Education in England
|Department for Education
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
|Secretary of State (Education)
Minister for Universities and Science (BIS)
|National education budget (2008–09)|
|Post secondary||3.7 million|
Level 2 and above: 70.7%Level 3 and above: 50.6%
Level 4 and above: 30.9%(2007 statistics for population aged 19-64)
Education in England is overseen by the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Local authorities (LAs) take responsibility for implementing policy for public education and state schools at a local level.
Full-time education is compulsory for all children aged between 5 and 17 (from 2013, and up to 18 from 2015), either at school or otherwise, with a child beginning primary education during the school year he or she turns 5. Students may then continue their secondary studies for a further two years (sixth form), leading most typically to A-level qualifications, although other qualifications and courses exist, including Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) qualifications, the International Baccalaureate (IB) and the Cambridge Pre-U. The leaving age for compulsory education was raised to 18 by the Education and Skills Act 2008. The change takes effect in 2013 for 16-year-olds and 2015 for 17-year-olds. State-provided schooling and sixth form education is paid for by taxes. England also has a tradition of independent schooling, but parents may choose to educate their children by any suitable means.
Higher education often begins with a three-year bachelor's degree. Postgraduate degrees include master's degrees, either taught or by research, and the doctorate, a research degree that usually takes at least three years. Universities require a Royal Charter in order to issue degrees, and all but one are financed by the state via tuition fees, which cost up to £9,000 per academic year for English, Welsh and EU students.
History of English education 
Until 1870 all schools were charitable or private institutions, but in that year the Elementary Education Act 1870 permitted local governments to complement the existing elementary schools, to fill up any gaps. The Education Act 1902 allowed local authorities to create secondary schools. The Education Act 1918 abolished fees for elementary schools.
Primary and secondary education 
The school year begins on 1 September (or 1 August if a term starts in August). Education is compulsory for all children from the next "prescribed day" which falls either on or after their fifth birthday to the last Friday in June of the school year in which they turn 16. This will be raised, in 2013, to the year in which they turn 17 and, in 2015, to their 18th birthday. The prescribed days are 31 August, 31 December and 31 March.
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.
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. Children are normally placed in year groups determined by the age they will attain at their birthday during the school year. In most cases progression from one year group to another is based purely on chronological age, although it is possible in some circumstances for a student to repeat or skip a year. Repetition may be due to a lack of attendance, for example from a long illness, and especially in Years requiring standard tests. A child significantly more advanced than their classmates may be forwarded one or more years.
|Age at birthday during school year||Year||Curriculum Stage||Schools|
|4||Nursery||Foundation Stage||Nursery School|
|5||Reception||Infant School||Primary School||First School|
|6||Year 1||Key Stage 1|
|8||Year 3||Key Stage 2||Junior School|
|10||Year 5||Middle School|
|12||Year 7||Key Stage 3||Secondary School or
with Sixth Form
|14||Year 9||Upper School|
|15||Year 10||Key Stage 4|
|17||Year 12 (Lower Sixth)||Key Stage 5 / Sixth Form||Sixth Form/FE College|
|18||Year 13 (Upper Sixth)|
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, though this is not compulsory. 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, compulsory school attendance ends on the last Friday in June during the academic year in which a student attains the age of 16.
Under the National Curriculum, all pupils undergo National Curriculum Tests (NCTs, commonly still referred to by their previous name of Standard Attainment Tests, or SATs) towards the ends of Key Stage 2 in the core subjects of Literacy, Numeracy and Science, but not in the foundation subjects such as Geography, History and Information & Communication Technology where individual teacher assessment is used instead. Pupils normally take GCSE exams in the last two years of Key Stage 4, but may also choose to work towards the attainment of alternative qualifications, such as the GNVQ. Former tests at the end of Key Stage 3 were abandoned after the 2008 tests, where severe problems emerged concerning the marking procedures. Now at the end of Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 3, progress is examined via individual teacher assessment against the National Curriculum Attainment Targets for all subjects. Test results for schools are published, and are an important measure of their performance.
