Relocation to London

I receive a lot of emails from parents around the world relocating to London. Just in the last week, I have received emails from mums and dads in New York, Dubai, Portugal and Mumbai! The problems faced by internationals moving to London with children tend to be very similar – what year group will their child be joining? Is it possible to find a state school place when you don’t yet live in London? Where should you live? Which private schools might have spaces? So I’ve decided to summarise my answers in a post for all to read.

What year group will my child be joining?
The cut-off birthday for school admissions in England is the 31 August, as school generally starts the first week of September. To start nursery in September 2014, a child needs to be 3 by 31 Aug 2014 at the latest. To start Reception (the first school year) in September, a child needs to be 4 by the 31 August at the latest. Almost all school admissions pages of councils and some private schools list the actual birthday and corresponding year groups. For example, for entry into the Reception class starting September 2014, your child’s birthday needs to fall between the 1 Sep 2009 and 31 Aug 2010. That means, if your child was born in July 2009, for example, he would need to join Year 1 (the year after Reception) in Sep 2014, if he was born in March 2008, for example, he would be joining Year 2 in September 2014 and so on. Although schools are generally flexible about the type of work a child does once at school depending on ability, they are generally not very flexible about the year group a child will be joining, very few make exceptions, although it is always worth asking in special circumstances. See here for all dates and year groups.

Is it possible to find a state school place when you don’t yet live in London?
You cannot apply for a place at a state school unless you already reside in London. However, you can certainly start preparations for finding a place. The most important thing you need to know is which London borough you will live in (see next question), as school admissions are handled by each borough. Once you know, you need to call the school admissions team in the borough you will move to and discuss your situation – what schools in the borough are likely to have open spaces by the time you move? At least it will give you an idea of available choice. Generally, if you don’t yet have an address and you come in the middle of a school year, you are unlikely to get a place at the most oversubscribed state school. So many internationals look for private school places to start with. Private schools do not require you to live in London when you apply.

Where in London should you live?
First of all, you should know where you will work to make sure your commute is realistic. It will also depend on your budget. Once you know about these constraints, it is beneficial to choose a borough with high quality state and private schools. Richmond is often named as the best choice with high performing state schools and many private schools (about 30% of children in Richmond are educated privately). Kensington & Chelsea has a lot of excellent schools too, but rents can be very high. North London has several attractive neighbourhoods in this regard, such as Hampstead as well as the more affordable Muswell Hill. For the top state schools, check the ranking of London boroughs by state school performance and the ranking of top London state primary schools. To get an idea of where the top private primary schools are located, check out the Londonpreprep schools page.

Which private schools might have places?
Turnover in London private schools is generally high, and many private schools – even sought after ones – do have open spaces in later years, so it is always worth calling them. Schools with a higher share of internationals and children of expats are especially experienced of admitting children in-year. I cannot tell you names here, but if you read through the profiles here you will get an idea of which schools might be a good bet, and we provide admissions consulting services to help parents relocating from abroad find the right place. There are also prep schools not listed on this site which are good back-up options to start out with when you relocate, and can prepare your children for a move to a top prep school in higher year. The best approach is to call schools in your desired neighbourhood individually and see if they have space. And if you are a school with open spaces – please do contact me so I can pass on the information to relocating families.

If you are looking for more personalised help on finding the right school for your child during relocation, contact us at for educational consulting services.

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