Free education for all
Within the UK, there are some differences between the different countries
in terms of the curriculum taught as well as some of the exams
taken. For example, in Scotland young people take Highers at the
age of 17, whereas in England and Wales, A Levels are taken at
However, there are several common features. Throughout the
UK, the government provides free education for 5 to 18 year olds,
and school is compulsory between the ages of 5 to 16. However,
parents can always choose to send their children to private (fee-paying)
schools if they wish.
Lessons and exams
Schools can be mixed or single sex – this depends upon the
local education authority. In mixed schools, most lessons are taught
to mixed classes, although some subjects such as physical education
are taught to single sexes.
All students must study Maths, English
and Science until the age of 16; they are also encouraged to study
at least one Modern Language.
Lessons encourage students’ active
participation, including open discussion of ideas and feelings. Currently,
SATs are taken at ages 7, 11 and 13. GCSE exams are taken when most
students are 16, in their last year of compulsory education.
For young people who wish to go to university or college, they have
to study for ‘A’ Levels and GNVQs, which usually take
two years to complete.
At present, students do not have to pay
course fees for university or college, but they do have to pay
their living expenses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Many students have to take out bank loans to pay for this.
currently some discussion about the subject of fees, with rumours
in the press suggesting that the government favours introducing
them for university places.
Many young people still leave education at 16, and start working.
For those people who choose to leave school at 16, but are unable
to find a job, there are a range of training schemes available
which offer the chance to learn practical skills.
young people have said that these schemes are not always helpful
in giving them practical training for technical jobs – whereas
in the past there were clear apprenticeship schemes, these are
now less common. For this reason, the government is reviewing its
approach to vocational courses.