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Old 06.03.2010, 12:31
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So much for integration in local schools

... yes, we've taken the plunge and decided to put our kid in a local school...

Or, so we thought -we recevived an official letter (in German, clearly) telling us we're to send the child on the buss to a school which will provide him with "intense German lessons" as all children who don't speak German need to do this.

Uppon checking we discovered that our child will be the youngest by two years in this group of "problem children" - problems which, we are told, are not language related. What we had previously hoped for was an immerssion in the local school directly (based on the fact that one of us speaks fluent German and could help at home and the fact that the child is young already bi-lingual so has a good grasp of languanges etc).

It turns out that our otherwise terribly innefficient relocation agent agreed without our knowledge to send our child to this school.

We are angry with the stupidity of the relocation agent and trully concenred for our child. We can appeal - which, of course, we will - but gosh, starting our life in a new country with a legal case.. what a start.

Has anyone got any experiences of the sort? Any suggestions on how to handle this appart from a full on legal action?

OH, YES: we have till Monday (two days from now) to appeal....
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Old 06.03.2010, 13:09
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

hi there, wow this sounds like the same experience we had. Our son who had completed a full year of kindergarten in Australia started here the week we arrived. He did one day and then we were told he couldn't come back as he was 'too young' (he was born 2 days past the cut off date). So our plans for him to learnt he language etc went out the window and he had five months at home not speaking with any other children. Very tough for a little social bee. Anyway, we were lucky to find a place called 'Hands on Kids' at Effretikon which is a bi-lingual school and he has learnt lots of german there. Its really well priced as well. We are thinking of trying him at the local kindergarten in August so that he can develop a network of friends with the local kids before starting school. everything I have heard still points to the swiss schools being a good choice though, so here's hoping. Have you had a look for any other options in the area that might be a good 'bridge' to the local system? Everything we experienced really came down to the teacher not wanting to teach our son as she wasn't confident in her English (this is what we were told later). This might be a similar problem to you. We've been told now we should have forced the issue for him to be allowed in but like you, we'd only been here a week and had no idea what to do. Good luck with everything!!!
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Old 06.03.2010, 13:37
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

Why are you confusing "intensive German lessons" with "problem" or special needs classes? They have to give the course somewhere and if it is away from the main schoolhouse they must provide a school taxi or bus for the transport, but you can bring the kid yourself if you like.
Gradually they spend more and more time in their real class and less time with the German course, unless the system has changed.
These things are really well organised.
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Old 06.03.2010, 14:19
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

Well look at it from the positive side......your kid gets the needed language lessons that will enable him to integrate better at school as well as being able to follow the stuff taught at school, it's organised by the school including transport , the other kids attending the lessons with him are probably going to the same school and thus it gets to know more kids this way........

I did feel you are too easy too ready to apply a two handed sword talking about full on legal case......as well as why sarcastically remarking about the letter being in German!!! It obviously will be if it's a Cantonal School as German is the main language of Canton Zurich.

I'd advise you to seek an appointment with the school and try to solve this by talking and maybe agree on a compromise........you'll do your kid no favour by wanting to go down the legal route!
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Old 06.03.2010, 14:31
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

I can understand the stress, though, as other posters have said, it does appear that there are more unanswered questions than answered ones. It is possible that the relocation agent made a mistake. In which case it won't do you any favours to go at it like a bull in a china shop.

However, I don't understand where the problem kids vs. language kids comes into it, as surely the relocation agent should not be in a position to make such a decision (i.e. that your child is a problem child). It is also possible that by "problem" they mean children with learning difficulties who need additional language tuition in their own language (e.g. dyslexic kids).

My understanding was that catch-up language schooling was usually done by the school itself and organised/funded by the Gemeinde.

Do provide an update, as we won't be far behind you in terms of requiring such support for our children.

Good luck in trying to sort it out.
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Old 06.03.2010, 14:31
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

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Or, so we thought -we recevived an official letter (in German, clearly) telling us we're to send the child on the buss to a school which will provide him with "intense German lessons" as all children who don't speak German need to do this.

Uppon checking we discovered that our child will be the youngest by two years in this group of "problem children" - problems which, we are told, are not language related. What we had previously hoped for was an immerssion in the local school directly (based on the fact that one of us speaks fluent German and could help at home and the fact that the child is young already bi-lingual so has a good grasp of languanges etc).
Sorry, I'm just trying to understand..
"on the buss to a school..." do they want to send you child to a different school to the one he has been going to? Or do they just want him to be on the bus - which will take him to the school he has started going to already?

I'm just a little confused sorry..
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Old 06.03.2010, 14:33
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

Teacher speaking: First, go to that school, ask specifically what this special class is all about, what is planed for your child, and pedagogical perspectives. In other words: get the facts right directly from the source.

