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Old 06.03.2017, 13:10
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Moving to CH from the UK - primary aged children

I know you don't know my children but maybe you can help me think through the issues! I've been trying to read as much as I can, and I guess some of this stuff has been asked before, but I'm drowning a bit.

I have three children, aged 10, 7 and 5. None of them (or I!) speak any German. There is a strong possibility of my other half's job moving to Switzerland, near Zurich and I'm trying to find out a bit more before we make a final decision. It's not a fixed term post so we don't know when/if we would be returning to the UK.

Youngest is bright, outgoing and sociable, and I would expect him to cope pretty well wherever he lands and I would be quite happy to send him to a local school. Middle child is less outgoing, but friendly and I also think that, after a few wobbles, she would settle in a local school, and I'm sure they would both pick up the language fairly well. Oldest child is exceptionally bright (will be sitting the 11+ this year and we've been told that she has a good chance of getting into grammar school) but is absolutely dreadful at dealing with change. I just don't know whether expecting her to settle in a local school/pick up the language would be too much. So an international school might make more sense for her, and would probably work better if we were to return to the UK in 3-5 years.

So I guess my questions are
- have you any experience of an older primary child starting at a new school in a new language?
- what about sending children to different schools? Is the education very different in the two kinds of scchools?
- do international schools have waiting lists?
- Winterthur has been suggested as an area we might look at to move to, and I know there is an international school there - any experience of that? What are the public schools like there?

Thanks for your help!
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Old 06.03.2017, 13:26
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Re: Moving to CH from the UK - primary aged children

Can't help with the older ones, but from our experience the youngest should fit in but it isn't particularly easy at first; the Swiss are quite reserved and therefore making friends can be difficult, and of course a lot of weekends they're all with family etc. We've found schools (in Rapperswil) to be really helpful - German lessons, being friendly to us and putting up with our awful German, explaining how it all works - but particularly with girls it seems integration can be hard when they all have their own friends from kindergarten.

But if your kids like outdoor family activities, picnics, swimming in lakes, and/or visiting cool places, and being allowed a lot more responsibility, then it can be great.

One thing to check is school holidays - private schools may have longer holidays, and do make sure they aren't in different cantons or some holidays will likely be at different times and therefore could cause issues.

Do think what's in it for the kids - not because I think you should run your life for them, but because some of your decisions could impact how they experience it and how you explain/sell it to them.

If the older one is academic, maybe the challenge of learning a new language and culture would be a good "selling point"; but be careful she goes into the right year, at that age kids here are academically behind the UK (but socially / responsibility more advanced), but you can choose your year based on ability not age.

Put the younger one in Pfadi and give him a penknife and box of matches and maybe that's him happy - unless he's devoted to his current hobbies etc etc.

Switzerland is a very outdoors, family oriented sort of place - if you're moving from a big city (that you enjoy) it will be a culture shock, if you're moving from the country/small town then it's likely to be similar but with much much better transport and infrastructure.

ps - Schools here are not, as far as I know, as variable as in the UK. On the whole they range from OK to Good - people don't move house because of the local school.
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Old 06.03.2017, 14:51
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Re: Moving to CH from the UK - primary aged children

You'll find a lot of threads here about people moving with kids and most of the experiences are positive. Your 5 and 7 year olds should be fine, schools here are geared up for extra language lessons and it's not taken amiss if they have to repeat a year of schooling. The 10 year old may struggle so you might want to investigate an international school. But - a) they are expensive, somewhere around 25,000-30,000 francs a year and b) they would then be making different and not necessarily local friends to the other two.

Also it's not a case of you choosing a school, usually your children will go to the school nearest to where you live. It's not a hard and fast rule and depends on availability and what your gemeinde (town/city/village council) has arranged with other gemeindes. But unless there's any reason to go elsewhere it will normally be the nearest school.

There's info here (the kindergarten info is out of date - in most cantons it's now compulsory that children between 4-6 go to kindergarten).

http://www.about.ch/education/index.html
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Old 06.03.2017, 14:59
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Re: Moving to CH from the UK - primary aged children

Hi there

TBH your eldest may struggle. The older they are, the longer it can take. However, it's all very variable and entirely dependent upon your personal circumstances and the resilience of your kids. The systems are very different so bear in mind that slotting a 14/15 year old back into a UK system of GCSEs may not be so easy either. The international schools do offer IGCSEs which should aid the transition but as has been stated, they are expensive. Is there a chance the company will pay?
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Old 06.03.2017, 20:16
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Re: Moving to CH from the UK - primary aged children

Your eldest may struggle. Also in Zurich have a look at a recent thread that talks about the equivalent of the 11+ that exists in this canton. Very few children pass this, not like in the uk. For a child as you describe this could be a big knockback to her confidence. I would suggest international school for your eldest. The younger children will do better in the local system but make sure you maintain that possibility to move to an english speaking education, by doing english outside the school programme.

