There are three options available to parents when choosing how and where to educate their children:
State schools - funded by UK taxpayers, either through the local authority or directly from central government
Private schools - also known as 'independent' schools, these are fee-paying schools and are not bound by the same regulations as state schools
Home schooling - a less common option, but which can offer greater flexibility. For more information on home schooling, including the legal requirements, please see:
Most children in the UK attend state schools. These are normally run by the relevant Local Education Authority. In Oxfordshire, this is Oxfordshire County Council. Their webpage on ‘Starting School’ contain a list of all state schools in Oxfordshire. Attendance in state schools is free but you must apply for a place for your child.
State schools in Oxfordshire are 'comprehensive', ie they do not select their intake on the basis of academic achievement or aptitude. Some neighbouring counties (in particular, Buckinghamshire) do have academically selective schools, which are known as 'grammar schools'.
State schools may also fall into particular categories:
- church schools or faith schools are associated with a particular religion
- special schools provide for pupils with special educational needs (SEN), which may include physical disabilities, learning difficulties, or behavioural difficulties
- academies and free schools receive their funding from central government rather than the Local Education Authority, and may deviate from the National Curriculum and choose their own term dates and school times
Some schools have specific admission requirements, for example a church school or faith school may require evidence of religious affiliation.
Private ('independent') schools
Private schools - also called 'independent' schools - charge fees. For younger children, private schools may be called 'pre-preparatory' (nursery/infants) and 'preparatory' (junior) schools. Some private schools have their own associated 'prep' schools.
Admissions requirements for private schools differ from state schools. Places may be offered well before the start date, sometimes a year or more in advance, but most private schools operate waiting lists for entry into each year group. Some independent schools are academically selective and require pupils to pass an entrance examination and/or selection interview. Please note that it may be difficult to transfer in the middle of courses for external examinations.
Schools in the independent sector do not necessarily follow the same curriculum as state schools and they tend to structure the various phases of schooling and the school year differently from the state system. For example, some independent schools have lessons on Saturdays, or expect pupils to stay on school premises in the evening for supervised homework.
Some independent schools are 'boarding' schools, where pupils live at the school during term time and do not return home overnight. For younger pupils, there may be a range of partial boarding options to build up to full boarding over a couple of years.
Independent schools have their own websites that provide information on admissions, fees, scholarships and bursaries. Many private schools are members of the Independent Schools Council (ISC) organisation, which represents private schools. You can find out more information, including finding a private school in your area, on their website.
Did you know? The most prestigious private schools in Britain are often referred to, rather confusingly, as 'public schools'. The name dates back to the time when schools founded for local children went 'public' and admitted children from further afield. Some of the more famous public schools are Eton, Winchester, Harrow and Rugby.
International qualifications and bilingual education
The Europa School UK is a bi-lingual, state, co-educational Free School in Culham, approximately 10 miles south of Oxford. All pupils are taught through two languages, with half the week spent in English and the other half in either French or German. Pupils graduate with the European Baccalaureate as the school-leaving qualification. Public and private school buses run to the school from all parts of Oxford and many parts of Oxfordshire.
A number of private schools offer the International Baccalaureate (IB), which is recognised in many countries, as a school-leaving qualification. It is offered at the following schools in Oxford:
- EF Academy Oxford (co-educational independent)
- Headington School (girls independent)
- St Clare's (co-educational independent)
- St Edward's (co-educational independent)
Kingham Hill, located 45 minutes drive from Oxford (close to Chipping Norton), is a co-ed independent boarding and day school that offers both the British and the American education program, including Advanced Placement courses. It is currently the only school in the UK offering American accreditation and is recognition by the US Department of Education.
Disclaimer: Please note that the University does not endorse any of the external websites listed above, or elsewhere in this guidance.