Monday, 10 October 2016

Writing an Oxbridge Personal Statement

With the Oxbridge UCAS deadline for 2017 applications racing towards us this Saturday the 20th of October, now is the time to make sure you have everything in order for the best chances at getting to interview stage. As with all universities, your personal statement is a hugely significant part of the application.

But a personal statement for an application to Oxford or Cambridge is not like any other personal statement. This is because the ethos of the Oxbridge universities is different to other universities – what they’re looking for in your personal statement is a show of your passion and knowledge for the subject you’re applying for in order to prove your love and enthusiasm for studying it, and your skills and potential in succeeding in it.

What makes this particularly difficult is that you can only submit one personal statement for all of your UCAS applications to all of your chosen universities. Remember to never mention any university or course by its exact name in your personal statement, as it will go to multiple admissions teams. The important thing is to try to tailor your personal statement for Oxbridge whilst still satisfying the expectations of your other choices. You can’t gear every paragraph just to Oxbridge as you will be missing important details that other universities look for when assessing candidates for their intake. However you can balance this by writing around 90% of your personal statement about your subject passion with the remaining word count, summarize your school and personal achievements such as being a prefect, clubs you have been part of, hobbies and external interests. This should be enough as other universities will likely be aware you have applied to Oxbridge, as your application will be submitted to them months before their final deadline in January.

When writing about your passion for your chosen subject for an Oxbridge application, be sure to discuss in depth your knowledge and further reading around the subject. Refer to specific book titles and even passages if you need to, and discuss your own thoughts on the subject. However, be careful of what you do say – make sure you are confident in your knowledge and have read all the sources you cite in details. This is because Oxbridge interviewers will discuss the topics you have mentioned in your personal statement at length and will expect you to go into real depth in your answers. Make sure everything you claim to have done and read is true – do not embellish the truth because the interviewers will be able to tell.

Our best advice is to have a professional look over your personal statement before you submit it. Our expert consultants can advise on what to write and help you revise your drafts, as well as discuss interview techniques, find you a tutor and more.  Give us a call today on 01865 522066 or email

Friday, 30 September 2016

Help with the entry process for 11+, 13+ and grammar schools

Our new e-book on Interview Preparation for Senior School is out now at the new TIEC web store! Our store is packed with advice filled books and factsheets for all aspects of UK education, and this latest addition is all about helping your child through the entry process into a grammar school or independent senior school.

Here's some of our top tips from the book - find more in the full product via the link below! Remember, our consultancy services can help you with any decision or difficulty regarding UK education, no matter the problem or the age of your child. We can also help you find a tutor, set up interview practice sessions, and aid you in choosing the right schools to apply to. Contact our expert team today on 01865 522066 or

Whether you are aiming for 11+ or for entry to an independent school via pre-assessment, here are a few suggestions to limit stress in your family to a minimum:

1.  Be realistic in your expectations. If you tutor your child to excess and they scrape the exam by their finger nails, what will this do to their confidence later on when they find themselves struggling to keep up with the fast pace of a grammar, languishing in the bottom sets. They may have been one of the elite to gain a place at the outset. However, down the line, all they will see is what is in front of their nose - that they are struggling to keep up with peers in school. This can damage confidence and lead to poor performance and a very unhappy school career.

2. Keep informed on the entry process and admission criteria for each school you have on your radar. These change all the time, so knowledge is power. You can find all the information you will need on your Local Authority website, as well as on the school’s own websites for independent schools. Entry test formats change all the time so make sure you are working on the most recent information for these. The types of question covered such as verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, English can vary over time. Some schools differ in the way they test.

3. Back-up planning is crucial. Be careful what you say in front of your child. They need to know you have their back and will be there to support them whichever school they attend. Talking about schools in a negative way, in case they end up being offered a place there, is dangerous. Keep conversations with your child light. Yes, they need to know you would like them to achieve their best and challenge them to work hard towards this aim. However, they also need to know you have a good back-up plan, in case they do not get a place at your first choice school. Let them know that whatever school they go to, you will be there to support, encourage and work alongside the school to make sure they achieve success.

4. Tutoring planning should be considered carefully. You don’t want to start so soon that they are burned out and bored by the time the exam comes around. For some children an intensive course in the summer holidays before the entry test will work better than on-going tutoring every week after school or on Saturdays for two years. Make sure the tutor you use is an expert in the particular exam your child is sitting and that their knowledge is up to date. Different counties set different format exams so preparing for the right one is key.


