children in and out of school in so many ways.”

Shona adds: “The basic rule we follow is making kindness a part of what we do. As a very international school, our pupils and staff are used to welcoming pupils from all over the world. The children are genuinely interested in one another and great at finding common ground on which to build friendships. The staff are chosen because they mirror the values and approaches that we, as a school, wish to see.”

Through experience and expertise, Knightsbridge has curated the perfect recipe for integrating students and acts as the perfect welcoming party, creating a community that feels like a second family. A parent describes: “I like the fact that it’s the best combination of British and International. As many English schools do, they focus on ingraining manners and treating everyone with respect. They allow for a great sense of individuality with the children and know that they develop at different paces.”

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