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British Life and Culture

by Mandy Barrow

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British life and culture - England, Scotland and Wales

Education is important in England, as it is Wales and Scotland too.

British children are required by law to have an education until they are 16 years old.

Education is compulsory, but school is not,children are not required to attend school. They could be educated at home.

1996 Education Act of the UK

Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act states:

"The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable-

(a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and
(b) to any special educational needs he may have,

either by regular attendance at school or otherwise."

Education is free for all children from 5 to 16.

Full-time education is compulsory for all children aged between 5 and 16 (inclusive) across England. This can be provided by state schools, independent schools, or homeschooling.

About 94 per cent of pupils in England, and the rest of the UK, receive free education from public funds, while 6 per cent attend independent fee paying schools or homeschooling.

(Homeschooling numbers uncertain - BBC report)


All government-run schools, state schools, follow the same National Curriculum.

The School Year

The school year runs from September to July and is 39 weeks long.

For many areas the year is divided into six terms:

  • September to October
  • October to December
  • January to February
  • February to March
  • April to May
  • June to July

(Some counties in England still follow the traditional three terms a year.)

The dates for school terms and holidays are decided by the local authority or the governing body of a school, or by the school itself for independent schools.

School holidays

The main school holidays are:

  • Christmas- 2 weeks
  • Spring - 2 weeks
  • Summer - 6 weeks

There are also one week holidays:

    • end of October
    • mid February
    • end of May

When do kids start school?

Children normally start primary school at the age of four or five, but many schools now have a reception year for four year olds.

Children normally leave at the age of 11, moving on to secondary school (High school).

Please note aslo:
Every three and four year old in England is entitled to 12.5 hours of free early learning per week, in nurseries, playgroups, pre-schools or at their childminders for 38 weeks of the year.

When do kids leave school?

British children are required to attend school until they are 16 years old. In England, compulsory schooling currently ends on the last Friday in June during the academic year in which a pupil attains the age of 16. Current government proposals are to raise the age until which students must continue to receive some form of education or training to 18. This is expected to be phased in by 2015.

At the age of 16, students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland take an examination called the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education). Study of GSCE subjects begins at the start of Year 10 (age 14-15), and final examinations are then taken at the end of Year 11 (age 15-16).

In state schools English, Mathematics, Science, Religious Education and Physical Education are studied during Key Stage 4 (the GCSE years of school); in England, some form of ICT and citizenship must be studied and, in Wales, Welsh must be studied. Other subjects, chosen by the individual pupil, are also studied.

In Scotland, the equivalent of the GCSE is the Standard Grade.

After completing the GCSE, some students leave school, others go onto technical college, whilst others continue at high school for two more years and take a further set of standardized exams, known as A levels, in three or four subjects. These exams determine whether a student is eligible for university.

Education stages:

Nursery Schools 3-4 years old
Primary Schools 5-11 years old
Foundation Stage - Nursery, Reception, (Infants)

Key Stage 1 - Years 1 and 2 (Infants)

Key Stage 2 -Years 3 - 6 (Juniors)
Secondary Schools 12-18 years old
Years 7-13 (Key Stage 3, 4 & 5)
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All the materials on these pages are free for homework and classroom use only. You may not redistribute, sell or place the content of this page on any other website or blog without written permission from the Mandy Barrow.

© Copyright Mandy Barrow 2014

Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consultant.
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

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