School system in London


The English education system has an excellent reputation with students from the UK and around the world attending school here. The system is overseen by the Department for Education and the Department for Business - Innovation and Skills. Local authorities (LAs) are responsible for implementing policy for public education and state schools at a regional level.

The British school system

Education is mandatory from ages 5 to 16 (to be raised to 18 in 2013 for 16-year-olds and 2015 for 17-year-olds). Students may then continue their secondary studies for two years (sixth form), with most students taking A-level qualifications. Other qualifications and courses include Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) qualifications, the International Baccalaureate (IB) and the Cambridge Pre-U.

The 2 systems are the States schools and the independent schools (or Public schools). The State schools get State funds and are regulated by a Local Education Authority. Most of the State schools are either Comprehensive, Foundation or Grammar schools and Free Schools (set-up by local parents and run by organisations, like Foundation schools).

  • A Comprehensive school is a secondary school that does not select children on the basis of academic attainment or aptitude.
  • Grammar schools : selective school through the 11 plus exam (about 10% of "gifted" children pass the exam). The system is often blamed for elitism.
  • Independent schools or Public schools : private schools, charge fees.
  • A the end of the compulsory period at 16, all students pass the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exam. If it's successful it's then possible to attend a 2 year preparation in a College or a Sixth Form Centre (in State schools or Public schools) to pass the A-Levels. Pupils choose usually 3 subjects to pass for their exam and get a notation with the highest grade being A.

    About 90% of the English pupils are in State schools. But be careful: they can be very good or a disaster! You better double check the quality of the schools you are about to choose. Performance of the school to the GCSE and A-levels exams for example may be helpful (

    Stages of Education

    The education system is divided into:

    1. Nursery (ages 0–3) and Pre-school Nursery (ages 3–4)
    2. Primary education (ages 4–11)
    3. Secondary education (ages 11–18)
    4. Tertiary education (ages 18+)

    Early Education

    From 0 to 3, Children can attend nursery schools. They are private schools and can be very expensive in London, in average (depending on location) from £50/day to £120/day. Once you have booked specific days per week (from 1 to 5) it is not possible to change them (you may be able to swap days on specific occasion with a fee) and it is expected that you will pay the nursery 12 months a year (even when your child is on holiday or sick). You can stop the nursery with a 1 to 3 months notice. Time for nursery may vary, usually 8am to 6.30pm (some of them only open from 9am to 3:15pm).

    All providers are regulated, inspected and reports are available on the Office for Standards in
    Education (Ofsted) website

    Children aged 3 to 4 are entitled to a free nursery school (the pre-school grant is paid by the Council and may be worth ~£2300/year). Formal primary education begins in the year they turn 5. The school year begins on 1 September (or 1 August if a term starts in August).

    State primary schools are free, but their admission is usually subject to a catchment area (this process resulting into the usual question: "Where in London should you move for the best state primary schools?"), which can be very small for popular schools with best results to Ofsted inspection (sometime only a few hundred meters). All maintained schools in England are required to follow the National Curriculum, which is made up of twelve subjects. The core subjects of English, Mathematics and Science are compulsory for all students aged 5 to 16.

    Secondary School

    Pupils progress from primary to secondary levels at age 11. A few areas have three-tier education systems with an intermediate middle level from age 9 to 13.

    Under the National Curriculum, all pupils undergo National Curriculum Tests (NCTs) towards the ends of Key Stage 2 in the core subjects of Literacy, Numeracy and Science. Pupils normally take GCSE exams in the last two years of Key Stage 4, but may also choose to work towards the attainment of alternative qualifications, such as the GNVQ.

    The Sixth Form (sometimes referred to as Key Stage 5) describes the years 12 and 13 of the schooling system. This the final (optional) two years of secondary education, where students, usually sixteen to eighteen years of age, prepare for their A-level (or equivalent) examinations.

