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Learn how and when to apply for a London school

If you’re relocating to London with your children, you’ll need to educate yourself on the school application process before starting a new life in the British capital.

Having decided what type of education path you want them to follow – state, grammar, independent or international – it’s time to secure that all-important place for your nearest and dearest.

How and when to apply for a London school

So, channel your inner academic and prepare to learn how and when to apply, depending on your family’s requirements.

1. State schools (funded by the government) – primary schools (5-11 years) and secondary schools (11-16 years)

  • You must have a UK address before applying for a place at a state school.
  • Applications for state primary school reception classes (age 4-5 years) must be submitted before 15 January, preceding the start of the academic year in September.
  • The application deadline for secondary schools is the end of October of the year before entry.
  • Applications received after these primary and secondary school deadlines will be processed, but after the ‘on-time applications’. Therefore, fewer places may be available, especially at high performing schools.
  • Applications for all other year groups can be made at any point in the school year – typically through the local authority. Known as ‘in-year admissions’, they will be processed within a few weeks taking parental preferences and spaces available at the time into account.
  • If the required year group is already full in all the selected schools, the local authority will allocate a place at the nearest school that has a space available.

2. Grammar schools – selective state schools for children aged 11-16 years

  • Only available in certain parts of the country, grammar schools admit pupils based on their academic performance having taken the 11-Plus entry exam. Students that pass the 11-plus gain entry to their local grammar; while those who fail must attend their local secondary school.
  • Some grammar schools have a defined catchment area; while others are known as ‘super-selective schools’, which means that they accept applications from pupils with the highest 11-plus scores, regardless of location.

3. Independent schools – fee-paying institutions that are also called private schools

    • Independent schools are fee-charging schools outside government control.
    • Admission criteria varies from school to school because they are self-governing, so check individual requirements.
    • Some schools require pupils to take an entrance exam.
    • Some schools might invite the family for an interview.
    • Some schools operate a first-come, first-served system and may have a long waiting list.
    • Some schools require parents to register their child before an application is made – this doesn’t guarantee a place. A non-refundable fee is often requested, to cover administration costs.
    • Independent schools don’t usually require families to live within a catchment area.

4. International schools – fee-paying schools for International Baccalaureate students

    • Most international schools make their admissions decisions based on access to previous school records and teachers’ reports.
    • Some schools require applicants to speak English to a certain level, with extra tuition often available.
    • International schools require prospective pupils to be registered in advance of an application, together with payment of a non-refundable fee that confirms their parents wish them to be considered.
    • The nature of international schools means they are often sympathetic towards the needs of relocating families, who might struggle to meet the normal admission timescales.
    • International schools don’t require families to live within a catchment area.

Want to learn more about State Schools in London?

Buy and download this expert Guide now!

All the information you need to find the right London State School for your child, and apply successfully:

  • The top 10 London neighbourhoods for state schools
  • The top 10 London primary state schools
  • The top 10 London secondary state schools
  • When and how to apply
  • Catchment areas
  • Admission criteria
  • Waiting lists
  • Application websites for all London Boroughs
  • And much more…
More info, and Preview of the first pages!
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