State school applications in the UK are challenging for parents moving from a foreign country. The reason is that applications can only be made once the family has a UK address.
Many parents are tempted, for logistical, financial, and sometimes personal reasons, to start their life in the UK by renting a temporary accommodation, such as Airbnb, before settling into a more permanent accommodation.
The question is then whether they can apply for state schools with their temporary address.
Can you apply for a state school with an Airbnb address?
1. The principles of state school applications
State school applications are based on a fundamental principle governed by UK law: children in school age and residing in the UK are entitled to free education. Great news, you might think? Absolutely! But this is also where it gets tricky for parents moving from abroad to the UK.
2. What state school applications must contain
State school applications require for families to prove two things:
- the identity and age of the children (and of the parents, by the way)
- the residence of the children (and their parents or legal guardians)
Sometimes parents might even be required to prove that the children are physically in the UK, with a copy of their flight ticket.
This is frequent for in-year applications, where the admissions teams want to know why children are applying midway through the school year.
3. How to prove the family’s residence
Whilst the law or even the local school admission team’s websites do not specifically forbid parents to have a temporary residence, the proofs of address imply that parents actually do need a permanent address. Most London Boroughs will require the following proofs of address when looking at school applications:
- Tenancy agreement
- 2 utility bills
Whilst you might think that sending in a copy of your Airbnb invoice might work, parents will fail the “utility bill test”, as they would not be available to you as an Airbnb tenant. This can be electricity, water, gas, broadband – all the things that are actually covered, in most cases, by the property owner and included in your fees.
4. Can you apply in advance then?
This is a very good question. In a logical world, one might think that you could tell the school admissions team that you intend to rent on a permanent basis in the same neighbourhood, in the near future.
However this will not be accepted by the Boroughs, as this would fail the “residence” test, and children would not be considered to be UK residents.
5. Why do you have to prove residence to apply for state schools?
Beyond the principle of the UK education law we explained above, there are other reasons why the school admissions teams are so stringent (in no particular order):
- Over-subscription: most state schools in London are oversubscribed – with several applicants for one place. Boroughs do not have to “fill” their seats.
- Fraud over top state schools: if the residence principle was not followed, it would be VERY tempting and too easy for parents to rent an Airbnb in the vicinity of their favourite school, send in an application, and then move out to a cheaper neighbourhood and property once a place has been secured.
- Avoiding holidaying parents sending their children to a UK school for fun
- Free education is funded by taxpayers’ money, just like any government service, and therefore taxpayers are entitled to it. Temporary residents are not.
6. What is the next step then?
If you are planning to move to London or the UK soon as a family, here are your next steps before sending in your state school applications:
- Secure a rental property on a permanent basis (usually 12 months or more) and
- Make sure you receive a signed copy of your tenancy agreement
- Register for Council Tax and utilities as soon as you can
- Send in your application once you have all these documents
Check out our guide to applying for state schools.
7. Get help from the experts (optional)
School specialists Simply London can guide you through the state school application process. We offer two options, depending on your requirements: