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Securing Good State School Placements in the UK (London)

My family is considering a move from the US to the UK over the summer. I'm looking for advice on how to secure school placements for my children, ages 12 and 17.

As my eldest will be in the middle of sixth form at the time of our move, I am most concerned with how to ensure that he receives a placement in a reasonably good school without forking out for a private school. Because we could not apply in October like families currently living in the country did, I am concerned that spots will be filled in all of the better state schools and that he will get stuck in an under-achieving school at this critical time in his education. He has been privately educated in the US, has excellent grades, and is actively engaged in music. Are these qualities likely to be considered when we apply, or is he likely to get a bottom-of-the-barrel placement due to the timing of our move? How likely is he to get a placement in a specific school if we select housing within a desired school's catchment area given his academic and music achievements ?

My concerns are similar for my younger child, however it is less critical since we could apply for a better placement next year if she gets stuck in a sub-par school at the onset.

I have not reached out to any local school authorities because we have not determined exactly where within England we will end up; it largely depends on where my husband finds the best employment offer. I'm wondering how variable placement criteria are from one school authority to another, thus inquiring directly without knowing where we'll actually be applying seems unlikely to produce useful information.

London Forum