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United-Kingdom-England:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

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Overview United Kingdom (England)

Contents

United-Kingdom-England:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

United-Kingdom-England:Historical Development

United-Kingdom-England:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

United-Kingdom-England:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

United-Kingdom-England:Political and Economic Situation

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation and Governance

United-Kingdom-England:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

United-Kingdom-England:Lifelong Learning Strategy

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of Private Education

United-Kingdom-England:National Qualifications Framework

United-Kingdom-England:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

United-Kingdom-England:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

United-Kingdom-England:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

United-Kingdom-England:Funding in Education

United-Kingdom-England:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

United-Kingdom-England:Higher Education Funding

United-Kingdom-England:Adult Education and Training Funding

United-Kingdom-England:Early Childhood Education and Care

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

United-Kingdom-England:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

United-Kingdom-England:Assessment in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

United-Kingdom-England:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

United-Kingdom-England:Primary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of Primary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Assessment in Primary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Assessment in General Lower Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Assessment in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

United-Kingdom-England:Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Types of Higher Education Institutions

United-Kingdom-England:First Cycle Programmes

United-Kingdom-England:Bachelor

United-Kingdom-England:Short-Cycle Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Second Cycle Programmes

United-Kingdom-England:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

United-Kingdom-England:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

United-Kingdom-England:Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Distribution of Responsibilities

United-Kingdom-England:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

United-Kingdom-England:Main Providers

United-Kingdom-England:Main Types of Provision

United-Kingdom-England:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

United-Kingdom-England:Teachers and Education Staff

United-Kingdom-England:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Management and Other Education Staff

United-Kingdom-England:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

United-Kingdom-England:Management Staff for Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Quality Assurance

United-Kingdom-England:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Educational Support and Guidance

United-Kingdom-England:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

United-Kingdom-England:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

United-Kingdom-England:Mobility and Internationalisation

United-Kingdom-England:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Mobility in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-England:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-England:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

United-Kingdom-England:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

United-Kingdom-England:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

United-Kingdom-England:National Reforms in School Education

United-Kingdom-England:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

United-Kingdom-England:National Reforms in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-England:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

United-Kingdom-England:European Perspective

United-Kingdom-England:Legislation

United-Kingdom-England:Glossary

This chapter covers the organisation and structure of educational provision for young people aged 11 to 18/19 years.

For the purpose of this description, this provision is divided into:

In upper secondary education there is a well-established tradition of subject specialisation with the possibility of combining single subject general and vocational qualifications.  More recently, the Government has introduced a policy on study programmes that applies across general and vocational education. For these reasons, the introduction to this chapter provides a combined description of general and vocational education.

In terms of ISCED (International Standard Classification of Education) categorisation, lower secondary (ISCED 2) refers to 11–14 year-olds and upper secondary (ISCED 3) refers to 14–18/19 year-olds.

There are no programmes categorised as post-secondary non-tertiary (ISCED 4).

 

General Lower Secondary Education ages 11-16

Age range and participation

The great majority of secondary schools cater for students from age 11 to either 16 or to 18/19.

 Under the Education Act 1996, full-time education is compulsory up until the last Friday in June of the school year in which a pupil reaches the age of 16.

 

Types of provider

Publicly funded secondary schools fall into different categories, reflecting differences in their constitution and governance.

A major distinction can be made between maintained schools, funded through the local authority and academies, which have individual funding agreements with the Secretary of State.

There are other, cross-cutting differences between secondary schools.

  • They can be either mixed or single sex.
  • Although the great majority of secondary schools admit students without reference to academic criteria, in a few areas there are grammar schools which admit students on the basis of high academic ability.
  • Some schools, often known as faith schools, are designated as having a religious character.
  • Some schools have a curriculum specialisation.

Further education colleges and sixth-form colleges may also provide for young people in Key Stage 4 (aged 14 to 16) in specialist centres. This measure was introduced in 2013 following the recommendations of the 2011 Review of vocational education: the Wolf Report. See Government guidance for more information.

 

Study programmes

Under the Education Act 2002, the National Curriculum is divided into four key stages, of which Key Stage 3 (for pupils aged 11 to 14, ISCED 2) and Key Stage 4 (for pupils aged 14 to 16, ISCED 3) are provided in secondary school.

Note that although the National Curriculum is compulsory only for maintained schools, academies generally adhere to the same key stage structure for organising the curriculum.

In Key Stage 4, students work towards external qualifications, in most cases single subject GCSEs taken at age 16.

 

General and Vocational Upper Secondary Education ages 16-18/19

Age range and participation

The participation age for full- or part-time education or training was raised to 18 in 2015 under the Education and Skills Act 2008.

Provisional Department for Education statistics for 2015 show the following participation rates at ages 16 and 17 (at the beginning of academic year):


 % of age 16  % of age 17
Full-time education 87.4 77.1
Part-time education 3.1 3.8
Work-based learning 3.9 7.3
Education and work-based learning 94.1 87.8
Education and training 96.3 97.1
NEET 3.1 4.8

Source: Participation in Education, Training and Employment 2015 (Main Text, Table A, p.4).

Note that although most post-16 programmes are intended to be of a maximum two years’ duration, the funding framework applies up to age 19. For this reason, the age range 16–18/19 is adopted throughout this description.



