Attending School in the UK

What to expect from the school system in the United Kingdom...<br class="spacer_" />

School terms and holiday dates are decided by local authority or the school's governing body. Independent schools decide their own term dates.

In general it is not acceptable to take children out of school during term time for family holidays. Permission is required and may be granted for up to ten days in a school year if there are special circumstances.

  • For school term dates for local schools: Click here

The Enrolment Process

Children have to go to the school nearest their home (in their catchment area), though there is usually more than one choice. Parents must apply to the school to ensure their child gets a place.

In order to apply, send an application form, which can be downloaded from the local authority's website, or obtained by going to the council's offices.

Before submitting an application, parents must be sure that they meet the criteria for the school. For example, if the school is popular the admissions criteria will be more stringent.

  • For more information on schools admission criteria: Click here

The deadline for an application depends on the individual authorities, but is generally in the autumn term a year before the child is due to start.

  • For information on applying for a place in school: Click here

Vaccinations Required

There are no laws stipulating that children must be vaccinated before they start school in the UK. However, it is highly recommended that they follow the advised course of vaccinations throughout their childhood.

  • The NHS website has information on which injections they should have and at what age: Click here

Lunch-time and After-school Provisions

Most children eat at school, and they normally have the choice of eating at the school canteen or taking a packed lunch from home. Children from low-income families are eligible for free school lunches.

  • For more information on school lunches: Click here

Most local authorities, but not all, offer a number of possibilities for before and after school services to help parents that work. The provision of service is by no means uniform, and depends on the individual local authority. Services are usually paid for by the parent, and most are set up at schools. However, they can also be provided by private or voluntary after-school clubs, daycare nurseries and child minders. For more information, contact the local council authorities in the area of residence.


All pupils in schools across the UK are required to wear a uniform. The governing body of each school decides on the uniform policy, and it is the headteacher's responsibility to make sure the pupils follow the rules. The uniforms are usually quite standard, for example grey trousers, white shirts and V-neck jumpers for boys, and grey skirts for girls. They can usually be bought at local supermarkets. Separate clothing for sports is also required.