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UK school guide
UK school guide


Schools in the United Kingdom come in several different forms, here's a rundown of the many kinds you can find here in Britain, and what sets them apart.

Ah, the British educational system! Did you know that the United Kingdom is one of the most popular destinations for international students? Each year, about 400,000 international students enroll. International students contemplating an education in the United Kingdom have over 140 universities and higher education institutions to choose from, each offering a diverse variety of internationally recognised educational qualifications.

 So, whether you're a teacher selecting which school to start your teaching career at, a curious parent/student, or simply an inquisitive individual interested in learning more about the English education system, then look no further. We've gathered a list of the many sorts of schools you can attend and what makes them unique!


Children can attend Pre-school from age two but it’s optional. Children can continue to stay in Pre-school until they start school or proceed to Nursery when they are about 3, as places become available. It is through play the children learn personal and social skills, mathematical development, physical development, language development.


Infant School

Infant schools are from ages 4 - 6 in years reception, year one and year two. They learn how to manipulate numbers, read, play, and write here.


Primary School

Children attend primary school from ages 7-11, where children explore English, maths, music, personal development, mutual understanding and physical education. At the end of year 6 is when pupils are introduced to exams and take their SATS tests which determines their education level.


Secondary/High School

Children attend here from age 11 to 16, to prepare them for adult life.  Apart from the national curriculum they also learn the arts (art and design, music, dance, drama and media production)

Design and technology (electronics, food technology, textiles and product design)

The humanities (geography and history) modern foreign languages (French, German, Spanish etc) and also science, life skills, religious education, and PE. From year 10 (age 14 - 15) students pick their own subjects to study called ‘options’ it is there they study those subjects for two years in preparations for their GCSE exams, that determines the grades to access higher education.


Sixth Form / College

From age 16 it is the law in England for students to carry on in education, this could be Sixth form, apprenticeship, college, or at least 20 hours a week volunteering while in part-time education or training. Sixth form focuses more on courses that will benefit University admissions and college is more for career progression.


Universities are educational institutions that provide higher education degrees, most countries like America call this “college”. The following degrees are commonly awarded as a result of study programmes in UK universities:

 -        Bachelor's / Undergraduate degrees

-        Postgraduate Degrees

 These can take anywhere between 1 - 6 + years to complete depending on the course being taken.


State schools

The majority of British students attend this type of school, which is funded by the government. In general, government-funded schools are required to follow the national curriculum.

Comprehensive schools

A comprehensive school is a school where anybody may attend, regardless of their academic performance, and where everyone is taught together. They are generally managed by the local education authority, which is a division of the local government.

Faith schools

These are schools that are solely dedicated to a single faith. They must typically follow the national curriculum, although they may have greater latitude in terms of what is taught about religion and which children attend.

Grammar schools

Grammar schools are government-funded schools that pupils can attend starting at the age of eleven. They vary from comprehensive schools in that they choose their students based on an exam known as the "11-plus," which children take when they are 10 or 11 years old. Maths, verbal thinking, comprehension, and creative writing are frequently included in the test. 

There used to be many more grammar schools in England and Wales, but the government decided in the 1960s everyone should be welcomed into schools and taught in the same way, regardless of their test results.

 As a result, the number of grammar schools has decreased.

Currently, there aren’t any state grammar schools located in Wales or Scotland, however, they still exist in parts of England and Northern Ireland.

Academies and Free Schools

These are public schools that are funded by the government but have more flexibility over their curriculum, schedules, and who they admit. Unlike comprehensives, they get funding directly from the government rather than from their local government.

Public/Independent/private schools

Because they are not funded by the government, these schools, often known as private schools, get more control over how they are conducted. These schools are often affluent, and to attend one, parents must pay school fees, which are used to fund the school's operations.

The majority of these institutions include boarding choices, where you reside on campus with some of the other students.

Special Schools

Specific schools are educational institutions that cater to children with special needs or disabilities. There are many types of special schools, but they all educate children whose requirements cannot be addressed in a mainstream environment and whose parents or carers have consented to or asked that their child attend a special school.

Pupil Referral Units (PRU)

These schools provide an education for students who are unable to attend a regular school due to difficulties such as being excluded, behaviour issues, being unwell, or being otherwise unable to attend a mainstream school.

City technology colleges

These are government-funded independent schools in metropolitan areas that are open to the public. They place a strong focus on science and technology education through establishing tight links with businesses and industry.

We hope you enjoyed this guide, please don’t forget to check out LurnSchools school directory with over 30,000 schools.


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