Education in the United Kingdom
Education in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter with each of the countries of the United Kingdom having separate systems under separate governments: the UK Government is responsible for England; whilst the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive are responsible for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, respectively.
For details of education in each region, see:
In each country there are five stages of education: early years, primary, secondary, further education (FE) and higher education (HE). The law states that full time education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 (4 in Northern Ireland) and 16, the compulsory school age (CSA). In England, compulsory education or training has been extended to 18 for those born on or after 1 September 1997. This full-time education does not need to be at a school and some parents choose to home educate. Before they reach compulsory school age, children can be educated at nursery if parents wish though there is only limited government funding for such places. Further Education is non-compulsory, and covers non-advanced education which can be taken at further (including tertiary) education colleges and Higher Education institutions (HEIs). The fifth stage, Higher Education, is study beyond A levels or BTECs (and their equivalent) which, for most full-time students, takes place in universities and other Higher Education institutions and colleges.
The National Curriculum (NC), established in 1988, provides a framework for education in England and Wales between the ages of 5 and 18. Though the National Curriculum is not compulsory it is followed by most state schools, but some private schools, academies, free schools and home educators design their own curricula. In Scotland the nearest equivalent is the Curriculum for Excellence programme, and in Northern Ireland there is something known as the common curriculum. The Scottish qualifications the National 4/5s, Highers and Advanced Highers are highly similar to the English Advanced Subsidiary (AS) and Advanced Level (A2) courses.
Research by Education Support Partnership suggests that 75% of school teachers and college lecturers suffer from work related stress. Increased work pressure from marking and exam targets lead some teachers to work 12 hours a day. Many are leaving the profession due to stress.
Successful schools tend to choose pupils from high achieving backgrounds. Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and challenging pupils tend to get concentrated in schools that do less well in inspections. Children from prosperous backgrounds are more likely to be in good or outstanding schools while disadvantaged children are more likey to be in inadequate schools.
Traditionally a high-performing country in international rankings of education, the UK has stagnated in recent years in such rankings as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests; in 2013 for reading and maths the country as a whole stood in the middle-rankings, a position broadly similar to three years before. Within the UK Scotland performed marginally better than England; both were slightly ahead of Northern Ireland and markedly ahead of Wales. However these results contradict those of the education and publishing firm Pearson published in 2014, which placed the UK in second place across European countries and sixth worldwide; these rankings took account of higher-education graduate rates, which may have accounted for the higher ranking than in PISA.
In 2015/16, the UK spent £3.2 billion on under-5s education, £27.7 billion on primary education, £38.2 billion on secondary education and £5.9 billion on tertiary education. In total, the UK spent £83.4 billion on education (includes £8.4 billion on other categories).
Due to funding cuts very many local authorities are unable to provide the specialist education that disabled children with special needs require. Education Secretary, Damian Hinds has been called on to provide funding for this.
Mental health problems among youngsters in UK schools are inreasing, social media, pressure from schools, austerity and gender expectations are blamed. Teachers’ leaders say they feel overwhelmed and cannot cope. Sarah Hannafin of the headteachers’ union NAHT, said, “There is a crisis and children are under increasing amount of pressure … Schools have a key role to play and we are doing what can, but we need more funding.” Louise Regan of the National Education Union stated, “Teachers are overwhelmed by the sheer number of students showing signs of mental health problems.” She added counsellor and pastoral support had been seriously reduced, though money for children’s wellbeing was desperately needed, she said, “There is more focus on attainment measures rather than overall concern about the wellbeing of a child.” Norman Lamb said the UK was in an “intolerable crisis”, children had just one childhood and one education. “When it’s gone, it’s gone, and that will leave a lifetime of damage … We are failing an entire generation of young people.” There were calls for a change in school culture with a switch of focus from exams to wellbeing.
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