There are a multitude of education options for expat kids in the London, so how can you choose which one is right for yours?
The opportunity to live and go to school in the U.K. can be a remarkable experience for any child, which will influence the rest of his or her life. The core subjects of the national curriculum will have a different focus than in the United States, and your child will be exposed to new and different topics of study than those his or her previous American classmates.
There are three primary options for schooling: government-run state schools, private schools (called “public schools” in the U.K.), and international schools. Of the three, only state schools are tuition-free for all students.
In the U.K. children begin school the September after their fourth birthday. The school year starts with the autumn term, running from September to December; the spring term runs from after the winter holidays, until Spring break in April, and the summer term is from April to July.
The government maintains a database of state and private (public) schools to help parents determine where their children may enroll.
State schools are government-run and funded; they’re open to anyone living within the Local Education Authority’s (LEA) catchment area. Most are comprehensive grammar schools or “foundation” schools, which are free schools set-up by parents and run by local organizations. It’s difficult, but not impossible, to enroll your child in a school outside of your LEA catchment area.
Ofsted, the government’s regulatory agency, publishes reports on each school’s performance.
Primary school, for children ages 4 to 11, teach core subjects that include English, mathematics and science, as well as history, geography, technology, religion, music, art, and physical education; these are usually taught as themed groups.
Secondary school, for children ages 12 through 16, teach subjects that include English, Math (calculus and trigonometry), Science (physics, biology, and chemistry), History, Geography, Design and Technology (such as wood and metalworking, cookery, and textiles), Religious Education, English Literature, Drama, ICT (information and computer technology), and a foreign language, usually French, German or Spanish; these are organized in two or three rotating blocks.
By age 14 students begin to focus on the core curriculum of English, Math and Science, and perhaps six or seven other subjects in preparation for their all-important General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) exams. While it’s possible to leave school at 16, employment prospects are limited for students who have not passed their GCSEs.
A few good state schools to consider are the following (remember, there are zoning restrictions).
Belmont Primary School
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 8994 7677
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 8747 0031
Berrymede Junior School
Telephone: 020 89939053
In the U.K., a private or independent school is called a “public” school, where parents must pay tuition, which can be expensive. However, most public schools have a few scholarships or bursaries for extraordinarily bright or talented students. Public schools offer boarding facilities, as well as day school. While not required to follow the National Curriculum, most do, as it provides for the nationally recognized standard.
Students must take an entrance exam and often face an interview, as well. Competition is stiff, and family traditions can play an important part in the school’s selection process. Most universities, in and outside the U.K., hold the English public school system in great esteem. Many are beginning to offer an International Baccalaureate (IB).
City of London School
Telephone: +44(0)20 7489 0291
Gender: Boys only
City of London School for Girls
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7847 5500
Gender: Girls only
Gower House School
Tel: +44 (0)20 8205 2509
Because London is truly a world capital, it has many international schools that cater to expat students. Admission requirements and application processes are different from British schools. For the most reliable information, contact the school directly about how to enroll a student. Tuition fees can be expensive at as much as £10,000 per term, plus meals, uniforms, and supplies.
The following are some recommended International Schools to look into.
International Community School
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
The International Community School is part of the SKOLA Group of Schools. Established in 1979, there are two sites, one close to Regent’s Park and another near Hyde Park. Students from more than 45 different countries attend ICS. The schools extracurricular programs enhance student learning.
International School of London
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
The International School of London (ISL) was founded in1979. Its main campus is in Chiswick, West London, with a smaller campus in Surrey. The school strongly promotes mother-tongue literacy. Non-English speaking students receive intensive English classes. The school has sports and afterschool clubs. They even offer door-to-door transportation for students living in central, west, and south London.
The American School in London
This is a popular international school in St John’s Wood. It is very difficult for non-U.S. citizens to get into the school; about 80% percent of the students have at least one parent with U.S. citizenship. The school has exceptional sports and art facilities.
It is nearly impossible to underestimate the value of a “foreign” education; the cultural experience alone is enough to help children develop into well-rounded, tolerant adults. There is no doubt that your child will benefit from the expanded worldview he or she develops as a result of moving to the UK, no matter which type of school you choose.