When you know precisely what this special class is about, you will be able to ask your questions and take a decision in a dialogue mode with the school. In the worse case, they will have to tell you where to find an alternative. Good luck.
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Old 06.03.2010, 14:46
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

Wise words
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Old 06.03.2010, 14:47
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

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It turns out that our otherwise terribly innefficient relocation agent agreed without our knowledge to send our child to this school.
That's a double negative.
"Agreed without our knowledge", huh?

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We are angry with the stupidity of the relocation agent and trully concenred for our child. We can appeal - which, of course, we will - but gosh, starting our life in a new country with a legal case.. what a start.

Has anyone got any experiences of the sort? Any suggestions on how to handle this appart from a full on legal action?

OH, YES: we have till Monday (two days from now) to appeal....
Nothing like waiting till the last moment.

I am sorry for your problems and perhaps the relocation agent did not do a good job, but I don't think you've been very responsible either allowing the agent take such serious decisions.

My 2cts.
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Old 06.03.2010, 15:12
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

How old is your child ?

There are lots of options, sourcing those options is possible - you need to get down to the school and ask lots of (polite) questions...

I can relate to the frustration, but it's easy to 'jump to conclusions' about what they are offering and the possible consequences.

How fluent is your child's German ? Perhaps this is simply a mis-understanding, or perhaps your child's first day will be with a team who are trained to assess their language and to then decide where to place them ?

Although the teachers here have a range of experience with bilingual children, it is quite different in my experience than having a child who 'jumps in' with only one language, one that is not the one being used in the classroom - there is a lot of 'remedial' work that has to be done, and if the classroom is a competitive, graded one, well, the child will look 'stupid' by comparison whenever they are tested.

Point being, the school system might actually be offering a very good option - and without talking to the teacher/school you have no idea what they are planning/offering/thinking/expecting...

It's 'standard' to offer intensive support of some type to children who are not from the 'common' language background - we do exactly the same thing in Australia.

There's no legal action required - that I can see - the system here is quite well-formed, varied and elaborate, you just need someone who can talk you through the options and advocate for your child...

Some parents would be delighted to think their child is being offered a special programme rather than being 'chucked in the deep end'.

The deadline for school placements for the new year (starting July) was last week. I assume you have just arrived and this is week 2 of the half-year - your child probably should have started school last Monday, at the beginning of the second school semester in Canton Zurich... ?
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Old 06.03.2010, 17:23
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

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Why are you confusing "intensive German lessons" with "problem" or special needs classes?
We are not confusing this. Like you, we thought children in these classes had a lot in common : no German and a wish to make friends.
However this is not the case. We spoke to the teacher who will be teaching our child and she practically begged us to reconsider (as if this had somehow been our decision!) - it was at this point that she told us the composition of the class, ages, issues, etc. She is trying to be very helpful and we appreciate it. She is also part of a system.

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seek an appointment with the school and try to solve this by talking and maybe agree on a compromise........you'll do your kid no favour by wanting to go down the legal route!
We tried to go to see the school. Both the one we don't want as well as the one we want.

On both occassions we were told that the teachers are too busy so see us. We will however see the school we don't want when we need to be there...but that is after the deadline for appeal.

I agree that the legal route should be the last resort and it infuriates me that we were backed into this corner by our "represenative" at the relocation agency.

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Nothing like waiting till the last moment
Well - it's a big step to start legal action.
We tried everything else first : getting our information straight - I mean the LAST thing I want is for my kid to be in a school of my choice but one where there isn't enough support in German. Didn't want to put my wishes before what was the reality

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allowing the agent take such serious decisions. My 2cts.

Ah, NOW - THAT is ENTIRELLY a different story!

We had no idea that this woman was even in contact with the school till she casually mentioned "yes, I spoke with the secretary of Frau XYZ and she agrees with me that the best way is to"... I nearly feel of my chair. I was still in the UK - packing, it was a few hours before Frau XYZ was leaving for the weekend and we couldn't reach her. We spoke with the decision makers since but they, quite reasonably, said that they had no reason to believe that we were not represented by this person as she had all our details (of course she had!) and spoke as if we'd empowered her - which we had but only to gather info, not to DECIDE.

Well, it's a lovely mess.

Last edited by vwild1; 06.03.2010 at 17:52. Reason: Merged 3 successive posts into 1
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Old 06.03.2010, 17:57
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

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How old is your child ?

There are lots of options, sourcing those options is possible - you need to get down to the school and ask lots of (polite) questions...

