England education British education: Education in England is the responsibility of Department for Education and Skills at a national level and, in the case of publicly funded compulsory education, of Local Education Authorities.
The education structures for Wales and Northern Ireland are broadly similar to the English system, but there are significant differences of emphasis in the depth and breadth of teaching objectives in Scotland. Traditionally the English system emphasizes depth of education, whereas the Scottish system emphasizes breadth.
The structure of the English educational system
This part of the article does not apply to the minority of privately financed Independent Schools, which, by definition, have independent approaches to education, and different age ranges.
Primary England education is conducted through Primary or Infant/First and Junior Schools. Primary schools take children from ages 4 through to 11. Infant and First schools are similar to each other taking children from ages 4 through to 7, or 8 in the case of First schools.
Primary School or Infant School
Reception, age 4 to 5
Year 1, age 5 to 6
Year 2, age 6 to 7
Primary School or Junior School
Year 3, age 7 to 8
Year 4, age 8 to 9
Year 5, age 9 to 10
Year 6, age 10 to 11
Secondary School or High School
Year 7, age 11 to 12
Year 8, age 12 to 13
Year 9, age 13 to 14
Year 10, age 14 to 15
Year 11, age 15 to 16
In general, the cut-off point for ages is the end of August, so all children must be at the specified age on the 31st of August of that year.
In some regions of England, pupils attend a Lower (Primary or First) School before going to a middle school between 8 and 12 or, more commonly, 9 and 13 (for an example, see Isle of Wight School System), and then a High School or Upper School.
Historically, years 7 through 12/13 used to be known as ‘first form’ through lower/upper sixth form. There now exists a parallel usage for 6th form only: year 12/lower 6th and year 13/upper 6th, probably due to its separate, voluntary nature and situation as the A-level years.
It is also possible to Home Educate both primary and secondary age students .
Examinations and Assessments
Under the National Curriculum system, all pupils undergo a series of tests at specific points in their education. These are known as Key Stage National Curriculum Tests and are numbered 1 to 4 as follows:
Key Stage 1 (KS1) — during Year 2 (ages 6/7)
Key Stage 2 (KS2) — towards the end of Year 6 (ages 10/11)
Key Stage 3 (KS3) — towards the end of Year 9 (ages 13/14)
Key Stage 4 (KS4) — during both Year 10 and 11, mostly at the end of Year 11 (ages 14-16) — incorporated into GCSE examinations
These Key Stage exams are often referred to as SATs (Standard Assessment Tests) although none of the official literature does so.
In some areas of England, the Eleven plus exams are used at KS2 to stream pupils.
Post 16 education
Both state schools and independent schools take the GCSE examinations, which generally 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.
There is a wide range of courses and qualifications offered, all of which are being harmonized into the National Qualifications Framework:
The main academic qualification available to 16-18-year-olds is the A-Level. An A-Level consists of 6 modules in each subject, three of which are typically taken in the first year. After taking 3 modules, students can choose either to continue studying the subject to obtain an A-Level or to “cash in” the first three modules for an AS-Level.
Students aiming for university entry typically study 3 or 4 subjects to A-Level and an additional (often contrasting) subject to AS-Level. Alternative vocational qualifications such as the AVCE can also be studied, however, these are less popular with universities. Most students can expect to receive a university offer based almost entirely upon the results of their A-Levels, either with specific grades or using the UCAS Tariff.
Year 12 or Lower Sixth, age 16 to 17 (AS-level examinations)
Year 13 or Upper Sixth, age 17 to 18 (A2-level examinations. Both AS-levels and A2-levels count towards A-levels.)
The International Baccalaureate is an alternative to A-levels offered by a few institutions.
Vocational qualifications offered including BTEC Awards, National Vocational Qualification (NVQ), City and Guilds qualifications and Apprenticeships.
Level 1 equivalent to 4 GCSEs at D-E grades.
