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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 – as tend to be the case in most big metros.
State schools (public) and independent schools (private) are the two main types of institutions in London.
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 set up home 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. Councils can also provide guidance on childcare and family support.
Expat children aged between 5 and 16 years old who are dependants of a person who is legally allowed to live in the country are entitled to the same education rights as British children. Namely, they can attend state primary and secondary schools in the UK free of charge.
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 may also be additional costs for things such as uniforms, school lunches and extra-curricular activities.
Tutoring 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, or developing English-language skills, or just a bit of confidence.
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.