The Department for Education is the government department responsible for issues affecting people in England up to the age of 19, including education. State-run and state-funded schools are attended by approximately 93% of English schoolchildren. Of these, a minority are faith schools (primarily Church of England or Roman Catholic schools). Children who are between the ages of 3 and 5 attend nursery or an Early Years Foundation Stage reception unit within a primary school. Children between the ages of 5 and 11 attend primary school, and secondary school is attended by those aged between 11 and 16. After finishing compulsory education, students take GCSE examinations. Students may then opt to continue into further education for two years. Further education colleges (particularly sixth form colleges) often form part of a secondary school site. A-level examinations are sat by a large number of further education students, and often form the basis of an application to university.
Although most English secondary schools are comprehensive, in some areas there are selective intake grammar schools, to which entrance is subject to passing the eleven-plus exam. Around 7.2% of English schoolchildren attend private schools, which are funded by private sources. Standards in state schools are monitored by the Office for Standards in Education, and in private schools by the Independent Schools Inspectorate.
Somerville College, University of Oxford
Higher education students normally attend university from age 18 onwards, where they study for an academic degree. There are over 90 universities in England, all but one of which are public institutions. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is the government department responsible for higher education in England. Students are generally entitled to student loans to cover the cost of tuition fees and living costs. The first degree offered to undergraduates is the Bachelor’s degree, which usually takes three years to complete. Students are then able to work towards a postgraduate degree, which usually takes one year, or towards a doctorate, which takes three or more years. Since the establishment of Bedford College (London), Girton College (Cambridge) and Somerville College (Oxford) in the 19th century, women also can obtain a university degree.
England’s universities include some of the highest-ranked universities in the world; University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, Imperial College London, University College London and King’s College London are all ranked in the global top 30 in the 2018 QS World University Rankings. The London School of Economics has been described as the world’s leading social science institution for both teaching and research. The London Business School is considered one of the world’s leading business schools and in 2010 its MBA programme was ranked best in the world by the Financial Times. Academic degrees in England are usually split into classes: first class (1st), upper second class (2:1), lower second class (2:2), third (3rd), and unclassified.
The King’s School, Canterbury and King’s School, Rochester are the oldest schools in the English-speaking world. Many of England’s most well-known schools, such as Winchester College, Eton, St Paul’s School, Harrow School and Rugby School are fee-paying institutions.