Placing a Foreign Student in a UK School

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We have already looked at how to place our children in schools abroad and how to help them fit in once they have made the transition to a foreign school but it is worth noting that the reverse can apply as foreign students are now becoming commonplace in our schools in the United Kingdom.

This can happen because a family has come to the United Kingdom in relation to employment or because they are wishing to seek Asylum in the United Kingdom. Whatever the case every child is entitled to an education and as such every attempt is made by the schooling system and the Local Education Authorities to make sure that places are available for any foreign student wishing to seek an education here.

Differences to be Aware of

For the most part the principle is the same for those families wishing to relocate to the United Kingdom as it would be for those families leaving the United Kingdom for foreign climbs. Although in saying that there are some noticeable differences.

The main difference being that we – in the United Kingdom – teach our children in English as our first language with foreign languages such as French German, Spanish and now in some schools Mandarin – bringing up the rear in language stakes. This, just as it is British children moving abroad – a stumbling block that needs to be overcome for any foreign student to gain a reasonable and satisfactory level of education.


Just as with British children, it is important and a good investment of time, for a foreign family to visit and select a list of schools that would appeal to their individual child’s needs should that be a course of action open to them. Obviously if the family are seeking asylum in the United Kingdom then a visit before hand is a lot less likely and it can sometimes be a lottery in terms of finding a place for their children. Local Education Authorities will help with this as best they can in conjunction with the Foreign Office and British Consulate to their country of origin.

It is also worth noting that foreign students will fall under the same system of criteria as British children when it comes to the application process for a specific school. Their applications will be determined not so much on the merits of where they are from – in relation to country – but where they are living in relation to the distance from the schools of choice etc. This is the same for all children and indeed the same applies for any benefits that might be obtained; school meals, financial assistance for travel and uniforms etc.

If you are from a foreign country and wish to place your child or children in full time education in the United Kingdom it is worth noting that there may be – in some schools – a rudimentary series of aptitude tests that may need to be taken – in order to gauge the level of your child’s learning to date, especially if they have already been in education in your home country. This may also include a basic test as to how they cope with the English language that – as we have already discussed – is the first language in our schools.

Some schools do teach in other languages as a first choice language but these schools it is worth mentioning – have limited places available and normally have long waiting lists. This also applies to specific religion schools such as those that teach Hinduism and other religions practiced mainly abroad.

In conclusion it is not impossible to place your child in a United Kingdom school if you are from abroad but there are certain stumbling blocks that have to be overcome so if you are relocating to the United Kingdom from abroad and have the time to do so, it is a worthwhile endeavour to take the time to find out what your child’s best options are.


We all know how difficult it can be for our children as they begin schooling in a school in the United Kingdom but imagine how difficult a transition it can be if they are relocating to a school in a country they are not familiar with.

This can be made doubly difficult if your child has already been in education within the United Kingdom and is now relocating to continue their schooling in another country whilst having to contend with changes in those around them.It is not easily explained how this can affect a child but there are things that we – as parents moving abroad – can do to try and make the transition as smooth as possible.

What You Can Do

The first thing we can do is take our child or children with us if we are going out to the country to which we are moving to in order to allow them to get a feel for the place. If they have been there a number of times before they actually move there on a permanent – or semi permanent basis – then it can help to alleviate some of the stress that can come about by simply upping sticks and moving without any prior knowledge or experience of the locale.

Also, it is worth spending time with them and helping understand about the country or region’s local history and culture. A child will find nothing more stressful than finding themselves in a strange place with unfamiliar people especially if they are speaking in an unfamiliar dialect and operating differently from what they are used to.

Whilst visiting the region you are going to move to, take your child on a tour and let them see for themselves that it is not as frightening as they might first have thought. Take them around the schools you have earmarked as potentially viable and allow them to comment – and take great notice of their comments – because it will be them after all who will have to attend whichever school is chosen.

In doing this the schools will allow your child to interact with the local children for a time in order to see how both react to each other. Of course this can only be done for a short time so as not to interrupt those children already in education but it is a good idea to do this. Some schools will also allow you to leave your child with them for a day so that they can join in with lessons, mix with other children, and get an overall feel for the place.

Although this is only on a short term basis it is a good way of getting a feel for whether or not your child will like – or indeed want – to fit in with those in his or her new surroundings.

It is worth trying to find out if there are any Ex-Pat Associations in the area into which you are moving. If there are they will have children of their own who will be English speaking and be conversant with English traditions and it is a good idea to seek these out so that your child can at least remain acquainted with the tradition and culture of their own home without being swamped by the cultures and traditions of their new one. It is also a good way for your child to become accustomed to the ways of this new location by having a balance of both old and new in a place, which would otherwise seem daunting and frightening.


