UK State and Independent Schools

UK schools are renowned worldwide for their high-quality education. They open doors to the most prestigious universities. They offer an in-depth study of subjects, strict discipline, and an individual approach to pupils to develop their skills. Many parents dream of giving their children a UK education. It’s important to know about the types of schools and their niceties and plan studies roadmap.

History of UK Education

The history of UK education dates back to the 12th century when Pope Benedict ordered all monasteries to open boarding schools. Initially, boarding schools provided free education, but later parents had to pay fees both for boarding and education. When children from aristocratic families were home-schooled, they grew up too sensitive and lacked broader knowledge because it was difficult to organise the learning process at home. Therefore, they grabbed the boarding school culture with both hands. Their children were taken care of, they were disciplined which helped them occupy positions of great power and be worthy members of their dynasties. Other countries quickly realised the value and quality of UK education and started to send their children to UK boarding schools.

Types of UK Schools

There are two types of UK schools:

  • State schools which are free for UK residents;
  • Fee-charging independent schools.

There are also schools based on:

  • Religion (Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish schools etc.);
  • Gender (all-girls or all-boys schools).

UK State Schools

State schools follow the national curriculum and are free for children whose parents are UK citizens or stay here on a long-term visa. However, you should live close to the school if you want to study for free. If you are looking for a place at a particular state school, you need to move closer to the right school.

The school year is divided into three terms. In state schools, the school year runs typically from 01 September to 20 July.

Children are eligible for year 1 if they are five years old. Admission criteria are different for each school. They may give priority to children who pass an entrance exam. It’s better to check admission requirements for a chosen school in advance.

Most UK schools used to be single-gender. Nowadays, co-education is a norm. However, there are some single-sex schools because some parents believe that their children would perform better academically in such an environment.

Extracurricular activities are essential for pupils to develop various skills. How many activities and which ones will depend on parents’ choices and their budget.

Religious Schools

Children can attend religious schools if their family does not only belong to a particular religion but also regularly attends a church, synagogue or other place of worship (at least twice a month for more than 2 years).

A child is also required to attend Sunday school. It is easier to learn moral values, get religious education and protect children from the negative influences of non-religious peers.

Fee-Charging Independent Schools

UK education in independent schools differs from that of state schools in several aspects.

  1. An independent school does not have to follow the national curriculum but can set its own. It structures its curriculum according to a specific subject and gives in-depth knowledge. Independent schools also determine the dates and number of midterm tests that are specific to each school. After finishing school, pupils have all the necessary knowledge and skills to take the General Certificate of Secondary Education tests (GCSEs).
  2. The average class size of an independent school is 15 pupils. Small class sizes allow teachers to give each pupil more attention and help them understand the topic better.
  3. There are three types of schools:
    • A day school where pupils are taught during the day and then return home for the evening,
    • A flexi school where students go home after a school week,
    • A full-boarding school where students live during the whole term except holidays.
      Boarding schools take children from 7-11 years old, depending on school rules.
  4. Academic term dates and holidays in UK independent schools are set by the school office and may vary from the government plan. In UK independent schools, the school year begins on 01 September and ends between the end of June and the end of July. There are three academic terms:
    • Autumn semester (from September to December),
    • Spring semester (from January to March),
    • Summer semester (from April to June).
      There are term breaks between semesters. Their length depends on school rules.
  5. Independent schools have access to cutting-edge equipment and facilities, including well-stocked libraries and computer classes. The school campuses provide pupils with quality accommodation.
  6. Many independent schools offer a wide range of extracurricular activities: drama, science, and sports clubs; rowing, climbing, show jumping, film clubs, and others. Moreover, schools organise excursions to museums, galleries, exhibitions, theatres, etc. Children develop all-round, are socialised and learn proper etiquette.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Independent Schools

Each UK independent school sets its curriculum to prepare children better for university. A well-organised teaching process encourages pupils to perform better and develop various skills. It has many advantages:

