UK Schooling Overview: Choosing the Right School

                                                           By: Ann Dinsdale, GMS,


*This article is the third part of an 8 part series on the UK schooling system.  See the foot of this article for links to the other 7 parts.*

UK Schooling system

Just like in the States, there are several pieces to consider that require thorough research before even planning a visit to your shortlisted schools.


As discussed in the first part of our schooling series, some schools (Independent and International) require fees to attend in the UK.  It’s important to factor in the total amount of fees that will be required – and don’t forget that many extracurricular will start to add up for sport jersey costs, instrument rentals or purchases, etc. as well!  Another additional cost that is not as common in the US is for uniforms which are required at both independent and state schools.

Urban vs. Rural

The geographical setting of the school can affect many things – such as the size of the catchment area and the ‘extras’  the school is able to offer.  For example, some more rural schools can offer horse riding or polo as an extracurricular because they have the space for onsite arenas and stables.  Some even have swimming pools!

Day School vs. Boarding

Thanks to movies like Harry Potter and Dead Poets Society, boarding schools are commonly associated with the UK or the English.  While overall for most families day schools (aka the child lives at home) are still more common, boarding school can be an attractive option.  Oftentimes, boarding schools are chosen if the parents live overseas or travel quite a bit for work.

Single Sex vs. Coeducation

Much of the choice between single-sex and coeducation schools are dependent on what catchment area you live in and what options are available there.  Oftentimes, if your child is a part of the UK state system from age 11 and up, they will attend a single-sex school.  However, you always have the option to choose a coeducation option for your child if you’d prefer they interact with both genders, it’s all up to personal choice for your family.  

Availability of Extracurricular Activities

Much like in the States, the availability of sports facilities, music or theatre opportunities, etc. all vary by school.  Be sure to do your research on each school’s prospects as many schools are known for specialties or strengths in particular areas or sport.  

Transport Options

Unlike the States, it’s not common to have a free bus to get the children to school.  Some fee-paying schools provide bus services and some counties have free buses serving state schools but overall it’s uncommon.  It’s much more typical for parents to drive children to school or for them to take the local bus on their own.  It’s also worth considering if the school could be reached on foot from your flat or home as this can be a great option, particularly in urban areas.  

There are also some great resources on the Department for Education’s website for you to utilize and you can also review inspection reports by Ofsted or the Independent Schools Inspectorate

It’s always important to plan your move overseas carefully, especially if you have children.  There are many things you need to cover at both ends of the move.  People moving abroad make big mistakes by failing to get good, independent advice and support.

As international relocation specialists, the experts at Saunders 1865 – The VIP Relocation Company – can help you avoid making the common mistakes and we can make sure you accomplish everything that needs to be done around:

  • Helping parents navigate the complex education systems
  • Relieving parents’ worries about finding the right schools & securing places
  • Providing a quick & efficient service that saves time & provides independent, objective advice

Why not arrange a free consultation with one of our relocation experts today?  Just message us using this Contact Form