Choosing a UK School for  your child

Persons relocating to the UK are often confused about how the UK school system works and whether their children are eligible to attend a UK state-funded school or not.  Breytenbachs has subsequently compiled a short guidance for overseas parents to provide some insight into the UK school system.

Admission to UK state-funded school for overseas children

In most cases, children from overseas have the right to attend state-funded schools in England. A child may not be refused a school place simply because of doubts about his or her immigration status.

The following children are, however, NOT entitled to a UK state education;

  • Children from non-EEA countries who are in the UK as short-term visitors, such as tourists or persons visiting relatives.
  • The children from non-EEA countries who have permission to study in the UK. Children, in this case, are allowed to study in England on the basis that they have to attend an independent fee-paying school.

You are also very welcome to contact Breytenbachs Immigration and speak to your consultant about your visa stipulations.

UK Private Schools

All children (see exclusions above) from the age of 5 to 16 years old are entitled to a free place in a state school. This is where most parents choose to send their children. Some who can afford the fees of a Private school do send their children to Private schools.

Private Schools are also known as independent schools and charge fees for children to attend these schools, as opposed to being funded by the UK Government. Private schools do not have to follow the national curriculum, but have to be registered with the government and are regularly inspected. If you are interested in finding out more about Private Schools in the UK, we suggest the following links;

School Terms in the UK

Schools in the UK run their academic year from early September to mid-July. Each year is broken up into 3 terms, and each term is divided in half. The Autumn terms run from early  September to mid-December ( the Half term is late October), and the Spring term runs from Easter to mid-July, with the half term falling in late May or early June.

Find out more about the UK School Terms

Types of UK Schools


The Nursery is for children from as young as a few weeks to 3 years old. These are generally privately run schools (though there are State-run ones as well); as such, they run 51 weeks of the year, bar inset days and bank holidays.  From the age of 2 to 4, your child may be entitled to funding from the government for part-time placement.

Nursery  classes

Nursery classes are attached to Primary Schools. They have separate buildings and playgrounds but share the same head teacher and staff. They follow the Early Years Foundation Curriculum.

Primary School

These schools are for children from 4 to 11 years old.  They currently follow the Early Years Foundation Curriculum, moving on to Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 of the National Curriculum.

Secondary Schools

These are schools for children from 11 to 16 or 18. These schools follow the Key stages 3 and 4 of the National Curriculum.

Sixth Form Colleges

These institutions cater for Young people from 16 to 19 years old.  Here, the students do their A levels and other certificates that are accessible after the age of 16.

Specialised schools

Most schools are SEN-equipped, and as part of the English Schooling Ethos/ Values, children with special needs are mainstreamed as much as possible. The schools may even be equipped enough to have the Professionals needed to work the care plan for the child visit them in the school environment.

Deciding on a UK school for your child

When deciding on a UK school for your child, it might be worth your while to check out league tables and evaluations by the UK Government body, OFSTED.

League tables

These tables show test and exam results for all schools. They’re published annually by the government’s Department of Education. You can then compare the schools you favour and use the information to help you make a decision.

League tables list the following for parents:

  • Key Stage 2 test results for all state primary schools.
  • GCSE results for all state and independent schools.
  • AS and A-level results for all schools and sixth-form colleges.

The UK Government body OFSTED

The Government body, OFSTED, regularly check and evaluate all UK schools. It is OFSTED’s job to make sure that the schools are safe and regulated to government requirements. They do this by carrying out regular inspections and grading the schools. These inspection reports are available online, where they deal with the following.

  • achievements and standards;
  • pupils’ development and well-being;
  • the quality of teaching and learning;
  • how the curriculum is taught;
  • the care, guidance, and support the school provides; and
  • how well the school is led and managed.

OFSTED Judgements are scored on a four-point scale:

1 – outstanding, 2 – good, 3 – satisfactory and 4 – inadequate.

The OFSTED report will also make suggestions for improvement, and the school is expected to put the suggestions into practice.

Tips on choosing the best UK school for your child

Join as many forums as you can. Facebook caters to all areas in the UK, and there are even groups for separate Boroughs. Mumsnet is a good forum as well.

While searching for schools, it is best to remember that places fill quickly in the UK, and you need to make sure you know the process. To this end, use the Local Education Prospectus booklet published by your school of choice, or order it online from your local authority. Alternatively, your local Town Hall or Library may have copies.

Remember that your local authority manages the admissions for all state schools, so you need to be in communication with them. You also need to fill in a common school application form, which you obtain from your local authority. You can appeal if you are not happy with the places offered to your child.

Once you have an idea of the schools you want your child to attend, make a point to visit the school to see it with your own eyes and form your own opinions.

Research the schools online, use Google reviews, as well as running your own searches.

Use the OFSTED site, as they inspect the schools once every 3 years or sooner if there has been a complaint.

Ask the staff (right down to the assistants and even the cleaners in the classrooms) questions.

Last but not least, trust your instincts!

Applying for a place at a UK State School

It is possible to apply for a place at a state school online or by using your local council’s application form.

How Breytenbachs can help you 

If you have any further questions, you are welcome to contact your Breytenbachs consultant. We also highly recommend that you watch our webinar on Moving Your Kids to the UK. Please also read the article by David Smith Education UK School Consultancy.


Please note that the information in this article does not constitute professional advice. It is provided for general information purposes without any warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. 

Please contact us today for further information or applications.

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