  • Initial comprehensive education with many subjects narrows down to 3-4 subjects in the final years to prepare pupils for university. These subjects are chosen by pupils and they focus solely on them. It gives them in-depth knowledge and better chances to get into a university of their choice, compared to state school pupils.
  • Independent schools provide an environment where pupils can focus on the learning process and get used to the idea that they are personally responsible for their future. It increases motivation to study and makes education easier.
  • Most independent schools have large park areas including a wide range of green fields and sports pitches.
  • Well-organized interior and high-quality equipment allow children to learn effectively in a comfortable environment.
  • The average class size is 15 pupils. It means teachers can focus better on each one of them.
  • Children spend a lot of time in school. It makes them self-sufficient, self-reliant, and responsible for their actions.
  • Independent schools pay more attention to physical education with guidance from qualified specialists and outdoor activities.
  • Different extracurricular activities are an important part of all-round development allowing pupils to develop their skills. Trips and excursions to different places broaden their horizon and help them choose what they want to do in the further.
  • Independent schools are a perfect place to meet children from other countries. It makes children learn important principles such as patience, tolerance, kindness, and respect. Often school friendships can last a lifetime and provide support in different situations.
  • Modern campus security systems take a holistic approach to the safety of pupils.
  • A well-structured program of independent schools guarantees admission to prestigious universities and forms personalities in the right way.

However, there are some disadvantages of independent schools, which depend on the type of school:

  • Independent schools that are known for academic excellence try to maintain their reputation. If your child shows poor academic performance, the school may ask you to transfer to another school.
  • The strict discipline and high academic standards may be unusual for new pupils.
  • A family should take part in all situations concerning a child’s life. For example, they organise return trips back home for term breaks or buy new things instead of spoiled ones. It is difficult when family members are in a different country and cannot take care of such matters. Contact specialists to help you solve school and boarding problems.

Renowned UK Independent Schools

The UK is known for its excellent quality of education. Here are the most well-known schools:

  • Charterhouse
  • Eton College
  • Harrow School
  • Rugby School
  • Shrewsbury School
  • Westminster School
  • Winchester College, etc.

Many prominent politicians and entrepreneurs graduated from independent schools. Admission criteria are strict, but their graduates get a ticket to a successful future.

UK School Applications for Foreigners

Foreign pupils have the right to attend UK schools. According to statistics, about 30,000 foreigners study in UK schools every year. The whole family does not have to move to the UK. A child can stay at a boarding school.

Documents Required For Applying To UK Schools

You should prepare the following documents to be enrolled to a UK school:

  • A travel document
  • Report cards for 2 years and preliminary results for the current year
  • English language certificate
  • References from the place of study
  • A motivational essay
  • A school registration form

You must also have an interview with a school employee (in person or online) and pass admission exams.

If a pupil does not speak English well enough, they may still be enrolled in some schools. Learning English becomes a challenge for a child, but it is easier to learn it in the UK.

Cost of UK Independent Schools

The tuition fee depends on the type of school, reputation, historical significance and extracurricular activities. A day school costs from £15,000 to £24,000 per year. A boarding school costs from £26,000 to £40,000. You should also remember that you will pay for extracurricular activities, school uniforms, books and guided tours when visiting museums and theatres. It can increase the costs by 4-8%.

Education in renowned UK schools opens a lot of doors for a child. Foreign pupils can be enrolled to any UK school. But be ready to face challenges and focus on the end goal.

FAQ about UK Schools

What are the niceties of UK independent schools?

Children whose parent stays in the country on a long-term visa for more than six months have the right to attend UK state or independent schools. You should live close to the school if you want to study for free. However, you should remember that you will be paying for language courses, school uniforms, excursions and extracurricular activities.

UK state schools follow the national curriculum. The average age of first graders is 5. Children complete their secondary education by the age of 16 when they take their GCSEs.

If you want to continue your education in a university, you will need to complete two-year A Levels.

Most state schools provide co-education, i.e. do not separate boys and girls.

What are the types of UK independent schools?

There are three types of UK independent schools:

  • A day school where students stay during the day and return home for the night.
  • A flexi school where students go home after school week.
  • A full-boarding school where students live during the whole term except holidays. Schools offer boarding for children 7-11 years old, depending on school rules.

UK independent schools can offer single-sex classes.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of UK independent schools?

Well-organized education process boosts academic performance and all-around development. Independent schools have many advantages such as:

  • Large park areas at a school campus;
  • Cutting-edge equipment;
  • average class size is 15 pupils;
  • Adaptation to the demands of boarding school culture;
  • Extracurricular activities which are an important part of all-round development;
  • Making friends with foreign classmates and learning to be tolerant;
  • Modern campus security systems;
  • A well-structured program guarantees admission to prestigious universities.

However, there are disadvantages of UK independent schools:

  • Independent schools that are known for academic excellence try to maintain their reputation. If your child shows poor academic performance, the school may ask you to transfer to another school.
  • Strict discipline and high academic standards may be unusual for new pupils.
  • Schools are not responsible for the day-to-day issues of their pupils. The responsibility lies with the parents.

Our experts offer more than just visa support. We will help you choose a school, find accommodation, relocate, and much more.

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