From age 16 there are now four commonly offered curriculums in UK independent schools – namely A Levels, IB Diploma Programme, BTEC or Pre-U Diploma. Some schools offer two or more options whereas others are firmly committed to a particular curriculum and will tell you that it is the best – which makes it very confusing for parents.
Another major issue for 16+ students is “does the school offer the subjects I want?” Then of course there is the question of the school’s academic record and the quality of teaching. Other things to consider are class size, campus facilities, ethos and of course cost.
On this site we list all the UK day and boarding independent schools offering the International Baccalaureate. You can find a school by entering your preferred location into the find a school section. This section also allows you to request a prospectus from up to five schools. Most parents start with a location search, but it is quite possible there may not be any day schools within easy commuting distance and you may have to consider boarding instead.
You can see a school’s academic record in the IB Diploma Programme by perusing our league tables, but remember that some schools do not publish their results. Additionally, please bear in mind there are no league tables for pupils under 16 year old pupils - in fact there are only a handful of UK schools offering the PYP or MYP for younger children.
We have written an eGuide on “How to Choose a Private IB school”, which is available here. The basic eGuide is free of charge and there is a much more detailed version which we only give to clients who have retained us for advice.
It is important to remember each school sets its own admissions procedure and there is no standard model.
All schools will require you to complete a registration form (if you wish your child to be considered for entry) and pay a non-refundable fee, generally in the range of £100 to £300. It is common to apply to 3 or 4 schools simultaneously, but bear in mind you will inevitably forfeit several of those registration fees.
Schools will often try to get parents to register as early as possible. Our own philosophy is to get our clients to visit schools first and if you like the school, register afterwards. However, some of the elite academic schools are now insisting on registration fees before a visit is arranged.
At the younger ages, the PYP and MYP are offered by mostly international schools, which often have a wide ability entry policy. Whereas the typical UK curriculum private school is demanding Maths & English tests from age 7 onwards, IB schools tend to base admissions decisions on an interview plus references from a child's previous school and school reports.
The big change in admissions procedures comes for the IBDP schools at age 16 entry. The top schools like Sevenoaks and King’s Wimbledon require registration over 12 months in advance. Schools like this require students to sit entrance tests in the 3 subjects to be taken at Higher Level in the IBDP. An English language test may also be required for non-native speakers. Note that the top 5 schools are sometimes rejecting 80% of candidates based on admissions test scores!
Assuming your child is accepted by a school, you will receive a written offer and be given a fixed period (normally 2 or 3 weeks) in which you have to accept that offer (or lose it). You will then be asked to pay a deposit and / or the first term’s fees or both. Children from outside the EU may need a visa to study in the UK. They need to apply to schools which have Tier 4 Highly Trusted Status awarded by UK Visas and Immigration. Only these schools can issue the CAS letter with their offer with which parents can apply for a visa.
Schools will require you to enter into a binding contract with them, which inter alia will usually require you to pay a forfeit of one term’s fees if you do not give the school a full term’s notice if you withdraw your child.
Our bespoke advice services not only cover school choice but also the minefield of guiding your child through entrance procedures. We often recommend children are personally tutored for admissions tests, where entry is competitive. We have relationships with several firms of tutors, which specialise in entrance tests. Please ask us for details.
We regularly visit most UK private IB schools and make our own assessment of their suitability – so don’t be afraid to ask us for advice by completing an enquiry form or by calling us on +44 1622 813870.