Education in England
Learn more about Education in England
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 emphasises depth of education, whereas the Scottish system emphasises breadth.
 The structure of the English educational system
 Compulsory schooling
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.
This diagram represents some of the key arrangements for schooling in the state sector in England. The most popular involves a break at age 11, but other arrangements are shown, as discussed below.
 Primary education
- Key Stage 1 (in infant or primary school)
- Reception, age 4 to 5
- Year 1, age 5 to 6
- Year 2, age 6 to 7
- Key Stage 2 (in junior or primary 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 education
- Key Stage 3
- Year 7, age 11 to 12
- Year 8, age 12 to 13
- Year 9, age 13 to 14
- Key Stage 4
- Year 10, age 14 to 15
- Year 11, age 15 to 16 (end of compulsory education)
In addition, some secondary schools also make provision for post-compulsory study through sixth form departments.
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.
Historically, years 7 to 12/13 used to be known as 'first form' to lower/upper sixth form. There now exists a common 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.
 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).
 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.
 Further education
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 are a wide range of courses and qualifications offered, all of which are being harmonised into the National Qualifications Framework:
 Academic qualifications
The main academic qualification available to 16-18 year olds is the Advanced Level GCE. 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 a 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. 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
- Level 1 equivalent to 4 GCSEs at D-E grades.
- Level 2 - equivalent to GCSE's at C-A*.
- Level 3 - equivalent to A levels
- Level 4 - Equivalent to 1st year university
- Level 5 - Equivalent to 2nd year university
- Higher National Diploma (HND)
- Level 6 - Equivalent to degree
- Level 7 - Equivalent to higher degree
 Higher education
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.
 Postgraduate education
Postgraduate education is not automatically financed by the State, and so admission is in practice highly competitive.
 Specialist qualifications
- 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
- 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 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.
 The history of state sponsored education in England
 The period before 1950
- From medieval times, the Church (or chapel) provided education to all classes of society, in monasteries, at public schools, orphanages, charity schools, grammar schools, church foundations, or by the chaplains to private households. Until as late as the nineteenth century, all university fellows and many schoolmasters were expected or required to be in holy orders. Schoolmistresses typically taught "the three Rs" (reading, writing and 'rithmatic) in dame schools, charity schools, or informal village schools. The Church of England resisted early attempts for the state to provide secular education, and church schools still remained embedded in the state school system.
- In August 1833, the UK voted sums of money each year for the construction of schools for poor children, the first time the state had become involved with education in England and Wales, whereas the programme of universal education in Scotland began in 1561.
- A meeting in Manchester in 1837, chaired by Mark Philips, led to the creation of the Lancashire Public Schools' Association. The association proposed that non-sectarian schools should be funded from local taxes.
- In 1839 government grants for the construction and maintenance of schools were switched to voluntary bodies, and became conditional on a satisfactory inspection.
- In 1840 the Grammar Schools Act expanded the Grammar School curriculum from classical studies to include science and literature.
- Before 1870, education was largely a private affair, with wealthy parents sending their children to fee-paying schools, and others using whatever local teaching was made available.
- The Forster Elementary Education Act 1870 required partially state funded board schools to be set up to provide primary (elementary) education in areas where existing provision was inadequate. Board schools were managed by elected school boards. The schools remained fee-paying. The previous government grant scheme established in 1833 ended on December 31, 1870.
- Under the Elementary Education Act 1880, education became compulsory from the ages of 5 to 10.
- The Free Education Act 1891 provided for the state payment of school fees up to ten shillings per week.
- The Elementary Education (School Attendance) Act 1893 raised the school leaving age to 11 and later to 13. The Elementary Education (Blind and Deaf Children) Act of the same year extended compulsory education to blind and deaf children, and made provision for the creation of special schools.
- The Voluntary Schools Act 1897 provided grants to public elementary schools not funded by school boards (typically Church schools).
- From April 1900 higher elementary schools were recognised, providing education from the age of 10 to 15.
- The 'Balfour' Education Act 1902 created local education authorities (LEAs), who took over responsibility for board schools from the school boards. Grammar schools also became funded by the LEA. The act was of particular significance as it allowed for all schools, including denominational schools, to be funded through rates (local taxation).