Click the link above to purchase the full product or visit to find more advice-filled resources to help you answer those burning education questions. Alternatively, get in touch today and speak with one of our experts!


We offer a wide range of services and expert advice on your child's education.
Email or contact Claire on 01865 522066 for an informal discussion on how we can help.
For more information,

Friday, 16 September 2016

Sixth form choices: State or Independent School?

In areas such as Buckinghamshire, which has state grammar schools as well as other ‘free’ sixth form options such as a Sixth Form College or UTC, parents might be faced with a more difficult dilemma when making school choice decisions at this stage of education. With GCSE and A Level, IB or Btec results being so important in the competitive environment of gaining a place at a top university, many parents are rightly very concerned about the need to get the school choice right at this particular stage.

If you are in the fortunate situation of having both State and Independent schooling as options, here are a few of our top points to take into consideration when making this decision. More can be found in our soon to be released e-book, 'Applying for Sixth Form' - more information at the bottom of this post!

  1. Grammar schools are very competitive in terms of entry criteria and the academic educational programme they deliver. Will such a competitive environment, which focuses mainly on academic achievement, suit your child? If your child is self-motivated, confident and bright, the answer is probably yes. If they lack confidence or motivation, this is not quite so easy a decision.

  2. Will your child benefit from a holistic approach to education, where there are sports teams for all who wish to participate, as well as a whole range of other extra-curricular opportunities? If the answer to this question is yes, then you would be advised to consider independent school, rather than state school options.

  3. With the variety of examination options at sixth form, it is important to consider if IB (International Baccalaureate) or Btec might be a more suitable qualification for your child at this stage of their education. State and Independent schools offer these as an option, but you need to be sure they have the teaching expertise to deliver this programme, before making your decision.

  4. Moving from state education to independent education is often an opportunity to gain a scholarship for study at an independent school at sixth form, especially if your child has done well at grammar school or other State schools for the preceding 5 years. This might be your opportunity to give your teenager access to a whole range of new opportunities.

  5. Some parents believe that moving from independent into state education for sixth from may make gaining a place at a top university easier, although this theory is to date unproven. Care must be taken to ensure that your teenager will cope with such a transition into a different learning environment with different teaching styles, as they need to hit the ground running with only 2 years to gain top grades at this stage of education.


We offer a wide range of services and expert advice on your child's education.

Email or contact Claire on 01865 522066 for an informal discussion on how we can help.

For more information,

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Choosing What to Study at A-level

 Congratulations to all of you who have just received your GCSE results! Take some time to relax, catch your breath, and celebrate. You definitely deserve it.

A-levels are right around the corner – it might feel like you’re straight out of the frying pan and into the fire, but don’t fret. Your A-level choices are important so it’s vital to make your decision carefully, but with our top tips below you should be well on your way.


What you study at the next level of education has a direct impact on the options available to you at University afterwards. If you’re looking at specific degrees – the sciences in particular – you want to make sure you’re not getting shut out of your preferred University because you haven’t studied a particular discipline. 

Start by skipping the A-level step entirely and look at University courses you might like. Check the entry requirements for each course, and make a note of what A-levels they’re looking for. Some may only look for one particular A-level or grade, whereas others may ask for up to three or four specific A-levels before they’ll consider your application.

Once you’ve made your shortlist, compare the requirements for each – you’re sure to see a trend in what subjects you need to study to move on to the degree you want.


Many students have no idea what they want to do at University and beyond. If this is the case for you, it’s best to keep your options open. Some A-level subjects will leave you with a broader spectrum of degree choices; these are known as ‘facilitating subjects’, and they make great choices for students who are undecided on their degree:

Chemistry, Biology or Physics
Modern and Classical Languages

The more of these subjects you take at A-level (for example, if you chose to do A-levels in English, Maths, Biology and History) the more options there will be available to you at University.  Alternatively, if you have a particular talent for something, such as art, sports or music, it is a good idea to take that subject as it will be useful and desirable for degrees relevant to your passion.


The simple answer is four. Most students take four A-levels in their first year, and many drop one in their second year to concentrate on the other three. Some schools have General Studies as a compulsory fifth subject, but this will not count towards your university admission.


Variety is the spice of life, and also the key to a strong University application. Try not to choose multiple courses that are very similar to one another – such as Film Studies and Media Studies.

The three main Sciences are an exception to this rule, as many science courses require at least two of the three to be studied at A-level. However you should still avoid variations of the same subject if they are available to you, such as Biology and Human Biology.