There are times when it may be necessary for you to relocate aboard, be it for work or personal reasons and in doing so it is important to look at the aspects of finding and securing a place for your child in a foreign school should the need arise.The first thing to remember about placing your child in a foreign school is the difference in curriculum. We have a specific article dealing with this, which you can find on this website.


Firstly it is wise to find out about the schools in the locale you are moving to just as you would if you were placing your child in a school in the United Kingdom. Once you have chosen your list of schools – and again it is a good idea to have more than one choice given that places will be limited and more than likely offered to local students before they will be to foreign students – you can contact the schools directly and ask for information on their selection processes and also the process of admittance for foreign students.

Again it is important to note that not all foreign schools can – or will – cater for the introduction of foreign students so therefore in some countries and locales the choices of school is greatly limited in this regard. Speaking with the consulate and liasing with the country to which you are moving will be advantageous in that they will be able to provide you with a list of schools offering something resembling the United Kingdom’s National Curriculum.

Once you have done this it is worth visiting the schools in the locale to which you are relocating. Obviously you will have already – or will be in the process of – visiting the place to where you will relocate to view potential homes so coinciding this with a visit to the schools on your list is a worthwhile endeavour also. Again this is something that needs to be done well in advance of your child actually commencing school abroad, the longer you leave it the lesser your chances of securing that place for them.

You will need to spend time talking to the teachers and head teachers at your chosen schools and if your child is already in education in the United Kingdom it is important to find out how easily they can make the transition from being taught at National Curriculum level to being taught at the level of the education system in the country you are moving to.

Again it is also important to find out if your child’s lessons will be taught in English as many countries abroad teach English as a second language and therefore this will present a major obstacle in your child’s education if they are constantly met with a difference in languages.

Also try and find out if there is an Ex-Pat’s Association in or around the area into which you are moving. If you can find such an organisation you will find the help and advice they have to offer invaluable as most of them will have been through the same experiences as you as a parent and will be able to point you in the right direction. They may even be able to recommend a school and perhaps make an introduction, which may prove fruitful in your attempts to place your child in a school abroad.


It is important to consider – if you are placing your child in a foreign school – the differences in the curriculum offered by such a school.

Obviously the most important reason for this is if your child has already been schooled in a school in the United Kingdom and therefore making the transition from the UK curriculum to a foreign one can be nothing short of a culture shock.

Foreign schools do cater for a student attending from abroad, should they be there only for a short time or for the duration of their schooling, but it is important to consider that in doing so there are marked differences, which can sometimes cause problems and leave gaps in your child’s education.

Differences in Foreign School Curricular

One distinct stumbling block can be the language barrier. In about 75% of foreign schools English is taught as a second language, thus making it difficult to communicate with British students who are unfamiliar with the local dialect. There are schools that do teach English as a first language but you should be aware that these are more than likely to be categorised as private schools and will therefore incur tuition fees.

Whereas in schools in the United Kingdom the curriculum centres around English, Mathematics, Information Technology and Science-related subjects, the curricula of foreign schools does not operate in this manner and indeed from country to country the curriculum taught and the subjects incorporated vary greatly.

Ex-Pat Schools

You may find in certain countries, such as Spain, schools branded as ‘Ex-Pat’ Schools, which are run by English speaking people – more than likely they have relocated to those countries from the United Kingdom. Placing your child in such schools can be difficult if there are long waiting lists so if you are planning to live abroad it is a good idea to check for these schools in the area you are moving to and also discuss with them the curriculum they offer.

In the main they will run in accordance to the United Kingdom’s National Curriculum but will also – by the law of the country in which the school is based – have to offer subjects relating to their curriculum and local culture. These subjects will most likely be in History, Language, and Religious Education to encompass the many different aspects of living in another country.

Examinations and Tests

Again, as the curricular varies, so does the manner in which examinations and tests are taken in relation to the subjects taught within them. For example, whereas most schools in the United Kingdom have their students take examinations in the months leading up to the summer hiatus, schools abroad may not. This is also an important factor when considering a move abroad especially if your child is heading towards that stage where it is necessary for them to sit such exams.

You can find out more information about the varying curricular offered by countries abroad by contacting their consulate who will be more than happy to provide you such information and can even go as far as to recommend schools for you within a particular country or region.

Also you must be aware that although it is right of every child to have an education – just as in the United Kingdom local education authorities have guidelines to adhere to when allocating places – so do the governing bodies in any country you may be considering moving to. Again speaking to the consulate will provide you with a wealth of information to help you on your way.