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How to move to London with children

The ultimate guide to the perfect family relocation to London

Moving abroad with a family is probably one of the hardest things you can be doing. So first of all, respect to you for taking on this enormous challenge! And of course congratulations for this decision – London is the best city in the world (we say) :-).

As a family, your main concern and choice will be about where to live in London as a family, and which school to choose for your children.

If you have already done some research online, including on forums, you will surely have found A LOT of information, and that can be the issue. Because every family is different, you need to make sure you have all the information in your hands to make the right decision.

You will find below a few pointers and a methodology that can be used when organising a family relocation to London. Because, whatever your family requirements and wishes, we definitely do not recommend that you go about randomly relocating to London with a family :-).

Step 1 – Research family areas and schools in London

The main question you will have to answer is: where will my family be living in, and which London school(s) will the children be going to?

To help with the research you will have to do on neighbourhoods, check out our London areas guide and our videos of the most popular London neighbourhoods.

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To start with the schools question, we would recommend that you clarify whether you want to send your children to a state school (called “public” school in many other countries), or a private school (also called independent school in the UK).That is an important decision, as this will define how and when you can apply for schools, and when you should have your UK home and address.

This decision can be driven purely by school fees – state schools don’t charge anything, private schools charge fees. But it doesn’t have to be the only criteria for your decision, and there isn’t one solution that fits everyone. It will depend on your family’s and children’s circumstances.

To help you make the right decision, you can check our article on whether state schools are a good option.

Step 2 – Made your decision on state or private school? Now plan your next steps

To help understand the timing of your next steps, check out our guide on when and how to apply for state and private schools.

Your timing will depend on the type of school you want your children to attend:

  • If you have chosen a state school, you will first need to find your London rental home. Check out our guide to the top boroughs for high-performing state schools, and proceed to the next section of this guide (3a).
  • If you have chosen a private school, proceed with the school applications first, and then find the rental home once you have a response from the school(s). Jump to section 3b of this guide for more detail on selecting and applying for private schools in London.

You can of course decide to apply for both private and state schools in London. In fact this is an ideal solution if you are still unsure. You can then make a final decision when you have received responses from all schools.

Step 3a – Find your family home in London

Whatever the type of school you have chosen, you will need to find a home for your family. So, where do you start to organise your family home search in London?

We recommend that you choose around 2 to 3 London areas to focus on, and prioritise your rental property viewings for these areas.

Your objective will be to set up viewings for London rental properties in a short time frame, ideally one day

The market is extremely reactive, and you will not want to see one property per day, because by the time you see the property on Day 5, the first three will have gone already…

You do want to be able to compare areas and properties immediately, in order to make a quick but funded decision.

  1. You will need to call each estate agent for each property you will have identified, to clarify whether the property is still available, and whether it matches all of your criteria.
  2. Don’t forget to check when the property will be available! Some properties are available immediately, others later on. You can decide which ones to choose depending on your own timing.
  3. You will also need to set up your viewing at a time that is convenient and not too far away from the next viewing.

Before the viewings, you will want to understand how rental contracts work – you will have to negotiate with the agent, so you better be well prepared. Check our guide below to have all the information you need:

Step 3b – Find the London schools for your children

State schools:

  1. Once you have got your UK address, check out which state schools are located in your Borough.
  2. Visit your Borough’s website to find out about the local state schools, and which forms have to be filled out to apply.
  3. Check out the inspection guides for the schools, and set your priorities.
  4. The application documents will let you to indicate up to 6 state schools that you wish to apply for, in order of preference.

Private schools:

  1. Research private schools online, and check out the ISI inspection reports.
  2. You can also set up schools visits to get your own impression of each school – check out our guide on how to best plan a school visit.
  3. You can apply to as many private schools as you want, but beware, most private schools will require a fee to be paid in order to apply. Therefore you might want to be selective about which London schools you choose to apply for.

Whatever type of school you have chosen, you will receive a response from the school(s) and/or London Borough, and a place or several places offered. You will always need to confirm acceptance with the school or London Borough.

Once that is done, don’t forget to read all the information sent out to you by the school, including where to buy the famous school uniform (not all schools expect it, but many do).

Step 4 – Organise your family move to London

If you have done all the above, congratulations! You have the hardest tasks behind you. You can now start planning for the move of your personal belongings. But who should be taking care of moving them to London?

Here are 4 tips on how to choose a removal company:

  1. Research their accreditations – reputable international removal companies will be vetted and accredited by one or more industry bodies. For example, in the UK these include the British Association of Removers (BAR), the National Guild of Removers and Storers, the Road Haulage Association and the Removals Industry Ombudsman Scheme.
  2. Request and compare quotes for your estimted volume – this will give you a good idea of how much you should expect to pay depending on your specific requirements.
  3. Check they have insurance – the removal company you help your assignee choose will be responsible for the safe transportation of your personal belongings to London. Therefore, you must check they have a comprehensive insurance policy, to guarantee that anything damaged in transit is covered.
  4. Read reviews and testimonials – gauge just how good a removal company by finding out what their customers think.

Step 5 – All done? Congratulations! Your family can now enjoy London!

Once your personal belongings have arrived, and the children have started at their new school, you can be proud of yourself!

If you want to become a Londoner in no time (well, we hope so :-)), check out our 10 tips on how to settle in successfully in London.

In any case, don’t forget that London offers plenty of green space – this guide to the best family parks will occupy your first weekends hopefully!

Happy family move to London!

Want to be fully prepared to find your next home in London? Buy and download our self-help guides!

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Guide to State and Private Schools in London

A practical guide to state and private schools in London: where the best schools are in London; school years and curriculum; applications process and timelines; application requirements; Special Education Needs, glossary of school terms.

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Guide to State Schools in London

All the information you need to find the right London State School for your child, and apply successfully: top state schools; when and how to apply; catchment areas; admission criteria; waiting lists; appeals; application websites for all London Boroughs.

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Guide to London Neighbourhoods

20 top London neighbourhoods covered, with, for each neighbourhood: history and character; average rent prices for 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms; transport links; local highlights.

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