British system of education
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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, and the Scottish Government, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Executive are responsible for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, respectively. While the systems in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are more similar, the Scottish system is quite different.
English system of education
Full-time education is compulsory for all children aged between 5 and 16 (inclusive). Students may then continue their secondary studies for a further two years (sixth form), leading most typically to an A level qualification, although other qualifications and courses exist. The leaving age for compulsory education was raised to 18. State-provided schools are free of charge to students, and there is also a tradition of independent schooling, but parents may choose to educate their children by any suitable means.
All maintained schools in England are required to follow the National Curriculum, which is made up of twelve subjects.The core subjects—English, Mathematics and Science—are compulsory for all students aged 5 to 16. The other foundation subjects are compulsory at one or more Key Stages:
Art & Design
Design & Technology
Information & Communication Technology
Modern Foreign Languages
In addition, other statutory subjects are not covered by the National Curriculum, including Religious Education in all year groups, Career education and Work-related learning at secondary age.
English secondary schools are mostly comprehensive, except in a few areas that retain a form of the previous selective system, with students selected for grammar school by the eleven plus exam. There are also a number of isolated fully selective grammar schools, and a few dozen partially selective schools.
Compulsory secondary education lasts five years. Traditionally second-schools are divided into five years called forms (from 1 to 5). Unlike Russian schoolchildren, English pupils go to the first form only when they are 11/12 years old. In the fifth form at the age of 16 they may either leave school or continue their education in the sixth form.
Students at both state schools and independent schools take the GCSE examinations, which mark the end of compulsory education. Above school leaving age, the independent and state sectors are similarly structured. In the 16–18 age group, "sixth-form" education is not compulsory at the present time, although mandatory education until the age of 18 is to be phased in under the Education and Skills Act 2008.
Students will typically study in either the Sixth Form of a School, a Sixth form college, or a further education college. These courses can also be studied by adults over 18. This sector is referred to as Further Education. All 16-18 students are encouraged (this is only mandatory in some institutions) to study Key Skills in Communication, Application of Number and Information Technology.
Students normally enter University from 18 onwards and study for an Academic Degree. All undergraduate education outside the private University of Buckingham is largely state financed, with a small contribution from top-up fees. The state does not control syllabuses, but it does influence admission procedures. Unlike most degrees, the state still has control over teacher training courses, and uses Ofsted inspectors to maintain standards.
Approximately 7% of English schoolchildren attend privately-run independent schools, some of which are known for historical reasons as "public schools".
Education at independent schools is usually chargeable. Such schools, some of which are boarding schools cover primary and/or secondary education.
Traditionally many private schools are for girls or for boys, but a growing number now are co-educational. Some independent schools take children between age 3-11 transferring to 11-18. Traditional "public schools" such as Westminster and Eton take boys at 13 years of age. Many students must pass the Common Entrance Exam at 11 or 13 to gain entry into highly selective schools.