London school guide by UK Guardianship
In England, the compulsory education age begins at 5 and has recently been extended to 18.
- Primary education: 5-11 (school years 1-6). In year 6 students take SATs (Standard Assessment Tests).
- Secondary education: 11-16 (school years 7-11). In year 10 students choose GCSE subjects and take their exams at the end of year 11.
- Further education: 16-18 (school years 12-13). Students choose limited subjects to specialise in for A-levels or IB. Exams are taken at the end of year 13.
- Higher education (university): 17+.
Pupils become accountable for their learning at a young age, and subsequently find out what they enjoy most and are good at as early as possible. As specialisation starts early, students in the UK kick start their career life much earlier than their counterparts in Europe and the US.
In Britain, students are taught to do the right thing, as opposed to doing wrong things right. Independent and critical thinking are encouraged, rather than getting the perfect answer.
On school selection
Set your end goal first – do you want your child to go to university in the UK or USA? Do you want them to get into a particular school? Is your child academically outstanding or musically/artistically/dramatically talented? (Or all of the above if they are very ambitious!) – and work your way back to where you are now. Ask yourself what is needed to get your son/daughter to that destination.
Following this, the rest is just technical. You will need to consider if you want a single sex or co-ed school; a campus or the whole school to be in a single building; boarding options at the school; the ratio between home and international students; the school’s religious affinity; fees; availability of scholarships or bursaries.
Above all else, proximity to home and the student’s travelling method must take priority. A happy and successful child is always one who has enough sleep on a daily basis and does not have the worries of travelling 30-60 minutes to school each day, even if the school is top on the league tables.
Firstly, compare the curriculum in your home country and that in the UK. Start with what your child is learning now at their current stage, and see what British children of the same age are learning. The most important comparisons to bench mark would be in Maths, English and the Sciences. This will help you to gauge how ahead or behind your child is compared with British children and thus enable you to seek the most appropriate help.
If possible, start the search and preparation process early (2-3 years in advance) to ensure your child is well prepared for any tests and/or interviews they may have to take.
If this is not possible due to time restrictions, I would recommend hiring an experienced professional to work out a feasible academic study and co-curricular activity plan as well as helping with school choice, liaising with schools on your behalf and providing mentoring and tutoring services if necessary.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Admission procedures in London schools are mainly geared toward home pupils. International pupils often do not need to follow the same measures. As mentioned previously, I would suggest paying a professional who has knowledge and experience of school placement and academic mentoring. This might just be the best investment you make for your child’s growth.