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Five tips to transferring schools in Qatar

You’re moving to Doha and the job contract is finalised. The next most important step for the kids becomes transferring them to schools in Doha.  We’ve put together five tips, in no particular order, worth knowing before you step off the plane and leave the rest to fate.

In our recent article ’Navigating the Education System’, we covered the challenges and considerations when applying for a school place in Doha, but what about the process in actually transferring? For parents new to Doha, the process of transferring proves just as big a stumbling block as applying to a school for the first time. It’s more than just paperwork; it’s also about being aware of the pitfalls and starting the process as early as possible, whilst in the midst of a move abroad.

Resident permit

Once the job has been secured, so begins the arduous task of applying for resident permits (RP). Children are not permitted to attend a school in Qatar without a valid RP. Presuming the husband is the breadwinner, his RP needs to be completed and issued before applying for the rest of the family’s. Luckily, it is possible to start the children’s RP process before starting the spouse’s. This has proved useful in cases where the marriage certification attestation required for the mother’s RP delays the process for the children.

The RP process can vary extensively depending on the sponsoring company and how much of the process you are required to organise yourself. Expect anywhere between two and four months on average. Furthermore, it is not until the husband’s RP has been secured and he has been in Qatar for at least six months (measured in bank statements) that his wife and children can start the application process. This delay is a cause for concern for many companies in Doha who are having difficulty in attracting foreign employees with families. 

For more about the RP process, check out ‘Applying for an RP’.

Tip 1: Be aware of the length and stages of the RP process for all members of the family and start speaking as soon as possible to the company to help manage your expectations.

Schools reports and attestation

All children being admitted from an overseas school who are in Grade 2 British curriculum (6 years onwards) need to provide attested progress reports of at least two previous grades from the school they are leaving. Furthermore, these documents must be also attested by the Supreme Education Council (SEC) to determine which grade a child will be placed into, before the child can be admitted into a school in Qatar. It is important to note that before attested school reports can be submitted to SEC, the child must also hold a valid Qatar resident permit.

Attesting documents can be a costly process and can add further delay to the school application process particularly if your home country does not host a Qatari Embassy. 

“I have seen how the process has become more difficult for expats, much more bureaucratic, with all documents needing attestation,” said Jacqueline Kerry, a senior recruiter in Doha. “My advice to anyone coming to Qatar now would be to research before they come, have all your documents attested before you come (it will save a lot of expense and time).  And the most important thing to come with, is an open mind, a big smile and lots and lots of patience.” 

Tip 2: Have all the school reports attested from your child’s previous school and all the documents produced as soon as possible but be aware also of the period these documents are valid for.

Grade and curriculum changes

The SEC determines which grade a child must enter school based on their age and where their birthday falls within that academic year. The U.K. has recently begun to allow children whose birthdays fall at the very beginning of the academic year to hold off school for a year, if the parents feel the child isn’t ready. This could prove problematic when transferring to a school in Qatar as the SEC makes the decision explicitly based on age. 

Check out ‘Understanding the different curriculums’ for more information about the differences between the American, British and IB curriculums.

Tip 3: Be aware and communicate with any potential schools as soon as possible should you have any queries about how to transfer between curriculums and which grade to apply for.

School calendar

The school calendar for southern hemisphere schools typically starts in January and ends in December, whilst northern hemisphere schools commence in September and finish in July. This can make transferring from an Australian or New Zealand school system to Qatar slightly confusing. It can also impact the grade a child enters schools if their birthday falls before or after December, as it may seem they are moving down a year in some cases.

Tip 4: Check with any potential schools to verify what grade your child would enter the school based on their age and curriculum change.

Vaccinations and health reports

On applying to schools in Doha, children are required to have the necessary vaccinations according to the SEC requirements for Qatar. It is important to check Qatar’s vaccination schedule against your child’s vaccination record and ensure a copy of these records are taken to Qatar for proof on school application. It is also advisable to have further records and doctors report of any historical medical issues that your child has undergone or is currently undergoing should further medical issues arise down the line.

Tip 5: Start requesting all vaccination reports or look at completing any further vaccinations in your country of origin. These documents do not need to be attested, only provided to the school on application.

Transferring schools can be a stressful process for both parents and children but with it also comes the excitement of making new friends and moving to a new country. It is important to know that once you’ve done all you can and obtained all the necessary documents, the next steps can move quickly. Always check for updated information, see SEC’s website for application forms and the latest updates. As the pressure on Qatar’s school system grows, the SEC continuously reviews the school application process and changes can be implemented quickly. It is also important to communicate with the schools being transferred to, as they are sympathetic of the struggle and worry so many parents face in settling their children into Qatar school life. 

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