Years 12 and 13 are often referred to as "lower sixth form" and "upper sixth form" respectively, reflecting their distinct, voluntary nature as the A-level years. While most secondary schools enter their pupils for A-levels, some state schools have joined the independent sector in offering the International Baccalaureate or Cambridge Pre-U qualifications instead. Some independent schools still refer to Years 7 to 11 as "first form" to "fifth form", reflecting earlier usage. 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 still employ this method of labelling Year groups.
All maintained schools in England are required to follow the National Curriculum, which is made up of twelve subjects. The core subjects—English, Mathematics and Science—are compulsory for all students aged 5 to 16. A range of other subjects, known as foundation subjects, are compulsory at one or more Key Stages:
- Art & Design
- Design & Technology
- Information & Communication Technology
- Modern Foreign Languages
- Physical Education
In addition, other subjects with a non-statutory programme of study in the National Curriculum are also taught, including Religious education in all Key Stages, Sex education from Key Stage 2, and Career education and Work-related learning in Key Stages 3 and 4. Religious education within community schools may be withdrawn for individual pupils with parental consent. Similarly, parents of children in community schools may choose to opt their child out of some or all sex education lessons.
School governance 
Almost all state-funded schools in England are maintained schools, which receive their funding from local authorities, 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.
- Community schools (formerly county schools), in which the local authority employs the schools' staff, owns the schools' lands and buildings, and has primary responsibility for admissions.
- Voluntary Controlled schools, which are almost always church schools, with the lands and buildings often owned by a charitable foundation. However, the local authority 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.
- Foundation schools, in which the governing body employs the staff and has primary responsibility for admissions. 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.
- Academy schools, established by the 1997-2010 Labour Government to replaced poorly-performing community schools in areas of high social and economic deprivation. Their start-up costs are typically funded by private means, such as entrepreneurs or NGOs, with running costs met by Central Government and, like Foundation schools, are administratively free from direct local authority control. The 2010 Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government expanded the role of Academies in the Academy Programme, in which a wide number of schools in non-deprived areas were also encouraged to become Academies, thereby essentially replacing the role of Foundation schools established by the previous Labour government.
- Free schools, introduced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition following the 2010 general election, are newly-established schools in England set up by parents, teachers, charities or businesses, where there is a perceived local need for more schools. They are funded by taxpayers, are academically non-selective and free to attend, and like Foundation schools and Academies, are not controlled by a local authority. They are ultimately accountable to the Secretary of State for Education, and are conceptually based on similar schools found in Sweden, Chile, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, where they are known as Charter schools. Free schools are an extension of the existing Academy Programme. The Academies Act 2010 authorises the creation of free schools and allows all existing state schools to become Academy schools. The first 24 free schools opened in Autumn 2011.
There is also a smaller number of City Technology Colleges and academies, which are secondary schools funded and monitored directly by the Department for Education. Academies can also accept funding from private sources such as individuals or companies. The current government is greatly expanding the academy scheme by encouraging many schools to convert to Academy status.
All state-funded schools are regularly inspected by the Office for Standards in Education, often known simply as Ofsted. Ofsted publish reports on the quality of education at a particular school on a regular basis. Schools judged by Ofsted to be providing an inadequate standard of education may be subject to special measures, which could 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. The intake of comprehensive schools can vary widely, especially in urban areas with several local schools.
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:
- "super-selective": almost all of the intake from the top 10%. These are the few highly selective grammar schools that dominate school performance tables.
- "selective": almost all of the intake from the top 25%. These include grammar schools in areas where the Tripartite system survives.
- "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.
- 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.
- "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.
- 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.
- "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.
- "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. Thus, although schools may use the phrase 'comprehensive' in their prospectus or name, the schools at the higher end of the spectrum are not comprehensive in intake. Indeed, the variation in the social groupings in school intake, and the differences in academic performance, are enormous.
