How to Enroll Your Child in a London School: Navigating the Education System

Enroll Your Child in a London School, UK

Enroll Your Child in a London School

London has many different Schools. To get your child into a school, you need to know how the school system works. You have to research the schools and see which one is best for your child. You also need to follow the rules to apply to the school. It can be a bit difficult, but with the right information, you can get your child into a good school in London.

Enroll Your Child in a London School

Understanding the Education System: Types of Schools in London

There are two main categories of schools in London

  • State Schools
  • Private Schools

Types of Schools in London

State Schools

State schools are free to attend and are funded by the government. The most common types are:

  • Community schools, which are run by the local council
  • Foundation and voluntary schools, which have more freedom in how they operate
  • Academies, which are independent but still government-funded
  • Grammar schools, which select students based on academic ability

Private Schools

  • Private schools require tuition fees and are not government-funded. They have more flexibility in their curriculum and teaching methods compared to state schools.
  • There are also special schools for students with special educational needs. And some schools like University Technical Colleges focus on specific subjects like engineering.

Researching School Options: Exploring State, Independent and Faith Schools

When researching school options in London, you have three main categories to consider:

  • State Schools
  • Independent (private) Schools
  • Faith Schools

To research these options, you can:

  • Visit school websites to learn about their curriculum, facilities and admission policies
  • Attend open days to get a feel for the school environment
  • Read Ofsted inspection reports for state schools and ISI reports for independent schools
  • Talk to other parents in your area for firsthand insights

By exploring these different school types and gathering information, you can determine which options best fit your child’s needs and your family’s preferences.

Catchment Areas and Admission Criteria: Factors Influencing School Placement

  • Most State Schools in London have catchment areas, which are geographical areas around the school. Children who live within this catchment area are prioritized for admission to that school.
  • The size and shape of a school’s catchment area can change each year based on the number of applications received. If a school receives more applications from within the catchment area than it has places available, it will use additional criteria to decide which children to admit.

Common Admission Criteria used by London Schools include:

  • Siblings of Current Students
  • Children with Special Educational needs or Disabilities
  • Children from Low-income Families
  • Children of Staff Members
  • Distance from Home to School

Some Schools also prioritize children for whom the school is their nearest one. Faith schools may have additional criteria related to religious practice and affiliation. Selective schools like grammar schools admit students based on academic ability, usually through an entrance exam.

Application Process: Steps for Applying to Schools in London

  • Decide whether you want to apply to state schools, private/independent schools, faith schools or international schools in London.
  • Explore the different types of schools and their admission criteria. Look at factors like academic performance, curriculum, facilities and extracurricular activities to narrow down your choices.
  • Depending on the school type, you may need to provide supporting documents like proof of address, medical evidence, or previous school records.

Applying to Schools in London

Submit Applications

  • For state schools, apply through your local council, listing your preferred schools in order. For state schools, you will receive an offer from the council, which you must accept by the given deadline.
  • For private/independent schools, apply directly to each school individually, following their specific application procedures and deadlines. For faith schools, be prepared to provide information about your religious affiliation and practice.
  • For international schools, they may be more flexible with application timelines for relocating families. For private/independent schools, you will hear back directly from the schools, either with an offer or confirmation of being waitlisted.

London School Submit Applications

Deadlines and Timelines: Key Dates for School Applications

Primary School Applications (Reception Class, Ages 4-5)

  • Applications Open: September 1st of the year before entry
  • Application Deadline: January 15th of the year of entry
  • Offer Notifications: April 16th of the year of entry
  • Deadline to Accept Offers: April 30th of the year of entry

Secondary School Applications (Year 7, Ages 11-12)

  • Application Deadline: October 31st of the year before entry
  • Offer Notifications: March of the year of entry
  • Deadline to Accept Offers: Varies by borough, usually around 2-3 weeks after offers

In-Year Applications (Any Other Year Groups)

  • Applications can be made at any point during the school year
  • Applications are processed within a few weeks, subject to availability
  • If the preferred school is full, the local authority will allocate a place at the nearest school with space

Grammar School Applications (Ages 11-16)

  • Grammar schools have an 11+ entrance exam, usually in September of the year before entry
  • Application deadlines vary by borough but are typically in October of the year before entry
  • Offer notifications are usually in March of the year of entry

Independent/Private School Applications

  • Application deadlines vary by school but are often earlier than state school deadlines
  • Some schools require registration and a non-refundable fee before the application process
  • Admissions criteria can include entrance exams, interviews, and previous school records

It’s important to note that these deadlines and timelines can vary slightly between different boroughs and individual schools in London. It is advised to check the specific requirements for the schools they are interested in applying to.

School Visits and Open Days: Getting to Know Potential Schools

  • Visiting schools and attending open days is an important part of choosing the right school for your child in London. Open days allow you to meet the head teacher, staff, and current students to get a feel for the school. You can tour the facilities, learn about the curriculum, and ask questions.
  • Most schools hold open days in the autumn term, which is when applications are due. For example, City of London School for Girls has open mornings in September and October. St James Schools in West Kensington also hold open days for their nursery and prep schools.
  • Attending open days is especially important for grammar schools, as you can meet the staff, see the facilities, and learn about the entrance exam process. Grammar schools like Tiffin School and Tiffin Girls’ School have registration deadlines in early September for the 11+ exam in October.

