UK Education System: Private Schools

Following on from state schools, this post will look at private schools and how they operate in the UK:

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2. Independent or private schools (fee paying, ‘public’ schools)

Private schools, often known as independent or public schools, charge fees to attend rather than being funded by the government. These fees will vary from school to school and will depend on whether you intend for your child to board.

Private schools will vary in size, facilities and philosophy towards education. Pupils do not have to follow the national curriculum but all private schools must be registered with the government and are inspected regularly.

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All school reports are published online by the organisation responsible for inspecting them. You will be able to find out from the school which particular inspector they use. Half of all independent schools are inspected by Ofsted. The Independent Schools Inspectorate inspects schools that are members of the Independent Schools Council.

TTA would recommend you visit the school to find out more (most will have open days). You can also consult formal inspection reports on the schools, view their exam results and where they sit in the league tables, and read other parents’ experiences:

The Good Schools Guide

Independent Schools Directory


The Independent Schools Inspectorate

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In some instances, several years notice for admission can be required if the school is particularly popular. It may be possible to apply for places throughout the year should any be available. Alternatively you may need to be put on a waiting list.

The admission criteria will vary from school to school but schools may give priority to those who:

  • Do well in the entrance exams/ interview
  • Receive good reports from previous school teachers
  • Already having a sibling at the school
  • Go to a particular primary school (a ‘feeder’ school)

Private schools have their own admissions procedures and you should apply to them directly. In most cases you will need to register and pay a non-refundable registration fee, normally around £200. The application process is particularly rigorous. A typical application might include teacher references, school reports from the last 3 years, a student questionnaire, an interview with the head teacher and several examinations. Your child may also be asked to attend a taster day where they will sit a typical school day and their performance will be evaluated.

If you require any support in your application or want any advice on potential private schools, please do not hesitate to contact us. We also work alongside education specialists should you have a particularly difficult case.

You can find out more about state schools here. Stay tuned for our post on international schools which are an increasingly popular choice for expat families.

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