Independent schools 
Approximately 7% of school children in England attend privately run fee-paying independent schools rising to 18% for sixth form students. Some independent schools for 13-18 year olds are known for historical reasons as 'public schools' and for 8-13 year olds as 'prep schools'. Some schools offer scholarships for those with particular skills or aptitudes, or bursaries to allow students from less financially well-off families to attend. Independent schools do not have to follow the National Curriculum, and their teachers are not required or regulated by law to have official teaching qualifications. ".
Education by means other than schooling 
The Education Act requires parents to ensure their children are educated either by attending school or alternative means. Small but increasing numbers of parents are choosing to educate their children by means other than schooling. This style of education is often referred to as Elective Home Education. The education can take a variety of forms, 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 for parents to follow the National Curriculum, or to give formal lessons. Parents do not need to be qualified teachers, or to follow school hours and terms. Parents who choose to educate their children outside of school must finance their children's education themselves.
Further education 
Students at both state schools and independent schools typically take 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 at present, although mandatory education until the age of 18 is to be phased in under the Education and Skills Act 2008. This will take effect for 16-year-olds in 2013, and for 17-year-olds in 2015.
Students will typically study in the sixth form of a school, in a separate sixth form college, or in a further education college. These courses can also be studied by adults over 18. This sector is referred to as Further Education. Some 16-18 students will be encouraged to study Key Skills in Communication, Application of Number, and Information Technology at this time.
Higher education 
Students normally enter university from age 18 onwards, and study for an academic degree. Historically, all undergraduate education outside the private University of Buckingham and BPP University College was largely state-financed, with a small contribution from top-up fees, however fees of up to £9,000 per annum have been charged from October 2012. There is a distinct hierarchy among universities, with the Russell Group containing most of the country's more prestigious, research-led and research-focused universities. The state does not control university syllabuses, but it does influence admission procedures through the Office for Fair Access (OfFA), which approves and monitors access agreements to safeguard and promote fair access to higher education. Unlike most degrees, the state still has control over teacher training courses, and uses its Ofsted inspectors to maintain standards.
The typical first degree offered at English universities is the bachelor's degree, and usually lasts for three years. Many institutions now offer an undergraduate master's degree as a first degree, which typically lasts for 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 on to a first degree but wish to remain in employment.
Postgraduate education 
- Master's degree (typically taken in one year, though research-based master's degrees may last for two)
- Doctorate (typically taken in three years)
Postgraduate education is not automatically financed by the state, and so admissions are highly competitive.
Specialist qualifications 
- Education: Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), Certificate in Education (Cert Ed), City and Guilds of London Institute (C&G), or Bachelor of Education (BA or BEd), most of which also incorporate Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
- Law: Bachelor of Laws (LLB).
- Medicine: Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, studied at medical school
- Business: Master of Business Administration (MBA).
- Psychology: Doctor of Educational Psychology (D.Ed.Ch.Psychol) or Clinical Psychology (D.Clin.Psych.).
In the academic year 2011-2012, most undergraduates paid fees that were set at a maximum of £3,375 per annum. These 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. Undergraduates admitted for the academic year 2012-2013 will pay tuition fees set at a maximum of up to £9,000 per annum, with most universities charging over £6,000 per annum, and other higher education providers charging less.
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 undergraduate fees and, for postgraduates, full scholarships are available for most subjects, and are usually awarded competitively.
Different arrangements will apply to English students studying in Scotland, and to Scottish and Welsh students studying in England. Students from outside the UK and the EU attending English universities are charged differing amounts, often in the region of £5,000 - £20,000 per annum for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The actual amount differs by institution and subject, with the lab based subjects charging a greater amount.
Adult education 
- One or two year access courses, to allow adults without suitable qualifications access to university.
- The Open University runs undergraduate and postgraduate distance learning programmes.
- The Workers' Educational Association offers large number of semi-recreational courses, with or without qualifications, made available by Local Education Authorities under the guise of Adult Education. Courses are available in a wide variety of areas, such as holiday languages, crafts and yacht navigation.
