UK Education


 
UK Education System

How the UK Education System Works

The four areas of the United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – follow a system which educates children from age 5 until they go onto university at age 18 or 19. There are some minor differences in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but the same broad outlines still apply:

 

Age

Education

 

2 – 5

Kindergarten (usually called Nursery School)

Optional

5+ - 11+

Primary Education (years 1-6)

Compulsory

11+ - 16+

Secondary Education (Years 7-11)

Compulsory

16+ - 18+

Secondary Education (Sixth Form : Years 12 & 13)

Optional

Note: Some independent senior schools, especially the larger boys’ schools, only admit students at 13+ and operate Years 9 – 13 only. Boys and girls are prepared for the entrance exams for these schools by attending what is called a Preparatory School from Year 3 or 4 until the end of Year 8. These schools are not language schools, they are highly academic and excellent small schools specialising in training boys and girls for admission to a senior school at age 13. British students normally join these schools at Age 8, but it is often possible for overseas students to be admitted for the last year or 2 years only.

Fee-paying and Non-Fee-paying Schools

There are two main types of school :

  1. Maintained schools, where the costs of education are covered by the government and the parent pays no fees. Most maintained schools are day schools, but a very few have boarding facilities and for these the parents must pay the cost of boarding only.
    Note: Maintained boarding schools are only allowed to accept students who are British Citizens, or who hold a passport of another European Union country.
  2. Independent Schools where the whole cost of the education (and boarding) are paid by the parent. The fees for a boarding education in an independent school are normally the same for an overseas student as for a British student, but there may be an additional charge for English language support.

The Academic Year

The school/college/university year is divided into three terms: Autumn (from early September to mid December), Spring ( from early January to March) and Summer (from mid-April to early July)

Although it is very unusual for a British student to change schools mid-year, schools will sometimes agree to consider an overseas student for entry in January or April, depending on availability of places and the year group applied for.

The Examination System

The British examination system is more flexible, and therefore more complicated, than it used to be!

14+ - 16+

Most schools still use the GCSE examination (General Certificate of Secondary Education) which students take in 8 – 10 subjects, with a wide choice of subjects available. They are not required to commit themselves to a science or arts stream at this stage.

16+ - 18+

While the majority of schools still use the A Level examination, which students take in two parts (at the end of Year 12 and Year 13), an increasing number of schools believe that this examination does not allow the very good students to show their excellence. The alternative examinations – the International Baccalaureate and the Cambridge Pre-U – are becoming more popular.

University

Most students proceed direct to university on completion of Year 13, provided their performance in the A Level exam (or one of the alternatives) meets the requirements of their chosen university. Some British students take a ‘Gap’ year between school and university and use it to travel or gain work experience. First degree university courses in the UK are generally 3 years in length, but some courses, such as medical studies, veterinary science and engineering, are more than 3 years.

 

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