Some University courses have lists of ‘non-preferred’ subjects too, that they’d rather not see on your application. It’s a little cheeky, but Universities are looking for a specific set of skills for their courses most of the time so may choose to overlook certain candidates based on other unrelated subjects they’ve studied.

Don’t let this put you off studying something at A-level that you’re extremely interested in – a ‘non-preferred’ subject shouldn’t be an issue if studied in conjunction with a facilitating subject or two from the list above. 


Although they should be taken at face value, Entry Requirements are not gospel. Every University will consider you an individual when you apply, and if your subject choices don’t match up perfectly to your chosen degree, it’s not the end of the world. Personal statement, interview, work experience, personal interests and portfolio all play a part in whether or not you are offered a place on a degree course and Universities are known to be somewhat flexible. Being prepared in advance is always the best course of action, but speaking to the course leaders at the University and showing your enthusiasm is always a back-up plan if you later find out a grade has fallen short or you’re missing a subject you wish you’d taken but didn’t know you’d need.

Look out for words like ‘Essential’ and ‘Preferred’ too – they mean just that. You may still get onto a University course without a ‘Preferred’ A-level subject in your repertoire. 


The reason you take such a small number of A-levels is because they are studied in-depth and extensively. Be prepared for a big jump in difficulty, as well as what is expected of you, and the way you are taught. Self-motivation and independent study will play a much larger part in the next two years of your education, so whatever you choose, be sure it’s something that will hold your interest and not a fleeting fancy. 


There are other options available to you, such as the IB Diploma. Vocational qualifications and BTECs are growing increasingly common too and are accepted by many Universities.

If you’re still unsure or anxious about your A-level choices, speaking with an Education Consultant can help clear up any concerns you might have. The Independent Education Consultants have a team of experts on hand, ready to give you the advice you need to make the right choices and get on those tricky pathways to Higher Education and future careers. Why not give us a call on 01865 522066 or email today?

This post by Lauren Bowman. 

We offer a wide range of services and expert advice on your child's education.

Email or contact Claire on 01865 522066 for an informal discussion on how we can help.

For more information,

Friday, 5 August 2016

Your UK Boarding School Family

 With September coming up fast, some of you will have children heading off to boarding school for the very first time. It’ll be a strange and daunting experience to wave goodbye and have your children away from the family but do not fret: there is a network of teachers and friends ahead of them who will become just like their school family. Here is a breakdown of the people who will be taking great care of your child in their new boarding school:

  • Housemaster

Most boarding schools are made up of several houses where students sleep and spend time when they’re out of class. Each of these houses is looked after by a Housemaster or Housemistress (also known as a Houseparent) who works with the Matron to ensure all the pupils in their house are happy, healthy and enjoying their time in the school. They are your child’s first point of contact and will ease them into their new lifestyle with gentle guidance and reassurance. Houseparents ensure the rules are followed and homework is done at the right time, but they are also there to encourage respect, friendship and a lot of fun. A boarding house can feel like an exclusive club for the students there – and the Housemaster is the club leader.

  • Head of Boarding

The Head of Boarding is your port of call for general guidance, should you or your child need support for something not covered by their Housemaster or Housemistress. Providing advice on settling in and encouraging adaptability and open-mindedness, whether your child is from the UK or Overseas, the Head of Boarding oversees student welfare and the staff to ensure the school provides the best boarding environment possible. 

  • Matron

The Matron is in charge of the wellbeing of the students in their boarding house. They are there to look after your child if they feel ill, and often Matrons are trained nurses. However, their role extends much further than this – one day they may be helping with homework, providing snacks and choosing movies, and the next providing a shoulder to lean on and a kind ear for students who just need to talk. They are there to ensure the boarding house is a safe and friendly space, and to nurture your child during their transition into a young adult.

  • Tutor

Your child’s Tutor is like a personal teacher, responsible for overseeing their academic progress during their time in the school. They may have a small group of students they work with, but there will also be opportunity for one-on-one meetings where they can set goals and overcome learning concerns. If you have any questions about your children’s studies, they will be your first contact so it is important for you to establish a good relationship with them too.

  • Head of House

The Head Boy or Head Girl of your child’s boarding house will be a senior student who is chosen to support their fellow students throughout their time in boarding school. They are a link between students and teachers, a mentor, and they are on hand to help with academic, social or personal problems students might face.

  • House Captain

If your child’s boarding school has a separate House Captain, this boy or girl will represent and organize their boarding house for school events. They take an active role in social activities, so they are on hand to help your child get involved in boarding school life.

