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Education in England facts for kids

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Education in England
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.svg
Department for Education
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Secretary of State (Education)
Minister for Universities and Science (with BEIS)
Justine Greening

Jo Johnson
National education budget (2008–09)
Budget £62.2 billion
General details
Primary languages English
System type National
Compulsory education 1880
Literacy (2003)
Total 99 %
Male 99 %
Female 99 %
Total 11.7 million
Primary 4.50 million (in state schools) (2016)
Secondary 2.75 million (up to year 11 in state schools) (2016)
Post secondary Higher Education: 1,844,095(2014/15)
Further Education: 2,613,700(2014/15)
Total: 4,457,795 (2014/15)
Secondary diploma

Level 2 and above: 87.4%
Level 3 and above: 60.3%
(of 19 year olds in 2015)

Level 2 and above: 81.0%
Level 3 and above: 62.6%
(of adults 19-64 in 2014)
Post-secondary diploma Level 4 and above: 41.0%
(of adults 19-64 in 2014)

Education in England is overseen by the United Kingdom's Department for Education. Local government authorities are responsible for implementing policy for public education and state-funded schools at a local level. England also has a tradition of independent schools (sometimes termed "public schools") and Home schooling; legally, parents may choose to educate their children by any suitable means.

The state-funded education system is divided into stages based upon age: Early Years Foundation Stage (ages 3–5); primary education (ages 5 to 11), subdivided into Key Stage 1 (KS1) Infants (ages 5 to 7) and Key Stage 2 (KS2) Juniors (ages 7 to 11); secondary education (ages 11 to 16), subdivided into Key Stage 3 (KS3; ages 11 to 14) and Key Stage 4 (KS4; ages 14 to 16); Key Stage 5 is post-16 education (ages 16 to 18); and tertiary education (for ages 18+).

At age 16 the students typically take exams for the General Certificate of Secondary Education or other Level 1/2 qualifications. While education is compulsory until 18, schooling is only compulsory to 16, thus post-16 education can take a number of forms, and may be academic or vocational. This can involve continued schooling, known as "sixth form" or "college", leading (typically after two years of further study) to A-level qualifications (similar to a high school diploma in some other countries), or a number of alternative Level 3 qualifications such as BTEC, the International Baccalaureate or the Cambridge Pre-U. It can also include work-based apprenticeships or traineeships, or volunteering.

Higher education often begins with a three-year bachelor's degree. Postgraduate degrees include master's degrees, either taught or by research, and doctoral level research degrees that usually takes at least three years. Tuition fees for first degrees are up to £9,000 per academic year for English, Welsh and European Union students, although these are set to rise to £9,250 for students starting from 2017.

The Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) covers national school examinations and vocational education qualifications. It is referenced to the European Qualifications Framework, and thus to other qualifications frameworks across the European Union. The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ), which is tied to the RQF, covers degrees and other qualifications from degree-awarding bodies. This is referenced to the Qualifications Framework of the European Higher Education Area developed under the Bologna process.

History of English education

Until 1870 all schools were charitable or private institutions, but in that year the Elementary Education Act 1870 permitted local governments to complement the existing elementary schools in order to fill any gaps. The Education Act 1902 allowed local authorities to create secondary schools. The Education Act 1918 abolished fees for elementary schools.


One-half of British universities have “lost confidence in the A* or A grades”, and require many applicants to sit for a competitive entrance examination or other aptitude test. According to the Schools Minister, “strong evidence has been emerging of grade inflation across subjects” in recent years. The Confederation of British Industry, the EEF and the British Chambers of Commerce are also complaining of falling academic standards. Employers often experience difficulty in finding young people who have such basic employability skills as literacy, numeracy, problem solving, teamworking and time management. As a result, employers either have to pay for employees' remedial education, or they must hire foreign candidates.

Katharine Birbalsingh has written of the problems she perceives in many community schools. She cites the impossibility of effective classroom management, bad teachers who cannot be dismissed, and government policies encouraging "soft" subjects. Birbalsingh has visited schools in Jamaica and India where pupils are desperate to gain the kind of education to which pupils in her own school (and their parents) were indifferent. She was a deputy head teacher in south London until she spoke at a Conservative Party conference in 2010 and was quickly sacked. Frank Chalk, who taught at an inner-city school for ten years before resigning in frustration, makes similar claims.

