There is no one single best school in the UK; rather, it is about finding the right fit for your child. The questions you as a parent need to answer must include:
Schools in the UK offer varied support to international students ranging from the most basic (English as a Foreign Language lessons after-school) to the most comprehensive (gateway programmes such as Pre-A Level and Pre-IB courses). WhichSchoolAdvisor.com rounds up the main study options available across the UK independent sector for overseas students arriving with anything from basic to native English language skills.
The majority of private schools in the UK, will (and do) welcome applications from international students from as young as six years. Schools are focused on growing their global outlook and offering students the opportunity to work with different cultures, languages, and opinions. Visit many school websites, and you’ll find at least a page if not an entire section dedicated to international admissions. Many will have several different nationalities represented and aside from UK pupils, there is unlikely to be one dominant international community.
To enter most mainstream UK schools, your child will need to be ready for the full British curriculum to cope with all the academic and social demands of their education. So, they need to be moderately fluent in English (both written and spoken). While these schools may offer tuition in English as an Additional Language (EAL), this will be an extra-curricular lesson and will cost you extra.
Some UK schools offer students more support to develop their English. At Wellington College, for example, general English language lessons can be taken instead of a Modern Foreign Language; Rossall School offers special fast-track international courses to prepare students to join the mainstream curriculum.
There is a small number of UK independent schools with a dedicated international campus, which each offer students with basic or an intermediate level of English a gateway to a British education. Sherbourne International School, Taunton International School, The Mount, Mill Hill International School, and Kent College International Study Centre are among those to teach a UK curriculum within a very international setting.
Class sizes are small of around five to eight students, and teachers are qualified and experienced in teaching English as an Additional Language. The timetable includes flexible English language and exam courses, intensive programmes, and phased entry to mainstream subjects. Teaching focuses on EAL and there is a reduced timetable with core and some specialist subjects.
If your child is planning to join a UK sixth form, international schools offer courses including Pre-A Level or Pre-IB Diploma Programmes. As well as offering an introduction to studying in the UK, these one and two-year courses are designed for international students and include both English language training and I/GCSE level academic courses. Students move into the main school once they are ready academically, which can be anything from one month to two years.
I/GCSE subjects will normally include English as a Second Language, maths and science, as well as a choice of optional courses; when choosing your school, check what native language I/GCSEs are offered, such as Thai, French, Chinese, German, Russian and Japanese.
There are also courses for primary students. Sherbourne International School, for example, offers a course for 11-12-year-olds that is based on the UK’s Common Entrance programme and prepares students for entrance exams and interviews at a UK senior school. And Taunton International School runs a pre-GCSE course for 12–14-year-olds where 40% of the curriculum is dedicated to intensive English language development.
These international schools have dedicated boarding facilities for international students, who also have full use of the main school’s facilities. Students are encouraged to integrate into the life of the main school and to get involved with the school’s co-curricular programme, and there is often an extensive programme of weekend activities. Another advantage for international students, there can be the flexibility to start in January or April rather than the normal school year starting month of September.
There are several opportunities for international students aged eight to 17 years old to join a summer school, where they can improve their written and spoken English language skills, whilst also studying a range of subjects. After the lengthy period of online learning in many countries worldwide, parents may want to consider this opportunity for their child to 'catch up academically and socially.
UK schools including Sherbourne International School, Sidcot School and Taunton International School offer international students pre-sessional courses before joining a GCSE, A Level or IB Diploma programme in the UK. There’s a five-week Introduction to British Boarding at Badminton School, and Rochester College offers an English & Art course that combines intensive language tuition with arts workshops in film-making and graphic design.
With Covid-19 and the huge disruption to travel over the past year, these courses were cancelled last summer. But there are hopes to run many courses in July and August 2021, with schools offering full refunds if courses are cancelled.