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Schooling in the UK

(103 Posts)
1horatio Mon 02-Jan-17 21:53:51

Can somebody please explain me in an unbiased way how it works in the UK? What we should do? Or to a website that's unbiased and concise?

DH is great but just really biased. I'm not a fan of boarding schools. Not at all. For us it was common to have lunch at home, so the thought of a boarding school? But DH thinks it's the best? confused

DD is just 5 months. But we're currently trying for DC2, I'm thinking of accepting an other job offer so I'd really like to be able to plan.

I'd really appreciate your help.

Sittingunderafrostysky Mon 02-Jan-17 21:59:20

That's a really wide question. Are you living in the UK now?

You have a few years to think this all through, but it will depend on whether you are looking at State or Private, and where you live.

1horatio Mon 02-Jan-17 22:04:29

In London.

I was privately educated (kindergarten and primary) and then went to a state prep school. DH was always privately educated.

But I personally made very good experiences at the state prep school. So, I personally (unlike a certain someone) don't think that it has to be private.

titchy Mon 02-Jan-17 22:09:37

Errr well, they start at 4, or 5, usually having done pre-school or nursery.

They usually go to high school at 11, or 12 or 13.

They take GCSEs, 8-12 subjects, some optional some compulsory, at 15/16. Then two years of sixth form, or college for more specialised education or training. Then maybe university.

Within the above there is a huge huge huge range of variation. State schools, state church schools and private. Within private at 11+ age you can have day schools, weekly boarding or full boarding.

Within the different nations in the U.K there is further variation - less choice of state school in Scotland, but some choice of starting age. Bilingual schools in Wales.

Grammar schools exist in some places, but relatively rare for now

The biggest decision you need to make right now is state or private, and then look at your local options. You may want to move house.

Boarding won't even be a consideration until 11+, so you wouldn't need to think about that till they're 8 or so and you can see what suits their personality and your bank balance best.

titchy Mon 02-Jan-17 22:10:20

State sector has primary, private sector has prep. There is no such think as state prep.

Sittingunderafrostysky Mon 02-Jan-17 22:12:53

Hmmm, if your dd is just 5 months, then you are going to have years of this discussion/argument.

If you are financially in a position to consider all options, and are staying where you live now, then you need to get a feel for your local schools.

State will depend on where you live, and whether you are likely to get in on distance (have a look at your local authority website).

Private schools are often selective from pre-prep, and may have nurseries. London is very competitive, so it won't hurt to look early.

1horatio Mon 02-Jan-17 22:16:18

titchy boarding when 8 seems so young!

move house so, in thenUK there is no freedom of choice for state schools but catchemenr areas?

state prep is what I did back home. It was a state school prepping us for university.

SaltyMyDear Mon 02-Jan-17 22:17:10

You also need to think what YOU mean by best.

There is no one answer to this. Your local school which you can walk to has lots of advantages compared to Eton - and lots of disadvantages.

You need to work out, over the next few years, what you value and what you want for your child and then you'll be able to choose a school.

1horatio Mon 02-Jan-17 22:17:45


What does that mean, selective from pre-prep. Like... counting? The alphabet? Singing? Playing the Violine?

I really appreciate these answers.
Less biased than... well, DD should just do what my sister did.

1horatio Mon 02-Jan-17 22:19:24


Idk. Everybody from my family either went to university or did something creative. (stop. I'm being awful. My little sister didn't).

But I guess I just want DD and DC2 which we have decided to try for to be happy?

I'm unused to the idea that these decisions have to be made when a child is so young.

titchy Mon 02-Jan-17 22:29:16

You don't have to make decisions so young at all!

But if you are competitive parents wanting a fairly elite academic hot-housy type schooling for your offspring and able to pay through the nose for it you'll probably need to get their names down for pre-prep in the next year or two.

State schools in London are RULED by catchment areas!!!! In all areas actually, but London is very densely populated and catchments can be just a few metres once sibling places allocated...

Boarding at 8 - THINK about it then, not send them then! Boarding is actually relatively rare these days tbh so don't spend time debating that one with your dh just yet.

TheMortificadosDragon Mon 02-Jan-17 22:35:24

You don't have to decide yet, but it's certainly a good idea to find out about the options available to you. I'm assuming that if you're considering boarding (and for more than one child) then you're very wealthy so you have more choices than most. While there are many excellent state schools, its probably unlikely your DH will even consider them properly as he's so biased, so maybe you should focus on private school options? Boarding is (I think) relatively uncommon except for pupils whose parents aren't resident in the uk. Whether it could ever be 'better' than being a day pupil living with their family must depend on the individual child and her/his family. You cant know yet what sort of character your baby has so you (and your DH) cant possibly know yet if boarding might suit her at some stage or not.

1horatio Mon 02-Jan-17 22:48:57


So, I've just checked. We luckily do live in a catchment area.
Ah, good. DH currently works from home and DD is a total princes. I somehow have a hard time to imagine that he'd ever be ok with boarding. I mean, it sounds like allday schools aren't uncommon in the U.K., right?

pre-prep? Is that like a kindergarten? I'm assuming prep can't be what I'd call prep or gymnasium (which is what I went to to go to uni).


