A Beginner’s Guide to UK Schools

1-2 minutes

The British school system is widely regarded as one of the best in the world due to its strong emphasis on academic excellence and rigor, with a focus on core subjects such as English, mathematics, and science. This system ensures that students receive a well-rounded education that prepares them for further study or employment in a wide range of fields.

Additionally, the British school system values independent learning and critical thinking, with an emphasis on developing skills such as problem-solving, analysis, and creativity. This approach helps to foster a lifelong love of learning and helps students to become independent, confident, and adaptable learners.

Britons enter the education system at the age of three. They are obliged to attend school (compulsory education) up to the age 18, while afterwards it is their choice.

In general, the British education system has five stages of education: early years, primary years, secondary education, Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE). 

The different stages of schooling include: 

  • Nursery Schools: 3-4-year-olds (EYFS)
  • Infant Schools: Reception classes for 4-5-year-olds 
  • Infant Classes for 5-7 year-olds (KS1): Most Infant schools also have a Nursery class
  • Junior Schools: Junior classes for 8-11-year-olds (KS2)
  • Primary Schools: Infant and Junior classes within the one school
  • Secondary Schools: 11-16-year-olds (can cater for up to 18 years old) (KS3 / KS4)
  • Sixth Form Colleges: 16-18-year-olds
  • Special Schools: Pupils who have special educational needs
  • PRU: Pupil Referral Units for excluded pupils

Across all of these stages, it is important that children and young people are sufficiently prepared within a variety of subjects and are able to learn key aspects of living in the UK, including British values.


Pre-school education is available for ages two to four/five through playgroups and nursery schools. The emphasis is on group work, creative activity and guided play.

Compulsory education begins at age four in England and Wales. At primary level, there is little or no specialist subject teaching and there is great emphasis on Literacy (English) and Numeracy.


Compulsory education ends at age sixteen, though many pupils stay on beyond the minimum leaving age. The majority of state secondary school pupils in England and Wales attend comprehensive or academy schools. 

These provide a wide range of secondary education for children of all abilities from a particular district, in the eleven to eighteen age ranges.

At secondary school, teachers teach specialist subjects in addition to many cross-curricular subjects, such as Literacy, Numeracy, Citizenship, ICT and Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE).

Special Schools

Children who have special educational needs which cannot be met in mainstream school are taught in special schools. The age range of pupils in special schools can be very varied with many providing education from preschool level to 18 years.

The national curriculum is taught in special schools although the levels may vary depending on the particular needs of pupils.

What are British values in schools?

When considering a career in the education sector, it’s important to understand British values to ensure these are incorporated into the curriculum.

British values taught in schools include respect for the rule of law, individual liberty, democracy, mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.

It is important for children to learn these values as they are seen to be fundamental to living each day in Britain and help prepare them for modern life in the country. 

Latest teaching jobs at Spencer Clarke Group

If you’re searching for your next teaching job, why not take a look at all the teaching opportunities available with Spencer Clarke Group now? 

Alternatively, why not speak with one of our specialist consultants who can discuss any upcoming opportunities. We work with hundreds of schools across the UK and can offer a range of opportunities including temporary, permanent and to temp-perm positions.  

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Similarly, we understand the impact which an experienced and skilled employee can make to a business and we love seeing clients thrive through the hard work of candidates which we have placed with them. 

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If you’re searching for a new role, why not visit our job page to take a look at the latest opportunities? Alternatively, upload your CV and one of our experienced consultants will contact you when a relevant opportunity becomes available. 

If you’re struggling to fill a role, why don’t you give us a call on 01772 954200 to see how we can help? One of our consultants will be happy to listen to the challenges which you are facing and advise on the best possible solution for you. 

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