School & Compulsory Education

Children in the UK must attend primary and secondary education, from 5 years old until 16 years old. This is a legal requirement, called compulsory education. They usually start school in the September before their 5th birthday and finish in June after their 16th birthday. Usually, they have to wear a uniform. You can ask schools or Global Link to provide you with a uniform, or purchase them from the School Uniform Shop.
There are some links for information from Lancashire County Council, who provide school and nursery education for pre-school children and for 4-18 year-olds.
If you need help to find a school place in the Lancaster and Morecambe area, you can contact Global Link

Book an appointment with Zia at Global Link to find a school for your child

Primary and secondary school

School is in two parts, primary school, from age 4 to 11, and secondary school, from age 11 to 16. Secondary education continues until 18, but this is not compulsory. Some people call secondary school ‘high school’.

Nursery & Pre-school

There are lots of pre-schools and nurseries for babies and children up to age 4. Children aged 3 & 4 can get 15 hours of free childcare in a nursery school. The nursery has to apply for ‘nursery vouchers’ from the Local Authority. Asylum seekers need to provide their NASS number.
Here is County Council information about childcare, nurseries, and pre-school: Click here


School places are limited, so you need to check with local schools or with the education authority for availability.
This is the contact information for the Education office for the Lancaster and Morecambe area:

Primary School, age 4 to 11

Your child will join a year group depending on their date of birth. 31st August is the end of one school year, and 1st September is the start of the new school year. If your child is born in September, they will be an older member of the year group. If they are born in August, they will be a young member of the year group. Children usually start school in the September before their 5th birthday.

The year groups in primary school are:
Reception (age 4-5), Year 1 (age 5-6), Year 2 (age 6-7), Year 3 (age 7-8), Year 4 (age 8-9), Year 5 (age 9-10), Year 7 (age 10-11)
In May of Year 2 and 6, children take a kind of exam in school called the SATs (Standard Assessment Tests). This is to check the school’s level. There are tests for the children in maths and English. In year 2, the tests are informal, and in Year 6 they are more formal. Sometimes children need support with learning and with emotions around the time of the Year 6 SATs.

Secondary school age 11 to 16

The year groups in secondary school are:
Year 7 (age 11-12), Year 8 (age12-13), Year 9 (age 13-14), Year 10 (age 14-15), Year 11 (age 15 -16)


In May and June of Year 11, children take important national exams called GCSEs (general certificate of education). This is a stepping-stone for their next level of education. The grades are 1 to 9. 9 is the top grade, and 1 is the bottom grade. Grade 4 is a pass.
Children usually take up to 8 GCSEs, always including English, maths, science and usually one other language. The GCSE courses start at the beginning of year 10 and last for 2 years, finishing at the end of Year 11. Some schools start GCSE courses in year 9. Schools want all pupils to achieve 5 subjects at grade 4 or higher, including maths and English. This is called full level 2 qualification and is needed to continue studying at level 3 or sixth form.

It is very difficult to get a place in a school if your child arrives between year 10 and year 11, when they are 15 or 16, and in this case, they will probably need to go to college. In Lancaster and Morecambe, they need to contact White Cross Education Centre, as the schools will not usually accept them.

Area Education Office, White Cross Neighbourhood Centre, Quarry Road, Lancaster, LA1 3SE

Free school meals

All asylum seekers children and those on low family incomes are eligible to receive Free School Meals.
All information about school places in Lancashire can be accessed via:

Sixth form / further education college: age 16-18

Most schools have a sixth form (Year 12, age 16-17; Year 13, age 17-18)
This part of education is not compulsory, but most young people continue in education at this age, in school or college.
Further education colleges also offer courses for 16-18 year-olds to study vocational or practical subjects. They can also take maths and English GCSEs, if they do not have these qualifications already.
School sixth forms offer A levels. These are academic subjects at level 3. Most schools also have some BTEC level 3 subjects in sixth form. BTEC level 3 and A levels are the same level of qualification but have some differences.
Further education colleges mostly have BTEC qualifications. Some also have A levels. You can look at the websites for the colleges and schools in your area to decide where to go. Questions you can ask are: What subjects do they offer? What are the entry requirements?
Some colleges have courses at level 2 and lower for those at this age who are not ready for level 3 qualifications

