High School (age 14-18)

American education for children aged 14-18 is very different to the education your child would receive in the UK at this age. Because of the wide divergence between state curricula and the UK curriculum, there is the possibility that UK children within this age bracket could be seriously disadvantaged on return to the UK.

If your child is at this stage in their education, or will enter this stage of education during your tour, it is important to consider your options before you arrive in the country.

The best course of action may be to enrol your children in boarding school in the UK, particularly if they will not complete High School in the US, in order to avoid disrupting their education at this key stage.

American high school education is set up so that there is only one official qualification, the high school graduation diploma, which is received at the end of Grade 12, usually at age 18. There is no exact UK equivalent to the high school graduation diploma, however it is generally considered to be comparable to GCSEs, despite the age at which it is obtained.

Your child must meet state graduation requirements (e.g. they must study required courses) and finish 12th Grade in order to obtain a high school graduation diploma. It is therefore important to determine whether the length of your tour is long enough for your child to complete 12th Grade, if you wish for your child to pursue this path of education. If you leave the US before your child graduates high school, they will have no recognised qualifications or credits that would count towards GCSEs or A levels. It can also be difficult to transfer back into a school in the UK midway through GCSEs, and back yearing authority (repeating a year) tends to be given only in special circumstances (usually special needs requirements).

If your tour will be long enough for your child to obtain a high school diploma, and your child is interested in taking an undergraduate degree course at a university in the UK, you should research the admission criteria of any prospective universities in the UK. 

  • A high school graduation diploma alone (with specified American college admission test results) is only sufficient for entry into some universities in the UK. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) in the UK does not identify qualification equivalencies for the high school graduation diploma alone.
  • You may consider looking for a school that offers the Advanced Placement (AP) program. The program was created by the US College Board, and offers US college-level curriculum and examinations to high school students, supplementing the high school graduation diploma. The curriculum is generally more rigorous and in-depth than a standard high school course. AP qualifications are gaining increased recognition by UK universities, and a good test score in certain subjects is considered by some universities to be comparable to an A level in the UK. UCAS has also compared AP qualifications with similar subjects studied at A-level and identified qualification equivalencies.

If you are being posted to Washington DC, you may consider enrolling your child in the British School of Washington (a private school). This is the only school in the Washington area that offers International GCSEs (iGCSEs) for 14-16 year olds. It also offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma program for 16-18 year olds.

If you are being posted outside of Washington DC, you may consider looking for a school that offers the International Baccalaureate program. This is mainly offered by private schools, however a small number of public (state-funded) schools also offer the program.

The International Baccalaureate program is widely recognised in the UK, and the Diploma is highly regarded by many universities. It is also transferable, meaning that children can move from one country to another on the same syllabus. Please bear in mind that IB courses are academically challenging, often containing the brightest children in the school, and also require work outside of the classroom (e.g. a student must perform a set number of hours of community service). To learn more about the IB program you can visit www.ibo.org. You can also locate an IB school in the area to which you are being posted using the search facility on the website.

  • If you enrol your child in a private school offering local state curricula (i.e. your child is not studying iGCSEs or the International Baccalaureate program), the MOD will fund 2/3rds of the tuition fees and any other claimable expenses. You will be responsible for paying the remaining 1/3rd.
  • If you decide to enrol your child in the British School of Washington in order for them to study iGCSEs or the International Baccalaureate Diploma, the MOD will fund 90% of the tuition fees and any other claimable expenses. You will be responsible for paying the remaining 10%. The 90% entitlement is only for English school years 10, 11, 12 and 13 (US grades 9, 10, 11 and 12).
  • If you decide to enrol your child in a private school elsewhere in the country and they study the International Baccalaureate program, the MOD will fund 90% of the tuition fees and any other claimable expenses. This 90% entitlement is limited to 90% of the cost of tuition at the British School of Washington. You will be responsible for paying the remaining 10%. The 90% entitlement is only for English school years 10, 11, 12 and 13 (US grades 9, 10, 11 and 12).
Last Updated: Jul 2, 2019 @ 9:36 am

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