Education in England: Wikis


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Education in England
UK Royal Coat of Arms.svg
Children, Schools and Families
Business, Innovation and Skills
Secretary of State (DCSF)
Secretary of State (BIS)
Ed Balls MP
Peter Mandelson PC
National education budget (2008–09)
Budget: £62.2 billion[1][2]
General Details
Primary Languages: English
System Type: National
Compulsory education 1880
Literacy (2003[3])
Total: 99 %
Male: 99 %
Female: 99 %
Total: 11.7 million
Primary: 4.4 million[4]
Secondary: 3.6 million[4]
Post Secondary: 3.7 million[5][6]
Secondary diploma 50.6%[7]
Post-secondary diploma 30.9%[7]

Education in England is overseen by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. At a local level the local authorities take responsibility for implementing policy for public education and state schools.

Full-time education is compulsory for all children aged between 5 and 16 (inclusive). Students may then continue their secondary studies for a further two years (sixth form), leading most typically to an A level qualification, although other qualifications and courses exist, including GNVQ and the International Baccalaureate. The leaving age for compulsory education was raised to 18 by the Education and Skills Act 2008. The change will take effect in 2013 for 17 year olds and 2015 for 18 year olds.[8] State-provided schools are free of charge to students, and there is also a tradition of independent schooling, but parents may choose to educate their children by any suitable means.

Higher education typically begins with a 3-year Bachelor's Degree. Postgraduate degrees include Master's Degrees, either taught or by research, and Doctor of Philosophy, a research degree that usually takes at least 3 years. Universities require a Royal charter in order to issue degrees, and all but one are financed by the state with a low level of fees for students.


Primary and secondary education

The school year begins usually on the 1st of September (sometimes the 2nd or 3rd if the 1st falls on a weekend). Education is compulsory for all children from the term after their fifth birthday to the last Friday in June of the school year in which they turn 16.[9] This will be raised in 2013 to the year in which they turn 17 and in 2015 to the year in which they turn 18.[8]

The state-funded school system

State-run schools and colleges are financed through national taxation, and take pupils free of charge between the ages of 3 and 18. The schools may levy charges for activities such as swimming, theatre visits and field trips, provided the charges are voluntary, thus ensuring that those who cannot afford to pay are allowed to participate in such events. Approximately 93% of English schoolchildren attend such schools.

A significant minority of state-funded schools are faith schools, which are attached to religious groups, most often the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church. There are also a small number of state-funded boarding schools, which typically charge for board but not tuition.

Nearly 90% of state-funded secondary schools are specialist schools, receiving extra funding to develop one or more subjects in which the school specialises.

School years

The table below describes the most common patterns for schooling in the state sector in England:

Age on 1st Sept Year Curriculum stage Schools
3 Nursery Foundation Stage Nursery school
4 Reception Infant school Primary school First school
5 Year 1 Key Stage 1
6 Year 2
7 Year 3 Key Stage 2 Junior school
8 Year 4
9 Year 5 Middle school
10 Year 6
11 Year 7 Key Stage 3 Secondary school Secondary school
with sixth form
12 Year 8
13 Year 9 Upper school or
High school
14 Year 10 Key Stage 4 / GCSE
15 Year 11
16 Year 12 Sixth form / A level Sixth form college
17 Year 13

In the vast majority of cases, pupils progress from primary to secondary levels at age 11; in some areas either or both of the primary and secondary levels are further subdivided. A few areas have three-tier education systems with an intermediate middle level from age 9 to 13.

State-funded nursery education is available from the age of 3, and may be full-time or part-time. If registered with a state school attendance is compulsory beginning with the term following the child's fifth birthday. Children can be enrolled in the reception year in September of that school year thus beginning school at age 4 or 4.5. Unless the student chooses to stay within the education system school attendance ends on the last Friday in June during the academic year in which a student attains the age of 16.[9]

Under the National Curriculum system, all pupils undergo Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) towards the ends of Key Stage 2 in core subjects, but not foundation subjects, where teacher assessment is used. They normally take GCSE exams in the last two years of Key Stage 4, but may take other Level 2 qualifications, such as GNVQ. Former tests at the end of Key Stage 3 were abandoned after the 2008 tests, when severe problems emerged concerning the marking procedures. Now at Key Stages 1 and 3, assessment is by teacher assessment against the National Curriculum Attainment Targets for all subjects. Tests results for schools are published, and are an important measure of their performance.[10][11]