- The Fisher Education Act 1918 made secondary education compulsory up to age 14 and gave responsibility for secondary schools to the state. Under the Act, many higher elementary schools and endowed grammar school sought to become state funded central schools or secondary schools. However, most children attended primary (elementary) school up until age 14, rather than going to a separate school for secondary education.
- After the passing of the 1929 Local Government Act, Poor Law schools became state funded elementary schools.
- The Butler Education Act of 1944 established the Tripartite System, and defined the modern split between Primary and Secondary education at age 11.
- Education was made compulsory up to age 15 in 1947.
 The post-war period
Due to the perceived failures of the Tripartite system, the Labour government in 1965 requested proposals from all the UK's regions for them to move from the Tripartite system to the Comprehensive System. Note that this was an optional reform for the regions, and some regions still have the Tripartite System.
In 1972, education was made compulsory up to age 16. A generation of "ROSLA" (Raising Of the School Leaving Age) children caused significant problems for teachers.
- New Vocationalism was expanded (Labour had made some small efforts beforehand, but the Conservatives expanded it considerably). This was seen as an effort to reduce the high youth unemployment, which was regarded as one of the causes of the sporadic rioting at the end of the seventies.
- The Assisted Places Scheme was introduced in 1980, whereby gifted children who could not afford to go to fee-paying schools would be given free places in those schools if they could pass the school's entrance exam.
 The Education Reform Act of 1988
The 1988 Education Reform Act made considerable changes to the education system. These changes were aimed at creating a 'market' in education with schools competing with each other for 'customers' (pupils). The theory was that bad schools would lose pupils to the good schools and either have to improve, reduce in capacity or close.
The reforms included the following:
- The National Curriculum was introduced, which made it compulsory for schools to teach certain subjects and syllabuses. Previously the choice of subjects had been up to the school.
- National curriculum assessments were introduced at the Key Stages 1 to 4 (ages 7, 11, 14 and 16 respectively) through what were formerly called SATS (Standard Assessment Tests). At Key Stage 4 (age 16), the assessments were made from the GCSE exam.
- League tables began showing performance statistics for each school. These are regularly published in newspapers and are available over the web, so parents can see how schools are doing in each area of the country.
- Formula funding was introduced, which meant that the more children a school could attract to it, the more money it got.
- Open Enrolment and choice for parents were brought back, so that parents could choose or influence which school their children went to.
- Schools could, if enough of their pupils' parents agreed, opt out of local government control, becoming grant maintained schools and receiving funding direct from central government. The government offered more money than the school would get usually from the local authority as an enticement. This was seen as a political move given that often local authorities were not run by the governing Conservative Party whereas central government was.
 New Labour's educational policies from 1997
During the 1997 General Election, the Labour party mantra was "Education, Education, Education", a reference to their conference slogan. Winning the election returned them to power, but New Labour's political ideology meant that many of the changes introduced by the Conservatives during their time in power remained intact.
They began changing the structure of the school and higher education systems. The following changes took place:
- The previous Labour focus on the Comprehensive system was shifted to a focus on tailoring education to each child's ability. Critics see this as reminiscent of the original intentions of the Tripartite system.
- Grant-maintained status was abolished, with GM schools being given the choice of rejoining the local authority as a maintained community school, or becoming a Foundation school.
- Labour expanded a policy started by the Conservatives of creating specialist schools. This new type of secondary school teaches the National Curriculum subjects plus a few specialist branches of knowledge (e.g. business studies) not found in most other schools. These schools are allowed to select 10% of their pupils.
- Numbers: In 1997 there were 196 of these schools. In August 2002 there were 1000. By 2006 the plan is to have 2000, and the goal is to make all secondary schools specialist eventually.
- The Beacon schools programme was established in England in 1998. Its aim was to identify high performing schools, in order to help them form partnerships with each other and to provide examples of effective practice for other schools. The programme was replaced in 2005 with other similar programmes.
- A new grade of Advanced Skills Teachers was created, with the intention that highly skilled teachers would be paid more if they accepted new posts with outreach duties beyond their own schools.
- City Academies were introduced. These are new schools, built on the site of, or taking over from existing failing schools. A city academy is an independent school within the state system. It is outside the control of the local education authority and set up with substantial funding from interested third parties, which might be businesses, charities or private individuals.
- Education Action Zones were introduced, which are deprived areas run by an action forum of people within that area with the intention of making that area's schools better.
- Vocational qualifications were renamed/restructured as follows:
- GNVQs became Vocational GCSEs and AVCEs.
