Schooling Across The UK
Changes from country to country...
Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland
The British government provides free education to all those of compulsory school age (5+ to 16+). However, the education system differs in each country of the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland). This section aims to explain some of the differences.
Responsibility for education in Scotland and Wales is devolved to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly respectively. In Northern Ireland the Northern Ireland Executive has responsibility. The Scottish system is substantially different from the other countries and for many ends with 'Highers' at 17+. Boarding schools in Scotland tend to follow the English examination system, although some may also offer preparation for Scottish exams. Scottish independent day schools generally follow the local system only. For further information see the Scottish Executive Online, the Welsh Assembly Online and The Department of Education for Northern Ireland Online.
Web site: Scottish Executive Online
Web site: Welsh Assembly Online
Web site: Northern Ireland Executive Online
In England, the government provides at least part-time Nursery education to all three year olds and free education to those who continue beyond compulsory schooling up to and including 19 years to complete Further or Sixth Form education.
Provision is made at different levels: Pre-school, Primary, Secondary, Further and Higher. Most children proceed to secondary schools at 11 but in some areas transfer is delayed to 13 or 14 to Middle Schools. In many areas secondary schools are large enough to support Sixth Forms, but in others secondary education up to 16 leads to Sixth Form College or Colleges of Further Education - where students might take vocational courses, as opposed to 'traditional' Advanced Subsidiary (AS) and Advanced (A) Level examinations to gain entry to Higher Education.
Web site: Department for Education and Skills
The responsibility for the organisation and administration of state schools is shared between the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and Local Education Authorities (LEAs), but most state schools are now self-managing on a day-to-day basis with Heads answerable to Managers or Governors who are appointed to represent the communities they serve. Local democracy has led to different systems operating in neighbouring LEAs and sometimes within the same Education Authority.
Web site: DfES LEA Gateway
The National Curriculum
Just how does your child learn? Is it as easy as A, B, C or is there more to it and what role do you, as a parent or carer have to play in the process? It is important to understand the ages and stages at which children learn things and how the education system which works on "key stages" fits in with supported learning.
0-3 Years - Early Years
3-5 Years - Early Years
5-7 Years - Key Stage 1
7-11 Years - Key Stage 2
11-14 Years - Key Stage 3
14-16 Years - Key Stage 4
16 + Years
National Curriculum Online
National Curriculum Online is a web site that answers all your questions regarding the subjects being taught to your children including the depth of learning according to age or key stage. For each subject there is information regarding the programmes of study, non-statutory guidelines and attainment targets.
Web site: National Curriculum Online
The Parents Centre
The Parent Centre is for all parents and carers who want to help their child or children to learn. It is here to offer you support, information and advice about your child's learning and the English education system.
Web site: The Parent Centre
Parentzone helps parents to get involved in their children's education. You can find information on education in Scotland and advice on supporting your own child's learning.
Web site: Parentzone Scotland
The Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) is an independent advice centre for parents, offering information about state education in England and Wales for 5-16 year olds. The site also details a free telephone advice service on many topics like exclusion from school, bullying, special educational needs and school admission appeals.
Web site: Advisory Centre for Education (ACE)
Children and The Law
The Children's Legal Centre is a unique, independent national charity concerned with law and policy affecting children and young people. It has many years of experience in providing legal advice and representation to children, their carers and professionals throughout the UK.
Web site: The Children's Legal Centre
Vocational A Levels
The vocational 'A' level is more directly related to specific careers. It is a two-year course, and students are expected to have achieved at least four or five GCSEs at grades A* - C or an Intermediate GNVQ on entry. Students can combine vocational A Levels with A Levels in more traditional subjects. The availability of vocational A Levels in independent schools is more limited than in state schools and colleges. There are no formal examinations. Assessment is made on the basis of projects and assignments to show that the required standards have been met.
Scotland - a special case for exams...
Students in Scotland take Standard grade examinations at 16. Depending upon their results they may then move on to further study at one of five levels. The first three - Access, Intermediate 1 and Intermediate 2 - are for students who need a better grounding in a subject before moving on to the top two levels - Higher and Advanced Higher. Students with aptitude for a subject may go on immediately to Highers and Advanced Highers, which form the basis for university entry in Scotland. This system of awards includes both traditional academic and vocational subjects.
The International Baccalaureate (IB)
The IB is a two-year programme leading to the IB Diploma, which is recognised and accepted by universities in the UK and worldwide. It is available in some 40 schools and colleges in the UK, both state and independent, and in some 930 schools and colleges in 105 countries. The IB can be an attractive alternative to A Levels for academically able students who seek a broader and more challenging programme of study. It embraces languages, mathematics, arts and sciences and creative subjects. A list of participating schools in the UK can be found on the website for the International Baccalaureate Organisation.
Web site: International Baccalaureate Organisation