Education Choices Pt 2: State school, independent school or home education?

There are three main choices for educating your child in England – State school, Independent school or Home Education…

When to start:

Every parent in England has to, by law, provide an education from the start of the term following their child’s fifth birthday.

School stages and ages

(State schools and many independent schools)


  • Key Stage 1: Reception, years 1 and 2 (5 to 7 yrs old)
  • Key Stage 2: Years 3 to 6 (ages 8 to 11)


  • Key Stage 3: Year groups 7 to 9 (ages 12 to 14)
  • Key Stage 4: Year groups 10 and 11 (ages 15 and 16)
  • Year Groups 12 and 13 (ages 17 and 18) are referred to as Post 16.

In many other countries formal education does not start until age seven, as it does in independent Steiner Waldorf schools. And within home education it is common for informal methods to be used for the majority of a child’s education.

If you prefer to start school later, you can delay your child’s school start as long as you like by home educating, then apply to schools when your child is ready. With pre-school aged children you may choose to do things full-time as a family, or supplement with play-based settings such as nurseries, playgroups.

How to Choose a School

Inspection reports, reviews and league tables can all be helpful, but you can learn far more by visiting a school and talking to pupils and observing the teachers and pupils.

Remember to ask lots of questions.
How does the school seem to you?
Do the teachers and children seem happy and how do they interact with each other?

It is important to remember that not all children will benefit from a high ranking academic school, and there is more to school than what you learn.

Any reports of a school, whether by writers or parents are subjective, based on their own opinion and background, and may not necessarily reflect your or your children’s priorities or viewpoints.

Mixing it up

Many parents will use a different option at different times, or for different children, depending on their individual needs. Another option is flexi-schooling, where a child is registered at school, but attends part-time at the discretion of the head teacher and is home educated offsite the rest of the time.

Find out more


<< Back to: Pt 1: What would suit your child and family?

On to: Pt 2a: State School >>