Childcare in the UK: A guide for overseas doctors and IMG’s

It takes time to qualify as a medical doctor. Many doctors have families with young children by the time they begin practising. For doctors and IMG’s (International Medical Graduates) hoping to relocate and practise medicine abroad, having to relocate their children as well creates an extra layer of worry.
There also then of course those who seek the UK specifically because it offers a better life for their children. The publically provided education in the UK is world-leading can completely free of charge, which makes working in the NHS an enticing prospect for many international doctors with children.
Whether your children are a reason for hesitance or eagerness to relocate to the UK, relocating with children isn’t as simple as getting on a plane. There are steps that need to be taken to register your child with the UK government and relevant education/childcare authorities. If you’ve never emigrated from your home nation this can feel daunting or overwhelming to arrange.
Fortunately, childcare in the UK is easy to navigate with a helping hand. The Remedium team has already guided hundreds of international doctors with children of all ages, advising them of available childcare and the steps they need to take to enrol their children in the UK education system.
The Remedium team has many tips for relocating to the UK that they freely share with the doctors we help start a life in the NHS. We’ve collated the advice they provide for doctors with children every day. If you’re an overseas doctor considering relocating to the UK with children, here’s a brief overview of what you need to know about childcare in the UK.

Visas for children of international doctors in the UK

If you’re relocating start your life as an NHS doctor, it’s likely that you’ll be staying in the UK under a specialist Health and Care Work Visa. These visas allow for family members and children to register as dependents on your visa. The UK government has a full guide on how to apply as a dependent of a Health and Care Worker visa holder.
In order for a child to be registered as a dependent, they must be under 18 years of age. Proof of your relationship to them and proof of their identity will also have to be provided, as is the case with any dependents including your wife or civil partner. Do not worry, it is highly unlikely that your children will have their dependent visa application rejected.

Registering your child with a local authority

Once you have found a residence in the UK, the first step should be to register your child or children with your local authority. This will be the local borough, county, town, district, or city council. The exact process varies depending on your local authority, but it can usually be done by post or online. It is a legal requirement that your child is registered, as it determines both school placement and tax calculations.

State-provided and public childcare in the UK

Education is publically available for all children in the UK between the ages of 4 and 18. The standard of education in the United Kingdom is incredibly high, and there aren’t wide gulfs between the standard or freely available and private education as there are in some nations and regions. If your child is resident in the UK, they will have access to what is globally recognised as one of the highest standards of publicly provided free education in the world.  For many doctors with families, this is the very reason an NHS career is appealing.
Once your child is registered with your local authority you can apply for school placements for your child. There are many schools and education providers in the UK for children of all age groups, so it is rare that you won’t have multiple choices for where your children will receive their schooling. Below is a breakdown of the public and state-provided education available in the UK by age group.

Early years childcare in the UK (0-4)

Whilst childcare for early years children (those aged 0-4) isn’t publically provided in the UK, all 3 to 4-year-olds are entitled to 570 hours of free childcare per year. Childcare costs for nurseries, kindergartens, and other early-year arrangements vary. On average, full-time nursery care costs around £262 per week. As these childcare providers are private organisations the application process will differ provider-to-provider.

Primary school age (4-11)

Once your child is four years old, they will be eligible to begin primary/elementary level education from the beginning of the next school year (school years in the UK run from September to July). Your child will be eligible for a position at any primary school in your catchment area, although due to demand parents are required to register a list of preferences rather than a single choice. Places are then allocated based on catchment area and availability of places. If your children require a translator this may also be a factor, as not every school in the UK has translators on staff.

Secondary school age (11-16)

Once children reach aged 11 they will begin their secondary education. The application process for secondary level education is more or less the same as for primary level. Children in secondary school will learn more advanced subjects and work towards the attainment of GCSE’s (General Certificate of Secondary Education), received when they graduate at aged 16.

Further education (16-18)

Education is compulsory until age 18 in the UK. Once your child has completed secondary school there will be several further educations available to them. Sixth Form is considered an extension of academic schooling (traditionally as a bridge between secondary education and university), whereas a college or apprenticeship scheme is the usual route for vocational and skills-based qualifications.

After school clubs and out of hours childcare in the UK

School hours in the UK vary. On average, the UK school day is 7 hours long and runs between 08:30 and 15:30. Some schools may have longer or shorter days. For childcare outside of these hours, a babysitter or childminder may be required. However, many schools in the UK offer some kind of ‘after school club’ or similar supervised activities/groups for parents that are unable to collect their child at the end of a regular school day. Some schools also offer similar services for the mornings. However, these aren’t legally required and there are many schools that offer no such facilities for out of hours care.

Private childcare in the UK

There are also many private childcare options in the UK. Childcare outside of regular school hours in the UK is privately provided almost exclusively, and there are many private schools available for parents in the UK.


Childminding is commonplace in the UK and well regulated. Both independent childminders and childminding agencies must be registered with Ofsted, the regulatory body overseeing childcare standards in the UK. Ofsted makes regular inspections to ensure best practice and safeguard children against inadequate care. This means that you always have an assurance that any childminder or babysitter in the UK is vetted and a safe caregiver for your child.
Childminding/babysitting costs in the UK vary. On average, 25 hours of childcare for a child under 2 would be £118.

Live-in nannies and au pairs

There are also many live-in nannies and au pairs available in the UK. As you’d expect, the costs for these services are considerably higher. An au pair or live-in nanny isn’t required to register with Ofsted as a childminder is, however, there are schemes and incentives for them to do so.
On average, live-in nannies can cost between £400-£650 per week in the UK, not including national insurance and lodgings.

Private schools

There are many private schools in the UK. Some of these are day schools, where others offer boarding options. Tuition costs at private schools vary dramatically, and it is difficult to provide even an average approximation. Private schools in the UK aren’t bound by the same curriculum requirements as public/state schools, and so many offer specialised or religion-based curriculums. If you’d prefer your child to be privately educated the application process and out-of-hours childcare availability will be exclusive to the school you choose.

Childcare and life in the NHS

The NHS is committed to ensuring that staff with children are supported. However, NHS trusts do not provide on-site childcare for children of staff. However, you will be far from the only working parent in any hospital or care setting. Many hospitals have nurseries and private childcare options (especially for early years) within a reasonable travelling distance. Your new colleagues will more than likely be able to suggest local childcare providers suitable for somebody on an NHS schedule.

Remedium: here to help your family relocate

As you can see, there are no hard and fast rules to childcare provision in the UK. However, there are always options available.
At Remedium we’re known for our commitment to candidate care. For us, this means ensuring that all of our overseas doctors and IMG’s have a smooth transition into their new position as an NHS doctor. We understand how daunting the wide range of childcare options can be, especially when you’re already having to arrange every other element of your relocation. That’s why the team is always on hand to help our doctors with anything they need to make their relocation to the UK as easy a process as possible.
Whether it’s advice on how to find available schools or guidance on registering your child with a local authority, Remedium’s expert consultants have been making sure that uncertainty around childcare is one less concern for the doctors we place. If you’re an international doctor who has been considering an NHS career but is unsure about the feasibility of relocating with children, give the Remedium team a call today (or register your details with us).

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