Education in United Kingdom

Population: 61,565,000 (2009) 

GDP p.c. growth: 2.3% p.a. 1990-2009

UN HDI 2010: world ranking 26

Net primary enrolment: 99.8% (2008)

Net secondary enrolment: 91.3% (2008)

Gross tertiary enrolment: 59.0% (2009)

Public spending on education was 5.5% of GDP in 2008. There are 11 years of compulsory education starting at age five. Net enrolment ratios are 99.8% for primary and 91.3% for secondary with a gross enrolment ratio for all levels of education combined of 88.2% (2008). The pupil-teacher ratio for primary is 17:1 (2008). The school year starts in September.

About 59% of the relevant age group is enrolled in tertiary education (2009). After 16, when it is no longer compulsory, around 70% of young people stay in education, either at school or at further education colleges, and may then go on to higher education institutions. According to the higher education admissions service, UCAS, there are more than 300 universities and higher education institutions which provide higher education courses. The female-male ratio for gross enrolment in tertiary education in 0.70:1 (2009). There is virtually no illiteracy among people aged 15-24.

Educational reforms in England and Wales in the 1980s and 1990s have created a national curriculum with a uniform programme and allowed schools to manage their own budgets. In the same period throughout the country there has been a massive increase in university education, with all the former polytechnics becoming full universities. Payments by university students towards tuition fees were introduced in 1998. About 7% of children attend the 2,500 independent fee-paying schools.

On taking office in May 2010, the coalition government set about establishing a new type of publicly-funded all-ability school – the ‘free school’. The government invited charities, universities, businesses, teachers and groups of parents to submit proposals, with the aim of seeing the first such schools opening in September 2011. Of more than 300 proposals received by February 2011, 20 were approved to proceed towards opening.

In January 2009, the British Council/Department for International Development’s Global School Partnerships was selected as a finalist in the 2009 Commonwealth Education Good Practice Awards. Some 2,000 UK schools have forged partnerships with schools in 68 developing countries, including many Commonwealth countries, raising awareness among students in the UK and in developing countries of international issues and concerns.