National Educational System

Education system in England, U.K.

It is compulsory to all parents / guardians in the UK to ensure the education of their children aged between 5 years and 16 years. All children are entitled to school education but parents have the right to choose alternative provision (i.e. home education). 

Here we focus on formal (school-based) education. Local Authorises and relevant forums can provide further information on alternative forms of educational provision. 

The five stages of education – Early Years, Primary, Secondary, Further Education and Higher Education – mark the educational journey of children and young people. However, Further Education is not compulsory for young people once they complete their Secondary education with a GCSE certification status. Young people, upon leaving school after the completion of GCSE, can engage in Further Education and/or vocational education combined with education so that they remain as learners until the age of 18 either studying full-time or studying and gaining work experience. This stage may be non-advanced education or it may advance the learner to take up Higher Education in colleges and universities leading to different qualifications of degrees and diplomas. 

The school year across the UK is 1st September to 31st August. 

There are many other similarities but also differences in the education system and curricula followed in the five countries which comprise the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). The Educational system of Wales and England are almost identical and they are both similar to the North Irish Educational system while the Scottish system is distinctively different. 

The description that follows focuses on the English education system. 

Types of Schools

There are many types of schools in England. 

Based on the source of their funding, we could recognise two types: 

  • Publicly funded; and
  • Fee-paying schools 

Based on the level of independence in deciding upon the curriculum and admissions there are again two main types: 

  • LA –maintained; and
  • Independent schools

All fee-paying schools are independent. 

Also independent schools are the Academies, which is a particular type of publicly funded school.  Academies set their own standards of student and staff performance, are largely free from the control of their Local Authority, have the freedom to set their own pay and conditions for their staff, have the freedom to decide the delivery of the curriculum and admissions policy, and the term period of schooling. However, the curriculum and the admissions policies in the vast majority of Academies is the same as in LA-maintained schools. With the introduction of Academies Programme in 2000, schools (especially secondary schools) are gradually showing a preference to become Academies so their number is constantly raising.

There are also several other types of school which can be classified based on their affiliation to a particular religion (faith schools), pedagogical system (Montessori, Steiner, etc.), or admission policy and provision (Special schools, Grammar schools, etc.)

 Early Years and Primary education in England 

When they turn two, children in England can start attending a preschool. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are entitled to 15 hours of free nursery; every three and four-year-old child is entitled to a free early education place with a registered playgroup, child minder, a childcare centre, nursery schools or nursery/reception classes in primary schools for 15 hours a week (30 hours if both parents are working). The parent or the legal guardian of the child can decide how they could spread these 15 hours flexibly over at least three days a week during normal term times. The UK government lists the registered providers on their website as well as the Local Authority (LA) having such details.

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets the standards necessary for the learning, development and care of the child from birth to 5 years. Hence, all schools and registered providers must follow the EYFS standards.

Local Authorities in England generally have a policy of accepting children turning five into school with most authorities now take children after their fourth birthday. However, the age of the child is matched with the term period of the school year allowing the parent to ask the LA to admit the child either into Reception year or Year 1. The admission of a child who is gifted and talented or one who has an ongoing long term health condition or a child with special educational needs or children with disabilities (SEND)  may vary although it is the responsibility of the parent/guardian as well as the LA to offer suitable ability-level educational opportunities to such children. 

The phase from Reception year through to Year 2 is Key Stage 1 and the years between 3 and 6 are categorised as Key Stage 2. Throughout these years of schooling, the schools must follow National Curriculum. 

Secondary education in England  

It is an expectation of the government in England that a young person must continue in education or vocational education combined with training until their 18th birthday. However, the compulsory school leaving age is not being raised after completing Year 11 around the age of 16 years. Although education is compulsory until the GCSE level (Year 11), the public provision of secondary education may be offered in different types of schools. 

When children complete their Year 6 they move on to Year 7 which is the beginning of Key Stage 3 (KS3) and theirsecondary school education. They remain in KS3 through Years 7, 8 and 9 studying general subjects such as English, Modern Languages, Mathematics, Science, Design & Technology, Computing, Physical Education, History, Geography, Art, Life Skills, Drama, Music, and Religious Education in accordance with the National Curriculum.
Next is Key Stage 4 which comprises of Years 10 and 11 where the majority of students prepare for their GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) – studying core subjects and a group of choice subjects that the student may have higher level of aptitude in. Schools cover core subjects of English, Mathematics, Science, Physical Education, Life Skills and offer choice subjects varied from languages, social sciences, humanities, health and social care, science and technology, art and design, mathematics, business and accounting. Academies may also offer other specialist subject areas such as engineering and the arts/drama. 

Depending on what grades students get in their GCSE examinations they either move on to Key Stage 5, which is the Sixth Form offering A-Level certification in the same school progressing on to university education pathway. Or they may move on to a College to take their A Levels where they study courses that focus more on vocational subjects through formal studies. Students studying at College may complete their study with a basic A-Level Certificate or a Diploma or they may carry on with their studies leading to a university degree. Depending on the pathway that they choose young people are expected to remain in education – post-16 educational phase – as a full-time student in a school or college, or in a college carrying out work-based learning with an apprenticeship, or carrying out part-time education and work-place training if they are enrolled in a work environment with or without pay. In all these instances, the LA is responsible for overseeing that a young person has access to a suitable offer of a place in their post-16 education or vocational training. 

last modified: Tue, 10/30/2018 - 12:32