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Relocating families and state school applications in the UK: what to expect.

20 May 2019

For parents, the decision to accept an international assignment can hinge on whether their children’s education can be assured; the prospect of applying to state schools in a new country, however, can be daunting without help. Sarah Teasdale, managing director with our education partner, Educatus has outlined below how the application process works in the UK for most relocating families.

In-Year Applications.

Most relocating families arrive mid-year and so end up applying for ‘In-Year’ admissions spaces. These applications will only be accepted once the child is resident and can then take up to 20 school days to be processed. An ‘in-year’ admission falls outside of the usual key application dates for local parents, such as starting primary school at 4yrs and secondary school at 11 yrs.

Where to begin?

It’s an anxious time for relocating families, and they will usually want to know where school spaces are so that they can use this information to determine where they look for properties. It’s a tricky process, as school spaces can change daily, so we normally start by looking at the general availability in potential areas to ascertain which of those are less oversubscribed and therefore likely to have a better choice available. Once a property has been found, we can focus on the local schools and which might be the best to apply to. We will then gather together for the family the necessary information and documents required to apply. It’s important to note (see below) that we cannot move forward with that application until the family have a signed tenancy agreement, and occasionally other documentation related to the property or child.

What is required to apply for an In-Year space?

Applications are usually submitted to the council that the property falls within, and councils all work in slightly different ways, even though the law is the same throughout the country.

One aspect that remains true for all councils is that the family needs to be resident in the UK (with the child in the country), living in a permanent address, before they can apply. A signed tenancy agreement will always be asked for as evidence, along with copies of passports, visas, birth certificates and sometimes boarding passes.

What if the family arrives between June and August, wishing for a September school start?

An arrival over or just before the UK school summer break can seem like the perfect time for a relocating family to move. It is crucial, however, to relay to families that some councils do not process In-Year applications over the school holidays whilst the schools are shut. This can result in applicants receiving their school offer up to two weeks into the school term. The cut-off date for applications to be processed before the summer break varies with each council, but for any September start, councils may wait until they understand if any children have left through the summer months before offering their places. It pays to be patient here and this can often be of benefit to the family. Where a space was not available in July, movement may allow for unexpected vacancies and placement to be made at a preferred school.

Are there any key deadlines?

Most relocating families will not need to concern themselves around any deadlines highlighted by councils. These deadlines will apply to families looking at the first stage or final stage of education, when a child turns 4 years (January for September) or 11 years (October for September) If a deadline has been missed a child will simply become classified as a ‘late applicant,’ and this is worth discussing with an education consultant.


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