Stephen, you founded William Clarence Education. What was it that prompted you to do so?
I had worked in the City of London for a small hedge fund for five years, and after leaving there I started to tutor maths and economics, as that was my background both educationally and professionally with work, as a way to keep active while I was considering my future. That opened a door into a world that I never knew existed – education.I was fully booked within 6 weeks working longer hours than I had done previously when employed, and began to expand by taking on other tutors across all examinable subjects. As the branding began to build overseas we were being asked more and more for schools and university entrance advice, not just tutoring.
Fast-forward 4 years, and we are now a schools and university advisory and admissions consultancy, with the majority of our business focused overseas. Our main markets are the Middle East (Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia), China and Hong Kong, Singapore and USA – namely LA, San Francisco and Boston, New York, Washington.
Tell us about your role – what does a typical day in your life look like?
I spend a lot of time with our education consultants and account managers discussing existing clients and how each and every school placement or university project is progressing. I like to take an active role in each placement to make sure our clients get the best results possible and every eventuality is anticipated during their process.
Oxbridge Applications, and some of the more specialist UCAS applications (law and medicine) require interviews and supporting essays, tours, referencing so I sometimes sit in on mock interviews and see our students put through their paces!
I also spend a great deal of time with our corporate partners, either on Skype around the world on London based Embassies, relocation firms and private banks. We are in a very good position to see the world from both the educational and commercial points of view due to the fact that many of our families are international in their outlook. Education provision is only one of the stresses they face when relocating. We are continually aiming to add elements to our advisory services to aid movement and access to information about schools and universities.
Thirdly I am out speaking to new potential partners, media outlets, new families and clients. Education both domestically and internationally is changing rapidly and our clients need to know the most up-to-date information in this changing landscape. They know what they want, but are unsure on how to make it happen, whether that be prep school, 6th Form placement, Oxbridge or even home-schooling options.
What services does WCE offer to expat families?
We offer a wide range of educational solutions to our families, all aimed at helping our clients through the admissions procedure to the UK education system. We work with families from all over the world moving to the UK, either British nationals coming home or overseas families moving to the UK for the first time. The UK system can be very confusing, but with years of experience we try to break it down so that every client can access the areas they need. It’s only obvious when you know the answer as they say!
Schools: This can start at the earliest stage of a family’s education journey with nursery placement, through to pre-prep, prep school, senior school and 6th Form Placement. We always put the child at the centre of the process to ensure they not only find the right school that suits them, but also one that they can thrive in long term! We never ever accept fees from schools (common in the industry) to remove any conflict of interest when we are advising. We work strictly for the families and can only really be happy with the job done when they are happy on the first day of school!
We work with a number of former heads of schools to ensure we maintain our unrivalled reach into the UK education system and to ensure that all clients get the very best advice prior and during their move to the UK.
UK Universities Application: Our UCAS Admissions practice is a hub of specialist knowledge ranging from course selection, UCAS personal statement help and module selection. We pride ourselves on taking each application as seriously we would our own – that has been our motto from the outset. Every student works with a dedicated applications consultant who is there to guide them through the entire process, from initial university shortlist, course selection, UCAS applications forms, supporting essays where needed and personal statements.
Within this field is our Oxbridge Applications practice, which concentrates solely on Oxford and Cambridge applicants. This process is far more strenuous that other UK universities with a common requirement being supporting essays, interviews and much more stringent entry requirements. We offer mock interviews, essay help, tours of colleges and rigorous academic tuition prior to exams where needed.
US College Admission: We partnered with a specialist in this field, Arcus Advisory, to work exclusively with our University department to complement our offering. We now have a full US College Advisory practice and have worked with students from the UK, Austria, Germany, Brazil and Italy with their move to the US system.
Home-schooling: Another major department of our business is home-schooling. We have the ability and experience to create a totally unique and bespoke curriculum to be delivered in the home by a team of professional academic tutors. Many firms say they offer home-schooling, however in many cases this means just booking more hours to equal that of a school.
We have worked with a number of clients in need of anything from a term to 2 years of home-schooling for a variety of reasons – maybe issues at school, issues at home, transitioning between education systems and in need of a term to bridge the gap prior to entry back into mainstream schooling.
Our home-schooling timetables mirror a regular day school with structure, classroom, homework, structured planned curricula with assessments and plenty of out of classroom activity days to put the learning into action.
Assessment and Academic Mentoring: Due to the fact that most of our clients are coming into the UK system from another overseas education system we have developed an assessment and mentoring system that we can use to help track progress prior to joining, ensure existing qualifications are transferrable. Once they begin study, we are then on hand to guide through the system and educate the family on what the next hurdle is. For a domestic family, it is common knowledge that the 11+ is a main entry point, or that 3 subjects are chosen for A-Level – from a family from China it is far from obvious.
What are some of the main challenges people face when looking to educate their children abroad?
The issues and challenges that face an international family looking to educate their children abroad encompass all the challenges that a domestic family will face but also some extras that are unique to the international relocating family.
Generally speaking all families are aiming for the best possible learning environment for their children, good facilities, good options for extra curricula activities, excellent teaching staff, and good onward options for further education – these are universally common aspects of finding education provision.
In addition to the above, international families need to consider boarding or day schools and as a knock on consequence, any guardian help that may be required as well, nearby accommodation, the type of school and mix of nationalities. A knowledge of the areas is also a challenge many families face moving to a new area along with any language barriers.
How does WCE support parents who want to home-school their children?
Initially when we have a new family considering home-schooling, we meet with the family and child to really understand their situation, and what their end goal is. Most families have a school in mind they would like re-entry to in the future but an increasing number of families are looking to home-schooling for a longer period of time due to the added flexibility, tailored approach and full control over each aspect of their child’s learning.
We then like to conduct our own academic assessment to establish the child’s standard, whether it be A-Level preparation or 11+ school entry, as there will always be a national exam looming on the horizon.
We then start putting together a timetable that the family are happy with, comprising all the academic elements you would expect from a regular school, along with weekends away, day trips out and plenty of social time. Tutors with the necessary level of experience to deliver the programme of study are then interviewed and recruited – the family play a big part in this process to ensure we get the correct personality fit as well as academic. No two home-schooling programmes are the same – the beauty of each one is that they are unique.
What options do you have for people who wish to study abroad at university level?
Studying abroad at university level is becoming more and more popular and we have had a large increase of applications from students wanting to go to university in very far flung areas. The most popular areas by far, apart from the UK, are China, Canada and the US.
We have a couple of very good partnerships with two chains of Chinese universities who offer some fantastic courses, taught in English and Chinese for international students. We can help students study in China for a term as a taster or part of another course which is increasingly popular in today’s competitive job market.
A more popular avenue is the US college system. Susie, our American consultant, manages that department within the business. She is a true expert in her field, having placed many students into US colleges. She is highly consultative and always gets to the root of the motivation for the application and sets about working with the students to ensure the correct academic levels are met.
Finally, when you're not working, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
The nature of the business is that we are always working to tight deadlines with either schools or universities so I can be on call most of the time. However when I’m away from work I play a lot of tennis, having held a mild addiction for the sport during my growing up and university days. Along with that eating out is another hobby I enjoy – one with unlimited choice in London!
William Clarence Education provide a consultancy service for families who want their children to be educated in the UK or overseas.