Higher Education and University

Many asylum seekers and refugees want to go to university in the UK. You can go to university either at age 18, or later as an older adult, called a ‘mature student’. To apply for university courses (also called ‘Higher Education’), you can use the UCAS website. All university undergraduate (first degree level) applications are made through UCAS.

Qualifications needed for University

To go to university in the UK, you need level 3 qualifications related to your chosen subject. You also need level 2 maths and English. This can be a pass in Functional English and Functional Maths or grade 4 and up in GCSE English & maths. Level 2 full ESOL certificates and IELTS from level 6.5 upwards can also be used to show your English level for university. IELTS exams are much more expensive than the other options for English language qualifications. Different universities and different courses have their own entry requirements, so you need to check the courses and universities you are interested in.


Qualifications from your home country

You can get a transcript of your qualifications, called a ‘Statement of Comparability’ from your home country from UK ENIC, part of Ecctis. This was UK NARIC but the name has changed since Brexit. This will help with your application for higher education.
Book an appointment with Eleanor Denvir at Global Link to discuss your university application

Support to apply for your statement of comparability for those based in Lancaster &
Support to apply to university for those based in Lancaster & Morecambe:

Student Finance:

Degree level (undergraduate) study in the Uk costs £9.000 per year. Most courses are 3 years. People need to get student loans from the government’s Student Finance company to study at university, for tuition fees and for living costs.
Most refugees are eligible for student finance, if they do not already have a university degree. However, asylum seekers are not able to get a student loan. Some universities offer scholarships (payment of tuition fees and sometimes living costs) for asylum seekers, and some also offer these for refugees. To apply for this, you need to do research about the course you want to study and the university, and you have to write a good application. Most universities who offer these scholarships only offer 2 every year. The best source of information about asylum seeker and refugee scholarships is on the Star Network website. This is Student Action for Refugees, where a lot of useful information is available:
Here is a link to information about the asylum seekers’ bursary at the university of Liverpool: Asylum-Seekers-Bursary

Adult Education

Adults, aged 18 and over, can study in adult and further education colleges. They can take part time and full time courses. Entry level, Level 1 and level 2 courses (up to GCSE level) are usually free for asylum seekers and for people receiving universal credit. You can study and get qualifications in ESOL, English, maths, IT and many other subjects.
Asylum seekers need to be in the UK for 6 months after making their asylum claim, before they can join any public funded college courses.
If you receive, or need to claim Universal Credit, you will not be able to take a full time course in college; you need to choose a part time course.
Adult education full time and part time courses are available at Lancaster and Morecambe College:
And at Kendal college:
And at Preston College:

Book an appointment with Eleanor Denvir at Global Link to discuss your adult education application

Level 3 courses in 2021-22

From April 2021 until July 2022, the government has given colleges the ability to make some level 3 courses free for adults. Usually, level 3 full time courses cost around £4000 / year. It is a good time to apply for a level 3 course in September 2021.


Adult ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) courses are part time courses in Further and Adult Education Colleges. If you are an asylum seeker, you have to be in the UK for 6 months after making your asylum claim, before you can join a public funded course.
For an ESOL assessment in Lancaster, please contact:
In Lancaster and Morecambe, ESOL classes are available at:
Lancaster and Morecambe College: email
Lancashire Adult Learning:
Volunteer led ESOL classes are available for asylum seekers and refugees, including asylum seekers who have been in the Uk for less than 6 months.
In Lancaster, these courses are available with City of Sanctuary:

Book an appointment with Eleanor Denvir at Global Link for your ESOL assessment