Pupils claiming free school meals (2010)
School type Primary Secondary
All 19.3% 15.2%
Church of England 13.1% 12.0%
Roman Catholic 16.3% 14.0%
Non-religious 21.5% 15.6%
Schools with fewer free school meal children than local postcode average (2010)
School type Primary Secondary
Church of England 63.5% 39.6%
Roman Catholic 76.3% 64.7%
Non-religious 47.3% 28.8%

An analysis of 2010 school data by The Guardian found that state faith schools were not taking a fair share of the poorest pupils in their local areas, as indicated by free school meal entitlement. Not only was this so at an overall national level, but also in the postcode areas nearby the schools. This suggested selection by religion was leading to selection of children from more well-off families.

A survey of 2000 teachers by The Guardian in 2011 identified a widespread reason for not enjoying the job: lack of trust and respect by senior staff, parents and governments. Writing about her own reasons for leaving teaching, a contributing editor to the newspaper's Guardian Teacher Network described the realisation of needing to leave the profession as having slowly crept up on her. Being a mature entrant, she questioned things in her aspiration to improve education and was reluctant to "be moulded into a standard shape".

Criticism of funding

The government is expensively building new free schools rather than paying for much-needed repairs to existing schools. Some new free schools will create much-needed school places while others will compete with existing schools in areas where there are plenty of school places and endanger the financial viability of existing schools. Schools in many parts of England complain about insufficient funds and the National Audit Office warns the school budgets face cuts of £3bn. Head teachers in Cheshire fear they will have to cut school hours to make ends meet. Over half of academies are spending more than their income.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has warned that spending per pupil will fall in real terms during the current parliament. Funding for sixth-formers has been squeezed year on year and is now no better in real terms than it was just under thirty years ago. Spending on further education will also fall. Schools serving pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds will be hit hardest. Alison Garnham of Child Poverty Action Group said, "If the country - and our education system - is to work for everyone, not just the privileged few, ministers must reconsider the school funding formula. Poverty at home is the strongest statistical predictor of how well a child will do at school, [but] Schools and teachers can help to weaken that link if they have sufficient resources, but these new findings show that schools in the poorest areas would lose most from the government’s proposed new funding formula. That would widen the educational attainment gap and set many of our children up to fail. In the context of the prime minister's social justice agenda, that outcome looks perverse,"

Head teachers claim they are cutting GCSE and A-level subjects, making classes larger and stopping support services due to lack of funds. 95% of heads, deputies and senior teachers surveyed said they had cut back on equipment and materials and also mental health and special needs support. Over two-thirds said they had reduced projects such as clubs and nearly three-quarters of respondents with teachers claim they are cutting GCSE and A-level subjects, making classes larger and stopping support services due to lack of funds. 95% of heads, deputies and senior teachers surveyed said they had cut back on equipment and materials and also mental health and special needs support. Over two-thirds said they had reduced projects such as clubs and school trips. Nearly three-quarters of respondents with GCSE classes said they had reduced courses and just over three-quarters of heads with A-level students said they had also reduced subjects. Modern foreign languages, arts, drama and music are among subjects cut. A respondent said, "Through no fault of their own, students will have restricted subject choices, in larger class sizes with less pastoral support, whilst still being expected to perform at the highest of standards - nonsense!" Some schools are considering closing early and reducing teaching time to save money. 95% of ASCL members were obliged to reduce student support services and 68% said enrichment activities had been cut due to budget pressure. 82% said class sizes had needed to increase and 20% of them said there were between 6 and 10 more pupils in each class. The National Audit Office estimates costs of running a school will rise by 8% during the current parliament. An IFS report stated spending per pupil would fall 6.5% by 2019-2020.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned funding cuts from central government could leave Local Authorities unable to pay for vital work including checking for asbestos, checking if potential staff have criminal records and fire safety work.

Research by the Education Policy Institute suggests spending in real terms per pupil will fall in all schools by 2020 despite a Conservative manifesto promise to increase spending per pupil in real terms. The EPI estimates average losses by 2019-20 at £74,000 for primary schools and £291,000 for secondary schools. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) maintains the projected national funding formula could make 1,000 English schools face further cuts of 7% after 2019–20 to comply with the new funding levels. The government has not given long term guidance over funding preventing schools doing long term planning. Many Conservative Members of Parliament are uneasy about the cuts and may vote against cuts in parliament. A government rethink over cuts is possible.

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