BTEC Introductory Diploma – Level 1 qualification, roughly equivalent to 4 GCSEs at D-E grades
Level 2 – equivalent to GCSE’s at C-A*.
BTEC First Diploma – Level 2 qualification, roughly equivalent to 4 GCSEs at C-A* grades.
Intermediate General National Vocational Qualification (GNVQ)
Level 3 – equivalent to A levels
Ordinary National Certificate (ONC)
Ordinary National Diploma (OND) or BTEC National Diploma
Vocational A-Levels formally Advanced Vocational Certificate of Education (AVCE)
Level 4 – Equivalent to 1st-year university
Higher National Certificate (HNC)
Level 5 – Equivalent to 2nd-year university
Higher National Diploma (HND)
Level 6 – Equivalent to the degree
The Licentiateship of the City and Guilds (LCGI)
Level 7 – Equivalent to the higher degree
the Graduateship of the City and Guilds (GCGI)
Students normally enter University from 18 onwards and study for an Academic Degree. Apart from a single private university, all undergraduate education is largely state-financed (with tuition fees set at a maximum index-linked £3,000 per year, repayable after graduation contingent on attaining a certain level of income, and with the state paying all fees for students from the poorest backgrounds), and UK students are generally entitled to student loans for maintenance.
The state does not control syllabi, but it does influence admission procedures. 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 Foundation degree, typically between one and two years in length for those students who hope to continue to take the first degree but are not academically strong enough.
Students who have completed the first degree are eligible to undertake a postgraduate degree, which includes:
Master’s Degree (typically taken in one year)
Doctorate degree (typically taken in three years)
Postgraduate education is not automatically financed by the State, and so admission is in practice highly competitive.
Education: Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), Certificate in Education (Cert Ed), C&G 7407, most of which also incorporate Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
Law: Bachelor of Laws LL.B.
Medicine: Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery studied at Medical school (United Kingdom)
Business: Master of Business Administration MBA.
Adult education, Continuing education or Lifelong learning is offered to students of all ages. These can include the vocational qualifications mentioned above and also:
Access programme one or two-year courses to allow adults access to university.
Open University a distance learning program which can result in a Degree.
Workers’ Educational Association
A 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.
The costs for a normal education in England and Wales are as follows:
Primary: no charge
Secondary: no charge
Further (Secondary) Education in either a sixth form or college: no charge if under 19 years of age in that particular academic year or on a low income.
Undergraduate Higher Education for those who started in or prior to October 2005: up to £1175 per annum (Oct 2005) depending on income, rising £25 every year.
Undergraduate Higher Education starting October 2006 or later: up to £3000 per annum (capped) – this is due to the introduction of controversial top-up fees
Postgraduate Higher Education: Typically £3000 per annum; however some institutions charge a larger amount.
Education at privately run independent schools is usually chargeable. Such schools, some of which are boarding schools, cover primary and secondary education and charge between £2000 to £8000 per term. Some schools offer scholarships for those with particular skills or aptitudes or bursaries to allow less well-off students to attend.
Foreign students at UK universities are charged differing amounts, often in the region of £5000 – £20000 per annum for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The actual amount differs by institution and subject with the lab-based subjects charging a greater amount.
Differing arrangements apply to English students studying in Scotland and Scottish / Welsh students studying in England.
Although in theory, school-based education is free in the UK there are many activities that ‘cost’ more than is budgeted from school funds. Such activities can include items like swimming, theatre visits, field trips and the like. Schools are allowed to levy charges for such activities so long as the charges are voluntary.
This means that the children of parents who cannot afford to pay must be allowed to participate in such events even if no contribution is made.
At the university level, there are numerous bursaries (awarded to low-income applicants) to offset the undergraduate fees, and for postgraduates, full scholarships are available for most subjects, awarded competitively.
For more information, reference sources:
Train in England and London – Information on getting and reading your train ticket, the high speed, and regional train system; a link to training schedules.