If you’re thinking about moving to London with children, one of the most important things to consider is their schooling. What are your options? Is it better to opt for a private school rather than join the postcode lottery for a place in a state school? And how does that all work – when can you apply for a space? What curricula are available? Read on for some headline information:

There are two main types of school systems available for families moving to London. State schools, which are funded by the government (and therefore free), and Independent or fee paying schools.  Apart from the cost, what are the differences?

State schools offer a real chance to immerse yourselves in the local community and experience life ‘the British way’. For families with Primary age children (ages 4 to 11) they can be particularly appealing as the opportunity to meet other parents on the daily walk to school or in the playground offers an easy way into making new friends and establishing support networks.

Generally the quality of education provided within the State system is very good in London and schools are experienced in supporting and integrating children with English as a second language as well as those with additional needs.

The biggest challenge with securing a place in a state school is that applications can only be submitted after an address is secured, within some areas you have to wait until you actually arrive in the UK. Additionally, due to limits on the number of children admitted into each school there is no guarantee that there will be a space at your nearest school. The system is further complicated by the fact that each council has its own way of handling applications.

Independent schools are attended by around 7% of the UK population and offer smaller class sizes and more specialist teachers. Tuition fees are often two to three times higher in the UK than in many other countries ranging from around £12,000 per annum in a British curriculum Independent school to £19,000 – £28,000 per annum in an International school (those offering an international or American curriculum). Aside from this one of their biggest attractions to families on the move is the fact that you can secure school places in advance without the need for a UK address.

The admissions process for International schools is designed to be as easy as possible and requires a range of reports, essays and references which are then put before an admissions committee. The biggest hurdle with Independent schools is the assessment or testing process required in order to gain entry. Schools prefer younger children to spend a taster day at the school where they can be gently assessed but this can be tricky if you are overseas. Older students, age 8+, will often need to sit entrance exams in English and Maths (plus science and a modern foreign language age 13+), but schools are open to sending these out to your child’s current school or local British council offices and then conducting interviews by Skype.

It is also worth noting that Independent schools are often reluctant to take in children who are in the early stages of learning English and support for children with anything more than a mild additional need is not readily available. Additionally, because the class sizes are limited, some schools require registration several years before the child enters the school.

Whichever system you opt for, having the support of someone in the UK who can make enquiries on your behalf and present you with available options that meet your children’s profiles within your chosen broad geographical area is definitely a worthwhile investment.

This article has been written by Bowker Consulting https://bowker.org.uk/.  We’ve been working with the team at Bowkers for over 15 years to ensure our families receive the best possible educational help and support during the relocation process.