Living in the UK?
Health and Education in the UK
The NHS and What It Has to Offer
The UK has a publicly funded healthcare system called the NHS (National Health Service). The NHS is free for everyone residing in the UK. As soon as you have found a place to live, you should register with your nearest GP (general practitioner). Should you need it, they can refer you to a hospital. In case of an emergency, you can go straight to the A&E (Accident & Emergency) — the emergency room — at the nearest hospital.
There are some services under the NHS for which you have to pay a contribution: dental care, eye care, prescriptions, and, wigs and fabric supports such as spinal and abdominal supports. For dental care, you need to find your own dentist and pay a monetary contribution for every treatment. In general, NHS services are enough to cover common ailments, and, in an emergency, you will be seen to immediately. However, waiting lists for treatments of non-life-threatening ailments can be long. Refer back to the NHS website for details on the different packages regarding dental care.
Beyond the NHS — Private Insurance
Some people choose to take out private health insurance, and many big companies offer their employees a healthcare scheme as part of their package. A private health insurance plan gives you access to private doctors, specialists, and hospitals as well as NHS facilities. The benefits include shorter waiting times, private rooms in hospitals, and the freedom to choose doctors or hospitals to your liking. The latter in particular might appeal to expatriates who have found a doctor from their home country or one who speaks their native language.
There are no common health risks in the UK, but the NHS recommends immunization against tetanus, if anything. One thing parents with children in the UK should keep an eye on is the prevalence of child obesity in the UK. The government has been tackling this with school programs such as healthier lunches and encouraging exercise.
Need more information on healthcare in the UK? The articles in the Health and Insurance section of our UK Extended Guide have useful advice on public and private insurance, finding a doctor, having a baby in the UK, and more.
Education in the UK
Education is compulsory between the age of 5 and 16 in the UK. Those who choose to leave school at 16 have certain options available to them depending on where they live. Parents who are able to pay for their children’s education might consider sending them to a private school, referred to as an independent or, rather counter-intuitively, public school in the UK. A lot of them offer boarding facilities, have smaller class sizes, and a higher standard of teaching than at most state schools. Admission may be based on academic merit or simply on availability of places. Single-sex education throughout secondary school is quite common in the UK.
Most children in the UK, however, attend state schools, which are free of charge. It is advisable to do some research before applying as standards may vary greatly. However, keep in mind that schools which are not within your “catchment area” (your neighborhood) do not have to accept your child as priority goes out to those living in the area. All classroom instruction takes place in English. Welsh as a second language is compulsory till the age of 16 for those attending school in Wales.
Keeping It International
Many expatriates in the UK prefer to send their children to international schools. Although in most cases the language of instruction will still be English, these schools offer the globally recognized International Baccalaureate instead of A-Level qualifications. An IB diploma can facilitate the transition to universities all over the world.
At an international school, your child will most likely socialize with other expat children and third-culture kids. Furthermore, you can expect staff to be especially aware of both the good and the bad that comes with being an expat kid. There are plenty of international schools across the country, with a large concentration in and around London. However, waiting lists can be rather long and fees comparatively high.
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