Years 12 and 13 are often referred to as "lower sixth form" and "upper sixth form" respectively, reflecting their distinct, voluntary nature and situation as the A level years. Some independent schools still refer to years 7 to 11 as "first form" to "fifth form", reflecting earlier usage. Even more historically, this arose from the system in public schools, where all forms were divided into Lower, Upper, and sometimes Middle sections. Year 7 is equivalent to "Upper Third Form", Year 8 would have been known as "Lower Fourth", and so on. Some independent schools, such as Withington Girls' School, still use this way of counting the years.


All maintained schools in England are required to follow the National Curriculum, which is made up of twelve subjects.[12] The core subjects—English, Mathematics and Science—are compulsory for all students aged 5 to 16. The other foundation subjects are compulsory at one or more Key Stages:

In addition, other statutory subjects are not covered by the National Curriculum, including Religious Education in all year groups, and Career education, Sex education and Work-related learning at secondary age.[12]

School governance

Almost all state-funded schools in England are maintained schools, which receive their funding from LAs, and are required to follow the national curriculum. In such schools, all teachers are employed under the nationally-agreed School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document.

Since 1998, there have been 4 main types of maintained school in England:[13][14][15]

  • community schools (formerly county schools), in which the LA employs the schools' staff, owns the schools' lands and buildings and has primary responsibility for admissions.
St Barnabas Church of England Primary School, Oxford
  • voluntary controlled schools, which are almost always church schools, with the lands and buildings often owned by a charitable foundation. However, the LA employs the schools' staff and has primary responsibility for admissions.
  • voluntary aided schools, linked to a variety of organisations. They can be faith schools (often the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church), or non-denominational schools, such as those linked to London Livery Companies. The charitable foundation contributes towards the capital costs of the school, and appoints a majority of the school governors. The governing body employs the staff and has primary responsibility for admissions.[16]
  • foundation schools, in which the governing body employs the staff and has primary responsibility for admissions. The school land and buildings are owned by the governing body or by a charitable foundation. The Foundation appoints a minority of governors. Many of these schools were formerly grant maintained schools. In 2005 the Labour government proposed allowing all schools to become Foundation schools if they wished.

There are also a smaller number of City Technology Colleges and academies, which are secondary schools funded and monitored directly by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.[17]

All state-funded schools are regularly inspected by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), which publishes reports of the quality of education at each school. Schools judged by Ofsted to be providing an inadequate standard of education may be placed in special measures, which may include replacing the governing body and senior staff.

Secondary schools by intake

English secondary schools are mostly comprehensive, except in a few areas that retain a form of the previous selective system (the Tripartite System), with students selected for grammar school by the eleven plus exam. There are also a number of isolated fully selective grammar schools, and a few dozen partially selective schools. Specialist schools may also select up to 10% of their intake for aptitude in the specialism, though relatively few of them have taken up this option. Also, intakes of comprehensive schools can vary widely, especially in urban areas with several schools.[18]

Sir Peter Newsam, Chief Schools Adjudicator 1999–2002, has argued that English schools can be divided into 8 types (with some overlap) based on the ability range of their intake:

  1. "super-selective": almost all of the intake from the top 10%. These are the few highly selective grammar schools that dominate school performance tables.
  2. "selective": almost all of the intake from the top 25%. These include grammar schools in areas where the Tripartite system survives.
  3. "comprehensive (plus)": admit children of all abilities, but concentrated in the top 50%. These include partially selective schools and a few high-status faith schools in areas without selection.
  4. comprehensive: intake with an ability distribution matching the population. These schools are most common in rural areas and small towns with no nearby selection, but a few occur in urban areas.
  5. "comprehensive (minus)": admit children of all abilities, but with few in the top 25%. These include comprehensive schools with nearby selective schools "skimming" the intake.
  6. secondary modern: hardly any of the intake in the top 25%, but an even distribution of the rest. These include non-selective schools in areas where the Tripartite system survives.
  7. "secondary modern (minus)": no pupils in the top 25% and 10–15% in the next 25%. These schools are most common in urban areas where alternatives of types 1–5 are available.
  8. "sub-secondary modern": intake heavily weighted toward the low end of the ability range.