Be aware every canton differs in how they implement their education. Maybe a canton outside of Zurich would work better for you.
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Old 06.03.2017, 21:41
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Re: Moving to CH from the UK - primary aged children

for the older one, if you can get a deal through your company then internation school would probably be the best option as mixing with the kids at a local school, at that age, will be exceptionally hard if she doesnt speak German and she will be made to feel like an outsider

the other should be ok but check out the schools first before you agree on an apartment as you do not get to choose your local school. kids go to the closest one and that it so if the school is rubbish (which some are in CH) then you're in buggered.

make school No1 priority when finding somewhere to live. oh and get the kids starting German lessons now.
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Old 06.03.2017, 22:02
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Re: Moving to CH from the UK - primary aged children

Thanks all for the responses, a lot of food for thought. The final package hasn't been decided, but I get the impression that there may be some assistance available for education, though it's highly unlikely to be enough for all three children. We can probably top it up a bit, but still not enough for all three. This is tricky - I think the three being in the same school might be easier for them in some ways, but I can't see how to get it to work

annie - you suggest looking at areas outside Zurich. Where would you suggest? I really don't know CH at all yet, the plan is that we will visit once discussions are a bit further on. Job is in Flawil, but we wouldn't live there. St Gallen area could be an option, but a lot of the potential colleagues live in or around Zurich. As I said upthread, Winterthur has been suggested, but grateful for any thoughts.

Thanks again.
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Old 07.03.2017, 09:02
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Re: Moving to CH from the UK - primary aged children

I personally know two families who arrived with exceptionally bright english speaking 11 year olds who learnt German incredibly quickly and have done very well in local schools. One is now in the last year of gymnasium, the other is at university. They both started in the 6th class of primary school and one went on to Kurzgymnasium, the other was moved up to Langzeitgymnasium during 1. sek - unusual but the fact that the child had passed the 11+ in England was taken into account.
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Old 07.03.2017, 09:30
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Re: Moving to CH from the UK - primary aged children

We arrived here when my daughter was 10. She is very bright, and picked up German quickly, however in this canton it was not quite enough to get her into the highest stream, since math is her weakest subject. She is now in the middle stream, which we are very happy with, she could still attend Gymansium if she wants to starting in grade 9. Personally, I would put all three kids in the same school, but keep an eye on the curriculum, so you can supplement at home what she might miss in England for her to slot back into the British school. I think the experience of gaining a language an mixing with local kids far outweighs the possible difficulties when going back. If she is bright, she will manage that.
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Old 07.03.2017, 09:42
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Re: Moving to CH from the UK - primary aged children

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We arrived here when my daughter was 10. She is very bright, and picked up German quickly, however in this canton it was not quite enough to get her into the highest stream, since math is her weakest subject. She is now in the middle stream, which we are very happy with, she could still attend Gymansium if she wants to starting in grade 9. Personally, I would put all three kids in the same school, but keep an eye on the curriculum, so you can supplement at home what she might miss in England for her to slot back into the British school. I think the experience of g8aining a language an mixing with local kids far outweighs the possible difficulties when going back. If she is bright, she will manage that.
Agreed up to a point but OP said that her eldest does not manage change well. That can freeze even the brightest child for a time. Bright and adaptable would, as you say, gain a lot. But the social side of things cannot be ignored. The re-entry at exam preparation time in the UK would be another massive shift. I've seen both sides and it's hard.

OP: I hope you find the best route for you and your kids.
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Old 07.03.2017, 10:21
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Re: Moving to CH from the UK - primary aged children

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I think the three being in the same school might be easier for them in some ways, but I can't see how to get it to work
That's far from a given, only a few schools in Winterthur (schools in General I think) teach all 11 years. Much more often a school is dedicated to either Kindergarten, primary school (year 1-6) or secondary (years 7-9).

See here for a map and a school list. There are exceptions, for instance in Oberwinterthur the school Wallrüti, but they are rather few.

Btw Winterthur is often shortened to Winti (orally) or W'thur (written).

W'thur is a good option when working in Flawil as your commute would be against the stream so little risk of traffic jam. An alternative is St.Gallen city, it's roughly the same size as W'thur and much closer to Flawil.
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Old 07.03.2017, 10:46
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Re: Moving to CH from the UK - primary aged children

For your eldest , international school or bilingual school is the best option.

My daughter goes to ZIS - Zurich international school in wadenswil. ZIS has different campuses , middle school is in Kilchberg. I feel it is the best international school . You can google it. So if you want to go for ZIS , you have to stay either in Ruschlikon , Horgen , Wadenswil , Au areas.

There is another school - International school of Zug & Luzern. If you are interested in this one then you can stay in Zug (canton Zug). Some of the kids in my neighbourhood are in this school and they find it good.

Also Swiss international schools have 4 to 5 campuses and are bilingual.

Depending on international school , you can decide the place to stay and then finding local school for the other two kids won`t be a problem then.

All the best.
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Old 20.03.2017, 23:10
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Re: Moving to CH from the UK - primary aged children

I just wanted to say thank you all for your replies.

Plans are getting more concrete now, the job has been formally offered and we are in the package negotiation stage, so hopefully we'll have a better idea of the budget soon. I'm still leaning toward local school for the 5 year old, and international school for the oldest, and undecided for middle one now. Budget might force it one way or the other!

Thanks again.
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