Public Schools Guide:
State schools, which are public schools in most other countries (remember the term public school in England refers to private, paid facilities), are financed through the local taxation system and are free to attend for children aged 3 to 18. You must send your child to a school that is in the area of your residence. Visit https://www.gov.uk/schools-admissions/admissions-criteria for details. If you are an expat with a permanent residence in London, you can gain access to the state-run school system, however you may want to investigate International Schools, too.
The Good Schools Guide
This is an excellent resource for parents looking to enroll their children in a state or independent school. You can search for schools via postal code and read reviews of hundreds of schools. There is also a scale for each school indicating average exam results. You can search for gender-specific schools or schools with subject-specific concentration.
It’s important to visit a few state schools in your neighborhood before deciding which school you’d like your child to attend. Schools organise “open days”. Ask questions and observe the premises. Are there sports activities? Is a uniform required? Does the school display students’ work? What are the statistics and policies on bullying? Do the attending kids seem friendly and happy?
When applying for primary school enrolment, start the process before your child is 4 years old. Many secondary schools require that your child apply for admission in the autumn one year prior to attendance. Most councils have an online system for applications but if you prefer the pen and paper route, this is also acceptable. Apply through your local council and list up to three schools as your top choices.
Search for your local council at https://www.gov.uk/find-your-local-council.
The application process can be reviewed by visiting https://www.gov.uk/schools-admissions/admissions-criteria
Note that state schools are run by the council in which you live and each council might have slightly different processes for enrollment. In your application, you will likely be asked to explain how you think your choice of school will meet the needs of your child.
Applying for a school is a competitive business, there has been a few cases, highlighted in the national press, where parents lied about their address to be eligible for certain sought after schools; as a results the law is being currently reviewed and cases as such might be prosecuted in the future.
A most recent council tax bill and a child benefit letter or tax credits document is required to apply for primary school placement through your council. Call your local council if you are unsure as to whether you have the appropriate documents.