This ranking is reflected in performance tables, and thus the schools' attractiveness to parents.[19][20]

Independent schools

Approximately 7% of English schoolchildren attend privately run independent schools, some of which are called public schools.[4]

Education at independent schools is usually chargeable. Such schools, some of which are boarding schools, cover primary and secondary education and charge between £2500 and £30000 per year.[21] Some schools offer scholarships for those with particular skills or aptitudes or bursaries to allow less well-off students to attend.

Some schools are single sex, however a growing number are co-educational. Independent schools usually take children between age 3-11 transferring to 11-18. Some of the more famous schools such as Eton and Harrow take boys at 13 years of age. Many students must pass the Common Entrance Exam at 11 or 13 to gain entry into highly selective schools.

Education otherwise than by schooling

The Education Act requires parents to ensure their children are educated either by attending school or otherwise. Small but increasing numbers of parents are choosing the otherwise option.[22][23][24] This style of education is often referred to as Elective Home Education.[25] The education can take many different forms[26] ranging from homeschooling where a school style curriculum is followed at home to unschooling where any semblance of structure in the educational provision is abandoned. Parents do not need permission to educate their own children. There is no requirement to follow the National Curriculum or to give formal lessons. Parents do not need to be qualified teachers, or to follow school hours or terms.[27] Parents who choose to educate their children otherwise than at school have to finance the education provision themselves.

Further education

Students at both state schools and independent schools take the GCSE examinations, which mark the end of compulsory education. Above school leaving age, the independent and state sectors are similarly structured. In the 16-18 age group, "sixth-form" education is not compulsory.

Students will typically study in either the Sixth Form of a School, a Sixth form college, or a further education college. These courses can also be studied by adults over 18. This sector is referred to as Further Education. All 16-18 students are encouraged (this is only mandatory in some institutions) to study Key Skills in Communication, Application of Number and Information Technology.

Higher education

Students normally enter University from 18 onwards and study for an Academic Degree. All undergraduate education outside the private University of Buckingham is largely state financed, with a small contribution from top-up fees. The state does not control syllabuses, but it does influence admission procedures. Unlike most degrees, the state still has control over teacher training courses, and uses Ofsted inspectors to maintain standards.[28]

The typical first degree offered at British universities is the Bachelor's degree (typically three years). Many institutions now offer an undergraduate Master's degree as a first degree, typically lasting four years. During a first degree students are known as undergraduates. The difference in fees between undergraduate and traditional postgraduate Master's degrees (and the possibility of securing LEA funding for the former) makes taking an undergraduate Master's degree as a first degree a more attractive option, although the novelty of undergraduate Master's degrees means that the relative educational merit of the two is currently unclear.

Some universities offer a vocationally-based Foundation degree, typically two years in length for those students who hope to continue to take a first degree but wish to remain in employment.

Postgraduate education

Students who have completed a first degree are eligible to undertake a postgraduate degree, which includes:

Postgraduate education is not automatically financed by the State, and so admission is in practice highly competitive.

Specialist qualifications


In the academic year 2009/2010 undergraduates pay tuition fees set at a maximum £3225 per annum. The fees are repayable after graduation contingent on attaining a certain level of income, with the state paying all fees for students from the poorest backgrounds. UK students are generally entitled to student loans for maintenance.

Postgraduate fees vary but are generally more than undergraduate fees depending on the degree and university. There are numerous bursaries (awarded to low income applicants) to offset the undergraduate fees, and for postgraduates, full scholarships are available for most subjects which are awarded competitively.

Differing arrangements apply to English students studying in Scotland and Scottish / Welsh students studying in England. Students from outside of the UK or the EU attending English universities are charged differing amounts, often in the region of £5000 - £20000 per annum[29] for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The actual amount differs by institution and subject, with the lab based subjects charging a greater amount.

