Education in England is overseen by the United Kingdom’s Department for Education. Local government authorities are responsible for implementing policy for public education and state-funded schools at a local level.
England also has a tradition of independent schools (some of which call themselves “public schools“) and home education; legally, parents may choose to educate their children by any permitted means. State-funded schools are categorized as selective grammar schools or comprehensive schools. Comprehensive schools are further subdivided by funding into free schools, other academies, any remaining Local Authority schools and others. More freedom is given to free schools, including most religious schools, and other academies in terms of curriculum. All are subject to assessment and inspection by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, or Ofsted.
The state-funded education system is divided into stages based upon age:Early Years Foundation Stage (ages 3–5); primary education (ages 5 to 11), subdivided into Key Stage 1 (KS1) Infants (ages 5 to 7) and Key Stage 2 (KS2) Juniors (ages 7 to 11); secondary education (ages 11 to 16), subdivided into Key Stage 3 (KS3; ages 11 to 14) and Key Stage 4 (KS4; ages 14 to 16); Key Stage 5 is post-16 education (ages 16 to 18); and tertiary education (for ages 18+).
At age 16 the students typically take exams for the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) or other Level 1/2 qualifications. While educationis compulsory until 18, schooling is compulsory to 16, thus post-16 education can take a number of forms, and may be academic or vocational. This can involve continued schooling, known as “sixth form” or “college”, leading (typically after two years of further study) to A-level qualifications (similar to a high school diploma in some other countries), or a number of alternative Level 3qualifications such as Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC), the International Baccalaureate (IB), Cambridge Pre-U, WJEC or Eduqas. It can also include work-based apprenticeships or traineeships, or volunteering.
Higher education often begins with a three-year bachelor’s degree. Postgraduate degrees include master’s degrees, either taught or by research, and doctoral level research degrees that usually take at least three years. Tuition fees for first degrees in public universities are up to £9,250 per academic year for English, Welsh and European Union students.
The Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) covers national school examinations and vocational education qualifications. It is referenced to the European Qualifications Framework, and thus to other qualifications frameworks across the European Union. The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ), which is tied to the RQF, covers degrees and other qualifications from degree-awarding bodies. This is referenced to the Qualifications Framework of the European Higher Education Area developed under the Bologna process.
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