Moving to London?
Expat Info London: Schools and Shopping
Schooling for Expat Children
Despite its size, London is a fairly family-friendly city offering many educational opportunities and leisure activities. As an expatriate with children, you will inevitably face one very important decision, namely which school to choose.
Every child residing in the UK can attend a state school free of charge. All state schools are comprehensive schools and follow a nationwide curriculum. Standards, however, vary greatly depending on funding and the schools catchment area. Thus, it is advisable to attend an open day or arrange for a private visit before enrolling your child.
Some British parents who can afford to do so send their children to independent schools – often referred to as “public schools”. The quality of teaching tends to be higher and your child is more likely to meet other international students.
Admission criteria vary, and although these schools are technically open to everyone who can afford to pay the fees, places are, of course, restricted. The School Search website can help you to find a suitable independent school in your area.
One category of independent schools catering specifically to the needs of expat children are International Schools. There are several of them in London, both in the center and on the outskirts of town.
They usually combine nursery, primary and secondary school under one roof, thus teaching children from the ages of 3 to 18. They often offer the International Baccalaureate as an alternative to traditional British A Levels.
The International School of London also runs a “mother tongue program” in several languages, particularly useful for younger children who still need to develop certain skills in their native language.
On the downside, competition for places is high, so make sure to apply in good time. Tuition fees can be as high as £ 10,000 per term, plus extra costs for school meals, school uniforms, music lessons, etc.
Still unsure which kind of school to send your children to? Read our articles Schools in the UK and Independent Schools in the UK for more in-depth information on state schools, public schools, boarding schools, and international schools.
Availability of Goods
There is probably nothing you cannot buy in London. When it comes to purchasing groceries, big supermarket chains offer everything from meat, fresh fruit and vegetables to household appliances. Bigger branches also have special imported food sections for their foreign customers.
If you can´t find what you are looking for or have a craving for German sausages, Polish bread or French pâtés, try one of the many national delis or visit Borough Market in South East London. Most neighborhoods feature weekly farmer markets offering local produce. People on special dietary regimes (Halal, kosher, vegan, etc.) should be able to find what they need in one of the big supermarket chains, in whole foods shops or at a specialist butcher's.
Supermarket shopping hours vary, but key opening times are from 9 am to 9 pm, on Sundays until 5 pm. Outside of normal shopping hours, there is always your local corner shop or off-license (allowed to sell alcohol), able to satisfy all your basic needs.
London´s biggest shopping streets are Oxford Street and Regent Street in the West End, boasting branches of all major (and minor) British and international retailers.
You´ll soon find, however, that what people say about London is true, namely that the capital is one big fusion of many little towns and villages. Every area has its very own High Street with food and fashion retailers, bookshops, pharmacies, hairdressers or restaurants.
Our article entitled Shopping in the UK has more information on supermarkets and other grocery stores, special dietary requirements, opening hours, and more.
We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.