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School years

Education in Great Britain

Lecture 4

Great Britain does not have a written constitution, so there are no constitutional provisions for education. The system of education is determined by the National Education Acts.

Some basic features of public education in Britain:

1. There are wide variations between one part of the country and another. England and Wales are treated as one unit, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own education system.

2. Education is class-divided and selective. The division is between those who pay and those who do not pay. The majority of schools are supported by public funds and the education is free. They are maintained schools. But there is also a considerable number of public schools: parents have to pay fees for their children. The fees are high. Of course, only very rich families can send their children to public schools.

3. The variety of opportunities offered to schoolchildren. The English school syllabus is divided into Arts (or Humanities) and Sciences. Different subjects are taught at schools: a Science pupil will study Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Economics, Technical Drawing, Biology, Geography; an Art pupil will do English Language and Literature, History, foreign languages, Music, Art, Drama. Besides they must do general education subjects like Physical Education (PE), Home Economics for girls, and Technical subjects for boys, General Science. Computers play an important part. The system of options exists in all kinds of secondary schools.

The National Education Act of 1944 provided three stages of education: primary, secondary and further education. Compulsory schooling in England and Wales lasts 11 years, from age of 5 to 16. British schools usually have prayers and religious instructors.

At the age of 16 a growing number of school students are staying on at school until 18 or 19 years. It is the age of entry into higher education in universities, Polytechnics or colleges. Schools in Britain provide careers guidance.

British university courses are rather short – 3 years. The cost of education depends on the college or university and speciality one chooses.


The table below describes the most common patterns for schooling in the state sector in England. In most cases progression from one year group to another is based purely on chronological age, although it is possible in some circumstances for a student to repeat or skip a year. Repetition may be due to a lack of attendance, for example from a long illness, and especially in Years requiring standard tests. A child significantly more advanced than their classmates may be forwarded one or more years.

Age on 31 August (before school year) Year Curriculum Stage Schools
Nursery Foundation Stage Nursery School
Reception Infant School Primary School First School
Year 1 Key Stage 1
Year 2
Year 3 Key Stage 2 Junior School
Year 4
Year 5 Middle School
Year 6
Year 7 Key Stage 3 Senior School Secondary School with Sixth Form
Year 8
Year 9 Upper School or High School
Year 10 Key Stage 4 / GCSE
Year 11
Year 12 (Lower Sixth) Sixth Form / A-level, International Baccalaureate, Cambridge Pre-U, etc. College/Sixth Form
Year 13 (Upper Sixth)



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