Education in the United Kingdom

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Education in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter with each of the countries of the United Kingdom having separate systems under separate governments: the UK Government is responsible for England; whilst the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive are responsible for Scotland,[1] Wales[2] and Northern Ireland, respectively.

For details of education in each country, see:


In each country there are five stages of education: early years, primary, secondary, further education (FE) and higher education (HE).[3] The law states that full time education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 (4 in Northern Ireland) and 16, the compulsory school age (CSA).[3] In England, compulsory education or training has been extended to 18 for those born on or after 1 September 1997. This full-time education does not need to be at a school and some parents choose to home educate.[4] Before they reach compulsory school age, children can be educated at nursery if parents wish though there is only limited government funding for such places.[5] Further Education is non-compulsory, and covers non-advanced education which can be taken at further (including tertiary) education colleges and Higher Education institutions (HEIs). The fifth stage, Higher Education, is study beyond A levels or BTECs (and their equivalent) which, for most full-time students, takes place in universities and other Higher Education institutions and colleges.

The National Curriculum (NC), established in 1988, provides a framework for education in England and Wales between the ages of 5 and 18. Though the National Curriculum is not compulsory it is followed by most state schools, but some private schools, academies, free schools and home educators design their own curricula.[6] In Scotland the nearest equivalent is the Curriculum for Excellence programme, and in Northern Ireland there is something known as the common curriculum.[5] The Scottish qualifications the National 4/5s, Highers and Advanced Highers are highly similar to the English Advanced Subsidiary (AS) and Advanced Level (A2) courses.[7]


Research by Education Support Partnership suggests that 75% of school teachers and college lecturers suffer from work related stress. Increased work pressure from marking and exam targets lead some teachers to work 12 hours a day. Many are leaving the profession due to stress.[8]


Traditionally a high-performing country in international rankings of education, the UK has stagnated in recent years in such rankings as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests; in 2013 for reading and maths the country as a whole stood in the middle-rankings, a position broadly similar to three years before.[9] Within the UK Scotland performed marginally better than England; both were slightly ahead of Northern Ireland and markedly ahead of Wales.[10] However these results contradict those of the education and publishing firm Pearson published in 2014, which placed the UK in second place across European countries and sixth worldwide; these rankings took account of higher-education graduate rates, which may have accounted for the higher ranking than in PISA.[11]


In 2015/16, the UK spent £3.2 billion on under-5s education, £27.7 billion on primary education, £38.2 billion on secondary education and £5.9 billion on tertiary education. In total, the UK spent £83.4 billion on education (includes £8.4 billion on other categories).[12]

See also


  1. ^ The Scottish Government, accessed 6 June 2009
  2. ^ About, accessed 6 June 2009
  3. ^ a b "EDUCATION SYSTEM IN THE UK" (PDF). British Government. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "Home education - GOV.UK". 
  5. ^ a b "THE EDUCATION SYSTEMS OF ENGLAND & WALES, SCOTLAND AND NORTHERN IRELAND" (PDF). British Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 December 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "Education Otherwise". 
  7. ^ "The British Education System". HMC Projects. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  8. ^ Job stress is 'overwhelming' teachers across the UK BBC
  9. ^ Coughlan, Sean. "UK makes no progress in Pisa tests". BBC. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  10. ^ "Pisa ranks Wales' education the worst in the UK". BBC. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  11. ^ Coughlan, Sean. "UK 'second best education in Europe'". BBC. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  12. ^

Further reading

  • Blatchford, Roy (2014). The Restless School. John Catt Educational. p. 136. ISBN 978-1909717077. 
  • Christodoulou, Daisy (2014). Seven Myths About Education. Routledge. p. 148. ISBN 978-0415746823. 
  • Gearon, Liam (2002). Education in the United Kingdom. David Fulton Publishers Ltd. ISBN 1853467154. 
  • Giddens, Anthony; Griffiths, Simon (2006). Sociology. Polity Press. pp. 682–728. ISBN 0745633781. 
  • Machin, Stephen; Vignoles, Anna (2005). What's The Good Of Education? The Economics Of Education In The UK. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691117349. 
  • Peal, Robert (2014). Progressively worse: The Burden of Bad Ideas in British Schools. Civitas. p. 298. ISBN 978-1906837624. 
  • Staples N., Rebecca; Cochran, Moncrieff (2008). Early Childhood Education: An International Encyclopedia. IV. Praeger. pp. 1281–1318. ISBN 0313341435. 

External links

  • Department for Education at the UK government
  • Studies from the Office for National Statistics regarding Children, Education and Skills
  • Information on education in United Kingdom, OECD - Contains indicators and information about United Kingdom and how it compares to other OECD and non-OECD countries
  • Diagram of British education systems, OECD - Using 1997 ISCED classification of programmes and typical ages.
  • Fully searchable UK school guide independent and state
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