Launching a new series in which expatriate parents share their advice on international schooling, FT Residential speaks to a mother with considerable overseas experiences
Carole Hallett Mobbs, her husband Tim and 16-year-old daughter Rhiannon have just returned to the UK from Pretoria, South Africa. Since 2006, Tim’s career with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also taken them to Tokyo and Berlin, and Rhiannon has attended several international schools as well as boarding at a British prep school. Mrs Hallett Mobbs runs the website ExpatChild.
How to choose a school
“Your child’s happiness is paramount. It’s no good choosing a highly academic school based on your expectations, if your child is unhappy at that school,” says Mrs Hallett Mobbs. “Have an idea about how long you will be staying in that country and where you will move later, ie back home or to another country. It helps to know if and when you may be moving from that country. Ultimately, the main consideration is the curriculum.
“Because we have always expected to return to the UK after each posting, it was vital that Rhiannon stayed in the British curriculum as much as possible. In hindsight, if we had known we would move from post to post throughout Rhiannon’s education, we may have chosen the International Baccalaureate for ease of moving between schools. As it is, she has learnt some topics several times over and others not at all.”
The greatest challenge
“Getting it right. It’s extremely hard to choose a school when it’s impossible to see into the future. It’s also hard to choose a school from afar. Even when we have been able to visit a school, we haven’t always made the right choice. Sometimes this is because the school staff haven’t given accurate information and sometimes it has just been a bad fit for our daughter. Never be afraid to speak up and change schools if it’s not working out for your child.”
The benefits of an international education
“International schools naturally absorb aspects of the host country’s culture — educational methodologies, cultural quirks and a general way of life. This helps children adapt to their new country while not overwhelming them by full immersion. [They] often have great experience at helping newcomers adapt to their new school and manage mid-term moves very well.”