You are here: Home Education.

The British Independent System

Independent Senior Schools

These schools are by their very nature well established with a long history, many going back even further than the first English Parliament in the 13 th century. The top schools will have entry points for girls at 11 and boys at 13 and then not again until the sixth form at 16.

St Paul 's Girls' School  Godolphin and Latymer and most of the London Girls Day schools require registration  at the latest by the 1st  November before the set birthday for entry and will sit examinations in the January following. St Paul’s Boys and Westminster require them to be registered by the end of Year 6 (10 years of age but it is best to register from year 5). If the deadlines are not met it is not possible to put in late applications and one must wait until the next regular point of entry in most cases

Some of these schools will allow the entry examinations to be taken overseas if they are assured that a child's current school can provide a strict examination process. This does allow some flexibility and a child is able to work in a known environment. Some schools will require pupils are brought here for testing and it is essential that the child is allowed a couple of days, at least, to recover from tiredness and flight fatigue.

Independent Schools are very much governed by League Table results and these are produced on their success rate at GCSE and A level. Results are published annually and are available to all. It is essential to understand that the grading is for 5 GCSE passes at grades A* - C; the top schools have pass rates well in excess of 75%+ and some well over 90%+ of their students obtaining A* and A grade in all of their examinations, which for some may number 11 or 12 examinations.

Anomalies of which to be aware:

  1. Parents need to be aware that some top schools still have Saturday morning school with sport in the afternoon. This is very much part of the British system and the ethos of the school. This is a non-negotiable part of the school week. If you wish to have your child attend a particular school, but want the weekends for family time, then it is vital one checks the school's requirements.
  2. At its best the British System of Education is one of the finest and it therefore follows academic standards are very high, as is the level of expectation from pupils.
  3. Some parents are rather astonished when they are told that their child coming from another system will possibly be behind the British system; it is not a condemnation of child, system or country, simply that we do things in a different order here. Particularly in Maths and English students may find themselves struggling in the examinations. Parents to whom this is indicated would again be sensible to take advice before committing themselves to the "British Experience". On a positive note, numerous schools will wish to have a cross section of pupils within their establishment and as always, will invariably, give credit for other skills and accomplishments where necessary.
  4. It is important that parents ensure that the school is aware of their child's strengths, especially in areas such as music, drama, sport and other hobbies or interests; again these are a considerable part of an established school ethos and play a vital part in a child's development as a well-rounded student. Most established schools have Scholarships or Exhibitions within these areas as well as the academic fields.

Prep Schools (Preparatory)

Prep schools start at ages 7 or 8 depending on the history of the school. They run through to 11 and 13 respectively for girls and boys. They have to ensure their educational standard is strong - their success or failure depends on their placing their charges in the top secondary schools.

At Colet Court (Prep for St Paul's Boys) the entrance examination at 6+ for entry at 7 years of age, will require a prospective candidate to be able to discuss some 15 (fifteen) books, at interview with the Head, that he has read. This is a somewhat daunting but not impossible task for a bright six year old. They will usually be examined in English, Maths and Verbal Reasoning. There are later points of entry, at 10 or 11 years of age, to some of these schools but once again we ask parents to be aware of the fact that there are some 118 students who will compete for just 11 places.

A child who is 10 for a girl and 12 for a boy will find a place in a Prep School quite difficult to find. Entry at this late stage would mean a very short preparation time before they have to take entrance examinations for a Senior School and any Prep School, who guards their academic reputation closely, would be very wary of that happening.



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.



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.


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.