• Secondary education in England is one of the main pillars of the British economy: a strong school system prepares millions of teenagers for university education every year.
  • Residents of any country can send their child to an English school as early as the elementary school stage (from 4 years old).
  • Foreigners can only study in private schools.
  • The main accommodation options are in a boarding school or with a guardian.
  • Until the child turns 12, a parent can stay in the country on a special Parent of a Child Student accompanying visa.
  • A key requirement for applicants is proficiency in academic English. Schools conduct additional entrance tests in basic subjects in English.
  • Foreign students enter secondary school from 11-13 years old. The last two years of studies are devoted to the standard school program — GCSE.
  • For further admission to a British university, you must complete the British A-Level high school program or the International Baccalaureate program.
  • The school itself decides which year of study in Britain corresponds to the level of knowledge of the foreign student. Transferring immediately to the second year of GCSE or A-Level programs is highly discouraged.
  • In British educational institutions, there are also special Foundation preparatory programs, whose students receive conditional admission to partner universities in the UK.
Advantages of secondary education in the UK
  • Full board. Most international schools in England offer not only quality education and a friendly atmosphere, but also comfortable living conditions under the roof of the school itself — such educational institutions are called boarding schools. They provide everything for comfortable living and studying: from a separate room and three meals a day to reading clubs and a personal mentor. A similar practice has existed since the 18th century: at that time wealthy citizens would send their sons to boarding schools in order not only to educate but also to make them into real gentlemen. In this context, “sending a child to school” means the beginning of an important stage in their life, which will save parents from routine household worries and give the child the first experience of independent life, albeit under constant supervision from the school staff.
  • Image. British pragmatism strives for economical and social effectiveness while retaining the ancient traditions. School curricula combine classics and innovations: students simultaneously learn Latin and programming languages, read Shakespeare and Foucault, study colonial history and analyze modern international relations. Graduates of English schools are brilliantly literate and business savvy, which provides them with excellent prospects for many years to come.
  • Discipline. English schools, especially boarding schools, take discipline very seriously. The student’s day is scheduled almost by minutes — from the exact time of breakfast to the schedule of evening activities. To some, this method may seem too strict, but it allows to give as much knowledge as possible to the child while ensuring the greatest possible safety.
  • Funding. It is very important for the UK government to maintain an excellent image of the educational system, so the schools are constantly being modernized. The government spends more than 78 billion GBP/year on the development of primary and secondary education[1], and private sector investments amount to about 11 billion GBP/year. Together they provide significant resources to guarantee that English education maintains the highest technical and quality levels.
  • Multinationals. England, especially London, has a rather open cultural policy and accepts many talented foreigners. In British society, one rarely encounters discrimination or arrogance towards people from abroad, since the main criterion here is personal success. Therefore, a foreigner who gets into an English school will find a comfortable atmosphere of diversity.
  • Discounts and scholarships. Despite the huge prices, many British schools offer students, including foreigners, special conditions. For example, 10-15% discounts for the second child. There are also grants for talented students. They can be obtained both on the basis of academic success and for special achievements in the fields of music, sports, and theatrics. However, this is quite difficult — in addition to the portfolio, candidates need to pass additional exams or creative tests.
  • International ranking. The positive image of English schools is confirmed, among other things, by the actual academic success of students. According to the international assessment program PISA, in Reading, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences, English schoolchildren are ranked 17th, 14th, and 14th, respectively[2].
Disadvantages of secondary education in the UK
  • Conservatism. The image of a rational and traditional Englishman is not a tourist myth: England is a rather conservative country where pragmatism and order in everything are appreciated. To this day, in many English schools, boys study separately from girls, and each day of the students is strictly scheduled from early morning until evening. They also wear a special uniform with the coat of arms of the institution.
  • Elitism. Private schools in England are often the subject of criticism: a significant portion of English families cannot afford to send their children to a private school, which makes the division into rich and poor more and more obvious. The former are almost always guaranteed a good future, and the opportunities for the latter are noticeably reduced. For example, in 2006, more than half of freshmen at Oxford University graduated from private English schools, while graduates from public institutions, which are the majority in the country, made up less than 30% of the university students.
  • Selectivity. The special prestige of secondary education makes most schools selective. This means that even if parents have a sufficient amount of money, top-ranking schools take only students with excellent academic performance and, preferably, an assortment of other talents. Learning in such an impeccable environment imposes a huge responsibility on the child and can cause much stress.
  • Nuances of admission. The procedure for admission to British educational institutions is rather chaotic. Each school itself determines the criteria and timing of selection: top schools accept applications 2-4 years before the start of the classes. In addition, foreign students are not always enrolled in the year appropriate for their age. The school may deem the child's knowledge insufficient and assign them to a younger group. The two-year GCSE and A-Levels programs are, in principle, considered indivisible, so it is impossible to transfer immediately to the second year.

System of secondary education in the UK

Education in the UK is compulsory for all citizens from 5 to 16 years old. Education in state schools takes place in key stages. They assume a single national curriculum and uniform standards for all students.

  1. Early Years Foundation Stage

    An optional educational stage with gamified learning, a kind of kindergarten for British children. The last year (aka reception year) prepares for starting school.

  2. Key Stages 1-2

    The primary school program includes 10-12 basic subjects: core subjects and Foundation subjects. The student takes Standard Attainment Tests (SATs) at the end of each year in English, mathematics, and science.

  3. Key Stages 3-4

    With the transition to high school, the array of disciplines expands, additional subjects are introduced. In the end, students take GCSE exams and receive a General Certificate of Secondary Education.

  4. Key Stage 5

    An optional step outside the national curriculum. It is necessary only for those who are going to enter a university. Final exams depend on the program: IB, A-level, Pre-U, or AP.

Level of educationKey stageYearsAgeFinal exams
Nursery School (Pre-School)Foundation03-5Phonics screening check
Primary SchoolKS11-25-7SATs
Primary SchoolKS23-67-11SATs
Lower Secondary / High SchoolKS37-911-14SATs
Upper Secondary / High SchoolKS410-1114-16GCSE
Upper Secondary School / Sixth FormKS512-1316-18IB, A-level, Pre-U, AP, BTEC

These stages are valid in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The Scottish system has a number of differences[3].

Private schools have similar levels, but they usually have different names and clearly define the minimum age requirements for admission:

Level of educationYearsEnrollment ageFinal exams
Nursery / Pre-Prep School0
  • 3+
  • 4+ (Reception Year)
School tests
Prep / Junior School 1-6 or 1-8
  • 5+
  • 7+
  • 11+
Common Entrance
Senior School7-11 or 9-11
  • 11+ (Lower School)
  • 13+ or 14+ (Middle School)
Sixth Form12-13
  • 16+
IB, A-level, Pre-U, AP, BTEC

Private schools do not follow the national curriculum. They offer students more disciplines, including non-standard ones, aimed at practice and personal development.

Tuition fees in UK schools

Type of schoolTuitionAccommodationGuardianshipOther expensesTotal
StateFree7,619-19,047 USDFree1,905-2,540 USD9,523 USD
Private day school12,698-33,014 USD13,968-19,047 USD1,905-5,079 USD1,905-2,540 USD30,475 USD
Private boarding school22,856-40,633 USD7,619-11,428 USDFree1,270-1,905 USD31,744 USD
Sixth Form College31,744-50,791 USD8,888-12,698 USDFree1,270-1,905 USD41,903 USD

The table shows the approximate cost per year of study. The exact prices must be checked on the schools' websites.

Types of schools in the UK

Schools in England are divided not only by the type of ownership (state or private) but also by the organization or church affiliation, funding scheme, specialization, access for foreigners.

