Blogs > Life in the UK

How to apply for schools in the UK

  • August 05, 2019

If you are an international doctor who has related to the UK and you have a child residing in the UK, you are under a legal obligation to secure schooling for any child of ‘compulsory school age’.

At what age does my child have to be in education?

Your child is of ‘compulsory school age’ on the 1st January 1st April or 1st September following their 5th birthday. Your child can leave education at the end of the academic year in which they turn 16 however, they must remain in full-time education such as school or college, work-based learning such as an apprenticeship or remain in part-time education or training if they are employed, self-employed or volunteering.

Types of School Placements 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.

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.

How do I apply for a primary or secondary school for my child?

  • 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’.
    • Please do research into the schools in your area to help you make the right school preferences for your child. This should also include looking at your school’s admission rules to work out who will be offered a place. It is also important to think about how your child will get to school.
  • Once you have applied for your child’s school place, you should receive a decision after 2-3 weeks.

Which address should I use to apply?

It is important to try and use your permanent address at the time you apply. If you do move after you have made your application, you must send your local council proof of your new address. This can be done by:

  • A solicitor’s letter upon completion
  • A signed rental agreement (for at least 12 months)
  • Evidence that you have relinquished ties with the address you originally declared on your application form

Can I apply for my child’s school placement during any time of 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.

Types of school in the UK

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.

Grammar Schools

A grammar school are typically at secondary level, which accepts students based on the 11+ exam. Grammar schools tend to be highly selective due to their focus on academics, but they are free for pupils to attend.

It is important to know that private schools are now a thing of the past and there are only a select few remaining across the entire UK. Please be aware that state schools are just as good with schools having to adhere to the National Curriculum.

Special Need Schools

These schools are created for children with Special Educational Needs that will hire experienced staff who are trained in Special Education. Special 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.

Relocation to the UK

If you are an international doctor who needs support relocating to the UK and joining the NHS, email your CV to [email protected] and we can support you on your journey to the UK.

Join our Facebook Group

Are you a member of IMG Advisor? We publish regular blog posts and infographics to aid your relocation.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel

We publish a new vlog every single week from how to secure an NHS training post, understanding NHS salaries to finding accommodation in the UK. 


Teachers, C. (2019). UK School Types. [online] CareerTeachers. Available at: [Accessed 5 Aug. 2019].


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 !!