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Public Schools in London

Public schools in London are a huge part of the education system. In the UK, public schools are called “state schools”, because they are government-funded (“state-funded”), as opposed to private schools, which are funded by school fees, usually paid by the parents. And just to be clear, private schools in the UK are also called “public schools”. It doesn’t get much more confusing for families moving to London from overseas, who use the word “public school” in a very different manner.

Public schools in London

Now that we have clarified how confusing the schools vocabulary can be in the UK, let’s dive down into what exactly public schools are, and how they work. In this article, we will refer to public schools as being “state schools”.

What are public schools in London?

Public schools are schools which are funded by the British government. They are open to all pupils in school age, whatever their nationality.

Who can attend a public school in London?

To be eligible for a public school place, children have to be lawfully residents in the UK.

Are public schools free?

Public schools, as of state schools, are entirely free. There are no application fees, and no fees to pay for a child to attend school.

Are there more state schools than private schools in London?

There are many more public schools in London than private schools. Excluding universities, around 85% of schools in London are state schools, with 15% being independent schools (private schools).

How do you apply for public schools?

We have a comprehensive article about public school applications. The main rule is that you would apply, for most public schools, with the Local Authority (Borough) of your London residence. Some exceptions can be Special Needs schools, and Faith schools, such as Church of England schools.

What is the difference between a public and a state school?

There is no difference, except, that the Brits use the word “state school”, and pretty much everyone else uses “public school”!

What is the difference between a public and a private school?

If we think of a public school as a government-funded school, then the main difference to a private school will be the fees: private schools charge school fees, and even application  fees. Public schools do not charge anything.


Want to be fully prepared to find the best school and home in London? Buy and download our self-help guides!

Downloadable Guides

Guide to State Schools in London

All the information you need to find the right London State School for your child, and apply successfully: top state schools; when and how to apply; catchment areas; admission criteria; waiting lists; appeals; application websites for all London Boroughs.

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Guide to State and Private Schools in London

A practical guide to state and private schools in London: where the best schools are in London; school years and curriculum; applications process and timelines; application requirements; Special Education Needs, glossary of school terms.

Only £ 14.99

Guide to London Neighbourhoods

20 top London neighbourhoods covered, with, for each neighbourhood: history and character; average rent prices for 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms; transport links; local highlights.

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