The education system in the UK is divided into four main parts, primary education, secondary education, further education and higher education. Children in the UK have to legally attend primary and secondary education which runs from about 5 years old until the student is 16 years old.
The education system in the UK is also split into "key stages" which breaks down as follows:
Key Stage 1 - 5 to 7 years old
Key Stage 2 - 7 to 11 years old
Key Stage 3 - 11 to 14 years old
Key Stage 4 - 14 to 16 years old
Generally key stages 1 and 2 will be undertaken at primary school and at 11 years old a student will move onto secondary school and finish key stages 3 and 4.
Students are assessed at the end of each stage. The most important assessment occurs at age 16 when students pursue their GCSE's or General Certificate of Secondary Education. Once students complete their GCSE's they have the choice to go onto further education and then potential higher education, or finish school and go into the working world.
Our overview of the education system in the UK is divided into five main sections:
Primary Education Primary education begins in the UK at age 5 and continues until age 11, comprising key stages one and two under the UK educational system. Secondary Education From age 11 to 16, students will enter secondary school for key stages three and four and to start their move towards taking the GCSE's - learn more about secondary education in the UK and what it will involve. Primary and secondary education is mandatory in the UK; after age 16, education is optional. Further Education Once a student finishes secondary education they have the option to extend into further education to take their A-Levels, GNVQ's, BTEC's or other such qualifications. UK students planning to go to college or university must complete further education. Higher Education Probably the most important subject area on this site, this explains more about the higher education system in the UK and how it works for international students. Most international students will enter directly into the UK higher education system, after completing their home country’s equivalent to the UK’s “further education.” Entry Requirements Each level of education in the UK has varying requirements which must be satisfied in order to gain entry at that level - learn more about the education entry requirements for the UK.
Please note that Scotland has a separate education system and does not conform to the above structure.
British Educational System
The basic features of the British educational system are the following: 1) education is compulsory from 5 to 16; 2) the academic year usually begins in September and runs to early July; it has 3 terms, divided by the Christmas and Easter holidays. In addition, all schools have a ’half-term holiday’, lasting a few days or a week, in the middle of each term; 3) compulsory education is free of charge, but parents may spend money on educating their children if they want to; 4) there are three stages of education. Children move from the first stage (primary) to the second stage (secondary) at around the age of eleven or twelve. The third stage is ’further’ education at university or college.
In 1988, for the first time in British history, a National Curriculum was introduced. The National Curriculum tells pupils which subjects they have to study, what they must learn and when they have to take assessment tests.
At the age of 5 children go to infant school which is the first stage of primary education. From 7 to 11 they attend junior schools, the second stage of primary education. In primary school children are taught the so-called 3R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic.
At the age of 11 children enter the secondary school. There are three types of state secondary schools in Britain. They are: grammar schools (for the most intelligent children), modern schools (for the less intelligent children) and comprehensive schools (for children of all abilities). Grammar schools lead towards higher education, and the others give general or vocational education to prepare students for employment or for further technical education. The regular secondary schools offer 7 years of schooling, with students from 11 to 18 years of age. The last two years (16–18) maybe spent in a separate sixth form college, which concentrates on career training.
Between the ages of 14 and 16, pupils study for their GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams. Pupils must take English Language, Maths, and Science for GCSE, as well as half GCSE in a foreign language and Technology. In addition, they must also be taught Physical Education, Religious Education and Sex Education, although they do not take exams in these subjects.
Those who get good GCSE grades can stay at their school for another two years, if it has a sixth form and teaches the desired subjects, and then take ’A’ level (Advanced Level) exams. Otherwise they have to leave their school and go to a sixth-form college or college of further education. Further education colleges have strong ties with commerce and industry and offer courses in engineering, cooking or hairdressing.
The GCE Advanced (A) level is normally taken after a further two years of study. Good A’ level results in at least 2 subjects are necessary to get a place at a university. Universities choose their students after interviews. There are about 100 universities in Britain. The most famous of them are Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
About seven per cent of students go to private schools, where parents have to pay for their children. The most expensive private schools are called public schools. Most of these are single-sex boarding schools and students can live there during term-time.