Living in Europe | Day care, schooling & family related issues | United Kingdom

Education in the UK is structured differently to other countries in the EU. There are different types of schools and specialisms available in the UK offering a rich and diverse education experience for students.

Applying for schools

If you and your child have the right to reside in the UK, then your child should be entitled to a free education, which is provided by state schools. However, if your child will only be in the UK for a short period of time, the school has the right to refuse admission.

Admission to schools is coordinated by the local education authorities in each UK country:

Education Structure

Education in the UK is compulsory for all children aged five to sixteen. After sixteen, students can choose to continue their education at school or a further education institute, and after this, if they have achieved adequate grades, they can go to university or other institutes of higher education.

There are two general types of school in the UK:

  • Public schools are free and regulated by the government.
  • Private schools charge fees for education.

The UK also has different education institutions for different age ranges and learning abilities:

Three and four-year-old children are entitled to free early years education, which consists of 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year. This is delivered by registered childcare providers, including child-minders and day-nurseries.

Your child will usually attend primary school from the age of five to eleven. During this time your child will follow the first two stages of the National Curriculum: Key Stages 1 and 2.

When your child is 11 they will normally move to secondary school, where they study Key Stages 3 and 4.

At the age of 16, children in England and Wales take GCSE exams (General Certificate of Secondary Education). In Scotland, pupils take exams called Nationals instead of GCSEs.

After 16 children can decide to study for A-levels (equivalent in Scotland is known as Highers), or a vocational qualification. Students are also able to leave school but must stay in education or training until the age of 18.

Higher Education

Students wishing to continue their education after age 18 may apply to attend a university or higher education institute. Each university has its own admissions policy, and sets the minimum entry requirements for each of its courses.

International students will have to demonstrate that their level of English is sufficient and that any qualifications they have are of equivalent value to those demanded by the individual university.

There are different fees for students depending on whether they are eligible to pay 'home' or 'overseas' fees. Home fees are the fees that UK nationals pay and they are lower than international fees. The status of the student will also determine whether they are eligible for financial tuition fee or maintenance support from the UK government.

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