By visiting potential schools and attending open days, you can make an informed decision about the best fit for your child in London. It’s a great way to get a sense of the school’s culture, values, and opportunities.

Navigating the Admissions Process: Interview, Exams, and Assessments

Navigating the admissions process at London schools involves several key steps, including interviews, exams, and assessments.


Grammar School Interviews

  • For some grammar schools, shortlisted applicants may be interviewed by telephone or Skype as part of the selection process. These interviews are usually conducted by panels of selectors and are designed to assess the applicant’s personality, motivation, and potential for success in the school.

Private School Interviews

  • Private schools in London may also conduct interviews as part of their admissions process. These interviews are often used to assess the applicant’s academic ability, personality, and potential fit with the school’s values and ethos.

Exams and Assessments

Grammar School Entrance Exams

  • Grammar schools in London require applicants to pass entrance examinations, commonly referred to as the 11 Plus. These exams typically test English, Mathematics, Verbal, and Non-Verbal Reasoning skills. The specific exam format and content can vary between schools, but they are designed to assess the applicant’s academic ability and potential for success in the school.

Private School Entrance Exams

  • Private schools in London may also require entrance exams, which can include a variety of subjects such as English, Mathematics, and other academic disciplines. These exams are designed to assess the applicant’s academic ability and potential for success in school.


Academic Assessments

  • Some schools may conduct academic assessments as part of their admissions process. These assessments are designed to evaluate the applicant’s academic ability and potential for success in school.

Personality Assessments

  • Some schools may also conduct personality assessments to evaluate the applicant’s fit with the school’s values and ethos.

By understanding the specific requirements and timelines for each school, you can help your child proceed with the admissions process in London and increase their chances of securing a place at their preferred school.

Support Services: Understanding Special Educational Needs (SEN) Provision

  • Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision in London includes a range of support services suitable for children with diverse learning needs. These services have special schools, resource-based units, and specialist provisions within mainstream schools.
  • Special schools offer curriculum and assessment by experienced staff, while resource-based units provide additional support within mainstream schools.
  • These provisions aim to address a variety of needs, such as learning difficulties, physical disabilities, and behavioral challenges, ensuring that children with SEN receive the necessary support to succeed in their educational journey.
  • The SEN support system in London is complex and involves various support services, including state schools, independent schools, special schools and early years provision.
    • State School Support: State schools in London provide support for children with SEN through learning support assistants, SENCOs, and EHC needs assessments.
    • Independent School Support: Independent schools in London offer additional support for children with SEN through specialist provision and private schools that suit exclusively to children with more significant needs.
    • Special Schools: Special schools in London are suitable for children with severe learning difficulties, physical disabilities or behavioral problems.
    • Early Years Support: The GLA provides support for children with SEN in early years settings through initiatives such as free early education for 2-year-olds.
    • Training and Education: The University of East London offers a Master of Arts (MA) in Special Educational Needs to equip teachers with the knowledge and skills to support children with SEN effectively.

Appeals and Waitlists: What to Do If Your Child Doesn’t Get into Their Preferred School

  • If your child doesn’t secure a place at their preferred school in London, you can explore options like appealing the decision, joining the school’s waiting list, or considering special educational needs (SEN) provisions. Appeals involve presenting a case to an Independent Appeal Panel while waiting lists offer a chance for a place to open up.


You have the right to appeal the admission decision to an Independent Appeal Panel. The appeal process is difficult, but there are steps you can take to improve your chances of success:

  • Research the school to understand its admission criteria and past practices.
  • Provide evidence supporting why your child should attend the school, such as medical or social reasons.
  • Go over your case thoroughly to stay focused and on point during the hearing.

Waiting Lists

Your child will automatically be placed on the waiting list for any school that can’t offer them a place. The waiting list is kept open for at least the first term of the school year. Waiting list positions are determined by the school’s admission criteria, often prioritizing proximity to the school.

  • Children can move up or down the list as other applicants are added or accepted offers elsewhere.
  • You can check your child’s waiting list position with the school or local council.
  • Your child can remain on the waiting list even after starting at another school.
  • If a place opens up, the school will make a formal offer that you can accept, even if your child has already started elsewhere.

How to Start a New School in UK?: Procedure, Document Required, License

View the Procedure to Start a New School in UK? Document Required, License through the above link.

Settling In: Transitioning to a New School and Supporting Your Child’s Adjustment

  • Start preparing your child for the transition well in advance. Visit the new school together, meet the teachers, and help them get familiar with the environment.
  • Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular activities to help them make new friends.
  • Communicate regularly with the school staff to stay informed about your child’s progress and any concerns.
  • If your child is struggling to adjust, work closely with the school’s Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) to understand the available support.
  • For children with special educational needs, consider requesting an Education, Health & Care (EHC) needs assessment from the local authority.
  • Encourage a positive mindset by focusing on the new opportunities and experiences the new school will offer.

New School and Supporting Your Child's Adjustment

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