Private, or independent, schools are open to students from other countries and offer special adaptation programs for them, while state schools are available only to British citizens and foreigners with permanent resident status.

Need help with admission?

Independent schools in the UK

Education in an independent school is paid, but it is an investment in the child's future. It is the first step towards entering a top university, which determines the future competitiveness of a graduate in the labor market.

Unlike state schools, private schools can experiment with the curriculum. But this does not mean that they are left to fend for themselves. The quality of the programs is controlled by special organizations: Ofsted and Independent Schools Inspectorate.

Typically, private schools strive to make learning more applied. Each year, more projects, practical courses, and creative activities are added to the schedule. Many schools also devote time to the psychological condition and health of the students. For example, King's College School has included empathy classes in the curriculum. There, students are taught how to deal with anxiety, rest properly, and develop awareness to reduce the negative impact of their surroundings.

Independent schools can be categorized:

  • By age of students: preparatory, secondary, Sixth Form. If the school is only Prep or only Sixth Form, this is usually reflected in its name. If not, then most likely the school combines all levels or at least 2 of them (for example, from 11/13 to 18 years old).
  • By sex: mixed (co-ed) and single-sex schools.
  • By format:
    • Day schools — the student comes to school every day and returns home in the evening.
    • Boarding schools — the student lives in the residence under the supervision of the school staff and goes home only for the holidays.
    • Specialty: faith schools, specialist schools. There are not many of the latter, but you can find those that specialize in music, theatrics, dancing, or sports.

You can also often see the term "public schools." By drawing an analogy with American public colleges and European universities, one might think that these are free public institutions. However, in England, the opposite is true: a public school is an independent educational institution created on a public (that is, non-state) initiative. They first began to appear about 300 years ago and after two centuries have become the most prestigious and most selective schools. As a rule, they have the highest requirements for future students.

Type of schoolSelectivityIndividual programsBoardingSpecialization
Public schoolyes/noyesyes/noyes/no
Boarding school (mixed/single-sex)yes/noyesyesyes/no
Specialist schoolyesnoyesmusic, dance, arts or sports
Faith schoolnoyesyes/noreligious education and scientific outlook
Sixth Formyesnoyes/nopreparation for the A-Levels final exam
Mixed boarding schools: list and requirements

Boarding schools are a type of public school, especially relevant for foreign families. The boarding school is an educational institution that, together with the educational services, offers accommodation in a school residence, three meals a day, and supervision of the students. Historically, it is this form of school that has gained the greatest popularity in developed countries: living on the territory of the school teaches discipline, allows you to immerse yourself in the educational process, and establish strong friendships with teachers and peers. To enter the best boarding schools, you will have to pass entrance exams. The cost of studying at a boarding school is usually higher than at a day school.

Tuition fees in mixed boarding schools in the UK

SchoolCityAgeScholarshipsCost per year
Rugby SchoolRugby11-18yes27,686-44,127 USD
Shrewsbury schoolShrewsbury13-18yes30,970-44,493 USD
D'Overbroeck's CollegeOxford11-18discounts53,883 USD
Kent CollegeCanterbury11-18discounts31,416-43,148 USD
LVS Ascot SchoolAscot11-18yes41,514 USD
Cats CollegeLondon14-18discounts24,265-37,789 USD
St. Clare's OxfordOxford15-18yes49,293 USD
Bellerbys CollegeLondon14-18discounts23,161-34,360 USD
Queen Ethelburga's CollegeYork14-18no55,464-58,542 USD

Requirements for studies in mixed boarding schools

SchoolProgramGCSE requirementsSixth Form requirements
Rugby School
  • interview
  • cognitive test
  • grade B in core disciplines of the GCSE
Shrewsbury school
  • transcript
  • test in English
  • test in math
  • test in French
  • Interview
  • 6 GCSE exams
  • 4 written exams of choice
D'Overbroeck's College
  • GCSE
  • A-Level
  • Pre-IB course
  • Short stay courses
  • Oxbridge Programme
  • English for Academic Purposes
  • Medical and Veterinary programs
  • IELTS 6.5
  • test in English
  • test in math
  • GCSE results no lower than B
Kent College
  • interview
  • test in English
  • test in math
  • interview
  • test in English
  • test in math
  • 6 GCSE exams
LVS Ascot School
  • GCSE
  • A-Level
  • Pre-A Level
  • Combined Program
Cats College
St. Clare's Oxford
Bellerbys College
  • A-Level
  • Pre-GCSE
  • 1 Year GCSE
  • Bellerbys Summer
  • Undergraduate Year 1
  • Foundation program
  • High School Term — A-Level
  • Pre-Foundation program
  • Oxbridge & Medical preparation
  • Extended Foundation program
  • IELTS 5.5
  • grades C in 4 GCSE subjects
Queen Ethelburga's College
  • GCSE
  • BTEC
  • A-Level
  • Combined Program
  • general test
  • IELTS 4.5
Single-sex boarding schools: list and requirements

From the 18th century until today, the practice of single-sex schools has been quite common in the UK. These are usually boarding schools, but such day schools also exist. It is believed that all-male groups are more competitive, and boys in general are more active, therefore, in schools for boys much attention is paid to sports education. In female groups, on the contrary, the spirit of mutual support and overall greater tranquility is usually noted, so in girls schools there is much more focus on book clubs and group projects.

Despite the fairly progressive views of the British regarding emancipation and feminism, the supporters of these practices are still numerous in the UK. As a rule, the connoteurs of separate education uphold the idea that schoolchildren will not be distracted from their studies by romantic intrigues. It is supposed that such an order teaches students to take on all the functions needed to live an independent life without dividing the tasks into "male" and “female” ones. However, the question remains of how the child’s view of the world and the opposite sex can be formed without any real interaction in the early period of life. The final choice is up to the parents and the child.

Tuition fees in UK single-sex boarding schools

SchoolCitySexAgeScholarshipsCost per year
Badminton SchoolBristolF11-18discounts46,550 USD
Farlington SchoolHorshamF4-18yes37,312 USD
Eton CollegeWindsorM13-18yes49,179 USD
Harrow SchoolLondonM13-18yes49,331 USD
Winchester collegeWinchesterM13-18yes48,379 USD
Wycombe Abbey SchoolHigh WycombeF11-18yes35,998-47,998 USD
Downe House SchoolThatchamF11-18yes33,351-46,093 USD
St. Paul's SchoolLondonM7-18yes30,859-46,219 USD
Headington SchoolOxfordF11-18yes21,656-46,969 USD
Dulwich CollegeLondonM3-18yes24,966-52,112 USD

Admission requirements in UK single-sex boarding schools

SchoolProgramGCSE requirementsSixth Form Requirements
Badminton School
  • interview
  • cognitive test
  • exam in English
  • exam in math
  • exam in two chosen subjects
Farlington School
  • exam in English
  • exam in math
  • 6 GCSE with grades 4 and above
Eton College
  • interview
  • exam in sciences
  • exam in English
  • exam in math
  • interview
  • 6 GCSE with A-grades
Harrow School
  • interview
  • 6-7 GCSE with marks A*/A
  • tests in three GCSE subjects of choice
Winchester college
  • 6 GCSE with marks A*/A
Wycombe Abbey School
  • interview
  • online test
  • exam in science
  • exam in history
  • exam in geography
  • exam in English
  • exam in math
  • exam in foreign language
  • interview
  • exam in English
  • 9 GCSE/IGCSE with marks A*-A
  • 3 written GCSE / IGCSE exams
Downe House School
  • transcript
  • exam in English
  • exam in math
  • high GCSE or equivalent scores
St. Paul's School
  • интервью
  • ISEB Pre-Tests
  • exam in English
  • exam in math
Headington School
  • interview
  • exam in English
  • exams in core disciplines
Dulwich College
Specialist schools — list and requirements

Specialist schools are for those who have already decided to connect their lives with such areas as academic music, dancing, arts, and sports. Usually these are boarding schools. The selection for such a school is not based on past academic performance, but on the child’s talents. Proofs of the latter could be a portfolio of drawings, recordings of speeches and all kinds of awards at local and international competitions. The best masters of their craft work as teachers in such schools, which allows the students to develop their talents to the professional level.

