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Education and Schools

London - Education and Schools


There is no shortage of education options in London, although the system is somewhat confusing and the quality varied. As a general rule, the better schools tend to be found in more expensive areas.

Nursery schooling is optional for children aged two to five years, whilst primary and secondary education is compulsory from 5 to 16 years. The school day is typically from 9 am until 3.30 or 4.30 pm, Monday to Friday. The three-term school year starts in early September and runs until July. There is a week break between each term, two weeks at Easter and Christmas and eight weeks over summer.

There are two standard types of schools in England:

1. State Schools

Most pupils attend free State schools funded by taxes and administered by Local Education Authorities (www.dfes.gov.uk/localauthorities/), following the National Curriculum.

The education standard at State schools ranges from excellent to appalling, although the overall level is above average. State pupils must attend a school within their neighborhood, so it is important to do research before moving into an area. Most are co-educational, and the best schools often have long waitlists, so apply as soon as possible.

2. Preparatory and Independent or Public Schools

These are schools where parents pay fees, or pupils win scholarships, to attend. Preparatory schools cater for students 5 to 13 years, whilst many Independent or Public Schools (www.isc.co.uk) provide education from nursery level to 18 years. These schools are becoming more popular as middle-income parents seek a higher quality education for their children than most State facilities provide. There is single-sex, co-educational and religious options, some of which offer boarding (www.which-boarding-school.com), and holiday periods are generally longer than State schools.

You can find information on schools throughout London at Schoolsnet (www.schoolsnet.com). The Good School Guide (www.goodschoolguide.co.uk) provides good general information and occasional inspection reports from The Office for Standards in Education (www.ofsted.gov.uk). Comparative school ratings are occasionally published on newspaper websites. An example of this is The Times Primary School rankings for 2004 (www.timesonline.co.uk/section/0,,4810,00.html) Once a student has reached 16 and passed the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exam, they may spend an additional 2 years to achieve A-Levels. State pupils study for A-Levels at a College or Sixth Form Centre, whilst Independent students continue at their school. A minimum of two A-Level passes is required requirement to enter university.


International and Foreign Language Schools

A popular option for children of expatriates on shorter contracts, or who may relocate to another country afterwards, is the International Schools that provide various qualifications like international baccalaureate and American SAT (www.asl.org). School Search (www.schoolsearch.co.uk) offer free information on International Schools across London

There are also a number of foreign language schools (www.london-pages.co.uk/Education/Foreign_Language/) available for students from non-English speaking countries.


Higher Education

England offers a variety of higher and further education at universities and colleges, including Oxford and Cambridge, two of the most prestigious Universities in the world. Degree or diploma courses take two or more years. Students from EU member countries pay fees at local student rates whilst each university or college sets their own charge for students from other countries. More information is available from the University and Colleges Admissions Service (www.ucas.ac.uk)


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