Most schools have a fixed admissions process that requires you to apply by the end of October for the following academic year. Some of the most popular UK independent schools require parents to apply up to four years in advance. For example, at Wellington College the closing date for 13+ entry is June 30 of Year 5, so you would need to apply before next July for entry in 2026. There are also schools including Wycliffe Senior School and ACS International Schools that take applications at any point in the academic year, so it's always worth checking.
So, if you are still looking for a place for the 2023-24 academic year, you need to apply before the end of October 2022.
There are then entrance exams and interviews in November through to early January.
Read more: How to Apply to a UK School Internationally?
Confirmation of places is sent out by most UK independent schools in early February, ahead of the start of term in September of that year.
Read more: Are you considering applying to a selective state secondary school in the UK? Here’s an essential guide to the 11+ entrance exams for UK grammar schools.
This is not straightforward as every school has a different admissions process and application deadlines, so the onus is on parents and students to research their options, look at each school’s website, and then apply.
The admissions process for scholarships is tough, so think twice before signing your child up for several schools. It’s a good idea to ask your child’s teacher what their current attainment levels are and what they are think they are capable of.
If your child is currently at an independent Prep or Senior school, they may be assisted with their application. Prep schools tend to prepare their Year 6 or Year 8 students for entry and scholarships assessments; generally, state schools will not provide preparation for the 11+ or 13+.
The entrance exams will depend on the year of entry, and the type of scholarship you are applying for. Be aware that the standards can be very high, and the scholarship assessment can be tough. Typically, you’ll need to complete a scholarship application form, sit entrance exams, and attend an interview (sometimes as a family). Be prepared to pay around £100 in application fees. And finally, check (and double check) the deadlines for registration and application, as well as entrance exam dates.
Research sample exam papers: you’ll find most schools post past papers on their website. Many schools will use the ISEB Common Entrance Exam for entry into Year 9 (the 13+); this standardised test is marked by the individual school, who can decide on their own pass mark, and past papers can be found online. Most Standard Entrance Assessments include papers in English, Maths and computer-based Non-Verbal Reasoning.
The UK’s most elite schools set their own papers. The Challenge – the 13+ entry scholarship examination for Westminster School – is as intimidating as it sounds. Described by the London-based school as “deliberately difficult”, this exam is designed to wheedle out the top eight students from a bunch of more than 100 applicants to receive the Queen’s Scholarship – which is one of the UK’s most generous, covering 50% of the school’s full boarding fee (that’s a saving £20,800!).
Read more: Scholarships at UK Independent Schools
If your child is due to start school in September 2022, you’ll need to submit your application for a primary school place by Friday, January 15 2022.
All parents applying to a state school in England need to apply through their local authority to apply for places at their chosen primary schools. You can find your local authority by entering your postcode here.