State or Private School in the UK

Which school to choose

State or Private School in the UK

If you’re able to choose between state and private education, the following checklist will help you decide.

How long are you planning to stay in the UK? If you’re uncertain, then it’s probably better to assume a long stay. Because of language and other integration problems, enrolling a child in a British school with a British syllabus (state or private) is only advisable for a minimum of one year, particularly for teenage children.

The area in which you choose to live may affect your choice of local school(s). Although it’s not necessary to send your children to the state school nearest to your home, you may have difficulty obtaining admission to a state school if you don’t live within its catchment area.

  • Do you know where you’re going to after the UK? This may be an important consideration with regard to your children’s schooling. How old are your children and what age will they be when you plan to leave the UK? What future plans do you have for their education and in which country?
  • What age are your children and how will they fit into a private school or the British state school system? The younger they are, the easier it is to place them in a suitable school.
  • If your children aren’t English-speaking, how do they view the thought of studying in English? Is UK teaching available in their mother tongue?
  • Will your children require your help with their studies? Will you be able to help them, particularly with the English language?
  • What are the school hours? What are the school holiday periods? How do the school hours and holidays influence both parents' work and leisure activities?
  • Is religion an important consideration in your choice of school? In British state schools, religion is usually taught as a compulsory subject. Parents may, however, request permission for their children not to attend. Some voluntary-aided schools are maintained by religious organisations and they may make stipulations as to religious observance. 
  • Do you want your children to attend a co-educational (mixed) school? State schools in the UK are usually co-educational. Otherwise, you may need to look for an independent school if you wish your child to attend a single sex school. 
  • Should you send your children to a boarding school? If so, should it be in the UK or in another country?
  • What are the secondary and further education prospects for your children in the UK or another country? Are British educational qualifications recognised in your home country or the country where you plan to live after leaving the UK?
  • Does the school have a good academic record? All schools must provide exam pass rate statistics, e.g. GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) and GCE (General Certificate of Education) A-levels pass rates, as well as a prospectus which will be posted to you upon request. 
  • What are the facilities for art and science subjects, for example arts and crafts, music, computer studies, science, hobbies, drama, cookery and photography? Are the schools which you are looking at well funded for equipment such as sport facilities, computers, musical instruments? Does the school have an extensive library of up-to-date books? These should be listed in a school’s prospectus.
  • How large are the classes? What is the teacher to pupil ratio?

Obtain the opinions and advice of others who have been faced with the same decisions and problems and collect as much information from as many different sources as possible before making a decision. Speak to teachers and the parents of children attending schools on your shortlist. If possible, as to meet the head teacher before making a decision. Most parents find it beneficial to discuss the alternatives with their children before making a decision.

Further reading

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