  • Prefect

Prefects are students elected from as early as their first year in school to help their peers settle in and uphold the rules. They are often also in charge for organising student events like film nights and fundraising days, and might have a group of new students they look after. Being a prefect is a big honour and big responsibility – listening to other students’ worries and teaching them the values of friendship and hard work.

  • Student Council

The Student Council is the go-between for your child and the school community.  They work directly with staff to address issues in the school community and can have a real impact on the way the school is run. If students have an issue, they can take it to the Student Council, who will discuss it and take the issue to the Head and Deputy Head until a mutual solution is decided. They also arrange school-wide events like dances and parties, and will also pass any department messages on to the students. The Student Council is your child’s voice in the school, and your child can go to them with any issues they might have.

  • Guardian Family

If your child is boarding in the UK from Overseas, your child will need a UK-based guardian, appointed by you, as an in-country emergency contact. Their guardian will care for them on exeat weekends and half-term holidays if they are not returning home and attend parents’ evenings and events on your behalf. A guardian family is a home-from-home, providing a welcome break from the hectic routine of school life and caring for your child’s wellbeing locally when you can’t be there. English guardian families like those at the Guardian Family Network ( are typically professional people with experience in education and children often build long-lasting trusting relationships with their ‘UK family’.

For more information on preparing your child for boarding school, look out for our Boarding School Preparation resources, coming soon to! These e-books, packed full of advice from our expert consultants, are designed to help you and your child through the transition as easily and comfortably as possible.

This post by Lauren Bowman.

We offer a wide range of services and expert advice on your child's education.

Email or contact Claire on 01865 522066 for an informal discussion on how we can help.

For more information,

Friday, 29 July 2016

How to Keep Children Learning during School Holidays

 With the Summer Holidays underway, education often takes a seat on the back burner. Whilst this relaxing time is well earned for children who have studied hard all year, it’s not uncommon for their progress to slide, leading to slipping grades come September when classes begin again. It can be downheartening for parents and children alike. But as easy as it is for this to happen, it’s just as easy to keep learning alive with a little careful holiday planning.

Holidays are the time for all the school learning children have done through the year to be applied to the world around them. They will use the skills they have developed without realizing, whenever the opportunity arises. It is up to you to provide them with the opportunities… but here are our top ideas for activities and experiences to get you started:

1. If you are lucky enough to be able to take your children away during the holidays, allow them to learn for themselves about the different ways of life they encounter. There is no greater learning than first hand experience, and whether this is done in new cultures overseas or just in a new part of your home country, be sure to give them a chance to explore their unusual surroundings for themselves. New places hold endless learning experiences, from culture and history trips to rockpooling and building sandcastles on the beach.

2. If you are staying at home, don’t forget about the vast world outside your back (or front) door. Your home garden and local parks hold a world of discovery. Painting, drawing or photographing the plants, scenery and wildlife teaches creative and analytical skills and appreciation for nature, and might even develop into a new hobby. Let your children utilize their own creative thinking and construction skills by building a tent in the garden out of old sheets, or set up a lawn game like skittles or rounders to teach them about rules, numbers and teamwork.

3. Encourage them to keep a Holiday Diary. Not only does this promote writing skills, but also provides opportunity for other learned skills; have your child draw a map of the area they are visiting, or doodle what they can see, collect and label ticket stubs or photographs and write down the most interesting thing they have learned each day. The result will be a wonderful holiday scrapbook and something to show off when they head back to school in September.

4. Easy, captivating and free, reading is a great activity for the holidays. Even if you cannot travel, your child can still explore far off worlds in the pages of a book. If they are not big into reading, try audio books to get them interested. Try to implement ‘reading hour’ in the day to ensure they get time away from their TV or phone screen and enjoy some good old fashioned reading. If you are not already a member of your local library, get the family signed up there too, as they often offer more than books and CDs. Look out for author visits, story reading mornings and other activities.

5. Holiday Clubs are a great activity to keep your children busy, especially if you’ve got to be at work. Look for clubs that offer something educational that your child is interested in. Perhaps it’s a popular sport such as tennis or basketball, or something completely new like sailing, orienteering or climbing. Drama or music clubs are also great, and some clubs even entail a little of everything. These clubs are also a great opportunity to make sure your children socialize over the holidays instead of sitting in front of the television.

6. Maths might not be their favourite subject in school, but your child is likely to forget they’re doing sums when you’re letting them work out what they need to pay at a shop counter. If you give them pocket money, teach them to budget for days out for treats like ice cream and gift shop items, and allow them to help you count out what to pay the cashier. When shopping, eating out or taking a car journey, why not let the children estimate cost or mileage and whoever is closest wins a prize?

