Everything you need to know about UK Independent Education

Frequently Asked Questions

Some things that people often ask...and the answers!
At what age does my child have to be in school?
It is a legal requirement that children are to be in school from the age of 5 and they are expected to stay in school until they are 18 years old. Most children start school full-time in the September after their fourth birthday and will turn five during their first school year. if your child’s fourth birthday is between 1 September 2021 and 31 August 2022, they will most likely start school in September 2022. Once they are 16, they can move on to higher education courses or apprenticeships, as long as they receive a minimum of 20 hours per week of education.
How does the school system work in the UK?
The school system in the United Kingdom can seem a little confusing to the uninitiated, but at the simplest level there are two types of school, schools that are free to attend if you are a UK resident and schools that you can pay for your children to attend.

Schools that are free at the point of delivery are funded by the State through the Local Authority, hence the name ‘State schools’ and those that are paid for are called Private or Independent schools as they are in the Private sector and are independent of Government funding. Some independent schools are also referred to as ‘Public’ schools which can also be confusing especially to international families as these are not state schools but fee-paying, private schools.
How do I apply to a state school?
As much as Debrett’s Education would like to be able to help with admissions to State schools, entry to these schools is determined by a specific set of criteria, such as the need to live within a particular catchment area as well as in the case of Grammar schools, the need for your child to meet the right academic standard. There are different types of state schools: local authority controlled maintained schools, academies with their own curriculum, selective grammar schools and religion focused faith schools. 

If you are interested in applying for a place for your child in a State school you would need to approach your Local Authority.
How do I apply to an Independent school for my child?
Independent schools also have their specific entrance requirements, and some are more academically selective than others. Generally speaking, there are specific timelines and deadlines that need to be met as part of the admissions process and sometimes that can mean starting as much as 4 or 5 years before your child joins the school. The team at Debrett’s Education have years of experience in advising families about applying to Independent or Private schools and we would be delighted to help you.

Further information about the different stages and types of Independent schools can be found under the different tabs on this website, or you can call us on +44 (0) 203848 9201 or send us an email to education@debretts.co.uk and one of our experts would be happy to help.
Are non- UK residents entitled to state education?
International student who are not resident in the UK are not entitled to free education, their choice of schools is limited to schools in the private sector; independent schools- although there are a large number of excellent schools to choose from.
Do all schools teach the same curriculum?
State schools, particularly at primary level are bound by the National Curriculum whereas, whilst most Independent schools will still use the National Curriculum as a framework, they have the freedom to determine their own curriculum and there is far greater emphasis on providing a wide range of extra and co-curricular activities.
How does the school year run in the UK?
In the UK the school year typically starts in September and ends in July. The year is divided into three teaching blocks known as Terms. State schools tend to have shorter teaching days and longer terms, whilst Independent schools have longer teaching days and shorter terms. Some Independent schools, particularly those that offer boarding, will also have lessons on Saturdays.
There are three terms:

• Autumn Term (September to December), often referred to as the Michaelmas or Christmas term

• Spring Term (January to April), again referred to as Easter or Hilary term

• Summer Term (April to July), also known as the Trinity term
Each term is split halfway through for a week’s holiday (half term) and there are longer breaks between terms: winter holidays (2-3 weeks),
 Easter holidays (2-3 weeks) and summer holidays (around 8 weeks) and again, Independent schools’ holidays are longer.

If you would like to know more about Independent schools in the UK and how to choose the best school for your child call us on +44 (0) 203848 9201 or send us an email to education@debretts.co.uk and one of our experts would be happy to help.
Can I get help with the school fees?
It is possible to get help with the school fees, but needless to say it is not easy. Schools do offer scholarships for gifted pupils, who shine in particular areas, usually sport, music, drama or art and particularly those who are strong academically. However, the scholarship award does not necessarily always have a monetary value or a high one at least, and, is always the subject of a review. Scholarships are awarded by the individual school and it is not in our gift to say whether or not your child would be eligible for one, however we can certainly give you some advice as to how and when you would need to apply.
Bursaries are an alternative way to get support with fees. Unlike a scholarship, these are not awarded to students who are particularly gifted but rather are applied for in terms of the financial position of the family. Families are required to provide the school with details of their income and means tested and this can be a somewhat invasive process for families.