Adult education

Adult education, Continuing education or Lifelong learning is offered to students of all ages. These can include the vocational qualifications mentioned above and also:

  • One or two year access courses to allow adults access to university.
  • The Open University runs a distance learning program which can result in a Degree.
  • The Workers' Educational Association offers large number of semi-recreational courses, with or without qualifications, are made available by Local Education Authorities under the guise of Adult Education, such as holiday languages, crafts and yacht navigation.


See also


  1. ^ Annex A: Total Departmental Spending, 7391 Departmental report 2008, Department for Children, Schools and Families. £43 billion total spending on schools.
  2. ^ Table 1 Total Departmental spending, Departmental report 2008, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. £14.3 billion spending on HE, £4.9 billion on FE.
  3. ^ Estimate for the United Kingdom, from United Kingdom, CIA World Factbook
  4. ^ a b c Table 1.2: Full-time and Part-time pupils by age, gender and school type, Education and Training Statistics for the United Kingdom: 2008, Department for Children, Schools and Families. Enrolment at independent schools is not partitioned by stages in the source, and has been estimated using an equal division. The error is within the precision of these figures.
  5. ^ "Higher Education Enrolments, and Qualifications Obtained, at Higher Education Institutions in the UK in the Academic Year 2006/07". Higher Education Statistics Agency. 2008-01-10. "The total number of HE enrolments at English HEIs stood at 1,957,195 in 2006/07." 
  6. ^ "Further Education, Work-Based Learning, Train to Gain and Adult Safeguarded Learning - Learner Numbers in England: October 2007". Learning and Skills Council. 2008-04-10. "There were 1.75 million learners in LSC-funded FE on 1 October 2007." 
  7. ^ a b "The Level of Highest Qualification Held by Adults: England 2007 (Revised)". Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills. 2008-06-19. 
  8. ^ a b Education and Skills Act 2008, Office of Public Sector Information.
  9. ^ a b "School attendance and absence: the law". Directgov. 
  10. ^ "National Curriculum teacher assessments and key stage tests". DirectGov website. H M Government. 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  11. ^ "School and college achievement and attainment tables". DCSF website. Department for Children, Schools and Families. 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  12. ^ a b "National curriculum". Teachernet. Department for Children, Schools and Families. 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-19. 
  13. ^ "Categories of Schools – Overview". GovernorNet. Department for Children, Schools and Families. 2003-09-05. Retrieved 2008-12-10. 
  14. ^ "The Composition of Schools in England" (PDF). Department for Children, Schools and Families. June 2008. 
  15. ^ Types of School, Citizens Advice Bureau.
  16. ^ "Voluntary Aided Schools". Teachernet. Department for Children, Schools and Families. 2008-01-08. 
  17. ^ "What are Academies?". Standards Site. Department for Children, Schools and Families. Retrieved 2008-12-10. 
  18. ^ Clyde Chitty (2002-11-16). The Right to a Comprehensive Education. Second Caroline Benn Memorial Lecture. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  19. ^ Newsam, Peter. "Diversity and Admissions to English Secondary Schools", Secondary Heads Association, 28 June 2002, revised and reprinted in Forum 45:1 (2003) pp17-18.
  20. ^ Brighouse, Tim. "Comprehensive Schools Then, Now and in the Future: is it time to draw a line in the sand and create a new ideal?", Forum 45:1 (2003) pp3-11.
  21. ^ "ISC Annual Census 2009". Independent Schools Council. 29 April 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2009. 
  22. ^ Richard Garner (2002-01-28). "Rising number of parents decide they can do a better job than the education system". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  23. ^ Mathew Charles (2005-03-18). "Growth market in home education". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  24. ^ Katie Razzall; Lewis Hannam (2007-09-26). "UK home-school cases soar". Channel 4 News. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  25. ^ "Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local Authorities" (PDF). Department for Children, Schools and Families. 2007. Retrieved 2008-12-10. 
  26. ^ Terri Dowty (editor) (2000). Free Range Education: How Home Education Works. Hawthorn Press. ISBN 1903458072. 
  27. ^ "Educating your child at home". Directgov. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  28. ^ "Teacher training providers". Office for Standards in Education. 2008-12-05. 
  29. ^ "UKCISA - Fees, funding and Student Support". Retrieved 2010-02-25.  UK Council for International Student Affairs > How much will the 'overseas' fee for my course be?

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