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If your children are aged between 5 and 16 they can attend primary and secondary schools in the UK. Most children start primary school at age four but before they reach this age, childcare and pre-school options may be available.


Childcare for children under 5 is usually provided by either a nursery, a pre-school or a registered childminder. It is normal for parents to pay for childcare for pre-school children, however 3 and 4 year olds in England are entitled to 15 hours of free nursery education for 38 weeks of the year. There is usually a waiting list for places in nurseries and pre-schools.

The Early Years Centre is based on Highfield Campus and caters for children from birth to five years of age. The Centre is open throughout the year, closing for the Easter holiday, Christmas holiday and Bank Holidays. Visit the Early Years Centre website for more information.

About schools

If your children are aged between 5 and 16 they can attend primary and secondary schools in the UK. You will not have to pay for this. However, schools may sometimes refuse places to children if they consider their stay in the UK to be too short, or if they have no available places. You can only apply for school places once you have arranged your UK accommodation.

Schooling in Britain starts earlier than in many countries. All children aged between 5 and 16 must be in school and most children start school at the age of 4.

When to apply

Most people apply to primary schools in the Autumn before their child is due to start school. Your child would likely be 3 at this point. If you miss the deadline, your application must still be considered but you are less likely to be offered a place at your school of choice. To apply for a school place, you must complete the local authority’s application form, either online or on paper. You may be asked to put down one or more primary schools, and for secondary schools you can apply for at least three schools.

If you have arrived in the middle of the academic year and your child does not have a school place you must either call Southampton City Council by phoning +44(0)23 8083 3004 and ask for an application form or you can collect a form from Gateway at One Guildhall Square in Southampton City Centre.

School places


To find out more information about applying for a school place in Southampton, please contact Southampton City Council on or telephone +44 (0)23 8083 3004.


To find out more information about applying for a school place in Winchester and its surrounding areas, please contact Hampshire County Council on or telephone +44 (0)30 0555 1377.

Childcare directory

To find out information and guidance about childcare in Southampton, as well as local options please see the childcare directory provided by Southampton City Council.

Free early years places

For information on the eligibility criteria for free early years places, please see the information provided by Southampton City Council.

Local schools

Find the nearest schools to your home using the Southampton City Council website.

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