| The structure of the English educational
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 education in England 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
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
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
Key Stage 3 (KS3) — towards the end of Year 9
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 are a wide range of courses and qualifications
offered, all of which are being harmonised 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 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, 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 (NVQs), 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
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 degree
the Licentiateship of the City and Guilds (LCGI)
Level 7 - Equivalent to 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 a first degree but are
not academically strong enough.
Students who have completed a first degree
are eligible to undertake a postgraduate degree, which
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
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
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
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
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
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.
For more information, reference sources:
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