London: Schools for Expats

London: Schools for Expats

London School Sketch

If you’re moving to London with your family, the first item on your To Do List will be to freak out about find schools for the kids. As you will soon learn, it’s never too early to start applying. If you find out you’re moving to London on Monday morning, start researching schools that same day. Almost everyone has a horror story about exams, applications, fees and waitlists. But don’t worry! It’s not always as bad as it sounds – at least it wasn’t for us. Here’s how I organized our search:

1) English schools

We ruled out English schools early on in our process for a few reasons. First, we were really keen on a French/bilingual school. Second, one of our daughters would have transferred in at Year 6 – the year when students prepare for and take the exams that dictate which secondary school they will get into. Many say that Year 6 can be a difficult year of test taking and we thought it might make for a rocky transition. That being said, I’ve since learned about some pretty amazing English day schools.

Oh! I should mention this: When Brits say public school, they mean independent, fee-based schools (what we call private schools here in the US). I have no idea why they do this, but it seems intentionally confusing. Here are a few links if you decide to go the English school route:

2) International Schools

These are schools that cater to expats and/or international students.  The American School of London, in particular, has a good reputation. We took a tour and were impressed with a lot of what they offer. Ultimately, we wanted a bilingual program so we went in a different direction.

If you decide to go the international school route, I highly recommend applying early and taking a tour or the school (when school is in session). You will learn a great deal about the school’s philosophy and personality. Here are some international schools in London to get you started:

3) French Schools

They say London is France’s sixth largest city – so it’s no surprise that the Lycée in South Kensington has been over-subscribed for years. New French schools are FINALLY opening and/or expanding to fill the demand. Nonetheless, you should do your research and apply early and often. (Also- check the OFSTED reports. Some schools may be growing too fast.)

Primary Schools (end at Grade 5):


P.S. Whatever you decide – apply early! And apply to a few backups!

P.P.S. For what’s it worth, our top choice (and we got in!) was L’école Internationale Franco-Anglaise. My #2 choice probably would’ve been Ecole Jeannine Manuel.

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Cheers to London

London Scouting Trip

A few weeks ago, we took the kids on scouting trip to London in preparation for our upcoming move – and wow! What a great trip! If I had any hesitation about moving to London (I didn’t), this trip won me over. Our main priorities for the week were to visit potential schools and check out some neighborhoods…. But we also left plenty of time to visit with friends and explore the city!

The biggest news of all is… we found a school for the girls!  L’école Internationale Franco-Anglaise is a bilingual school (french/english) in the center of London in a neighborhood called Marylebone. The school’s philosophy is similar to the girls current school, so it felt like a good fit. We took a tour of the school and LOVED it. Dan and I were impressed by the friendly staff, the bilingual curriculum and the arts & music programs. The girls loved: iPads for everyone, recess at Regents Park, and field trips to Belgium!

We also spent a lot of time exploring neighborhoods and looking at different houses. We found so many charming neighborhoods we’d be happy to call home. Hopefully we’ll find something close to the school…? Marylebone, maybe?

Both girls are super active and passionate about their respective sports. So we made time to look for a new ballet studio and soccer team. I didn’t expect to nail this down – but we had great luck! Sophia fell in love with Central Ballet School (and got in!) and Sasha tried out for Kinja FC – and made the team! I’m so proud of them both for putting themselves out there and just going for it!

But the real highlight of the week was the warm welcome we received from our friends and family. I feel so lucky to have them in my life! We haven’t even moved yet and I feel like these families have our back.

P.S. Our happy home video…

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Greetings from Aspen!

Greetings from Aspen!

aspen trees


Is the sky always blue in Aspen? Every time I’m here, the sun is shining and the sky is crystal clear. What did I do to deserve this?

We are in Colorado with a large group of friends. As I type this, the house is positively filled to the brim. And yet somehow, it’s remarkably quiet. Most people are exhausted and resting from a long day of skiing. Some are in the kitchen preparing for Seder dinner.  And poor Sasha is suffering from altitude sickness. :/ While she rests, I’ve found a desk in a sunny corner of the room to send you this weekend update…


My key to happiness and productivity: focus on systems, not goals

What you learn in your 40s.

5 non-fiction books to read on the plane.

I’ve tried to ban the word “busy” from my vocabulary. It’s a work in progress.

Writing your way to happiness.

Even if it’s just one sentence a day.

If you like Adam Handler’s Happy Hanukkah, you’ll love this video!

Have a great weekend!

French Visa Q&A: Going on Sabbatical

Visa Q&A: Going on Sabbatical

sabbatical planning and visa requirements

Visa Advice by Laurence Raybois ©2015 — Photo via Plum Delux.

This post is part of a series called Q&A Tuesday: French Visas. Our resident expert is Laurence Raybois from Americans Moving to France and Rural France Resources.

This month’s question:

I’m an academic planning a year-long sabbatical in France. My question is: what kind of Visa do I need and does that visa cover my spouse and children? If not, what type of visa do they need? 


The visa that you will need as an academic planning a year-long sabbatical in France will depend on what you intend to do while there.

If your intention is to spend your time doing independent research/studies that have not been formalized between you and your employer in the US, and for which you will not be compensated by a French institution, then a one-year visitor’s visa will suffice.  You will need to prove that you will have the means to support yourself in France without needing to seek paid work there, since this status does not allow its recipients to work.  Your spouse and children will not benefit from your status, but can apply for it independently from you.  Or your spouse could request a completely different status enabling him/her to work in France.

As an academic, you may be hoping to get a formal research position in France.  If that’s the case, then you will need to get a scientist’s visa.  One key advantage of this option is that, unlike the visitor’s status, it comes with family benefits, and would result in your spouse (and minor children) being automatically allowed to not only come with you, but work as well while in France, without him/her needing to apply for a work visa.

If you are being sent to France by your academic institution specifically so that you may accomplish a specific task, then you may also be able to benefit from the “employé en mission” status, which carries the same family benefits as the scientist’s visa.

So the key is to plan ahead!

Laurence Raybois Consulting © 2015

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Send me your questions or put them in the comments below. We’ll try to get your question answered in an upcoming post.

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My London on Pinterest

My London on Pinterest

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