    Private School

    Private Schools can offer an elevated environment of learning for some students. Other schools offer a specialty focus that may be worth paying extra for. It is important to visit a school to determine the best fit for you and your child. Most private schools have open days for prospective parents, but it is wise to ask to make an appointment to visit on a normal working day. Questions you may want to ask:

    • Special needs: Does the school have facilities and suitably qualified and experienced staff to look after any special needs your child may have? Is there a program for gifted and talented children or special provision for those with physical disabilities? Is their a language requirement that could aid your child?
    • Curriculum: Is it broad and balanced? Will your child have an adequate range of options? Are there specialist teachers?
    • The staff: How well qualified are they? Is there reasonable staff stability? Do the teachers stay long in post?
    • Extra activities: Does the school offer an exciting extra-curricular activities programme that will stimulate your child's interest? If you are considering boarding school, you will want to know what activities the school provides for children in the evening and at weekends.
    • Exam results: High in the "league tables" indicates success with standardized tests

    ACS Hillingdon International School
    Address: Hillingdon, London UB10 0BE

    Aston House School
    Address: 10 Montpelier Road, Ealing, London, W5 2PQ

    Buxlow Prepatory School
    Address: 5/6 Castleton Gardens, Wembley, Middlesex, HA9 7QJ

    City of London School
    Address: Queen Victoria Street, London, EC4V 3AL

    Address: Donhead Lodge, 33 Edge Hill, Wimbledon, London SW19 4NP

    Herne Hill School
    Address: The Old Vicarage, 127 Herne Hill, London SE24 9LY

    More House School
    Address: 22-24 Pont Street, London SW1X 0AA

    Norfolk House School
    Address: 10 Muswell Avenue, Muswell Hill, London, N10 2EG

    Address: Shepherd's Way, Brookmans Park, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, AL9 6NS

    RIMU Music Prepatory School
    Address: 95 Old Dover Road, Blackheath, London, SE38SJ

    St. Christopher's Prepatory School
    Address: 71 Wembley Park Drive, Wembley Park, London, HA9 8HE


    Fees range from school to school so make sure to compare. There are occasional grants and scholarships for worthy students, but they are competitive. Ask at the school for opportunities.

      Example of prices per term:
    • Pre-Prep (age 2/3-7): 1000 to 1500 GBP
    • Junior/Prep (age 7-11/13) Day Classes: 1,400 to 4,250 GBP
    • Junior/Prep (age 7-11/13) Boarding: 2,055 to 5,010 GBP
    • Senior (age 11/13-18) Day Classes: 3,360 to 5,390 GBP
    • Senior (age 11/13-18) Boarding: 5,640 to 8,360 GBP

    Extra activities like instrumental instruction, school uniforms, or school trips may require additional fees. Many private schools have their own second-hand shops selling uniforms and other supplies.

    Boarding Schools

    The world models boarding schools on the classic British boarding school. There is usually a dormitory, the refectory, and the study hall. Boarding schools may be all-boarding or flexible boarding, or offer weekly boarding. This allows students the opportunity to return home on weekends or only stay at the school occasionally. Boarding schools were declining during the 1990's, but have received a small revival which may be due to the "Harry Potter" effect.

    International Baccalaureate (IB)

    The IB program is offered by a number of private schools. It is taught under the supervision of the International Baccalaureate Organisation. All students study languages, social science, experimental science, mathematics and arts.

      The IB is divided into three programmes covering the following age ranges:
    1. Primary Years Programme (PYP) ages 3-12
    2. Middle Years Programme (MYP) ages 11-16
    3. Diploma Programme (DP) ages 16-18

    University studies in England

    Many elite universities are in England. British universities are known for their illustrious history and research output. Students normally enter university at age 18 and a bachelor's degree is usually awarded after four years of study.

    "A" Level : it is a group of certificates according to the choice of the student. Getting 3 certificates allows to continue at University level.
    Short Cycle
    Long Cycle
    Higher National Diploma: 2 years

    First degree: only honours will allow the student to go to Higher Degrees.

