8 February 2018

EUROPE: How will Brexit affect schooling for expat families?

A leading researcher with regards to schooling, School Choice International, has recently published an interesting article via Mobility magazine. The article explores the impact that Brexit will have on schooling options within the EU and how affected employers can prepare. Since this is such an important and topical issue we want to summarise the most important aspects of the article.

Presently London is the European hub of operations for many international companies. With Brexit meaning the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union these companies are currently weighing up the options to base operations in a number of other European cities. However those currently gathering the most interest are Dublin, Frankfurt and Paris. They will face the biggest strain when it comes to the influx of expats.

As the article stipulates, companies that will move their entire European operation from London to only one new location are rightly concerned about the amenities and resources that will be available to their expatriate families, including schools.

According to the researchers the concern mainly stems from two factors:

  1. That there will be a huge difference in the number of children versus the number of appropriate school options
  2. Uncertainty with regards to the turnover rates in current schools catering to expat families, the influx is expected to be much higher

In light of this, it would be prudent for affected companies to already start planning a strategy. Old practices will no longer suffice to ensure spaces for expat children, especially not making an application at the last moment.

The article then goes on to break down the different schooling options:

  • International schools
  • Public or State Schools
  • Private Schools

Although it seems like there might be an abundance of options – depending on how many in each of the affected cities there might be - each option has potential negative aspects.

For example, those believing that international schools are reserved only for international students, and therefore would have plenty of space available, might be surprised to learn that the popularity of international schools have grown immensely over the past few years also with local populations. This means that available spaces at international schools are even more highly sought after than public or private.

Competition for spaces at public and states schools is also high except in this respect it is due to migrants and refugees as the article has stated; “In Frankfurt, absorbing the numbers has stressed the public system, and overcrowding is prevalent”.

And finally, for some schools there is a language requirement which can again limit the options for expat families whose children do not speak the local language of the country where they will be transferred.

So what do the researchers at School Choice International recommend? They advise that an element of flexibility from companies and expats alike will be required in order to succeed on the schooling front after Brexit, but they also provide some examples of what some companies and schools are currently doing to try and get prepared, and these tips can be useful to all of those that will be affected:

  1. Set up a potential debenture agreement – debentures are financial agreements between companies and schools and while they do not per se guarantee admission – children need to pass any entrance exams if necessary - they will put that companies expat children to the top of the waiting list;
  2. Send HR representatives from the company to schools in affected cities in order to work together and develop a good relationship;
  3. Proper planning – this means no last minute applications (researching admission timelines) and looking at factors such as language requirements or special education requirements.
  4. Further to the point above, companies should start looking much earlier on at an expat child’s profile , especially age and ability, in order to investigate and eventually provide the right set of options for them specifically as an individual. This will of course mean possible expansion of HR resources or strategy.

For more information and the full article please click here (February 2018 edition).

How does this affect the client?

Employers in potentially affected cities should already be looking at schooling options for a possible influx of their expat employees, the key is to start sooner rather than later. A non-successful integration of an expatriates family, especially including the children, is the number one reason for assignment failure abroad and should be considered as a high priority risk factor for employers







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