School education

School education

Understanding the system

Entitlement to state-funded education

Independent schools

Associated costs

Researching local schools

Ofsted inspection reports and league tables

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


Understanding the System

For students new to the UK, a good place to start getting to grips with accessing school education is A guide to schooling in England, commissioned by the Action for Social Integration and produced by the Social Policy Research Centre at Middlesex University. This provides a comprehensive overview of how the schools system curriculum and calendar are structured; the study lifecycle; the applications processes; how to access support in learning English as an Additional Language; arrangements for children and young people with special educational needs; homework; progress monitoring; assessment and examination; extra-curricular activities; out-of-school activities; attendance; behaviour; bullying and discipline; parental involvement; religious education and sex and relationship education. Although this document is some years old, it remains a valuable resource.


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.


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. Nottingham City Council provides comprehensive information on schools in its authority at its Education and Schools web pages, which include information on school admissions and transfers. Nottinghamshire County Council provides similar information for the its schools on its Find a school web pages.

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 and League Tables

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.

School performance is also measured by league tables. Primary schools are considered to be ‘underperforming’ if fewer than 65 per cent of Year 6 pupils get a Level 4 in formal pupil assessments for maths, reading and writing, and pupils are not making the expected progress in these three core subjects between the end of Year 2 (age six and seven) and Year 6 (age 10 and 11). For secondary education, from 2017 schools in England are measured on something called Progress 8. Progress 8 assesses the progress pupils make between Key Stage 2 tests taken at the end of primary school (Year 6) and their performance in a specified mixture of eight subjects at the end of secondary school. Schools are given a score based on how their pupils have progressed compared to the national average.

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 Nottingham, applying for a school place in advance of coming to Nottingham 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 in the city.
  • 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

Nottingham City Council provides information and advice on how to apply for a school place in its School Admissions web pages. The School Admissions Hub provides similar information for students living within the Nottinghamshire County Council area.

If you are applying for a Reception year place at infant or primary school or a Year 3 place, click here for information and advice. The parallel information for Nottinghamshire schools can be accessed here.

If you have just arrived in Nottingham, moved address or if you want your child to change schools, click here for schools in Nottingham and here for schools in Nottinghamshire.

If you child lives in Nottingham and is due to transfer to secondary school next September, click here  for information and advice on how to apply for a secondary school place. If you are based in the Nottinghamshire authority, the relevant information and advice is available here.

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 headteacher 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 Nottingham City Council’s Inclusive Education Service to discuss the most appropriate educational setting for your child and how to apply. The relevant information and advice for Nottinghamshire is available here.