Tuition fees in UK specialist schools

SchoolCityAgeSpecializationScholarshipsCost per year
Wells Cathedral SchoolWales2-18musicyes24,026-42,568 USD
The Yehudi Menuhin SchoolStoke D'abernon8-18musicno57,407-58,926 USD
Arts Educational SchoolLondon11-18music, design, artyeson request
Tring Park School for the Performing ArtsTring8-19ballet, dance, music, theater artsyes28,768-48,134 USD
Elmhurst School for Dance and Performing ArtsBirmingham11-19dancingyes25,486-35,217 USD
Millfield SchoolStreet2-18sportsyes51,234 USD
The Hammond SchoolChester4-18dancing, theater, music, musicalyes24,546-36,881 USD
Purcell School of MusicBushes9-18musicyes35,649-45,522 USD
Chetham's School of MusicManchester8-18musicyes34,418-44,419 USD
Royal Ballet SchoolLondon11-19balletyes40,267-46,087 USD

Admission requirements in UK specialist schools

SchoolProgramGCSE requirementsSixth Form requirements
Wells Cathedral School
The Yehudi Menuhin School
Arts Educational School
Tring Park School for the Performing Arts
  • GCSE
  • A-level
  • Acting Course
  • Dance Course
  • Musical Theater Course
  • Performance Foundation Course
  • Commercial Music and General Music
Elmhurst School for Dance and Performing Arts
  • interview
  • audition
  • interview
  • audition
Millfield School
  • GCSE
  • A-level
  • BTEC
  • Cambridge Pre-U
  • interview
  • general test
  • 5 GCSE with grades With
The Hammond School
  • GCSE
  • BTEC
  • Trinity Diploma in Professional Musical Theater
  • Trinity Diploma in Professional Dance
  • exam in math
  • exam in English
  • test for non-verbal thinking
  • video audition
Purcell School of Music
Chetham's School of Music
Royal Ballet School
  • GCSE
  • A-level
  • Spring & Summer Program
  • BA Classical Ballet and Dance Performance Degree Program
Faith schools: list and requirements

Once religious schools were considered very strict and intolerant organizations. Today they have a much more favorable image. Faith schools are sponsored by the Church of England or charities and can follow the canons of Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Islam, or Hinduism. As a rule, these schools should not be subject to the national curriculum, but their activities are controlled by officials: for example, no Faith school has the right to teach creationism as the only theory of the origins of the universe or to enforce religious ideas. Usually, children from moderately religious families study here, as parents value not only fundamental education, but also moral, ethical, and cultural foundations provided by religion. Admission to religious schools is available to foreigners and, most often, without entrance exams. Some schools (mostly Jewish) guarantee full boarding.

Tuition fees in faith schools in the UK

SchoolCitySexAgeReligionScholarshipsCost per year
St. Mary's SchoolAscotF11-18Catholicismyes33,153-46,702 USD
Mayfield SchoolMayfieldF11-18Catholicismyes25,903-41,807 USD
Tonbridge SchoolTonbridgeM11-18Catholicismyes37,114-49,476 USD
Ratcliffe CollegeLeicester-3-18Catholicismyes17,024-37,937 USD
Clifton CollegeBristol-11-18Anglicanismyes29,979-48,569 USD
Abbots Bromley SchoolAbbots Bromley-3-18Anglicanismdiscounts29,148-35,941 USD
Ardingly CollegeHaywards Heath-3-18Anglicanismyes29,979-42,436 USD
Leweston SchoolSherborne-3-18Catholicismyes33,903-39,617 USD
Ampleforth CollegeYork-3-18Catholicismyes30,372-43,670 USD
Jamea Al KautharLancasterF6-18Islamnoon demand

Admission requirements in UK faith schools

SchoolProgramGCSE requirementsSixth Form requirements
St. Mary's School
  • interview
  • exam in sciences
  • exam in latin
  • exam in religion
  • exam in geography
  • exam in English
  • exam in maths
  • interview
  • exams in specialty subjects
Mayfield School
Tonbridge School
  • interview
  • exam in English
  • exam in math
  • UKiset assessment tests
  • IELTS 6.0
  • UKiset assessment tests
  • 4 subject exams A-level
Ratcliffe College
  • interview
  • exam in sciences
  • exam in English
  • exam in math
  • nonverbal thinking
  • certificate IELTS, ESOL
  • GCSE with grades B+
Clifton College
  • A-level
  • GCSE
  • Oxbridge preparation
  • transcript
  • interview
  • exam in English
  • exam in math
  • exam in sciences
  • interview
  • exam in English
  • exam in math
  • results 6 GCSE
  • exam in science
Abbots Bromley School
Ardingly College
Leweston School
  • GCSE
  • A-level
  • BTEC
  • Cambridge Pre-U
  • interview
  • IELTS 5.5
  • 6 GCSE with grades 5-7
Ampleforth College
Jamea Al Kauthar
Sixth Form in the UK: list and requirements

Sixth Form is one of the most sought-after study options for international students. It is, essentially, the last stage of secondary education preceding the university.

Sixth Form colleges are special private institutions that prepare students for Advanced Levels graduation testing over 2 years of study. Preparation for that exam also takes place in ordinary schools, but according to statistics, it is the graduates of Sixth Form who pass A-Levels with the highest scores.

Sixth Form colleges are very selective and considered to be the most expensive secondary education sector in England. One trimester of study and accommodation can cost from 11,428 USD to 19,047 USD. Sixth Form offers both full-time and boarding type studies.

Tuition fees in Sixth Form Colleges in the UK

SchoolCityAgeScholarshipsCost per year
Ashton Sixth Form CollegeAshton-under-Lyne16-18yes20,710 USD
Cardiff Sixth Form CollegeCardiff14-19yes41,141-55,553 USD
Concord CollegeShrewsbury12-19discounts50,664 USD
Abbey College CambridgeCambridge13-18yes30,475-36,824 USD
Ashbourne Independent Sixth Form CollegeLondon14-18yes32,379 USD
Bosworth Independent CollegeNorthampton14-18yes36,951-38,474 USD
Cambridge Tutors CollegeSouth Croydon14-18yes19,466-50,778 USD
Bath AcademyBath14-18no29,035-44,442 USD
Abbey College ManchesterManchester14-18no19,047-27,935 USD
Rochester Independent CollegeRochester14-18yes40,252-44,061 USD

Admission requirements in Sixth Form Colleges in the UK

SchoolProgramA-levelBTEC requirementsFoundation requirements
Ashton Sixth Form College
  • A-level
  • XL program
  • Mixed Study Programme
  • 6 GCSE
  • Interview
  • Interview
  • 4 GCSE
  • individual requirements
Cardiff Sixth Form College
  • A-level
  • Academic Summer Program
  • Oxbridge Preparation Program
  • Medical School Preparation Program
Concord College
  • A-level
  • University preparation
  • University preparation
  • interview
  • UKiset assessments test
Abbey College Cambridge
  • A-level
  • Academic Summer
  • Pre-Degree Diploma
  • Foundation Program
  • Medicine Summer School
  • Oxbridge Summer School
  • Pre-Sessional Program
  • IELTS 5.5+
  • 5 GCSE with grades C
  • IELTS 5.5+
  • 5 GCSE with grades C
Ashbourne Independent Sixth Form College--
Bosworth Independent College
  • IELTS 5.5+
  • 5 GCSE with grades B
Cambridge Tutors College
  • A-level
  • Pre-Sixth Foundation course
  • Oxbridge/Medicine program 5
  • IELTS 5.5+
  • 5 GCSE with grades A-B
  • GCSE с оценками А-В
Bath Academy
  • A-level
  • Pre-A Level
  • 18-month Foundation course
  • University Foundation course
  • Extended University Foundation course
  • International Medical Foundation Program
Abbey College Manchester
  • A-level
  • Retake A levels Intensive
  • International Foundation Program
  • IELTS 6.5
  • GCSE, grades A*-C in core subjects
Rochester Independent College--

Best independent schools in the UK

When choosing a school, parents inevitably pay attention to the rankings of the schools. In Britain, they are compiled by specialized media on a commercial basis. For example, The Times and The Telegraph. They are usually based on GCSE/A-levels or IB results (see below). But here we decided to list the public schools which stand out for their reputation as the best ones, regardless of the results of the final exams. They are especially difficult to enter because of their selectivity.