2007 statistics: Percentage of population aged 19–64 who have progressed to each level:
- National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 2 and above: 70.7% (highest among 25-29 y/o - 76.9%)
- NQF Level 3 and above: 50.6% (highest among 25-29 y/o - 57.7%)
- NQF Level 4 and above: 30.9% (highest among 30-34 y/o - 39.1%)
One-half of British universities have lost confidence in the A* or A grades that are awarded by secondary schools, and require many applicants to sit for a competitive entrance examination. According to the Schools Minister, “strong evidence has been emerging of grade inflation across subjects” in recent years.
|Church of England||13.1%||12.0%|
|Church of England||63.5%||39.6%|
An analysis of 2010 school data by The Guardian found that state faith schools were not taking a fair share of the poorest pupils in their local areas, as indicated by free school meal entitlement. Not only was this so at an overall national level, but also in the postcode areas nearby the schools. This suggested selection by religion was leading to selection of children from more well-off families.
The Moser Group of the Basic Skills Agency has found that one out of five English adults are functionally illiterate, while two out of five are functionally innumerate. The Confederation of British Industry is also complaining of falling academic standards. Employers often experience difficulty in finding young people who have such basic employability skills as literacy, numeracy, problem solving, teamworking and time management. As a result, employers either have to pay for employees' remedial education, or they must hire foreign candidates.
Katharine Birbalsingh has written of the problems she perceives in many community schools. She cites the impossibility of effective classroom management, bad teachers who cannot be dismissed, and government policies encouraging "soft" subjects. Birbalsingh has visited schools in Jamaica and India where pupils are desperate to gain the kind of education to which pupils in her own school (and their parents) were indifferent. She was a deputy head teacher in south London until she spoke at a Conservative Party conference in 2010 and was quickly sacked. Frank Chalk, who taught at an inner-city school for ten years before resigning in frustration, makes similar claims.
A survey of 2000 teachers by The Guardian in 2011 cited a recurring reason for not enjoying the job. A lack of trust was referred to by respondents in the survey's "free text" area for extra comments, and related to senior staff, parents and governments. Writing about her own reasons for leaving teaching, a contributing editor to the newspaper's Guardian Teacher Network described the realisation of needing to leave the profession as having slowly crept up on her. Being a mature entrant, she questioned things in her aspiration to improve education and was reluctant to "be moulded into a standard shape".
See also 
- City Learning Centre
- Education by country
- List of schools in England
- National Union of Students (United Kingdom)
- School uniforms in England
- Science Learning Centres
- Special education in England
- Annex A: Total Departmental Spending, 7391 Departmental report 2008, Department for Children, Schools and Families. £43 billion total spending on schools.
- 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.
- Estimate for the United Kingdom, from United Kingdom, CIA World Factbook
- 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.
- "Higher Education Enrolments, and Qualifications Obtained, at Higher Education Institutions in the UK in the Academic Year 2006/07". Higher Education Statistics Agency. 10 January 2008. "The total number of HE enrolments at English HEIs stood at 1,957,195 in 2006/07."
- "Further Education, Work-Based Learning, Train to Gain and Adult Safeguarded Learning - Learner Numbers in England: October 2007". Learning and Skills Council. 10 April 2008. "There were 1.75 million learners in LSC-funded FE on 1 October 2007."
- DIUS: The Level of Highest Qualification Held by Adults: England 2007 (Revised)
- "Schools in the Great Britain". Rogalinski.com. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
- Education and Skills Act 2008, Office of Public Sector Information.
- The Education (Information as to Provision of Education) (England) Regulations 1994, Statutory Instrument 1994 No. 1256, UK Parliament.
- Section 8. Compulsory school age, Education Act 1996, 1996 c.56, UK Parliament.
- "School attendance and absence: the law". Directgov.
- "The Education (Start of Compulsory School Age) Order 1998". The National Archives.
