The UK or International School - which should I choose for my child?

Diana Morant
March 29th 2020

For parents arriving in or returning to the UK faced with multiple decisions, schooling is always going to be one of the most important. Indeed, some families relocate purely for educational reasons. Many families arriving in the UK from overseas may well come from a system of international schooling that mainly follows the UK curriculum or may follow the IB (International Baccalaureate) or a national education system. Which route is best for your family, UK or international school?

The answer may well be based around your reason for moving. Many British expatriates begin to think about the future of their children’s education as they get older and have to decide  - do they stay or do they go? Whilst some are content to educate their children wherever they are in the world, others start to think about a UK education once their oldest child is reaching the end of their primary education. The transition to secondary schooling at age 11 or 13 concentrates the mind of even the most committed expatriate.  In other families, the decision comes earlier as British prep schools from age 8 prove an attractive option, particularly for those hoping to go on to a leading senior school with highly competitive entry standards. Other families hang on longer, waiting until serious public exams loom on the horizon before heading for home. These families are more likely to want the UK system albeit with IB as an option, to help a smooth transition to a UK university.

For those arriving in the UK for a short work posting, or for those with little spoken English or the desire for a broader education, an international school may well be a better choice. If you are not concerned with the UK exam system or want a more international feel to your child’s schooling, the international school route is for you.  The international schools are used to supporting those with little English and have a less traditional British feel being made up of different cultures. Not everyone wants the smart uniform and increasingly specialised exam system. The international schools offer the International Baccalaureate, which is recognized in many schools worldwide, as well as specific national curricula.

A second advantage is that the high number of international students at these schools means that the staff understand the needs of foreign students. Concentrated mainly around London, they offer the best of American and British education, as well as schools that cater for certain nationalities, such as the French and German schools.  International schools tend to offer similar standards of education worldwide, allowing your family to move with ease. 

Whichever type of education you choose, we would always advocate planning as far in advance as possible.  If you can, an educational ‘roadmap’ of all the UK admissions timelines for the family is an excellent tool for planning ahead.  For those who move at short notice, don’t be put off by horror stories of a shortage of places, there is usually a solution that works for your family.


If you would like any further advice or support on any of the above, contact our expert educational consultants today.