NameCityAgeSexTuition, yearTuition + boarding, year
Harrow SchoolLondon13-18M-54,093 USD
Eton CollegeEton13-18M-53,967 USD
Winchester CollegeWinchester13-18M-52,961 USD
Westminster SchoolLondon7-18MF36,581-39,987 USD52,832 USD
Charterhouse SchoolGodalming13-18MF42,703 USD51,674 USD
Wycombe Abbey SchoolHigh-Wycombe11-18F38,436 USD51,236 USD
Benenden SchoolCranbrook11-18F37,522 USD49,994 USD
GordonstounElgin6-18MF20,380-37,903 USD32,951-52,378 USD
The King’s SchoolCanterbury11-18MF31,427-34,913 USD49,464 USD
St Paul's SchoolLondon7-18M26,300-32,897 USD49,510 USD

Affordable private schools in the UK

1,5-2 раза ниже, при этом качество образования, как правило, не хуже.

Secondary education in England as a whole cannot be called cheap. The most affordable option is likely to be a day school with a host family or with a guardian, the most expensive is a boarding school. However, even there you can find schools, the cost of which is 1.5-2 times lower, while the quality of education, as a rule, is not worse.

NameCityAgeSexTuition, yearTuition + boarding, year
Manchester Grammar SchoolManchester7-18M16,418 USD-
King Edward VI High School for GirlsBirmingham11-18F16,936 USD-
Westbourne SchoolPenarth3-18MF11,257-17,790 USD

42,855-45,522 USD

Hereford Cathedral SchoolHereford3-18MF10,719-18,342 USD34,637 USD
Seaton House SchoolSutton3-11F13,714 USD-
Downside SchoolBath11-18MF21,344-25,302 USD33,168-44,501 USD
Farlington SchoolHorsham4-18MF8,381-22,437 USD31,160-37,903 USD
Mount KellyTavistock3-18MF10,971-22,856 USD22,221-41,255 USD
Prior Park CollegeBath11-18MF19,409-21,904 USD36,189-42,531 USD
Warminster SchoolWarminster3-18MF16,799-21,035 USD29,103-43,960 USD
Warwick SchoolWarwick7-18M15,142-17,675 USD39,910 USD
Wellington SchoolWellington2-18MF10,285-20,494 USD40,404-43,160 USD

State schools in the UK

Education in state schools is free, but is available only to taxpayers, that is, those who permanently live in England, be it an Englishman or a foreigner with a permanent residence permit. If the school offers full boarding, the parents pay boarding fees. Some schools have paid courses for international students.

List of state schools in the UK

The list includes:

  • comprehensive schools;
  • grammar schools;
  • academies;
  • free schools;
  • university technical colleges;
  • studio schools.
Тип школыSelectivityFull boardSpecialty
Comprehensive schoolnonono
Grammar schoolyesnohumanities
Academyyes/noyes/nodivision by subjects
Free schoolnoyes/nono
University technical collegenoyes/nodivision by subjects depending on the university
Studio schoolnoyes/noproject work supervised by accomplished experts

Top-ranking state schools in the UK

Top public schools, just like the private ones, are mostly selective. This means that, despite fee absence, not everyone can enroll there. Pupils are evaluated by their academic performance and exams.

Source: The Times

Academic year in UK schools

Classes in British private schools take place from September to July. The academic year is divided into terms, or trimesters, each lasting 12 weeks. More traditional schools use special names coined by the University of Oxford.

TrimesterTraditional namePeriod
SpringLent / EasterJanuary-March

Each trimester is also divided into two parts, between which there is a week of vacation — in October, February, and May, respectively. Boarding school students can go home during the main holidays:

  • Winter / Christmas — 2 weeks from mid-December;
  • Spring / Easter — 2 weeks from the end of March (dates change every year);
  • Summer — 6 weeks from the end of July.

Some international schools prefer the semester system.

Primary / Prep School in the UK

Structure and learning process

Up to 5 years old children can attend kindergarten — Nursery/Pre-Prep school. Here kids learn to understand the world around them, communicate, and express emotions. Teachers playfully lay the foundations for counting and writing, develop creative skills, and conduct physical education. The main emphasis here is not so much on knowledge as on socialization.

Private elementary schools are most commonly referred to as Prep Schools. As a rule, at this stage, the main curriculum is aligned with national recommendations and includes two stages:

  1. Key stage 1

    Age from 5 to 7, Years 1-2

  2. Key stage 2

    Age from 7 to 11, grades 3-6

Often, private schools extend the Prep School stage until 13 years of age.

From the first year, children already learn the basics of 10 subjects:

  • Core subjects: English, Mathematics, Science
  • Foundation subjects: Geography, History, Computing, Music, Art and Design, Physical Education, Design and Technology, foreign languages (from the third year)[5]

In addition, private schools offer a number of creative and sports sections, such as drama or swimming, as well as subjects aimed at personal development — personal, social, and health education (PSHE).

The last two years (7-8 Years), if they are included in the Prep School, directly prepare students for the Common Entrance, the main exam for admission to an independent high school. The British take it at the age of 13.


Prep school classes accommodate 8-20 people. Lessons are held from about 8.30 to 16.00 with a lunch break, after which students are engaged in hobby clubs and sports sections. Up to Year 7, children have few homework assignments. They often take up only 20-40 minutes a day, plus independent reading and review of what has been learned.

Grading system

Pupils receive interim grades for midterm tests / written papers, and at the end of each trimester, they take assessment tests. Many schools have additional informal reward systems — diplomas and certificates for excellence, weekly prizes, meetings with the Headmaster, etc. Several times a year, parents receive reports from the school about their child's progress. At the end of the school year, students take exams to advance to the next year. Unlike state schools, independent schools do not conduct SATs, but rather compose their own tests.


Primary schools rarely offer full boarding for young children: the minimum age for living at school is 7 years, more often children are sent to boarding schools once they are 11. Day schools that allow kids to stay in them from 7 am to 7 pm (similar to kindergarten) do exist. In the case of foreigners, parents of children under 12 years can obtain a special accompanying visa or appoint a guardian.

How to enroll in a British private school

Primary school applications close around October-November one year before the start of the classes. The registration fee is about 190 USD. The main entrance tests are held in November-January. As a rule, all stages of selection require a personal presence at a British school. Invitations are sent out in January-February. Specific dates must be checked on the schools' websites.

