The education system in England

For families relocating with children, finding the right school can seem a daunting task. Our summary of the English education system will help families to make the best school choice.

Below is an extract from this article published in Relocate's Guide to Education & Schools in the UK. Click below if you are interested in receiving a full printed copy of the guide.

The education systems of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have continued to diversify in recent years. Scotland has its own qualifications framework. While the systems in England, Wales and Northern Ireland share some similarities, on closer inspection they all have their own distinctions.

England’s school system

There is a variety of schools to choose from in the English education system, and they are funded and managed in different ways.By law, children must be in full-time education by their fifth birthday, although most will start school when they are four years old. The majority of children in England attend state schools, but a handful of families (around 7 per cent) pay for their children to attend independent (also known as private or public) schools.Currently, children of families from within the European Economic Area (EEA) are also entitled to a free state education, whereas the visa status of families from outside the EEA will determine whether they can apply for a state-funded place. It is not known as yet what the impact of Brexit will be on school admissions for relocating families from the EU.
Denstone College

State schools

State schools follow the National Curriculum and are inspected by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted). The most common mainstream state schools in England are:
  • Community schools
  • Foundation schools and voluntary schools
  • Academies
  • Grammar schools
There are other types of state-funded school in England, not all of which have to follow the National Curriculum:
  • Faith schools
  • Free schools
  • City technology colleges
  • Special schools
  • Boarding schools
Box Hill School

Independent schools

Independent schools charge fees rather than receiving funding from the government. These schools do not have to follow the National Curriculum but must be registered with the government and are inspected on a regular basis, either by Ofsted or by the Independent Schools Inspectorate.The independent sector ranges from elite schools, such as Eton College, to more mainstream independent schools that charge lower fees.While the clear advantage of a state education in England is that it is free, many believe that an independent school education is worth the expense. The smaller class size is a clear attraction, with children gaining more one-to-one contact with the teacher and potentially achieving higher grades than they would at a state school.[…]

Further UK Guide articles:


International schools

There is a variety of international schools to choose from in England. While these are a clear choice for non-English-speaking families relocating from abroad, they are also popular with English families whose children have attended international schools in other countries and have now returned to England.International schools charge fees. Some are single sex, and some are faith schools. They offer a varied curriculum, ranging from the US and French systems to the International Baccalaureate (IB). International schools do not select their pupils on ability but will base their decisions on previous school records.
Holmewood House School
[…]

Moving to secondary school

Children start secondary school in Year 7 as they enter Key Stage 3 (Years 7–9). Key Stage 4, for children in Years 10 and 11 (preparing for GCSEs), follows. By law, children in England must stay in full-time education until their 16th birthday. Most secondary schools are coeducational but there is a handful of single-sex secondary schools, such as performing-arts schools for girls and sports academies for boys.State secondary schools in England are either selective (grammar) or non-selective (comprehensive, city technology college or academy). Provision can vary depending on where you live.In the majority of counties, children move from their local primary school to their local comprehensive school. However, in some counties, such as Kent, Essex, Buckinghamshire and Lincolnshire, pupils have a choice between selective and non-selective schools.Grammar schools select their pupils on academic ability. At the beginning of Year 6, pupils sit an entrance test, which assesses their knowledge of verbal and non-verbal reasoning, English and maths. However, in some areas, passing the test does not automatically guarantee a place at a grammar school, as many are oversubscribed. Added to the mix are super-selective grammar schools, which choose the pupils with the highest marks, regardless of where they live.In 1998, the Labour government passed a law banning the creation of new grammar schools. However, in 2015, a Kent grammar school was given permission to open a satellite school in a neighbouring town. Prime Minister Theresa May has reopened the debate about new grammar schools, telling MPs in September 2016 that she wanted “an element of selection” in the education system.[…]

Securing a place

Places at state primary and secondary schools can sometimes be difficult to secure, and this can prove stressful for parents. Places at non-grammar state schools are generally awarded on whether a child already has a sibling at the school, how far away from the school the family lives, or a combination of both. This can mean that parents will move house to secure a place at what they believe to be a better school.Parents will sometimes move into an area to secure a school place and then move back out once the child has started at the chosen school. Even newly married couples may base their decision about where to buy their first home on proximity to popular schools.If parents decide to move their child before he or she has started secondary education, a major factor in their choice of school will be what they want the child to learn, how the child will be examined and what qualifications will be awarded at the end of school.[…]Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit

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