The state school system in England has, broadly, two main points of entry for children* – primary schools at the age of 4+ and secondary schools at the age of 11+.
Every year anxious parents start the application process – with the deadline for application for secondary schools closing at the end of October, and for primary schools mid January for entry in the following September.
But what happens if you are living overseas and wish to apply into the state schools at these entry points.
If you own a property, and it is not rented out, then an application can be straight-forward as most councils and schools will take it on trust that you are resident and not push too deeply, especially at 4+ entry. It can be more complicated at 11+ as councils will not that children are not in school in the UK.
However, if you don’t have a property, or your property is rented out and somebody else is footing the Council Tax bill, then you are likely to hit a roadblock. Councils won’t accept applications and will shuffle them to the back of the queue, processing them when you return to the UK and the places in the better schools are likely gone.
There can be opportunities to find a route around this roadblock. A growing number of councils will accept an application with a firm indication to return. This would include proof that you are living in the area – a notice to leave for tenants or a lease agreement. It might also require a letter from the company with a firm date of return.
Some schools may also be more flexible in approach, especially since many councils are beginning to hand back responsibility for admissions to them. The advent of a less homogenous state system – with the introduction of academies and free schools – has also helped. Speak to schools directly to talk about your particular situation and build a relationship with the admissions officers and headteachers over time. Visit in person and then maintain that relationships with an occasional call or email to remind them of your interest.
The state school system is still hardwork for relocating families – but with a bit of knowledge successes can still be won.
* This is written with the understanding that there are junior, first, middle and senior schools available too with different entry points. The principles remain the same.