  • 3+/5+ Entry. Even for enrollment in kindergarten or the first year of primary school, you need to qualify. At this stage, future students perform tasks while playing: for example, they cut out a figure, draw or make a collage. They sometimes also have conversations and solve puzzles one-on-one with a teacher or in a group.
  • 7+ Entry. At the age of 7, schools test children's writing and arithmetics skills by means of small written tests — English and maths. Students answer questions, interpret simple tables, solve examples, write a short story, and more. (example 1, example 2). For the second (sometimes first) stage, candidates are invited to a Taster Day / Afternoon. In boarding schools, students also stay for a trial sleepover. For this time, each child is accompanied by an assigned high school student who helps the beginner to adapt.
  • 11+ Entry. Here, students face more serious entrance exams in English and mathematics. Sometimes, reasoning tests are added. Candidates with good results are invited for an interview, most often this is an informal conversation to get acquainted with the candidate. It is possible to arrange a trial day at school before or after the exams.

For an independent primary school, you will need a Child Student visa. Parents of children under 12 are eligible to apply for a special Parent of a Child Student visa. It can be extended until the child completes their studies or reaches the age of 12. You cannot work in Britain on a Parent of a Child visa.

Documents for admission
  • Progress report;
  • a letter of recommendation from a previous school (from a teacher or principal);
  • copy of the passport;
  • payment of the registration fee (about 190 USD);
  • for 11+ additional requirements are possible, for example, written work (essay, project, etc.);
  • individual achievements (if available).

After receiving the invitation:

  • payment of the Acceptance Deposit, on average 2,540-3,809 USD (fully or partially refunded after graduation);
  • Child Student visa.

The complete list must be checked on the school website.

Enter a university abroad

Secondary / Senior School in the UK — GCSE

Structure and learning process

Secondary schools are traditionally divided into the following stages:

  1. Key stage 3

    Age from 11 to 14, Years 7-9

  2. Key stage 4

    Age from 14 to 16 years, Years 10-11

Private schools do not actually draw a clear line between the two levels. Instead, they organize high school admissions for multiple ages: 11+ Entry; 13+ Entry; if seats are available — 12+ and 14+ Entry.

Foreigners are not guaranteed enrollment in the age-appropriate class. After assessing the level of knowledge, British schools may recommend the student to start studying in an earlier year. This is especially true for the GCSE program: you cannot join training in the middle of a two-year program (with rare exceptions).

From the age of 11, students continue to study some basic subjects from primary school. According to the national curriculum, the basics of Citizenship, Sex and relationship education, and career guidance are added to the schedule. Private schools form more individualized programs for children. Often, students choose 2-3 foreign languages or focus on art-related subjects. There are about 11 subjects in total.

From the age of 14, children begin to prepare for exams within the General Certificate of Secondary Education program. At the end of year 11, students receive a GCSE secondary education certificate. However, English GCSE does not give the right to enter the university.

The iGCSE variant is the same certificate but with an international focus. The British get it when they plan to enter educational institutions outside of England.

Typically, the GCSE program consists of 5-10 subjects.

Some schools formally divide them into 3 groups:

  • Core Curriculum. Compulsory basic subjects: mathematics, English, literature, natural sciences (biology, chemistry, and physics);
  • Optional Curriculum. The main program is selected according to the preferences of the student. There are no compulsory subjects here, but usually, students choose 1-2 foreign languages and 1-2 humanities (for example, geography, history, religious studies), as well as art or technology. Individual subjects can be studied at an advanced level within a specialized pathway program.
  • Extension Curriculum. The extended program depends on the school. Often it implies some subject unique to the school or an interdisciplinary project (individual or group).

All schools in one form or another include PSHE — personal, social, and health education — in the schedule. Some lessons or lectures are delivered by guest speakers. Much attention is paid to sports, drama, music, and other arts.


Classes begin at approximately 8.30 am, the last lessons end at approximately 4 pm. Then students attend additional courses: from Animation, Robotics, and Astronomy to Debates, Carpentry, and Fencing. Schools also organize trips and extracurricular activities within the boarding house. Every day, students prepare homework assignments for 2-3 subjects, each taking up about 40-50 minutes, but these requirements vary.

Grading system

At the end of each term, there is an assessment week. Previously, all written works and final exams were graded on a letter scale: from A* (excellent) to U (extremely unsatisfactory). Since 2017, most schools have switched to the new 9-point grading system[6].

Old systemNew system
5 — strong pass
4 — standard pass
UU — failed

Sometimes schools introduce their own evaluation systems and additional grades, not only for the actual success but also for the child's efforts. This helps to motivate students, even if they somewhat struggle with the subject. Schools also send progress reports to parents and host parenting days/seminars.

At the end of Year 9, students take internal school exams, at the end of Year 11 — GCSE exams for all the courses they have studied. High school graduates receive a general secondary education certificate/diploma. With it, you can enroll in high school programs (Sixth Form): A-level or IB. To graduate, it is enough to get grades of at least 4 in all subjects. To move to the Sixth Form, depending on the school's rating, grades 6-8 are required.

How to enroll in a British secondary school

Admission periods to UK high schools vary greatly. Registration closes at least one year before the start of classes (September-November). Then in October-January, internal entrance tests and exams are held. In December-January, schoolchildren are invited for interviews, and in February-March, the results are announced.

To some high-ranking schools, you need to apply 2-3 years in advance. In this case, students receive conditional admission to school based on tests’ results and other documents. The student is properly accepted only after they pass an exam or confirm their academic performance in the year of admission.

Examinations are conducted either by the school itself or by a special organization — Independent Schools Examinations Board (ISEB):

  • 11+ Entry. ISEB Common Pre-Tests and/or internal school tests in mathematics, English, and reasoning. Sometimes — Common Entrance for 11+ girls[7].
  • 13+ Entry. To ranking schools: 2-3 years before admissionISEB Common Pre-Tests and/or internal school tests in mathematics, English, and science; a year before admissionCommon Entrance at 13+. The rest of the schools only do either tests or Common Entrance at 13+ one year before admission.
  • 14+ Entry. Internal school tests in mathematics, English, reasoning, and science. Applications 14+ are accepted only if there are vacant seats.

Exams can be taken in British schools. For foreigners, the requirements can be reduced. For example, a science exam is canceled and/or a simplified version of the English language exam is used — English as an Additional Language (EAL).

For schoolchildren from other countries, there is an alternative option — take the UKiset test either in a certified center in their country or online, by agreement with the school. More than 250 educational institutions accept UKiset instead of pretesting, some take it as their primary test. It is necessary to clarify the specific conditions and requirements in schools.

The next steps at any age:

  • Interview (in person or via Skype)
  • Assessment / Activity / Taster / Orientation Day. Includes group lessons, additional tests, interviews, and sometimes an overnight stay at the boarding school. Teachers observe how the child behaves socially
  • Child Student visa.
More about the exams
  • ISEB Common Pre-Tests. Held from October 1 to June 30 in British schools. Lasts 2.5 hours and includes multiple-choice questions in mathematics, English, and reasoning. Sample test.
  • Common Entrance 11+. Held in November and January. Mostly passed in January. Includes tests in English, Mathematics, and Science.
  • Common Entrance 13+. Held in November, January, and May/June. Compulsory subjects are English, mathematics, and science. Additionally includes 11 elective subjects, more often students pick geography, history, foreign language, and TPR. Examples.
  • UKiset. Lasts 2-2.5 hours, taken in English, includes questions on reasoning (verbal and non-verbal), mathematics, and English. Results come out the next day. The certificate is valid for a year, and you can retake it in 6 months. Possible test centers: British Council offices, Cambridge exam centers, international schools, educational agencies. The centers send the results to 5 schools for free, then take 63 USD for each additional one. Register on the website.
Common Pre-Tests30 USD
Common Entrance at 11+146 USD
Common Entrance at 13+159 USD
UKiset375 USD
Documents for admission
  • Progress report for the last two years;
  • a letter of recommendation from a previous school (usually from the principal);
  • depending on the school, there may be additional requirements: an example of written work (creative writing, essay, portfolio, review, research project), motivation letter or video;
  • individual achievements (if any);
  • copy of the passport;
  • payment of the registration fee (190-508 USD).

