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Is moving abroad the right choice for your kids?

Is moving abroad the right choice for your kids?

schooling abroadMany young families go abroad to live in southern European countries in order to have a better life for their children.

By this I mean a life which embraces outdoor living because of the weather and opportunities for living near the beach and also the food which is more wholesome and tends to include less processed food. In addition, and often more importantly, parents are concerned about the safety of their children, about the day-to-day risks and also the likelihood of them getting involved in underage drinking and drugs.

In seeking this kind of life for their children a lot of parents find their ideal place but don’t give enough thought to their children’s future.

When I worked at an international school in Portugal I wondered what the children I taught were going to do when they finished their GCSEs or A-levels. Going to an international school meant that they were less integrated in local society and their language skills were, on the whole, below their peers at the local Portuguese schools.

This meant that if they wanted to go to university, which the majority of them would do, they would have to return to the UK. And at a time in their life when they are arguably most vulnerable from the very things that their parents were trying to protect them against!

And, if they decided not to go to university, then what would their prospects be in a country which has had high unemployment levels, low incomes and painfully bad social security?

How many of the parents whose children returned, alone, to the UK to complete their A-levels or go on to higher education have regretted the choices they have made?

Do you know someone who has returned to the UK to complete their education? Or have they gone to a local school and managed to go to a local university?

Image: photostock /


  1. Nikki - a Mother in France

    Interesting point Sarah. I don’t know anyone over here with children in an International school, but those who have come with teenagers and placed them into local schools have often ended up going back to the UK to finish their studies and sometimes found it difficult to get institutions in the UK to accept the Brevet as a substitute for GCSE’s.

    Moving abroad with children is always tricky when considering what’s best for the whole family, but it’s especially difficult with teenagers. It’s good to highlight this to people considering a move abroad so that they can make informed choices about what’s realistically possible for their children’s future.

  2. Sarah

    Thanks Nikki. It really is a big dilemma with teenagers. One family I know bought 2 sons over and put them into the local school but for the eldest (who was a teenager) it was too much for him and he returned alone to the UK. Another family with 2 girls of similar ages put the youngest into the local primary school and the eldest into an international school. The eldest has had to return to the UK to do A-levels. I can’t imagine that these were ideal situations for either family.

  3. Jim Trent

    It’s very hard to enthuse some kids about moving to a new country, our eldest (9 at the time) was extremely enthusiastic especially when we told her about all the exotic creatures that live in Australia, but our youngest lad was apprehensive about leaving friends and the school that he had just settled into. It is almost impossible to predict what effect (positive or negative) this will have on children but like anything it is a gamble which can pay off, a risk!

  4. Sarah

    Choosing the right time to move abroad with children is probably the hardest part of the process. You can never start too early in planning for the move – preferably before you have children!



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