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.
Get help from the experts
A relocation specialist can guide you through the school selection and application process. For example, Simply London offers two options, depending on your needs and budget:
- School phone consultation – advice on schools, admissions and the general process.
- Full school search service – an in-depth, bespoke service that’s tailored to your family’s requirements.