Near the top of the priority list when moving to the UK if you have children is finding a school. The UK school system sometimes sounds a bit confusing to newcomers, but is actually fairly simple. Here we provide you with a brief explanation of the different types of schools, qualifications for admittance, and resources to aid in further understanding the system and to find schools in your area.
Types of Schools
There are three basic types of schools in the UK.
- State Schools – All UK children from five to 16 are entitled to place at a state school at no charge. This is the most common form of education in the UK.
- Independent Schools – Independent schools are privately funded. Over 6% of students in the UK attend independent schools. Tuition costs vary; term fees of £6,000 – £9,000 are common and some are even more expensive. Many independent schools offer scholarships and bursaries. Independent schools are not required to follow a government established curriculum. Many choose to follow the standard curriculum while others may offer specific curricula based on special talents, needs, and interests.
- Home School – Home schooling, where parents or tutors teach the students, is legal in the UK and a small number of students are home schooled. Education Otherwise is a UK charity that offers support and resources for parents interested in home schooling.
School Attendance Qualifications
Students from the European Economic Area (EEA) are entitled to attend a UK state school and have the same educational rights as a British Citizen. The EEA consists of all European Union member states and citizens of Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.
Students from countries outside the EEA are not eligible to attend state schools, unless they are coming to the UK for an educational visit or for a short exchange. Otherwise, they must attend an independent (fee-paying) school.
Citizens of British overseas territories who for some reason do not also hold British citizenship are in the same position as students from non-EEA countries.
Resources for Finding the Right School
Fortunately for parents with school age children moving to the UK there are a number of websites, both governmental and non-governmental, that offer explanations, advice, and tools.
The best governmental website which covers all of the UK can be found at the Schools and education section of the Gov.UK website which you can find by clicking here. The school section is part of the Childcare and Parenting section which offers helpful information in other areas which are of interest and concern to adults with children. The site is well laid out and, unlike many government websites, is easy to understand and includes links to resources that answer specific questions.
The British Council offers a wide range of information as well as links to other resources for international students looking to attend classes in the UK. Much of the site is geared toward students over the age of 16 who are interested in coming to the UK for advanced studies and those on student visas. However, they do offer a number of articles geared toward parents of students under the age of 16, such as the section on independent and state boarding schools. The site also offers a fairly comprehensive explanation on the types of study, curricula, and pathways to education of both state and independent schools.
An excellent non-government source of information on all aspects of schooling, including state schools, independent schools and home schooling, is Good Schools Guide. The site offers an excellent search tool that allows parents to search for schools based on location, specific needs, student age, and cost. The site offers a vast array of resources for parents on other topics as well.