Families moving to Leeds with children between the ages of five and 16 will need to find out about the UK education system and plan where they will go to school.

Finding a school 

All children must go to school between the ages of five and 16 in the UK. Once your child has arrived in Leeds, contact Leeds City Council to find out how to apply for a free school place. It's not possible to apply for a school place before you arrive in the UK. Some schools will accept children from the age of four. If your child is aged between 16 and 19, they can attend a local adult education centre or college, but may have to pay fees.

All school ages of UK children are calculated on the 1 September, as this is the start of the UK academic school year and runs through to 31 August in the following year.

State schools

The UK state school system is divided into three types of school:
  • Nursery school - for children aged between three and five years of age
  • Primary school - for children aged between four-five and 11 years of age
  • Secondary school - for children aged between 11 and 16 years of age

If you would like to apply for a free school place at a state school, you will need to complete and 'In Year Common Preference' form, which you can download and print from the Leeds City Council website. This form supports anyone with children who is transferring from a school from outside the UK or within the UK.

Leeds City Council publish updated ‘School vacancy lists’ each week with information on places available at various primary and secondary schools in Leeds and the wider area. If you see that there is a place available for your child in the appropriate year group on one of these lists, you will need to contact the school(s) directly to confirm the vacancies remain, and then apply to your top five schools on the ‘In Year Common Preference’ form. Once you have completed the form, you will need to hand it in to your first choice school, and they will send this on to the schools admissions team at Leeds City Council. 

In the UK, the school year runs from September until late July. If you are applying for a school place during the holidays, you can send your completed form to

The Primary and Secondary schools with vacancies available will assist you in securing a school place. These lists are updated on a weekly basis and are collated from information schools provide to the admissions team

The Leeds City Council website contains information about state primary and secondary schools in Leeds and links to each school’s website. There may be many schools with vacancies in the area in which you live. 

Independent schools

In the UK, schools that charge fees can be called ‘independent’, ‘private’ or ‘public’. The Independent Schools Council (ISC) lists all schools in the country that charge fees. In order to apply to an independent school, you will need to contact the school directly as each school will have a different application process, and may require the child to complete a test or examination.

School holidays

The academic year for state primary and secondary schools runs from early September to late July. The academic year is broken into three terms. Half way through each term there is a holiday of one week and there are longer holidays at Christmas, Easter and during the summer. Term dates for schools are available on the Schools Calendar section of the Leeds City Council website. Be sure to make a note of the dates so that you can arrange extra childcare if required.

Taking children out of school

In the UK, parents don't have the automatic right to take their children out of school during term time. Parents can be prosecuted if their children fail to attend school. Once your child is registered with a primary or secondary school, the school will expect that child to attend throughout the term.

If you need to take your child out of school, for example if you need to travel abroad, you should discuss this with the school as soon as possible.

If your child is unwell or is unable to attend school for another reason, you should contact the school as soon as possible either by telephone or by going to the school in person. If you're unhappy about the way your child is being schooled, you should discuss this with the head teacher and then the Chairperson of the school’s board of governors.

Pre- and after-school clubs

Some schools offer clubs before and after school to help parents who have to drop their children off early or collect them late. Ask your child’s school about pre- and after-school clubs.