- NVQs scope expanded so that a degree-equivalent NVQ was possible.
- The New Deal was introduced, which made advisors available to long-term unemployed (in the UK this is defined as being unemployed for more than 6 months) to give help and money to those who want to go back into Education.
- Introduced Literacy and Numeracy Hours into schools, and set targets for literacy and numeracy.
- Set Truancy targets.
- Set a maximum class size of 30 for 5-7 year olds.
- Introduced the EMA, (Education Maintenance Allowance), which is paid to those between 16 and 18 as an enticement to remain in full-time education and get A-Levels/AVCEs.
- A Performance Threshold was introduced in 2000 to allow experienced teachers access to higher rates of pay on meeting a set of performance standards, including a standard of pupil attainment. The performance-related pay changes have been bitterly opposed by teaching unions, most notably the National Union of Teachers which challenged the Threshold scheme by legal action.
- Introduced Curriculum 2000, which reformed the Further Education system into the current structure of AS levels, A2 levels and Key Skills.
- Abolished the Assisted Places Scheme.
- A report was commissioned, led by the former chief-inspector of schools, Mike Tomlinson, into reform of the curriculum and qualifications structure for 14–19 year-olds. The report was published on October 18, 2004 and recommended the introduction of a diploma that would bring together both vocational and academic qualifications and ensure that all pupils had a basic set of core skills. It is proposed that the current qualifications would evolve into this diploma over the next decade, whether the government will follow the recommendations is yet to be seen — the Conservative Party have already introduced alternative proposals to return to norm-referencing in A-levels rather than the current system of criterion-referencing.
- In 2003 a green paper was published entitled Every Child Matters. It built on existing plans to strengthen children's services and focused on four key areas:
- Increasing the focus on supporting families and careers as the most critical influence on children's lives
- Ensuring necessary intervention takes place before children reach crisis point and protecting children from falling through the net
- Addressing the underlying problems identified in the report into the death of Victoria Climbié - weak accountability and poor integration
- Ensuring that the people working with children are valued, rewarded and trained
The green paper prompted a wide debate about services for children, young people and families. There followed a wide consultation with those working in children's services, and with parents, children and young people. Following this, the Government published Every Child Matters: the Next Steps, and passed the Children Act 2004, providing the legislative spine for developing more effective and accessible services focused around the needs of children, young people and families. Every Child Matters: Change for Children was published in November 2004.
 Categories of schools
There are 4 main types of maintained school in England:
- Voluntary Aided
- Voluntary Controlled
In 1998 these replaced the previous categories of state school: county, voluntary controlled, special agreement, voluntary aided and grant-maintained (GM).
Schools in all the categories have a lot in common. They work in partnership with other schools and the LEAs, and they receive funding from LEA and they have to deliver the national curriculum. Each category has its own characteristics.
 Community schools
In community schools (formerly county schools), the LEA employs the schools' staff, own the schools' lands and buildings and have primary responsibility for deciding the arrangements for admitting pupils.
 Foundation schools
In foundation schools 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. Many of these schools were formerly grant maintained schools. The Foundation appoints the majority of governors. In 2005 the Labour government proposed allowing all schools to become Foundation schools if they so wished.
 Voluntary aided (VA) schools
Many voluntary aided schools are church schools. VA governing bodies employ the staff and decide admission arrangements. The schools' lands and buildings are normally owned by a charitable foundation. The governing body contributes towards the capital costs of running the school. Most aided schools are linked to either the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church, but there are schools linked to other faith groups and a few non-denominational schools, often linked to philanthropic organisations like the Haberdashers and the Drapers.
 Voluntary controlled (VC) schools
Voluntary controlled schools are almost always church schools, and the lands and buildings are often owned by a charitable foundation. However, the LEA employ the schools' staff and has primary responsibility for admission arrangements.
 See also
- City academy
- Comprehensive System
- List of schools in England
- Education by country
- Education in Northern Ireland
- Education in the United Kingdom
- Education in Scotland
- Education in Wales
- School governors
- specialist schools
- Specialist Schools and Academies Trust
- National Union of Students of the United Kingdom
- UK topics
- Science Learning Centres
 External links
- The Legislative Growth of English Education
- A history of education in England by Derek Gillard, an advocate of the comprehensive system
- Working Group on 14–19 Reform
- Every Child Matters
- Teachernet - Types of School