Education in the United Kingdom

In the UK over 90% of the school age population attend state funded schools. Education is free in the United Kingdom except for the cost of school uniforms and stationary. Full-time education is compulsory from the ages of 5 and in 2013 18 (currently the leaving age is 16), this also includes the children of foreign nationals that have lived in the country for more than a year.

The rest of the school age population attend one of the 3200 private schools, which include international, American and foreign schools. The majority of pupils opt to move on to study for their A-levels and move onto go onto higher education or take part in an approved training scheme until they reach 18.

Most state schools are co-educational day schools with boys and girls attending the same classes in the daytime normally from 9am to 3pm. Private schools tend to be boarding schools and are almost exclusively single-sex. Admission to a state school for foreign children is dependent on the type and duration of the residence permit granted to their parents. Your choice of state and private schools varies considerably depending on where you live.

The UK education tends to rank lower than other advanced industrial nations with the UK coming in behind nations such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Japan. There’s no legal obligation for parents in the UK to educate their children at school and they may educate them themselves or employ private tutors. Parents educating their children at home don’t require a teaching qualification, although they must satisfy the local education authority that a child is receiving full-time education appropriate for his or her age, abilities and aptitudes (they check and may test your child).

The UK education system is a constant state of flux with successive governments tampering with the system. Teacher morale tends to be low as a result of poor working conditions, a lack of professional recognition, stress, government interference and lack of consultation, cuts in education funding, and classroom disruption.

Illiteracy remains to be a problem in the UK with up to two million people unable to read and write to an acceptable standard. Due to the global economic crisis young people in the country are often competing to find work and feel disillusioned with life. In effect they are a ‘lost generation’. It remains to be seen whether government plans to cut youth unemployment will work or not.