Securing A Place In A UK State School

If you have children, it is important to begin addressing the issue of schooling prior to your departure, to ensure you and your family settle well at your destination. The chosen house and neighbourhood will be most likely determined by the location of the school selected. Starting your planning early can help you to make well-informed choices and give you the best chance of securing a place at your selected school.

The UK is notoriously complex in its education, because of the variety of types of organisation that can be involved. Whilst the fee-paying sector is significant and may be perceived as providing a better education, this is not always necessarily the case.

With State Schools you will have to live within a ‘catchment zone’ before you can even apply to the school. Most good state schools are extremely oversubscribed, so you cannot always rely on a place being available, particularly if you are coming to the UK at short notice, or for a shorter assignment. Places are in the first instance offered based on who lives closest to the school.

Local authorities coordinate the admissions process for all children starting school at the beginning of a school year (in September). You can apply for a place at state schools online or by using the local authority’s common application form (you can find out your local authority here). The deadline for applications is normally October for entry in the following September, with places being allotted at the beginning of the following year. If you require your child to start at any other time in the year, you will more than likely be referred to the local authority.

Church schools have their own admittance criteria – i.e. ‘practicing a religion’ may be a requirement, or at least improve your chances of obtaining a place.

Checklist for deciding on a state school

  • Find out which schools in your area have places (a list can be obtained from your local authority).
  • Read relevant school prospectuses and/or websites.
  • Compare achievement and attainment data and the latest school reports from Ofsted.
  • Find out the catchment area for the school(s) you are interested – these are usually made up of a list of roads (this can usually be found on school websites).
  • Find out the specific admission procedure – this can vary from school to school.
  • Find out what extended services they offer outside of normal working hours (e.g. breakfast clubs, after school activities) and what they cost.
  • Visit the school to make sure that it really does suit your child’s needs (and take along a pen and paper to make notes). A school visit can be invaluable in giving you (and your child) a proper feel for the school – how welcoming they are, what the facilities are like, what the teaching style is like and so on. It is also an opportunity to find out detailed information on admissions, work out possible travel routes and find out about any parent associations you may like to get involved in.
  • Meet all stated deadlines for submission of paperwork, or you will have little (or no) chance of securing a place.

The Relocation Consultancy are experts in destination services and provide a range of options to support families needing school places for their children. For a FREE consultation on the services that may be suitable for you, call +44 (0)118 947 0029 or email