Private School System

The private school system in the United Kingdom...

There are about 2,600 private, independent schools (often referred to as public schools) in the UK, of which 700 are boarding schools. They are divided into several categories:

  • Pre-Prep schools: for 4-7 year olds
  • Prep schools: for 7-13 years old
  • Senior schools: for 13-18 year olds
  • Sixth-form colleges: for 16-18 year olds

As most private schools in the UK are expensive, it is essential that parents research the schools they are considering for their children. There are various league tables and online school guides, including,, the Independent Schools Council and the Guide to Independent Schools.

Each school has different admissions criteria, and many - such as Eton, Malborough and Harrow - have long waiting lists. There are also scholarships and bursaries awarded to promising students that can help families with lower incomes to send their children to a private school. Information can be sought from individual school websites or by telephoning the school admissions office.

Teachers at private schools do not have to follow the National Curriculum, although many do, and the majority of students take GCSEs and A-Levels. However there are a growing number of sixth-form students that are now taking the International Baccalaureate instead of A Levels.