- Jeevan Vasagar (31 January 2012). "State boarding school boom: surge in pupils living away from home". Guardian.
- Education Act 2002, s.82.
- "National Curriculum teacher assessments and key stage tests". DirectGov website. H M Government. 2008. Retrieved 18 February 2008.
- "School and college achievement and attainment tables". DCSF website. Department for Children, Schools and Families. 2008. Retrieved 18 February 2008.
- "National curriculum". Teachernet. Department for Children, Schools and Families. 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "Categories of Schools – Overview". GovernorNet. Department for Children, Schools and Families. 5 September 2003. Retrieved 10 December 2008.
- "The Composition of Schools in England" (PDF). Department for Children, Schools and Families. June 2008.
- Types of School, Citizens Advice Bureau.
- "Voluntary Aided Schools". Teachernet. Department for Children, Schools and Families. 8 January 2008.
- "What are Academies?". Standards Site. Department for Children, Schools and Families. Retrieved 10 December 2008.
- Clyde Chitty (16 November 2002). The Right to a Comprehensive Education. Second Caroline Benn Memorial Lecture. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
- Peter Newsam. "Diversity and Admissions to English Secondary Schools", Secondary Heads Association, 28 June 2002, revised and reprinted in Forum 45:1 (2003) pp17-18.
- Tim Brighouse. "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.
- Richard Garner (28 January 2002). "Rising number of parents decide they can do a better job than the education system". The Independent (London). Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- Mathew Charles (18 March 2005). "Growth market in home education". BBC News. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- Katie Razzall; Lewis Hannam (26 September 2007). "UK home-school cases soar". Channel 4 News. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- "Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local Authorities" (PDF). Department for Children, Schools and Families. 2007. Retrieved 10 December 2008.
- Terri Dowty (editor) (2000). Free Range Education: How Home Education Works. Hawthorn Press. ISBN 1-903458-07-2.
- "Educating your child at home". Directgov. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- "Teacher training providers". Office for Standards in Education. 5 December 2008.
- "UKCISA - Fees, funding and Student Support". Retrieved 25 February 2010. UK Council for International Student Affairs > How much will the 'overseas' fee for my course be?
- Paton, Graeme (13 July 2012). "More students forced to sit university admissions tests". The Telegraph. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
- "How many poor children go to faith schools?". The Guardian. 5 March 2012. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- Jessica Shepherd and Simon Rogers (5 March 2012). "Church schools shun poorest pupils". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- Improving Literacy and Numeracy: A Fresh Start
- "Boosting employability skills". Confederation of British Industry. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
- Katharine Birbalsingh (2011). To Miss with Love. Viking. ISBN 0-670-91899-7
- Frank Chalk (2006). It's Your Time You're Wasting: A Teacher's Tales of Classroom Hell. Monday Books. ISBN 978-0-9552854-0-0
- Berliner, Wendy (3 October 2011). "Guardian survey finds teachers want to be treated as professionals". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 5 October 2011. "Many wrote: 'I love teaching but...' [...] fed up with governments that don't trust them [...] One former solicitor, now questioning the sense of the career switch, said: "There is a profound lack of respect by senior staff and parents for the quality of work and quantity of work undertaken by teachers. [...]""
- Drury, Emma (5 October 2011). "Why I left teaching". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 6 October 2011. "[leaving teaching] just kind of crept up on me until I had had enough. [...] The problem, I think, was me. I wasn't a fresh out of college squashy NQT ready to be moulded into a standard shape. [...] I questioned things and I answered back. I was determined to make things better."
- Department for Education
- Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
- A history of education in England by Derek Gillard, an advocate of the comprehensive system
- "The Skills for Life survey: A national needs and impact survey of literacy, numeracy and ICT skills", Research Brief RB490 (Department for Education and Skills), 2003
- Skills for Life: Progress in Improving Adult Literacy and Numeracy (PDF), House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, 14 January 2009
- Guardian Special Report - Education