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Private Schools for Expats in the United Kingdom

Submitted: July 2013

Private schools (confusingly also known as public schools, and also ‘independent schools’ or ‘independents’) are renowned for their holistic approach and very high educational standards. These schools have invested highly in infrastructure and offer small class sizes, excellent facilities and the use of modern teaching methods. They attach great importance to non-academic activities offering a wide range of options including dance, drama, music and especially sport.. The academic results of private school students are notably better than those attending most state or comprehensive schools; more than 90% of students from independent schools go on to tertiary education. Some private schools pride themselves in getting the best out of students – actually educating them in the original sense of the word – and not necessarily topping the league tables. Private schools are noted also for the international composition of their students. More than 20,000 international students study at private schools, a fact that most private schools are keen to point out.

As such, your child may find his education enriched by interacting with other children of a diverse background and at the same time, not feel like an outsider.

Furthermore, many independent schools offer boarding as an option. It is important to note however that, if your child is under the age of 16, he or she should have a UK-based guardian in cased of illness and for supervision during holiday periods. Some schools will insist on all children having a guardian. Before selecting this option for your child, you should enquire as to whether there are many other students who are boarding to ensure that he or she is not lonely at weekends and on short holidays.

Private schools are not funded by the state and as such are not required to follow the UK National Curriculum. However, most private schools will prepare students amply for public examinations taken by other students in the UK and internationally (e.g. GCSE, GCE Advanced Level exams). In addition to this, you can rest assured in the quality of education provided as private schools are required to register with the government education department which lays down and enforces minimum standards in respect of facilities, safety and teaching. Further, private schools are inspected by a number of state-established statutory bodies such as the Independent Schools Inspectorate, the Bridges Schools Inspectorate and the School Inspection Service. Their inspections reports can be found on their respective websites - https://www.isi.net/home/ (Independent Schools Inspectorate)

https://www.bridgeschoolsinspectorate.co.uk/home (Bridges Schools Inspectorate)

https://www.schoolinspectionservice.co.uk/new/home.html - (School Inspection Service)

Admission policy differs from school to school. Some schools require formal examinations to be taken. Other schools have a more informal approach.

Tuition in private schools is in English language. If your child is not adequately fluent in English language, many independent schools offer remedial ESOL (English as a Second Language) classes as well as summer courses.

According to statistics for 2012, the fees for private schools are at an average of £3,400 per term (US$5,239 / €4,000). For schools with the option of boarding, the average fee per term is £7,800 (US$12,023/ EUR 9,180). Additional expenses would include uniforms, sport equipment, school lunches and other extra-curricular activities. If your company will not cover the costs of school fees, you should note that there may be the possibility, in certain cases, to indirectly reduce your income tax liability.

Selecting a private school is not an easy task. The performance league tables are useful in furnishing a range of information including the academic performance of the students at national exams, investment in facilities and average spend per student.


Additionally, you may find the below websites useful:



No article on private schools in the UK would be complete without mention of the famous British public school. The very names Eaton and Westminster conjure the somewhat stereotypical images of the traditional British school with its large dining halls beautifully decorated with Victorian-era art, Latin classes and almost every other description of J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts in Harry Potter. Public schools, contrary to what the name may suggest, are highly exclusive and costly private secondary schools dating back to, in some cases, the 17th century. They cater for students between the ages of 13 and 18. These schools, which traditionally only catered for boys, are closely linked to the upper and upper-middle English classes. Public schools provide a high quality of traditional academic and non-academic education and a relatively large proportion of their students are noted to proceed to prestigious universities and later distinguished positions within the UK government, public service, legal profession and business. For more information and statistics on public schools, do visit the website of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference - https://www.hmc.org.uk/.




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