7. Experience days, like holiday clubs, are a great distraction that offer a vast range of activities you and your child probably never considered trying before, from water sports to trips down the Thames, and even falconry.

8. Plenty of websites offer educational games under the guise of pure fun. They can eat up hours of your child’s time without them realizing they’re all but sitting in a classroom – we’d recommend, and Just remember not to let them sit at the computer for too long!

9. Craft projects are like online games but without the computer screen. Look up crafts online or pick up a book of child-friendly crafts at your local library and get gluing, colouring and collecting! A good place to start is at

10. If you’re in the UK, you’re likely to come up against some wet weather this summer. If you’re going stir-crazy in the house, don’t forget about all the fun day trips available to indoor places: theatres, museums, art galleries, science centres and indoor attractions will keep you and the family busy, dry, and still learning. If you’re more adventurous (or the weather is good) try farm parks and wildlife walks. Take some activity sheets with you to make sure you keep their minds ticking and let them soak up the experience.

Our best advice to you is just to get out as much as you can, and don’t worry – as long as your children are exploring and having fun, they will be using those skills and important lessons they’ve learned in school!

This post by Lauren Bowman.

We offer a wide range of services and expert advice on your child's education.

Email or contact Claire on 01865 522066 for an informal discussion on how we can help.

For more information,

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Brexit – opportunity or disaster for British independent schools in the UK?

British schools in the UK have for some time been a popular option amongst European families. Why?

  • Developing independence through sixth form studies of both the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme or A levels as a pathway to places at top universities in both the UK and Europe.
  • Accessing the all-round education approach across academics, sport and the Arts that is British education.
  • British boarding as a settled long-term alternative to frequent transitions between international schools when relocating families are working both in London and other financial centres of Europe.
  • Outstanding support for each child as an individual, including for those diverse educational needs.
  • Short-term placements of up to one year as a tried and tested route towards bi-lingual children with cultural understanding who are equipped to work in a Global world.
According to the ISC 2016 annual census of their 1,280 member schools, over 15,000 or 33% of international children attending ISC member schools are from European countries. Nearly 8,000 of these children, or 55%, have parents living in the UK.

It’s hard to argue with the significant benefits enjoyed by both European families and the UK schools who educate their children as a result of this free-flowing working relationship. So, it’s not surprising that many in the education sector are now asking what does Brexit mean for these children and their families, not to mention the implications for the schools themselves?

  • Firstly, the advice is not to panic. Keep calm and carry on! New regulations regarding EU nationals studying in UK schools should take at least 2 years to agree and implement. UK schools have been quick to reassure families from across Europe with children already in UK schools that it will be business as usual for the foreseeable future.
  • UK independent schools as a whole are a force to be reckoned with, contributing significantly to the economy as a whole. With a Global reputation for excellence, I just can’t envisage a situation where they submit to changes in visa rules without a fight to retain their international element. Just as they did with the charities commission, professional bodies such as ISC will be lobbying key decision makers to present a strong case for the status quo. I believe that it’s highly likely their voices will be heard when it comes to Brexit immigration negotiations and retaining the rights for EU nationals to gain easy access to study within UK schools and universities.
  • Making lemonade out of lemons, there is recent evidence to indicate that some international families appear to have seen the recent currency fluctuations in Sterling as an opportunity to now access the outstanding British school system at a reduced cost. If you’re buying education in Euros or Dollars, you now get more bang for your buck. With British international schools overseas retaining high fee levels, suddenly the UK-based schools look appealing, even if it means boarding. Last-minute enquiry numbers for Sept 2016 entry from new European families looking to join a UK independent school are up!
  • In other parts of the world, international boarding school parents have seen a similar opportunity due to currency fluctuations and are looking to pay a number of terms school fees in advance. At least in the short-term, cash flow in UK schools should remain strong allowing continued investment in facilities and resources to maintain their outstanding reputation across the world.

The post-Brexit, not to be missed, opportunity for parents to meet UK schools face-to-face

Does UK-based British education have last-minute appeal to you?

Register now for your complimentary invitation to this exclusive event for parents ON SATURDAY 16TH JULY IN LONDON. Click this link for more information and to register.

Not to be missed! Your opportunity to meet over 50 British schools face-to-face to discuss your child. An extensive seminar programme on the day will offer lots of useful tips on how to make this happen. Independent Consultants will be on hand to advise and guide you each step of the way.

Need more information about The Country Life Future Schools Fairs - visit the website