After receiving an invitation (often before June):

  • payment of the Acceptance Deposit, on average it’s 2,540-3,809 USD (fully or partially refunded after graduation);
  • Child Student visa.

The full list must be checked on the school website.

  • Best English schools by GCSE results
NameCityAgeSexTuition/yearTuition + boarding/yearGCSE A и A* grades, %
St Paul's Girls' SchoolLondon11-18F35,339 USD-99.60
Westminster SchoolLondon7-18MF39,987 USD52,832 USD98.61
Wycombe Abbey SchoolHigh-Wycombe11-18F-38,436-51,236 USD97.60
Guildford High SchoolLondon4-18F22,517 USD-97.27
St Paul's SchoolLondon7-18M32,897 USD49,510 USD96.66
North London Collegiate SchoolEdgware4-18F25,942 USD-96.29
Godolphin & Latymer SchoolLondon11-18F28,691 USD-96.12
King's College SchoolLondon7-18М28,361 USD-95.88
St Mary's SchoolAscot11-18F36,303 USD50,969 USD94.97
City of London School for BoysLondon10-18M24,048 USD-94.62
City of London School for GirlsLondon7-18F24,395 USD-94.16
Brighton CollegeBrighton3-18MF32,265 USD63,540 USD93.93
Perse SchoolCambridge3-18MF22,848 USD-93.93
Magdalen College SchoolOxford7-18М24,048 USD-93.45

Source: The Times

Upper Secondary School / Sixth Form — A-Levels

Structure and study process

In high school (Key stage 5) students between the ages of 16-18 study. Most often this stage is called the Sixth Form. It is required only for those planning to enter a British university. Private schools offer several training programs, the most popular of which is A-Levels.

A-Levels — it is a two-year intensive preparation for the Advanced Levels final exams. When moving to Year 12, students choose 3-5 subjects for in-depth study. There are no compulsory disciplines at this stage, but there are recommended ones: mathematics, English, and one of the traditional school subjects — physics, chemistry, biology, history, or geography. When choosing additional subjects, it is imperative to take into account the future specialty: it can be law, media and communications, economics, design, art history, and others. Each school has its own set of courses, lists can be found on the official websites.

In the second year, students can abandon 1-2 disciplines and focus on the three main ones that are needed for later university admission. However, the first year of study will not be in vain: in the selected subjects, the student can receive the AS (Advanced Subsidiary) qualification. Sometimes, instead of the fourth subject, students make a project and earn an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ). Some universities award additional points for AS and EPQ.

The British also believe that extracurricular activities are equally important for personal development. Therefore, in addition to studying, high school students master sports, participate in various activities and make joint trips.

You can enter the A-levels program after 10 years of study in a foreign secondary school, but this does not mean that after Year 11 you will immediately go to the second year of study. To ensure the quality of knowledge among their graduates, British schools insist on completing a full two-year course.

Read more


The division into classes of 10-15 people in high school is rather formal. Moreover, often in one group, there are students in both the first and second year of study. Each class is assigned a tutor or curator. This helps to individually approach the education of future university applicants.

The schedule depends on the school. Most lessons (here they are often called periods) run from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm with a lunch break. For each A-level subject, approximately 6 lessons per week are allocated. Often these are double classes, reminiscent of higher education institutions’ schedules. In addition, schools fix the time for independent work — about 8-14 lessons per week.

As a rule, educational institutions do everything possible so that students can master exactly the subjects they want. However, some classes still overlap in time, which should be taken into account when choosing A-levels.

Grading system

There is no single grading system at the high school stage. As a rule, each subject has its own specifics. There are courses where:

  • Work during the year is not assessed (or practical assignments are assessed on the pass/fail basis), the final grade consists of 3-4 exams (papers), which are either taken at the end of the course or gradually over the learning process.
  • There are no exams, the final grade consists of practical assignments and other written work during the year.
  • Written papers/assignments/projects/exams make up the final grade as in a certain proportion (e.g. two exams 80%, a 3,500-word essay — 20%).
  • In creative disciplines (drama, art, music), a play staging, a project, an interpretation of a literary work, or the portfolio gathered during the course can be assessed.

A-Levels exams are conducted by an independent committee. They can be taken in January or May-June, and most are held at the end of the school year. A-Levels results are recognized by universities throughout the UK as well as in the USA, Canada, Australia, Asia and Europe.


Sixth Form students can live with host families or with a guardian while attending day schools or 5-day boarding schools. However, more often than not, schools offer both local and foreigners full-time living at school throughout the entire year of study.

How to enroll in a British high school — Sixth Form

The high school application period closes in September-October a year or two before the start of school. Almost immediately (in October-November) entrance tests and interviews take place. Students receive invitations with conditional admission in December-January. The main enrollment is done after confirmation of academic performance. For graduates of British schools, these are GCSE exams (in August), for applicants from other countries — GPA after grade 10 or 11 (in June-July).

The selection of entrance tests depends on the school. They can be:

  • English tests — English as an Additional Language (EAL), mathematics and sciences;
  • EAL and separate tests in future A-levels subjects;
  • Ukiset, reasoning test and a free selection of 2 tests in future A-levels subjects.

To pass the tests, as a rule, you need to come to the school. Some educational institutions allow exams to be taken for a fee at the foreign offices of the British Council.

The Ukiset International Test is not a substitute for basic testing, but it is often a prerequisite for a preliminary assessment of the English language, especially of its use in other subjects. Usually, the results must be submitted at the same time as the application. Ukiset costs 375 USD.

Applicants will also face additional selection stages. Whether before or after the tests, is determined by the school:

  • Interview (in person or via Skype);
  • A tour of the school (often at the same time as the interview);
  • Final school grades.

It is worth checking the final grade requirements on the schools' websites. The student receives the relevant info in a letter along with the conditional admission. Some Sixth Form colleges accept 5s in the diploma (and foreign equivalent grades). Top-ranking schools only accept good and excellent grades (6 and above).

Documents for admission
  • Progress report for the last two years;
  • IELTS 6.5+;
  • Ukiset results (optional);
  • a letter of motivation;
  • a letter of recommendation from a previous school (usually from the principal);
  • depending on the school, there may be additional requirements: an example of written work (creative writing, essay, portfolio, review, research project), motivation letter or video;
  • individual achievements (if any);
  • copy of the passport;
  • payment of the registration fee (190-508 USD).

After receiving an invitation (often before June):

  • payment of the Acceptance Deposit, on average it’s 2,540-3,809 USD (fully or partially refunded after graduation);
  • Child Student visa, sometimes Student visa (depending on age).

The full list must be checked on the school website.

