Information for refugees – education

General information on education and how to access education


school children playing basket ball in playground

This information will help you will learn about:

Overview of education

If you have children, they may already be attending school and you may have some existing knowledge of the education system. This chapter is intended to give a helpful overview of the education system, including adult learning.

Education is important in the UK and there is a strong culture of lifelong learning. This means that education does not finish at school but continues throughout a person’s working life through professional or personal development.

The school system encourages children to question and think for themselves rather than simply learning facts and figures. Parents are expected to take a prominent and supportive role in their children’s education, meeting with teachers regularly for a progress report, helping children with their homework and ensuring they arrive at school clothed, fed and ready to learn.

As a parent you are responsible for ensuring that your children of compulsory school age receive a full-time education. Local authorities have powers to enforce school attendance, including the power to prosecute parents who fail to ensure their child’s regular attendance at school. This guidance sets out how schools, local authorities and the police can deal with poor attendance and behaviour in school.

Education for children is free and compulsory. In England, the statutory school age is from 5 years to 16 years and individuals aged 16 to 18 must be in either full-time education or work (with an educational component).

The UK has some of the world’s finest and oldest universities and is a world leader in research and innovation.

Joining the education system

You should get in touch with North Lincolnshire Council to ensure your children are registered in an age-appropriate school. Visit our schools and colleges webpages for more information about schools in North Lincolnshire, and apply-for-a-school-place webpage to apply for a school place. You can also contact the School Admissions Team on 01724 297000 or at admissionstoschool@northlincs.gov.uk.

You should enrol your child at school and familiarise yourself with what support is expected from parents. These include taking an active part in your child’s education such as ensuring that they attend school, complete their homework and get enough sleep.

If you have a child of nursery age (under five years old) North Lincolnshire Family Information Service can help you find a childcare place for them. Contact them at fis@northlincs.gov.uk. Similarly, if your child has additional learning needs, you should liaise with the Family Information Service to ensure that their needs are met.

Your child will be given additional support to meet the requirements of education, such as additional English language support. These opportunities will not only enable them to re-engage with their education as quickly as possible, but also help the whole family to adjust.

Nursery education

Between the ages of three and four, children can get free early education. Some two-year-olds are also eligible. The North Lincolnshire Family Information Service will be able to provide advice about local childcare providers and how many hours of free early education you may be entitled to.

At nursery children will learn through play, giving children the broad range of knowledge and skills that provide the foundation for good future progress through school and life.

Primary education

Primary education is taught at primary schools. These teach the fundamental basics of reading, writing, arithmetic and science. They are attended by children aged five to 11 years old.

Primary schools are sometimes separated into infant schools (ages four to six) and junior schools (ages seven to 11), and you may be told that your child is attending one of these types of school.

Secondary education

Secondary education is taught at secondary schools. These build on the primary curriculum and teach a more academic curriculum across a range of subjects (such as the sciences, mathematics, English language and literature and foreign languages), alongside practical subjects (such as music, design and technology, physical education and information technology). These schools are attended by children aged 11 to 16.

At the age of 16 students in England sit public examinations in all their subjects known as the General Certificates of Secondary Education (GCSEs). These qualifications will be used to apply for jobs, further education and higher education.

School leaving ages

You can leave school on the last Friday in June if you will be 16 by the end of the summer holidays. You must then do one of the following until you are 18:

  • Stay in full-time education e.g., at a college or secondary school
  • Start an apprenticeship or traineeship. An apprenticeship is a genuine job, where you spend at least 20% of your time in off the job training. For more information, visit www.apprenticeships.gov.uk
  • Volunteer (for 20 hours or more a week) while in part-time education or training.

Further education

In England, after taking GCSEs, young people normally choose between a practical route or an academic route. Further education for young people aged 16-18 can be provided in schools (often as part of a continuous educational journey from the age of 11 to 18), sixth form or FE colleges, or independent training providers.

The most common academic qualifications are called A-Levels and these are often required to go on to university. Students will typically study three or four subjects at A-Level often related to what they want to study at university.

Technical qualifications come in a number of forms, the most common of which are Business and Technician Education Council qualifications (BTECs) and National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs). These develop practical skills such as management, hairdressing or carpentry. Often these are taken in conjunction with, or as a precursor to, apprenticeships.

Further Education is also open to adults. Adult provision is funded through a combination of government funds, employer contributions, learner contributions and learner loans, depending on the type/level of course and learner circumstances.

Information on further education in North Lincolnshire is available at Lincs4u website, and careers advice and information can be accessed at National Careers Service website.

Higher education

Higher education is taught at universities and individuals will usually begin applying between the ages of 17 and 18. Different universities will offer different subjects and requirements needed to confirm a place (usually certain grades at A-Level sometimes in certain subjects).

In North Lincolnshire, higher education is available at North Lindsey College (see www.northlindsey.ac.uk/ or phone 01724 281111), and University Campus North Lincolnshire (see www.ucnl.ac.uk/ or phone 01724 294125).

Students will receive guidance from their school teachers and careers advisers about where to apply and what to apply for. Applications are submitted through an online system.

University education is not free in England, and individual universities set the level of their fees. These are currently capped at up to £9,250 per year. You may be able to apply for a student loan to cover the costs of these fees, and an additional loan to contribute to the costs of living as a student. A careers adviser at your school will provide you with more information.

If you have refugee status you are eligible for home fee status for tuition fees and you are eligible to apply for student loans to help with tuition fees and living costs. If you have Humanitarian Protection status, you will need to satisfy a three year ordinary residency requirement to qualify for home fee status and to be eligible to apply for student loans.

For more information on student finance visit Student finance webpage on the Government website.

Adult learning

Adult learning is strongly encouraged, and many different courses are available. Colleges, adult education services and other educational institutions in your local area may offer full and part-time adult learning opportunities. These could include taught courses, workshops and online learning on a wide range of subjects including job training and courses for personal development such as IT, gardening, arts and crafts, and well-being.

Some courses are specifically designed to support parents and their families. These courses are likely to be available in the daytime, evening and weekends. Some courses, including literacy and numeracy, are free of charge and some courses are fee-paying so adults may be asked to contribute fully or partially towards the cost. To find out what opportunities are available in your local area, and whether you are eligible for government funding, then please try:


  • Education is important, and all children must attend school from the age of five until they turn 16
  • There are opportunities for adults to undertake further learning.