School Education

Entitlement to state-funded education

Independent schools

Associated costs

Researching local schools

Ofsted inspection reports

Aptitude tests

Additional support for learning English

A cautionary note on two misplaced assumptions that students can make

How to apply for a school place


Entitlement to State-Funded Education

All children must go to school between the ages of five and 16. However, the vast majority of children in Nottingham start school at Reception level at the age of four.  If you are an international student, to be entitled to free state-funded education between these ages, your child must be here as your dependant. However, schools may sometimes refuse places to children if they consider their stay in the UK will be too short, or if the school has no available places.

To make sure that your status entitles your children to state education while in the UK, it is important that you read the Government guidance Schools admissions: applications for overseas children

Independent Schools

Some schools are independent. For their funding, they rely on fees payable by the families of children who are their pupils. These fees are substantial. Independent schools are also known as private schools, but more commonly – and confusingly – as public schools. The Independent Schools Council is a useful starting point for finding an independent school near you, if this is the kind of education you prefer for your child(ren) and if you can afford it.

Associated Costs

It is important to note that, although state-funded primary and secondary education is free, parents/carers generally have to budget and pay for:

  • school meals (payable for children in Year 3 and above, but free in reception and Years 1-2), unless you opt to give them a daily packed lunch
  • uniforms and sports kits – which are usually a requirement and can be expensive
  • some books and other learning materials
  • school trips

Some people are entitled to free school meals throughout their school education, but this is unlikely for many full-time students. For international students, this is unlikely unless you qualify under the criterion relating to support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Click here to check eligibility.

Researching Local Schools

Research schools as far in advance as you can. Look on your local council’s website to find out your different options. If you are already UK-based, you may also want to visit schools, either by appointment or at an open evening. Ask about waiting lists and your chances of getting in the school – this may influence your decision on whether to apply for a place in that school or not.

Ofsted Inspection Reports

An Ofsted inspection report on a school will contain an overall rating of the school’s provision. This will be one of four grades:

Grade 1: outstanding – an outstanding school is highly effective in delivering outcomes that provide exceptionally well for all its pupils’ needs. This ensures that pupils are very well equipped for the next stage of their education, training or employment

Grade 2: good – a good school is effective in delivering outcomes that provide well for all its pupils’ needs. Pupils are well prepared for the next stage of their education, training or employment

Grade 3: requires improvement – a school that requires improvement is not yet a good school, but is not inadequate. This school will receive a full inspection within 24 months from the date of this inspection.

Grade 4: inadequate – a school that has serious weaknesses is inadequate overall and requires significant improvement but leadership and management are judged to be Grade 3 or better. This school will receive regular monitoring by Ofsted inspectors. A school that requires special measures is one where the school is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and the school’s leaders, managers or governors have not demonstrated that they have the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school. This school will receive regular monitoring by Ofsted inspectors.

Schools rated highly by Ofsted are often heavily oversubscribed and have waiting lists. The government maintains a website, which allows users to rank schools by different measures.

Aptitude Tests

If you are an international student, it is worth noting that some schools require a basic set of aptitude tests to be undertaken by your child in order to gauge the level of their learning to date, especially if they have already been in school education in your own country. This may include a basic test on how they cope with the English language. If your child has little or no knowledge of English, they may receive free specialist support, but you need to check with schools if this provision would be available.

Additional support for learning English

Some schools may be able to offer additional support for pupils in helping to improve their English, if it is not their first language. Please check with individual schools if this is something they can provide.

A cautionary note on two misplaced assumptions that students can make

  • If you have not secured longer-term accommodation before you arrive in the UK, applying for a school place in advance is likely to be a problem, as you will be required as part of your application to provide proof of where you will be living.
  • You are not automatically entitled to have your child(ren) attend the nearest school to where you are living or to where you plan to move. Some schools are heavily over-subscribed and have long waiting lists.

How to apply for a school place

Local council websites provide information on the schools admissions process, for both primary and secondary education. In making an application, take careful note of the important dates in the admissions process, including the deadlines for applications.

Please note that applications to faith schools should be made direct to the Head Teacher of your preferred school(s) rather than through the standard local authority route. However, it is still a good idea to communicate with the relevant local authority about faith school options and the process for applying.

If your child has a disability or additional learning needs – also commonly referred to in the UK as special educational needs or learning difficulties – it is essential that you contact your local council to discuss the most appropriate educational setting for your child and how to apply.

For more information please visit your local council's webpages:

Leeds City Council

Nottingham City Council

Nottinghamshire County Council

City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council