Huh, good 😅
I personally have nothing against boarding school but the thought of it makes me (currently) spit fire... plus, my parents always said they'd send me if I misbehaved. So, yeah.

If there is a really good state school he may consider it? But he just thinks that private is better. He usually isn't so adamant but in this case he's very unusually prejudiced (he's usually so open minded!).

It's like that:
High school?

1horatio Mon 02-Jan-17 22:49:54

And all these things exist private and state. But the state has to be the catchemenr area and will then take any child whereas the private has no catchement area but may not accept a child?

1horatio Mon 02-Jan-17 22:51:32

But everybody is in a catchemenr area, right?

SaltyMyDear Mon 02-Jan-17 22:57:28

Most private schools aren't boarding schools. There are excellent private schools in London that aren't boarding.

Most people who go to university- even Oxford - went to a state school.

However I think with your husbands mindset your best bet is a private day (non boarding ) school.

Pre prep to 7. Then prep. Then secondary at 13

1horatio Mon 02-Jan-17 23:02:22

Thank you. I'm really surprised, he's never this much of a stuck up arse twat, we usually have really similar views on child rearing...

Pre-prep is like kindergarten?

PickAChew Mon 02-Jan-17 23:07:08

Most people are in a state school catchment area, but many may luck out if a lot of people move to an area for a particular school.

Pre-prep, IIRC is pretty much equivalent, age wise, to infants in the state sector ie 4-7. Prep is junior - 7-11 - with the emphasis, in the name, on preparing for a selective senior or secondary school. Many private senior or secondary schools and most state secondary schools are non-selective, but you may or may not be in catchment of state grammar schools, which are selective, based on ability (and, many would say, ability to pay for the tuition necessary to excel in various 11+ exams).

Of course, when it comes to assessing which schools would suit your family, google is very much your friend! Your DH might be harder to persuade, when it comes to various options, but you need to decide whether an elite, paid for privately, education is what you want for your child (as other have advised, get planning now, if that's the case) or a more relaxed private education, or a "high flying" state school (choose your house carefully and be prepared for the cost discrepancy to outweigh private school fees, as it even does up here in the Northeast, for some schools) or that, actually, your kids will go to the local bog standard state primary and actually have a bloody great time and learn loads, both in and out of the classroom, regardless of any money or heartache you poured into the situation.

I the end, only you and your stubborn DH, can work out what will be best for your family, as a whole.

Noitsnotteatimeyet Mon 02-Jan-17 23:14:54

Very few state schools have defined catchment areas - it's more usually the case that people living a certain distance from the school are highly likely to be offered a place. For extremely popular schools the 'catchment' can be tiny, especially if siblings or children from a particular religion have priority. If you apply for a state school place then you will be offered something but it won't necessarily be at the school you wanted, depending on how closely your child fits the admissions criteria.

In London, there's a lot of competition for the best state and private schools, especially at normal entrance points (reception and 11+/13+) so there are a lot of people panicking which is very contagious

Your dd is very young yet so it's impossible to plan out her educational future just yet as you have no idea what kind of school will suit her. If you're thinking of trying for some of the very popular central London preps then you'd need to put her name down very soon but there's a lot of movement in the capital so even if she didn't get a place in your preferred school straight away, a place would come up eventually

TheMortificadosDragon Mon 02-Jan-17 23:15:02

But the state has to be the catchemenr area and will then take any child

Unfortunately not that simple - perhaps best not even get into it unless you think its likely you will be wanting to actually use state schools!

ScarletSienna Mon 02-Jan-17 23:18:32

Independent/private schools:
Pre prep = 3-8 years
Senior=13-16 or 18

State schools for the most part*:
Primary=4-11 (or infant school 4-7 then junior school 7-11)
Senior/secondary =11-16 (or 18 if have an attached 6th form college)
*Some areas have middle schools and grammar schools.

Private schools vary widely in ethos and what they have to offer; in London there is a wide choice. In schools with larger numbers of overseas students, there may be more boarders than day pupils im the upper years. Some schools also offer flexi boarding.

With state schools you have very little choice depending on how popular they are and how many children there are. Everyone lives in a catchment area for a certain school but catchment areas can change and the boundaries are not always where you'd think them to be!

1horatio Mon 02-Jan-17 23:18:53


How do you know a school is good? Because according to their website they probably all are.

I think I primarily want DD to be safe. No knifefights or anything (DH is v worried about that, apparently... confused).

If I interpreted it correctly we are in the catchement area (it was a blue orby-thing) of 2 schools. So, it's either go to that, move house (our house is perfect imo,,,,) or go private?

1horatio Mon 02-Jan-17 23:20:46

Ok.... the state school thing sounds v v unsure and volatile.

ScarletSienna Mon 02-Jan-17 23:21:48

You can look at OfSTED reports for state schools or ISI reports for independent schools but best is to go and look around them.

Usually you'd be in catchment for a primary and a secondary rather than two of primary of that makes sense. People do move houses to raise their chances of getting into very popular state schools!

1horatio Mon 02-Jan-17 23:22:05

Children go to a pre-prep school at 3? :0

I mean... is it like a kindergarten or is it a school? I went to school with 6 (and had my birthday a few days later, if I recall correctly. So, withn7)

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