Many families particularly in the current climate, are supported by other family members; Grandparents for example, who have made provision for their grandchildren through investments, trusts and the like. Debrett’s Education can offer you advice through our sister company Debrett’s Private Finance, who can talk you through ways in which you can make provision for fees through careful investment.

If you would like to find out more about the options that are available to you, call us on +44 (0) 203848 9201 or send us an email to education@debretts.co.uk and one of our experts would be happy to help.

What people say about Us

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Parent, London
Sioban has been a rock of support and encouragement for us these past few months. We finally accepted - quite late in the day - that our daughter's current school is not the right fit for J. We were overwhelmed with the prospect of finding a new school that could properly support our daughter academically whilst providing the right balance of pastoral care. I underwent extensive research into education consultants and after our first phone call, knew I had found someone I could trust in Sioban. Sioban spent the time getting to know us as a family and more importantly J. as a person and consequently was well positioned to find a school that we believe will help J. thrive academically and help her become a confident young woman. Having been through this process recently myself, I know how daunting the prospect is of putting one's faith in a stranger to manage the future of our most loved one and can hand on heart say we would not be on our road to happiness without Sioban.
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Dr S. C
Parent, London
We went to Sioban when we had nowhere else to go, we were desperate to find an appropriate school for our daughter and had come to a dead end. Sioban put our mind at rest and found a school that was perfect for us. I wish we had turned to Sioban first and years earlier. Since placing our daughter, she has kept in touch and advised us on how to approach certain aspects of schooling. I have no hesitation in recommending her services. She is a caring and understanding individual who appreciates that all children have individual needs. She is also widely connected and understands the capabilities of each school.
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Parent, Kent
I can’t thank you enough for the help you gave me when my daughter was struggling at her school at the time. It was so such a support to me that you listened to the problems we were having and your knowledge about the other schools that were on offer was fantastic. All the organising of visits and talking to the schools about our requirements on our behalf helped us make a very successful informed choice of which school to move to. A. gained the grades she needed to get to the university she wanted which she would not have done without your help and advice to go to a school which she achieved in. She is in her second year at - university studying languages where she has this year achieved a first in German and Dutch and a 2:1 in Russian. Thank you again and I would highly recommend you and the service you provide to anyone looking for a new school.
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Parent, Bermuda
We are from Bermuda and wanted help and guidance both with the process applying for boarding schools in the UK for the 6th form and selecting a suitable school for our son to do his A levels. We had an introductory interview with Sioban, with our son. We left it a little late but Sioban immediately put our mind at ease and guided us seamlessly through the whole process, finding for us a number of excellent schools which were well matched to my son’s abilities and interests and provided invaluable help with liaising with our short-listed choice schools and dealing with their requirements, including personal statements. We felt fortunate to have worked with Sioban, who is very knowledgeable, warm, friendly and caring - she kept in contact well after we had secured a place at a great school just to check up on us - and would highly recommend her to assist anyone looking for help, guidance and reassurance when looking for the ideal school for their child. “.
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Veryan Larmour
Admissions Officer (Lower Sixth entry) at Tonbridge School
Sioban has previously approached Tonbridge and owing to her insight, careful preparation and wisdom as an ex-Headteacher, we were delighted to offer places to her clients. Sioban is always calm, well prepared and most importantly kind. Her candour gives me confidence to work with her, in addition to her perceptive comments and knowledge of which school fits well for each client.
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Lou Wivell
Former Director of Admissions at Kingsley School
I have had the pleasure of working with Sioban for a number of years, since she first started working as an Education Consultant. In that time, Sioban has been thorough and detailed with her knowledge of students that she has recommended to me. She really understands the needs of the child and carefully selects schools that she knows have the relevant support for that child to flourish. Her passion in finding the right school is second to none and she works tirelessly with the families and schools to achieve that aim. I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Sioban and I hope to continue working with her in the future.
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Jackie Fisher
Director of Boarding, Lime House School Carlisle
Sioban has introduced a number of students to Lime House School which have resulted in very successful placements. Sioban 's knowledge of the educational system and the ability to place students in suitable establishments is testament to her professionalism and empathy she shows for each of her students. The continued support she offers her students is exceptional: from the initial introductions to the school to leaving the educational establishment and moving on to higher education should that be appropriate. Sioban is always keen to make firm and lasting relationships with any of the education bodies she works with and this is much appreciated by those schools. I have always found Sioban to be honest and hardworking. She is a credit to her profession and has played a pivotal part in the lives of so many students.
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