London’s schools vary tremendously in terms of the standard of education and the quality of the facilities they offer. As a general rule of thumb, the better schools tend to be in the more affluent areas of the city.
State schools (public) and independent schools (private) are the two main types of institutions in London. There are also international schools catering to the expat population. Some parents, especially those staying in London for the short term, find international schools to be the ideal choice. Those in the city for the long haul often prefer to opt for local public schools as these are usually of a good standard and can be attended free of charge.
Public schools in London
State schools are run by the government, follow the national curriculum and give priority to pupils resident in the catchment area. This means that expats should consider where they want to have their child schooled when choosing an area or suburb in London to settle in.
The best place to start when looking for a local school is online. Parents can use a school finder online and input a postcode to find all the schools near their prospective home. Families can also look for a school in each London borough by visiting the respective local council website.
Private schools in London
Independent schools are privately run, charge high fees and usually offer a superior standard of education along with first-rate facilities for students to pursue a variety of extra-curricular activities.
Most private schools in London follow the National English Curriculum, but some have introduced the International Baccalaureate programme as an option for education after the age of 16. Some private schools teach through a religious lens, such as Christianity, or use an alternative education philosophy, such as Montessori.
International schools in London
A third option popular with expats in London are international schools. These institutions offer the opportunity for students to continue with the curriculum of their home country, while the familiar modes and language used for instruction can also be comforting for expat children.
Expats should be warned, though, that fees for these schools run extremely high – particularly so for reputable international schools. There are also additional costs for things such as uniforms, school lunches and extra-curricular activities.
Special-needs education in London
The British government has a comprehensive Special Educational Needs (SEN) programme. All mainstream schools in the UK have a Special Educational Needs Consultant, or SENCO. If parents think their child may need assistance, they can get in touch with the SENCO who will assess the child and arrange extra support according to the child's needs. This may include implementing a special learning programme, making provisions within the school for the child's disability, or arranging extra help from a teacher or assistant.
If the child needs more support than the school is able to provide, local authorities should be contacted regarding the development of a personalised Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.
Tutors in London
Education is highly valued in the UK, with around a quarter of secondary school pupils receiving extra tuition. The country's private tutoring industry is said to be worth billions of pounds. There is a wide range of tutors to choose from, some of which specialise in particular subjects or age groups. Some of the top tutoring agencies in London include Mentor Education, Enjoy Education and Explore Learning.
Tutors can be especially useful to new arrivals, giving expat children extra support in areas such as catching up with the local curriculum, developing English-language skills, or just a bit of confidence.
►International Schools in London provides a comprehensive list of London's top schools for expat students
"Although many in our US expat circle opt to send their children to the American School, we purposely sought out an international school for our daughter, wanting her to experience all that an international assignment could offer. My suggestions for finding the right school here or anywhere is find the fit that’s right for your particular kid’s academic and athletic requirements and then get involved with the school and its activities." Read more of American expat Kimberley's interview about living in London.
Are you an expat living in London?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to London. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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