Blogs > Life in the UK

How to select the right school for your child in the UK

  • January 10, 2022

Making the move to the UK can be an exciting and prosperous time for you but it can also open doors for your children too. The UK schooling system has a wide variety of schools to choose from and this guide will help you select the right one for your child.

When do children start school?

Although children can start nursery at any age in the UK the compulsory school age begins on the 1st of January, 1st of April or 1st of September after the child’s 5th birthday.

Educational stages in the UK

Nursery Schools/Preschool

A nursery or preschool provide early education and childcare for children under the ‘compulsory school age’. All children aged 3 and 4 living in the UK, can receive 15 hours per week of free nursery education. Further information on this can be found here. If you require childcare for children under 3 nurseries can offer this at a cost. To apply, research local nurseries in your area and apply directly.

Primary and Secondary Schools

Primary and secondary schools are provided free of charge to all children in the UK. The local council authority will provide you with a free school place. As a parent, you MUST apply for a school place unless you are planning to educate your child at home.

To apply for a primary or secondary school visit the Government website and input your current postcode, it will then take you to the relevant council’s school application site. Depending on the council, when you apply to schools, you can list up to 4-6 schools in order of preference. This is called your ‘ranked schools’.

Can I apply for my child’s school placement at any time in the year?

Yes. The academic year in the UK runs from September to July, however, you can apply for your child’s school place during any time of year. As previously mentioned, it will take less than four weeks to arrange this.

What types of schools are there in the UK?

There are many excellent schools to choose from in the UK, so much so that international families can often feel overwhelmed with choice. Listed below are options to consider.

State School

This is the most common type of school that dominates the education system in the UK. A state school refers to primary or secondary schools created for or offered to all children without charge, funded in whole or part by taxation. State school have to follow the National Curriculum.


An academy is a publicly funded independent school that are given money directly by the government, not the local council. Academies must meet the same National Curriculum in core subjects, but they are allowed to create their own curriculums for non-core subjects. Some academies will have sponsors, such as businesses, universities, other schools or voluntary groups.

Some academies are called free schools.

Faith School

A faith school can fit into any category; however, it is most closely aligned to a state school as they follow the National Curriculum, except for Religious Studies where Faith Schools are free to only teach about the religion they are affiliated with.

Private/Independent/Public Schools

A private school is not funded by the government as it charges fees to its pupils to attend. Private schools do not need to follow the National Curriculum as they create their own Curriculums. Some private schools are inspected by Ofsted, whilst others are inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate.

Special needs Schools

Some schools have fantastic departments that can cater to a wide range of special needs from children. However if your child needs more attention or specialised requirements there are options for specialised schooling.

These schools are created for children with Special Educational Needs they will hire experienced staff who are trained in Special Education. These schools follow a different National Curriculum that correlates with pupil’s ability levels.

What is Ofsted?

Ofsted stands for Office for Standards in Education. It employs 1,500 inspectors to monitor the educational performance of individual schools and then reports directly to Parliament.

When choosing a school for your child, you should look at their Ofsted report. The report will give you an insight into standards under four areas – achievement, quality of teaching, behaviour and safety and leadership. The report can also provide you with details on the number of children who attend, the socio-economic mix of pupils and students who speak a second language.

BDI Resourcing's top tips for selecting the right school

  1. Look into the length of school day; plus before and after school clubs and activities. This can be extremely beneficial for you if you need childcare on certain days during certain hours and can help with childcare costs. It will also be valuable for your children as ensuring that the school meets their extra-curricular interests and needs will help them settle into the new area and school; we know that making sure your children are happy is always a top priority for you.
  2. Choosing a school is a process of elimination. It is vital you see several schools so that you have a point of comparison and can confirm or counter instincts you have about each one. A school may seem like a good fit online but we think it is really important that you go and have a look yourself, meet the teachers and bringing your child and including them in the decision can make them feel more comfortable about the transition.
  3. Looking into a schools religious ethos may be important for you and can help to enhance your child’s learning experience. Having familiar communities can help children settle and adjust.

How can we help?

If you are an international Doctor who would like to relocate to the UK, email your CV to [email protected] and we can support you in securing an NHS post and on your relocation journey to the UK.

Are you a member of our Facebook group? When you join IMG Advisor, you join a community of doctors all looking to relocate to the UK and join the NHS. We post a series of blogs and vlogs to the group each day. We will also be on hand to answer all of your relocation queries.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel! We have over 60 videos covering everything you need to know about relocating to the UK and joining the NHS.

Listen to BDI Resourcing on the go with IMG Advisor the Podcast! You can listen to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Buzzsprout. We have a number of episodes with tips and advice on relocating to the UK and the routes you can take to achieve this.

Finally, we also have Instagram, so if you are a member, feel free to follow us to view our posts and IGTV: @bdiresourcing


Get Email Job Alerts

Get email alerts tailored to just the jobs you're interested in.


Register With Us

Help us match you with jobs that are perfect for you.


Send Us Your Resumé

Upload it from your computer or via your phone from your cloud storage.

error: Content is protected !!