Childcare and schooling


1. Childcare.

2. Schooling.

3. School holidays.

4. Taking children out of school.

5. Delivering and collecting children.

6. How to make sure the school is right for your child.

7. After school clubs and out of school services.

8. Leaving children at home.

9. Child protection.

10. Child benefit.


1. Childcare

The childcare section of the government’s website has the most up-to-date help and advice concerning childcare in your local area and across the UK.

Baby not sleeping? Check out the Child Sleep Problems website for help and advice to improve your situation.


2. Schooling

State and Private Schools

If your child is under 16 years of age and will be with you as your dependant in England and Wales for more than six months, they should be able to go to a state primary or secondary school free of charge.

The state system is divided into three types of school:

  • Nursery school (for children aged between three and five years of age).
  • Primary school (for children aged from four/five to 11 years of age).
  • Secondary school (for children aged from 11 to 16 years of age).

Children over the age of 16 and adults can attend college classes or Adult Education Centres, but a fee must be paid.

Please note that your child will be allocated a place in a school near where you live, so you should consider this when you look for your accommodation. Not all state schools are of the same standard, with some achieving better results than others. You may wish to visit the Ofsted website. Ofsted inspects and regulates to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. By law all children in the UK for more than a short stay should attend school full time from the age of five. Many schools take children from four years old.

Private schools are often referred to as public schools – this can be confusing as public schools are not for the public and fees must be paid. The Independent Schools Council (ISC) lists all public schools in the country.

There are also some part-time schools in the UK catering for children from different religions or who speak different languages. Children attend these in addition to their main school. You cannot pre-book a school place in advance of your child arriving in the UK.


3. School Holidays

The academic year for state primary and secondary schools is early September to late July. The academic year is broken up into three terms. Half way through each term there is a holiday of one week.

The term dates are:

  • September to December, followed by a two – three week holiday at Christmas.
  • January to March/April, followed by a two – three week holiday at Easter.
  • March/April to July, followed by a six week holiday during the summer.


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4. Taking children out of school

In the UK, parents do not have the automatic right to take their children out of school during the term time. Parents can be prosecuted if their children fail to attend school. Once your child is registered with a primary or a secondary school, the school will be expecting that child to attend throughout the term time.

If you need to take your child out of school, for example you may need to travel abroad, you should discuss this with the school at the earliest opportunity.

If your child is unwell or is unable to attend school for another reason, you should contact the school at the earliest opportunity (either by telephoning or attending the school).


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5. Delivering and collecting children

Your children must arrive before the school day begins and must leave when school finishes. Depending on the child’s age and the journey they must make to school many parents choose to drop off and collect their children. The person collecting the children should arrive at least five minutes before the child is due to be released from school.


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6. How to make sure the school is right for your child

It is important that your child has a pleasant experience when attending school in the UK.

The things to look out for when visiting a school:

  • Do the children behave well?
  • Are the children attending to their work?
  • Do children and teachers have a good relationship?
  • Is children’s work displayed?
  • What is the standard of that work?

Some things to ask when visiting a school:

  • How much homework are children given?
  • What help can I give at home?
  • Is there a reward system for good behaviour?
  • What is the punishment/discipline system in the school?
  • Is there any extra support for children whose first language is not English?
  • Are there any other children from our country?
  • Will my child need to wear uniform or special clothes?
  • How much will the uniform or special clothes cost?

How to support your child once they start at school:

  • Read the prospectus.
  • Make sure your child has all the equipment they need.
  • Give encouragement (and help if needed) with homework, especially reading in English.
  • Find out the name of your child’s form teacher and how you can contact them if there is a problem.
  • Make sure your child attends school every day.
  • Make sure your child arrives on time for school.
  • Make sure the school knows how to contact you if there is a problem or accident during the school day.
  • Get involved in the life of the school: attend concerts, sports days, volunteer to help in special events, such as school trips, or celebrations.


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7. After school clubs and out of school services

After school clubs and out of school services refers to care for children before and after school hours. This helps parents who have to drop off their children before school starts or are unable to collect their children after school. Some after school clubs may charge a fee for their services.


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8. Leaving children alone at home

English law does not specify at what age a child can be left unsupervised, however, parents may be prosecuted for neglect if they leave a child alone ‘in a manner which is likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health’. The NSPCC advises that no child should be left at home alone under the age of 12, or overnight below the age of 16. You should never leave a baby or toddler alone, not even for a few minutes.

For more information on leaving children at home contact the Child Accident Prevention Trust on 020 7608 3828 or refer to the guidelines on the websites below.


National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

Families Online


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9. Child protection

Child abuse – which includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect – is a criminal offence in the UK. For further information or advice please visit the website of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children or, telephone the Childline Helpline for children on 0800 1111 or, telephone the Families Anonymous Helpline for families on 0800 735 0671.


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10. Child benefit

Child Benefit is a tax-free payment that you can claim for your child. It is usually paid every four weeks but in some cases can be paid weekly, and there are separate rates for each child. The payment can be claimed by anyone who qualifies, whatever their income or savings. Check the HM Revenue & Customs site to see if you qualify.


General advice on childcare and schooling can be found on the governments's DirectGov pages. Here you will find information about choosing childcare and schooling in the UK.

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