Best British schools by A-levels results

NameCityAgeSexTuition/yearTuition + boarding/yearGCSE A и A* grades, %
Cardiff Sixth Form CollegeCardiff14-18MF23,618 USD61,648 USD90.3
St Paul's Girls' SchoolLondon11-18F35,339 USD-87.7
King's College SchoolLondon


MF28,361 USD-84.6
Concord CollegeShrewsberry11-18MF19,161 USD53,204 USD84.3
Magdalen College SchoolOxford7-18M24,048 USD-83.9
Ruthin SchoolRuthin11-19MF18,412 USD51,426 USD82.7
Brighton CollegeBrighton3-18MF32,265 USD63,540 USD82.5
City of London School for BoysLondon10-18M24,048 USD-82.2
St Paul's SchoolLondon7-18M32,897 USD49,510 USD82.1
Godolphin & Latymer SchoolLondon11-18F28,691 USD-81.5
Winchester CollegeWinchester13-18M-52,961 USD81.2
Wycombe Abbey SchoolHigh-Wycombe11-18F-38,436-51,236 USD80.6

Source: The Times

Accommodation for school children in the UK

A foreign student of an English school has two main options for living:

  • Boarding. Students live in a residence near the school. The school takes responsibility for the student, less often it is required to find a third-party guardian (citizen or resident of Britain). In some cases, schooling is only available with boarding, for example when the campus is located in a rural area or because of the special image of a private school. The accommodation includes all the amenities: a private room (accommodation for 1-2 people), a private bathroom, three meals a day, a gym, a dining room, lounges, and much more. It is not only safe and comfortable but also gives the student the opportunity to learn time management, undergo social adaptation and develop diplomatic skills. Many schools have adopted a system of “houses.” In Britain, these are not just dormitories, but communities of sorts. There are common playrooms, music and computer classes. Students develop independence, make friends, organize holidays and trips.
  • Host family. In this case, the student's parents must conclude a contract with a guardian agency that will select the family. The host party guarantees a separate room, three meals a day, sometimes pocket money. The advantage of this option is the opportunity to get an English upbringing, study the customs of the Brits, and get to know the culture of the country first-hand. In addition, parents have a choice of the type of family in which their child will live: it can be a single parent, an elderly couple, couples with children, or even military families.

Additional options:

  • Weekly, or 5-day, boarding. On weekends, the student spends time with a family or with a guardian, and the rest of the time they live in the school residence.
  • Occasional boarding. The student can stay in the residence for a limited number of times, for example, 2 times a week or 38 days per trimester, as agreed with the school.
Guardian agencies in the UK

UK AEGIS-accredited agencies:

Prices vary depending on the agency. As a rule, you need to pay a registration fee (about 127 USD), then up to 3,809 USD per year. You will also need to fund additional pocket money for the student, visits by the guardian to school, and the child's accommodation during the holidays.

Read more

Need help with admission?

Visa for studying in English schools

As a rule, to study in a private school, you need a Child Student visa. High School students’ age is also appropriate for the Student visa, but the latter is specifically designed for university applicants and language schools students. Less often it is received by A-levels or IB students planning further admission to a British university.

Child Student visa4-17
Student visa16+

To apply for a Child Student visa, you must first obtain an unconditional enrollment from the school. You can submit an application no earlier than 6 months before the start of your studies, the decision is made within 3 weeks. If you are already in the UK on a valid visa, the earliest application deadline is 3 months, the decision is made within 8 weeks.

The visa is issued for the entire period of study plus 4 months after completion. Maximum terms:

  • 6 years old for students under 16
  • 3 years for schoolchildren aged 16-17

The cost of a visa is 442 USD. The cost of extending or switching to a Сhild Student visa in the UK is 603 USD. When submitting an application, you will also need to pay for the Healthcare surcharge.

Students over the age of 16 can work up to 10 hours per week during school and full time (up to 40 hours per week) on holidays. Exceptions are sports and entertainment.

Documents for a Child Student visa
  • Foreign passport;
  • CAS — Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies — from the school (the schools sends it immediately upon admission);
  • parent's or guardian's consent for the child to travel to the UK for study;
  • solvency statement;
  • proof of family ties to the parent (such as a birth certificate) or guardianship papers;
  • tuberculosis certificate from an accredited clinic.

A complete list of documents for your case should be checked on the website of the government or the embassy.

The financial solvency requirements differ depending on where and with whom the child will live:

AccommodationExpenses for 9 months
With a parent or a guardianTuition fee + 1,981 USD/month
In a boarding schoolTuition + boarding fee
With a foster carer or close relative — citizen or a resident of the UKTuition fee + 724 USD/month in the family's or relative’s bank account
Independently (16+ year olds)
  • London
  • Other cities
Tuition fee +
  • 1,606 USD/month.
  • 1,289 USD/month.

Parents of children under 12 years old can receive a Parent of a Child Student Visa. The cost is 655 USD. The visa is valid for a year, then it needs to be renewed. Mandatory requirements are proof of solvency and permanent residence outside the UK. You cannot work on a parental visa. Even if your child is continuing education, you must leave the country once they reach the age of 12.

Study programs in UK schools

In addition to the traditional British GCSE and A-level, schools in England implement a number of educational programs with their own features.

NameMinimum ageDurationNext stageCost
GCSE141-2 yearsA-Level8,200 USD
A-Level162 yearsUniversity10,763 USD
International Baccalaureate162 yearsUniversity12,300 USD
Foundation Year171 yearsUniversity13,529 USD
Oxbridge Preparation171 yearsUniversity12,300 USD
BTEC142-3 yearsUniversity/employment9,429 USD
NCUK17,51 year2nd year at a NCUK university13,632 USD
Special Preparation (Medicine/Math/Business)14optionaloptional3,383 USD
Academic English146-12 monthsschool or university6,663 USD

International Baccalaureate in the UK

International Baccalaureate is an international high school program developed in Switzerland half a century ago. Like the A-level, it prepares students for university admission. The program is implemented all over the world in accordance with uniform standards, thanks to which the diploma is recognized by universities in England, the USA, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

IB in any country is often chosen by foreigners for whom their education is not enough to enter the desired university. However, in the case of Great Britain, there are also many Englishmen on this program. Often there are those who plan to enter not British, but European universities. Others see advantages in IB over A-level: a more interdisciplinary program or the ability to apply to several universities located in different countries at once.

Read more

Best schools in the UK by IB results

NameCityAgeSexTuition, yearTuition + boarding, yearIB average score
Godolphin & Latymer SchoolLondon11-18F28,691 USD-41
North London Collegiate SchoolEdgware4-18F25,942 USD-41
King's College SchoolLondon7-18M28,361 USD-40.8
Cheltenham Ladies' CollegeCheltenham3-18F37,179 USD54,816 USD40.4
Stephen Perse FoundationCambridge3-18MF22,208 USD53,178 USD40.4
Wellington CollegeCrowthorne13-18MF38,570 USD52,797 USD40.2
Sevenoaks SchoolSevenoaks11-18MF35,027 USD53,437 USD39.4
Whitgift SchoolSouth Croydon10-18M26,208 USD50,969 USD38.5
Ardingly CollegeHaywards Heath3-18MF30,456 USD47,998 USD38
King Edward's SchoolBirmingham11-18M17,386 USD-37.9
Bromsgrove SchoolBromsgrove3-18MF21,694 USD48,531 USD37.5
Headington SchoolOxford3-18F25,275 USD51,026 USD37.2
Fettes CollegeEdinburgh7-18MF37,998 USD46,341 USD37
HaileyburyHertford11-18MF33,835 USD45,895 USD37
Marymount International SchoolKnigston-upon-Thames11-18F31,725 USD53,718 USD36.7
St Clare's OxfordOxford14-19MF25,241 USD52,537 USD36.7

Source: The Times

Foundation Year program in the UK

Foundation Year is designed for those who need to get additional language training and cover the academic gap before entering a British university. In most countries, such programs are offered by the universities themselves. In Britain, however, you can take them in schools, which will be a little cheaper.

As a rule, such programs have lower language requirements — approximately IELTS 4.5 versus 5.5 for A-level. Many schools also have partnership agreements with universities: students receive conditional admission during their studies, and in case of successful graduation, they immediately enter the corresponding university.

The curriculum includes one-year academic English courses for schoolchildren with a level of Intermediate or higher, a generalist preparatory section of subjects taught in English, and sometimes also specialized training for the specialty that student is planning admission for.

Unlike A-level or IB, the Foundation Year diploma is usually recognized only by UK universities.