    Ordinary Degree :

  • B.Eng (Bachelor of Engineering): 1 additional year in Scotland and called Ordinary Degree with honours)
  • B.Art (Bachelor of Art)
  • B.Sc (Bachelor of Science)
  • Diploma or Certificate: 1 year
    Post Graduate:

    Master's Degree by research: 1 to 2 years with dossier presentation

    Master Degree

  • M.Eng (Master of Engineering)
  • M.Art (Master of Art)
  • M.Sc (Master of Science)
  • Master's Degree by instruction: 1 year with an exam at the end

    Doctor's Degree

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): 3 years of research
  • Doctor of Letters and Doctor of Science: grant a group of works and articles published
  • Admission

    The state does not control university syllabi, but it influences admission procedures through the Office for Fair Access (OfFA). The universities in the United Kingdom share an undergraduate admission system. Applications must be made by October 15th for admissions to Oxford and Cambridge and by January 15th for admissions to other UK universities.

    • University of Oxford - Located in Oxford, this is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Most undergraduate teaching at Oxford is organized around weekly tutorials at self-governing colleges and halls, supported by classes, lectures and laboratory work organized by University faculties and departments. Oxford regularly contends with Cambridge for first place in the league tables and is consistently ranked in the world's top 10 universities.
    • University of Cambridge - The seventh-oldest university globally, the university grew out of an association of scholars in the city of Cambridge. Cambridge ranks as one of the most prestigious universities in the world with graduates of the University winning a total of 65 Nobel Prizes.
    • University College London - This is a public research university located in London. It is the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London. UCL's main campus is located in the Bloomsbury area of Central London.
    • Imperial College London - Officially known as the Imperial College of Science, this is a public research university located in South Kensington in London.
    • London School of Economics - The London School of Economics and Political Science is a public research university. Based in Westminster, it is among the world's most selective universities.


    London's scholarly reputation is not without merit. The city has a distinguished literary tradition and many fine libraries.

    The London Library - The London Library is the UK's leading literary institution and the world's largest independent lending library. It offers more than one million books with a collection spanning works from the 16th century to the latest publications. Membership is open to everyone on payment of an annual subscription.

    Other libraries can be found on the City of London's Libraries. The site includes locations, a mobile app, and free audiobook downloads.

    Update 30/09/2018


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    The Country Life Future Schools Fair
    I work in Education and know how confusing both UK and international parents can find the system. Country Life Future Schools Fair is an event in London on July 16th which is bringing together 50 top schools as well as hosting a packed seminar table on topics that matter to your children's education. Tickets are free and can be found here:



    London School System Explained
    Looking for a school in London for your children?
    Go to, you'll find all you need to understand the school system in London and make the best choice for your children.

    London School Maze will explain the differences in state and private schools, how private schools select children and you'll also find useful area guides to help you decide where to move.

     Eleonore AVE


    Vous y trouverez:

    L'actualité sur les écoles, les enseignements, les sujets d'éducation.
    Une expertise et des recherches dans le domaine de l'orientation et des métiers d'avenir,
    Une plateforme d'informations pratiques et d'échanges.



    Performing Arts Schools in London: have a go!
    For more cultural and educational enrichment there is the Brit School, THE - free - school for the arty ones - drama, musical drama, music, dance, media, art and design teaching as well as the academic subjects with: an English school as they should all be in London! The pupils wear their own clothes, you can hear them rehearsing at break times in the hall,- its got the best of the 80's series Fame but for real!! - alright, maybe I am abit over the top here.
    I am starting teaching french there this academic year and I have already met some francophone students there during the end of year festival. I wish French students become more aware of performing arts schools as a great opportunity to take the best out of the English educational system.
    See! Thats what we call a cool English school!! Check out for the pupils' performances dates on the school website...
    For more info about the Brit School:

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