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 If you are moving with children, deciding on a school will be one of the most important decisions you have to make as part of your relocation to the UK.  School location may well dictate where you live.  For this reason it makes sense to start the schools selection early on during your transition to the UK. 

Education Overview

In the UK, education is compulsory for children between the ages of five and 16. In most areas, five to 11 year-olds attend primary schools and 11 to 16 year-olds attend secondary school. Between the ages of 16 and 18, post-compulsory education is provided by secondary school sixth forms, further education colleges or in the workplace. Often, private schools offer nursery classes from the age of 2.

In London, there are National Schools, International Schools (IB) and British Schools, both Private and State.

The UK prides itself on the high standards of education in all of its schools, be they International, American, British Independent or British State schools, which provide free education, often to a high standard.  However, quality varies significantly from school to school and borough to borough. An good online guide is which gives a comprehensive profile on most schools in England, private or state-run, including their previous year’s results.

Click Here for more information about the education systems in the UK.


Helpful FYIs

As a general rule, there is a shortage of places for children in state schools in South East England and London, and good schools tend to be oversubscribed with long waiting lists. Something else to bear in mind is that you can't apply for a place at a state school place until you have moved into a neighbourhood (known as the catchment area) and are resident in the area (started the lease/ tenancy).

Students in the state sector follow the National Curriculum, which sets out mandatory subjects that must be taught to certain age groups, this includes core subjects such as literacy, maths and sciences.  Educational qualifications are exam based and children sit national exams known as GCSEs at the age of 16 and A levels at the age of 18.

Unfortunately, going private does not necessary make securing a school place any easier - especially if you are looking for places for several children.  In south-east England many private schools are full with waiting lists.  Those that cater to the expatriate community, such the international schools in the London and its suburbs may be more likely to have a steady turnover of pupils so may be able to accommodate your children.

 Links and Additional Outpost Library Resources

Click Here to access an Overview  of the School Structures and Resource List.

Information on International Baccalaureate (IB) system.

Click Here for a listing of School Open Days.

Please contact Outpost London and discuss your concerns with a team member, we will be able to assist.

Click Here for more information related to children in London.

  step by step Guide

Moving to London with school-age children and applying to state schools during the school year. 


These notes are a result of the accumulative experiences and research of Outpost London and are meant only as general guidelines, updated here to the best of our knowledge and ability. The rules may differ in different areas and councils. Outpost London cannot bear any responsibility nor accountability for the information provided, and you're encouraged to always make your own checks before signing any documents.

planning headerBefore new assignment 1st payroll date – familiarize yourself with the location.

1.    Start looking at what’s available in the property market and select several preferred areas. Make a list of what is most important and what your preferences would be.

Note : You will not be able to make an offer on a rental property before your 1st payroll date.

a.     Outpost London Tenancy tips:




2.    Start selecting several preferred schools in those areas. Call the Schools and admissions department of the local council to find out their situation with regards to places available at state school of your choice. Research :

a.     Outpost London tip: better schools usually have smaller catchment areas. Click Here for resource links.




NB: Your permanent accommodation has to be within the school’s catchment area (primary schools only).

3. Outpost London tip: check for the demographics of that area. The larger the young population, the longer the waiting lists. Look for expat-inhabited areas, where the movement is high and happens throughout the year, so places become available more often.

a.     Outpost London tip: Your place on the waiting list is based not on the date of your application, but on the distance between your home and school. So, if someone else who lives closer applies to the school, their spot on the waiting list will be ahead of you.

4. Consider the travel time and costs (not just distance): home to school; home to office; school to office. To help you find this out :

a.     Download this smartphone app CityMapper (iOS & Android only)


              citymapper app logo                     TFL Journey Planner image

5.    Decide who will be looking after your children before they get a place at school (up to 6 weeks from arrival date)


b.     Shell employees who require assistance for childcare search may do so once you are in-country. Please get in touch with Outpost London for current information.

 My Family Care ticker logo

6.    Shortly after HR has gotten in touch with you with regards to your relocation, you will be assigned a transfer adviser and a relocation focal point. They will find you temporary accommodation, based on your requirements. This happens approximately 2 weeks before your physical move. The location of your temporary accommodation is usually (there may be exceptions) an area under 90 minute commutable distance from your office location, so it would be good, by this time, that you have an idea of a particular borough/ area you want to live in.

arrival into airport

7.    You (and your family) arrive to the UK and move into a temporary accommodation for 30 days, usually commencing 1st day of payroll. After 1st day of payroll – you need to secure a permanent accommodation ASAP because it is only at this point, that you would be able to put down any offers (lease/ rent) for a permanent home.

a.     Outpost London Tenancy tips:

8 .   In order to apply for a place in a state school in the catchment area, you must have some proof of residence in that area. This would be in the form of a signed tenancy agreement/ title deed of ownership to apply for a state school place.

9.  Your children may be out of school for 4-6 weeks. 

Some Shell people move ahead of their families to secure a house and set up residence ahead of their family's arrival into the country.

When you have a signed tenancy agreement – start applying to state schools.

10.  First, apply for a state school place on your local council website. NB: you will need to provide your proof of address in the form a copy of your tenancy agreement AND the proof of residency status for your children, so they have to be in the country at the moment of application.



c.     Outpost London tip: in your application, list only the schools you would like your children to attend.

City of London School St Pauls

11.  By law, the council has to allocate a place for your child in a state school ASAP.

12.  If you get a response that the school of your choice has no availability, your child/ children will be offered a place in another school. You cannot refuse to send your children to the allocated school.


13.  Can you still get a place in a school of your choice?


b.     Outpost London tip: Keep calling the council and DO NOT sign the form they send to take your name off the council list for admission into school. Try contacting the school directly on a regular basis to check their availability and if an opening becomes available, ask them to request the council to take your child in.

14.  The Shell Education Services team has drawn our attention to the services of an organization called School Appeals Services for UK citizens and parents who want to place their children in state schools might find useful.

The organization supports parents with the appeals process in relation to entering into state schools in the UK. Interested parties can refer to their website – - for more information.

As a guideline, expected costs are as follows: 

  • Initial 15 minute conversation is free
  • One hour consultation is £90
  • Further costs of around £2000 would apply if the case goes to an official appeal hearing

Please note however that this service is at the employee's own cost and is NOT covered by Shell's education allowances. Employees are advised to find out full details of costs from the organization.

When is school leaving age?