I can relate to the frustration, but it's easy to 'jump to conclusions' about what they are offering and the possible consequences.
Our child has no German and age-wise is under the cut of point to need to go to the "special school" (appologies for the inverted comas, I am not sure what is the correct name here, I don't mean to be sarcastic) which I am told is 7 years old.

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How fluent is your child's German ? Perhaps this is simply a mis-understanding, or perhaps your child's first day will be with a team who are trained to assess their language and to then decide where to place them ?.
----See my separate post on this ----we hoped it would be a good expereince----


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Although the teachers here have a range of experience with bilingual children, it is quite different in my experience than having a child who 'jumps in' with only one language, one that is not the one being used in the classroom - there is a lot of 'remedial' work that has to be done, and if the classroom is a competitive, graded one, well, the child will look 'stupid' by comparison whenever they are tested..
----hmmm, you are right! and it's why I trusted the people in charge to make this assesment for us as I had no idea what to compare it with. But when the teacher who would be looking after my child rings (yes, she called us) to say that in her oppinion would not be a best idea (I think she was less understated) then I have reason for concern.

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Point being, the school system might actually be offering a very good option - and without talking to the teacher/school you have no idea what they are planning/offering/thinking/expecting.....
----agree--------

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It's 'standard' to offer intensive support of some type to children who are not from the 'common' language background - we do exactly the same thing in Australia.

There's no legal action required - that I can see - the system here is quite well-formed, varied and elaborate, you just need someone who can talk you through the options and advocate for your child...

Some parents would be delighted to think their child is being offered a special programme rather than being 'chucked in the deep end'...
We'll see what happens after the appeal. If indeed the system is such that they simply cannot cope with an extra child in the regular classes, it is not in our interest to have the child there. And if the school suggested. is not suitable then we we're back into the international school option for a while. We don't dislike the schools we looked at but - as many posters here have mentioned - they are not the best way to integrate if you want to be here for longer....

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The deadline for school placements for the new year (starting July) was last week.
We had no idea of this !! So the decision taken was really for longer than just this shcool year. Oh, dear.

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nI assume you have just arrived and this is week 2 of the half-year - your child probably should have started school last Monday, at the beginning of the second school semester in Canton Zurich... ?
Yes - we were hoping to start last week but didn't happen as a place was made available only from next week.

Your whole approach makes sense, Swisspea.

We'll carry on trying to speak with someone - and also try and formulate the most polite, non aggressive yet firm appeal the history of legal action has ever seen.

Wish us luck!!
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Old 06.03.2010, 17:59
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

By the way - thanks everyone for taking the time to give advice - our internet connection was down.

It seems that we're doing the right thing by trying to find a way forward rather than just curl up and run to the international school straight away.

We'll update with the outcome of this saga....
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Old 06.03.2010, 18:03
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

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Sorry, I'm just trying to understand..
"on the buss to a school..." do they want to send you child to a different school to the one he has been going to? Or do they just want him to be on the bus - which will take him to the school he has started going to already?

I'm just a little confused sorry..
It's a bus to the school where they are teaching mainly German which is about 6km away from the regular school. All the children go on the bus and it's all very well organised - though if you've never been to a school waving good-bye in the morning and getting on a bus without mum & dad may be a little daunting. If we do go down that route, for the first few days (weeks???) at least one of us would be bringing our child there ourselves.
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Old 06.03.2010, 20:37
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

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It turns out that our otherwise terribly innefficient relocation agent agreed without our knowledge to send our child to this school.

We are angry with the stupidity of the relocation agent and trully concenred for our child. We can appeal - which, of course, we will - but gosh, starting our life in a new country with a legal case.. what a start.

Has anyone got any experiences of the sort? Any suggestions on how to handle this appart from a full on legal action?

OH, YES: we have till Monday (two days from now) to appeal....
Your relocation agent should not have been making decisions for you, that's the first point. What a good agent should do is give you the options and you decide based on the available information. In Kanton Aargau, the options vary greatly and while I don't decide for my clients, I make recommendations but the final decision is with the client. Something has gone terribly wrong in your case.

For me, the school is the first thing I research, even when the children are very young, they are going to go to school eventually. Moving locally is very expensive, and a hassle so it is best to get this right the first time. The house or apartment is not the priority. Too many people concentrate on the housing and don't properly investigate the school options.

If you were in Kanton Aargau I could help.

How old is your child?
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Old 06.03.2010, 20:56
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

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I am sorry for your problems and perhaps the relocation agent did not do a good job, but I don't think you've been very responsible either allowing the agent take such serious decisions.

My 2cts.
I think it is unfair to describe the OP as irresponsible. People hire relocation agents to help them, and they have to trust them. Going being a client's back, not being up front about everything is just not the way a relocation agent is supposed to behave and it sounds to me like that is what went on here.