Read more

Schools with the Foundation Year program in the UK

NameCityAgeSexTuition fee, yearBoarding school, year
Bath AcademyBath14-21MF
48,201 USD
Bellerbys CollegeBrighton / London16-19MF-50,291 USD
Brooke House CollegeMarket Harborough11-18MF24,951 USD47,617 USD
David Game CollegeLondon / Bath13-22MF22,793-32,316 USD-
St Clare's OxfordOxford14-19MF24,354 USD40,277 USD
Oxbridge Preparation

Oxbridge Preparation, as the name suggests, prepares students for admission to two of the oldest universities in the world — Oxford and Cambridge. It is difficult to get there even for native Englishmen — only 5-10% of applications are successful. Specialists from schools with an Oxbridge preparation program have extensive experience and know all the tricks of admission. Of course, no one can guarantee enrollment, but the chances are much higher when the applicant knows what to expect.

The contents and duration of the program vary from school to school.

  • Short-term programs usually involve visits to universities, talking to representatives of the admissions committee, and undergoing express preparation for an interview (3-5 weeks).
  • The long-term program is essentially a standard school year, during which, in parallel with the A-Levels, the student prepares for the Oxbridge entrance exams and studies the application process.

Some schools, such as Bellerbys College, offer Oxbridge Preparation free of charge to all their students.

If you still fail to enroll, the results of the program can become an additional plus when applying to other top universities.

BTEC program in the UK

BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council) — a special kind of school qualification in British schools. This is a specialized program with an emphasis on practice. This option is suitable for those children who learn best in practice and who would like to quickly apply their knowledge in professional activities. The BTEC diploma allows you to enter a job or internship right after school and gain professional experience along with theoretical knowledge — such a practice is especially useful in areas like business, engineering, education, art, tourism, and social work.
Unlike the more conventional GCSE and A-Levels programs, BTEC does not imply a scientific or research career, although you can change the trajectory of education later if you wish. However, not all universities recognize BTEC on a par with A-Levels. You can enroll in BTEC at the end of 8 years of school studies (including at a foreign school), and you can study there up to the Master's degree level, combining study with work, which is especially convenient in England due to the developed part-time higher education system.

NCUK program in the UK

NCUK stands for Northern Consortium. This is a special educational fund that brings together 11 British universities to realize the international NCUK project. As part of this project, special annual International Foundation programs are available in several English schools and international centers in 20 countries. Upon graduation, the student is guaranteed admission to the first year of a university — member of the Consortium, or one of the partner universities in the USA, Canada, Australia, France, and other countries. You can study in one of four areas: business, pharmacology, engineering, and IT. The curriculum assumes a load of about 20 hours per week. This includes Business English or Academic English courses, specialty subjects, and project work.
Northern Consortium universities:

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Preparation for universities in England

As you know, it is especially difficult to enroll in programs in some fields of study: usually, this includes Medicine, Law, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences. That is why those who are aiming for top-ranking universities or simply do not want to fail the entrance competition very often go through preparatory programs in their specialty. English schools are well aware of the demand for such programs and offer some options within the framework of secondary education.
Generally, the school offers training in the direction in which it already has a good reputation: schools with a mathematical focus prepare applicants for faculties of exact sciences, schools known for teaching Humanities organize summer schools in literature and philosophy, famous art schools offer preparation for the best creative academies. The duration of specialized programs is anywhere from an academic year to a couple of weeks. A schoolchild can either receive serious specialized training or simply spend time on vacation in search of future specialization.

Academic English for admission to universities in England

A course in Academic English is included in almost any study option described above, but it can be taken separately. The program involves not just studying the language, but also mastering the specialty-specific vocabulary, academic writing, reading scientific texts, and training verbal skills — all this allows you to improve your English and acquire the skills necessary for studies. It is possible to take such courses in a language school, however, if the student plans to enter the A-Levels in the future, then studying at a secondary school will help to avoid further risks and unnecessary costs. The main difference from programs like Foundation is the lack of purely specialized classes at school and greater adaptability to students from different countries and with different levels of English.

Enrolling in a university after a secondary school in the UK

After graduating from high school in Britain, a student can enroll in any British university. Faculties often set specific requirements for A-Levels subjects. So, students choose a future specialization two years before graduation. It is worth checking the requirements in advance on the official websites of universities.

A-Levels and IB programs are also recognized by universities in the USA, Canada, Australia, Asia, and Europe. However, it is necessary to clarify whether there are additional conditions. For example, when entering American universities, you will still have to take the SAT exam (although due to the pandemic it became optional in most of them).

It is believed that when considering applications, British universities tend to look at the rating of the school that the applicant graduated from and that only graduates of elite independent schools with a high degree of selectivity can enter the top universities. However, this is a stereotype. For the admissions committee, it is only important that the applicant has good academic performance and what other achievements (scientific, social activities, projects, hobbies) they have.

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More about state schools in the UK

Comprehensive schools in the UK

Comprehensive schools are the most common type of secondary education institutions in England that have been actively developing over the past century. They are under state control and are intended for a wide array of children from 14 years old regardless of their previous performance, social status, or family affluence — there is no selection at the admission stage. Education in secondary schools is free and general, that is, without a specialization (in contrast to academies). This option is suitable for those parents who plan to move to England with their children.

Academies in the UK

Academies are currently the second most popular type of school. The first academies were created during the government of Tony Blair. Over the past 6 years, there has been a significant upsurge of this type of educational institution: if in 2011 there were only 629 academies in England, by 2017 their number exceeded 4000. Academies have great freedom in choosing students, teachers, curriculum, and sources of funding. Being officially state-owned, they have the right to receive funding from outside organizations, which often makes them dependent on commercial organizations — this aspect is especially criticized by supporters of the old system.
Academies are often specialized: a particular focus is on specific subjects, for example, mathematics, a foreign language, business, art, engineering, etc. A special admission code applies to this type of school, according to which the academy has the right to arrange entrance exams if there are more applicants than seats at school. Formally, this means that there are no academies with mandatory entrance exams, but in reality — the better the academy and the more people want to study there, the more difficult it is to enter.

Free schools in the UK

Free schools are a special type of government institution whose main difference is greater organizational freedom from the Department of Education while retaining significant state funding. Free schools, also sometimes called "new schools," are a special educational project launched in 2010. Within its framework, alternative and specialized programs for children from poor families are being developed. Free schools are created at the initiative of local authorities, parents, or charity organizations, and are often equipped for children with special needs. Education in them is completely free, access is universal, but they are available only to the residents and citizens of the UK. According to statistics from the Ministry of Education of England, free schools have become a very effective solution for affordable education, and their graduates perform better on exams than graduates of ordinary general schools.

University technical colleges in the UK

University colleges are one of the subtypes of free schools. They are created on the basis of existing universities. Such colleges provide secondary and vocational education in one of the specialties, most often engineering, design, and programming. Under the financial and academic management of English universities, colleges adopt the experience of higher education, while following the national standards of secondary education. College graduates have a good chance of enrolling in partner universities, and graduates of vocational programs can find work immediately after graduation. Studying at university colleges is free and available without entrance exams, but only for citizens and residents of the UK.

Studio schools in the UK

Studio schools are another subtype of free schools. It is a rather novel project, which is why so far there are just over a dozen of them. The idea of ​​studio schools was copied from the workshops of the 15-17 centuries, where the masters taught several students directly during work. The modern model of such schools implies intensive work in small groups on specific cases and projects under the guidance of experienced specialists. At the same time, the studios retain the status of schools thanks to an integrated system for studying basic compulsory subjects (English, Mathematics, and Sciences), which allows students to enter any university after school. Access to studio schools is completely free but available only to citizens and residents of England.

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