UK Education System Guide

Moving your family to the UK means finding out about a new system of education. How does it work and what does it mean for your child? Let’s take a look.

Legally children in the UK must be in fulltime education from the ages of 5-16 years. Three options are available:

* Local authority schools (non-fee paying, publicly funded. Check availability of local school places before moving house).

* Independent schools (fee paying day or boarding schools)

* National or International schools, which involve travelling to London or boarding.

Basic Facts

The school year: Early September to late July Number of terms: Three The primary school week: Monday to Friday, 08.55 to about 15.15 The secondary school week: Monday to Friday, 08.55 to about 16.00 Lunch break: Around an hour. Lunch is provided at most local authority schools for a small charge, or children can bring pack lunches. Transport: May be free between home and school if children are outside walking distance. Uniforms: Exist at most schools Activities: Are common

The Curriculum

The national curriculum contains core subjects of English, maths, science and religious education, and foundation subjects of history, geography, technology, music, art and physical education. For secondary education, this also includes a foreign language.

The main exam for secondary school pupils is the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) at about 16 years (or the Standard Grade in Scotland). Those who continue with their schooling sit Advance Supplementary exams (AS levels) a year later, and Advanced (A levels) in their final year.

Which school?

If you’re completely new to an area, contact your Local Education Authority (details via your local council offices) for more information on local schools. Then, to find out which of these schools is best for your child, talk to other parents and children with experience of the school you’re interested in, and of course visit the school itself.

Independent or State?

The difference between the state and independent, fee-paying schools essentially comes down to cost and class sizes. State schools follow the national curriculum and are free. The education authority (LEA) has to find your child a pace at a school if you have a local addresses or proof of a letting agreement. Schools may also allocate a place in advance of a family moving into an area, if you can provide a letter form your employer giving details of the forthcoming relocation.

If you’re from overseas, the benefits of a strong state school are not only cost savings, but also the experience it will give your child of going into an English-speaking cultural environment. They will also enter a system that means they can move to British schools throughout the world. On the other hand, you’ll be spoiled for choice if you want to send your child to an independent school, as many of these provide special support (everything from mentoring to arranging lessons in their mother tongue) for non-UK pupils.

Criteria for accepting children

If you’re moving to an area before you’ve settled on new schools for your children, you’ll need to do your research particularly thoroughly. Bear in mind that, with some schools, it’s not jut about whether you want them, it’s about whether they want you. State schools in particular accept children on the basis of specific criteria. For instance, if the school’s primary criterion a designated catchment aria, if you can’t prove that your child lives within that catchment area, he or she simply may not get in. Similarly, some schools have a policy of giving places to children who already have siblings at the school – a factor that could narrow your child’s chances of securing a place there. There’s also the question for certain academic criteria – some schools (particularly in the independent sector) may require pupils to sit an entrance examination/interview. Contact the school you’re interested in to find out exactly what its criteria are – the last thing you want to do is to move to an area for its school, only to then discover that you’re child doesn’t have much chance of securing a place there!

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