The relocation agent should have done the research and explained the schooling options to the client in the particular Gemeinde where they were considering renting a property BEFORE a lease was signed. After it's too late as you can see, you have little choice. If the options weren't acceptable to the client, they look for another property.

If a client is considering a rental in a small Gemeinde where there is no intensive German available, there can be an option to send the child to a nearby Gemeinde where intensive German is offered. The problem is who will pay. It may be possible to negotiate with the small Gemeinde that they will pay the fee to send the child to the other school. It is not a lot of money and in some cases they would rather have the family living in their Gemeinde (and the tax revenue). Not every community can offer intensive German to a satisfactory level but if they refuse to look at other options, I won't put a family with school age children there.

Research into schooling takes time and not something I think clients should compromise on. When it comes to finding housing, one always has to make compromises, that's just the way it is. These are not as serious as living with the consequences of the wrong education choices.
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Old 06.03.2010, 22:15
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

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Your relocation agent should not have been making decisions for you, that's the first point. What a good agent should do is give you the options and you decide based on the available information. In Kanton Aargau, the options vary greatly and while I don't decide for my clients, I make recommendations but the final decision is with the client. Something has gone terribly wrong in your case.

For me, the school is the first thing I research, even when the children are very young, they are going to go to school eventually. Moving locally is very expensive, and a hassle so it is best to get this right the first time. The house or apartment is not the priority. Too many people concentrate on the housing and don't properly investigate the school options.

If you were in Kanton Aargau I could help.

How old is your child?
If only we'd met you instead of our relocation agent...

She "forgot" about the school ... and oh, she was only focusing on one child as "the little one" is too little anyway and ... well the nursery, yes, we'll find that maybe in July (we both work, by the way)

... I cannot tell you how hard it is to hold back and not name and shame this person!

Back on topic: We have finished the draft to our appeal now - with help from two Swiss teachers, a German friend and info from the schools in the UK. I have a good feeling that all of this effort will pay off.
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Old 06.03.2010, 22:50
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

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If only we'd met you instead of our relocation agent...

She "forgot" about the school ... and oh, she was only focusing on one child as "the little one" is too little anyway and ... well the nursery, yes, we'll find that maybe in July (we both work, by the way)

... I cannot tell you how hard it is to hold back and not name and shame this person!

Back on topic: We have finished the draft to our appeal now - with help from two Swiss teachers, a German friend and info from the schools in the UK. I have a good feeling that all of this effort will pay off.
Well for starters, I don't work in Zürich, just Kanton Aargau. I have heard some horrible stories about other relocation companies - the same ones keep coming up - but one one wants to name them and warn others. I think some people feel that if HR was generous enough to hire the relocation company for them, why complain? So HR never knows just how bad the level of service was, they pay fees in the thousands yet there was no value in the service provided. At least go to HR, if they hired them and complain.

Sometimes I wonder who is really clueless, HR or the relo agent they hired?

Personally I think you should name the firm because that person seems to be responsible for the situation you are in. Do you really want another family to have to go through this?

I do hope your appeal is successful and do let us know the outcome.
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Old 07.03.2010, 10:31
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

There is a big 'sticky' here for information on child care - the German at the beginning, but if you need French, someone pasted the alternative somewhere further down the thread.

I have developed quite an interest in knowing where childcare options are in Zurich...so feel free to PM me if you have any questions ...I work in an english-speaking child care centre...but I also had to find a swiss-speaking one for my toddler...

http://www.englishforum.ch/family-ma...itzerland.html
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Old 09.03.2010, 20:27
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Re: So much for integration in local schools

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Sometimes I wonder who is really clueless, HR or the relo agent they hired?

Personally I think you should name the firm because that person seems to be responsible for the situation you are in. Do you really want another family to have to go through this?

I do hope your appeal is successful and do let us know the outcome.
Agree- it's all in how we feed-back into HR. Believe me, in my case it's been made abundandly clear how we all felt about it. The school was only the most serious problem we had. There were others.

HOWEVER - our appeal was successful! I am so proud of my better half who did all the work (no prises for guessing who's the one fluent in German).

In the end we took the multiple - angle approach
a) spoke with the decision maker - finally we were able to speak with them just on the day of the deadline and had the opportunity to express our concerns on the phone (this was prompted by a nice but firm email we spent a lot of the weekend drafting)
b) put in an official appeal - which we are now withdrawing as the Praesidentin revisedd her decision based on further details which we brought to her attention
c) spoke with the teachers at both schools to "close the loop" as it were

Conclusion : child in good school!

All is well when it ends well!!!! We now open a bottle of champagne!

Phew

PS As for the lousy relocation agent... will muster the energy to write a separate post on them once I have calmed down and can be slightly less furious with them
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