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The British Independent System

State Education in the UK

In order to assist and guide the expatriate seeking relocation, it is of considerable benefit to understand, when arriving in the UK that State Education is quite unlike any other in the world. It is not only useful but also vital, that parents are aware of some of the complexities of the system.

In the USA for example, when moving into an area, pupils are entitled to a place at the local school. The Education Board is required by law to provide that place. In some areas such as, for instance, East Lyme in Connecticut the town spends some 75% of its budget on the provision of schools and education, hence the determination of people to move into that specific location.

In the UK although the phrase is of "parental choice" variations in provision are manifold.

Most parents when coming into the UK have heard that there are some excellent schools in the State Sector - indeed in some cases those State Schools can and have dramatically out-performed some of the Independent establishments.

Forward-looking parents, plan ahead and find out the names of good State Schools and decide where they hope that their children will be able to attend. In order to assist parents and to help them avoid disappointment and confusion from the outset, it is hoped that some of the following information will be of some use. Additionally the use of an Education Consultant with local knowledge and established links with schools will be of considerable benefit to facilitate the process.

 

Nursery

It is most important that children are placed into Nursery from the age of two and a half. Unlike other countries this is not a play process and although elements of experimental and educational play are involved, it is conducted in a structured and learning environment.

In the UK, at this age, the Reading and Writing process will begin

It might, to many, coming from outside the UK seem extraordinary that the most prestigious and successful 'Pre-Preps' will require a child of only four years of age to be tested in order to obtain a place - but they do and delay can be critical.

In one of the busiest areas, registration is a priority. In Kensington and Chelsea there are 51 Nurseries at the moment and all are fully subscribed with waiting lists. Places do become available and it is essential to be fully conversant with the localised movement.

New and potentially good nurseries are regularly being launched but those with established reputations, naturally have long waiting lists.

Local knowledge and a reputable consultant can provide sound advice in these areas.

   

Pre-Preps

Some Nurseries are part of Pre-Preps and indeed some Pre-Preps are part of established Preparatory Schools. Like nurseries these are in high demand and it is important to register for a place as soon as possible.

Head teachers may decide not to grant an interview with parents if they do not have a place available. If they have a waiting list already and offer to place you on this list, it could be that the number is already some 40 strong.

It is prudent that parents do not expect of right a definite place.

Humphrys' Education prides itself on its relationship with the schools and knowing where openings do occur.

We ask that parents are realistic in a competitive environment and understand that their first, second or even third choice may not be an option.

Without wishing to paint a pessimistic picture it would be sensible for parents to be aware of some of the established and long standing situations. In the top Preps such as Wetherby for boys and Pembridge Hall for girls it is standard procedure and a requirement to register within 14 days and 24 hours of the birth respectively of a prospective candidate. Places after that are extremely rare.

Every child of 5 years of age has to be in full time education, however State Education now exists from the age of 4 and from 2004 will also operate a half day for every three year old.

The Independent Sector is in consequence under heavy pressure and again space is limited.

All children will normally be tested at 4 years of age to see if their ability is acceptable for a place. The level of education at these schools is high, with the aim being to gain a place at an established Prep School. In some schools an Educational Psychologist will undertake the testing.

   
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