Types of provider

Depending on the local offer and their own preferences, young people who wish to remain in full-time education may continue at the same school in the sixth form, transfer to another school sixth form, or transfer to a sixth-form college or to a further education (FE) college. The different providers may offer many of the same programmes, although FE colleges offer a wider choice of vocational programmes.

Provisional Department for Education (DfE) statistics show participation at ages 16–17 (at the end of 2015) by institution type and mode of study:


 % full-time education   % part-time education
Publicly-funded schools (maintained and academies) 32.4 0.0
Special schools  0.9 0.0
Independent (fee-paying schools) 6.5 0.1
Sixth-form colleges 11.5 0.1
Further education, tertiary and specialist colleges  30.5 3.2
Higher education institutions  0.5 0.0
Total  82.2 3.4

Source: Participation in Education, Training and Employment 2015 (Main Text, Table B, p.5).

 

Study programmes

All full-time students are expected to follow a 16-19 study programme which includes either one or more substantial qualifications that stretch the student and link clearly to training, employment or higher education. The policy on study programmes was introduced in September 2013, following the recommendations of the 2011 Wolf Report.

Substantial qualifications include both general and vocational qualifications:

Study programmes can also contain a mix of general and vocational qualifications.

Other qualifications may also be studied alongside the substantial qualification(s). Core Maths is a new type of Level 3 maths qualification introduced in 2015 and designed to address the issue of poor progression in maths from age 16. It is aimed at students who achieved a higher grade GCSE but who are not taking an A Level or AS Level in maths.  Core maths aims to support courses such as A Level psychology, sciences and geography, as well as technical and vocational qualifications.

Study programmes should also include:

  • meaningful work experience or other non-qualification activity
  • for students who did not achieve a higher grade GCSE in these subjects, continued study of English and/or maths towards approved qualifications (either GCSE or an approved ‘stepping stone’ qualification, such as Functional Skills).

For those students who are not ready for study at Level 2, a study programme should include a traineeship or extended work experience. See the articles on vocational upper secondary education.

For information on the design and delivery of 16–19 study programmes, see the Government’s advice for providers.

 

Legal Framework 

Although the age groups they cater for and the programmes they provide overlap, schools and further education colleges operate under different legal frameworks.

 

Schools

There is no single framework Act for secondary education. Most schools legislation applies to both primary and secondary maintained schools but not to academies, which are governed by contractual funding agreements with the Secretary of State. For a discussion of the issues around academies and the legal framework for schools, see A Legal Bind: the Future Legal Framework for England's Schools, published in January 2016 by IPPR, a think-tank. In its White Paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere, published in March 2016, the Government outlined its intention to: ‘engage MATs, sponsors, academies, dioceses and the wider schools sector to create a legal framework for academies that is fit for purpose for the long term.’

The following brief list of Acts of Parliament covers key aspects of school structures, curriculum and assessment. For a fuller list, see the Legislation chapter.

Education Act 1996

This Act consolidated schools legislation from the Education Act 1944 onwards. It defines secondary education as:

  • (a)full-time education suitable to the requirements of pupils of compulsory school age who are either—
    • (i)senior pupils, or
    • (ii)junior pupils who have attained the age of 10 years and six months and whom it is expedient to educate together with senior pupils of compulsory school age; and
  • (b)(subject to subsection (5)) full-time education suitable to the requirements of pupils who are over compulsory school age but under the age of 19 which is provided at a school at which education within paragraph (a) is also provided.

The Act also sets the requirement for full-time compulsory education, by placing the following duty on parents in Section 7:

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

to his age, ability and aptitude, and
to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

Section 8 of the Act further specifies that full-time education is compulsory up until the last Friday in June of the school year in which a pupil reaches the age of 16.

School Standards and Framework Act 1998

This Act established  a new framework for maintained schools, categorising them as community, voluntary aided, voluntary controlled or foundation schools. It also clarified the procedures for opening, closing and altering schools. It placed local authorities under a duty to promote high standards of education and extended their power to intervene in failing schools. It also simplified the roles and responsibilities of school governing bodies.

Education Act 2002 

This Act made provision for academies, which were previously known as city academies, to be set up in any area, not just in urban areas. It introduced a modernised framework for teachers’ pay and conditions and a more flexible system for the constitution of governing bodies. It also re-enacted sections of the 1996 Act, with minor amendments, as they relate to the curriculum for maintained schools in England. Explanatory notes are available.

 

Further education colleges

Most further education colleges are statutory corporations set up under the Further and Higher Education Act (FHEA) 1992, with effect from 1 April 1993. The core of the legislative framework set out in the FHEA 1992 remains in place, amended in part by the Learning and Skills Act 2000, the Education and Inspections Act 2006, the Further Education and Training Act 2007, and the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. Since 2010, the Government has reduced regulation of further education colleges.

 

Policy Objectives 

The Conservative Government that took office in May 2015 set out its plans for education in its 2016 White Paper Educational Excellence Everywhere. The Government aims to ensure that ‘every child and young person can access world class provision, achieving to the best of his or her ability regardless of location, prior attainment and background.’ The approach is characterised as ‘supported autonomy: aligning funding, control, responsibility and accountability in one place, as close to the front line as possible, and ensuring that institutions can collaborate and access the support they need to set them up for success.

The plans outlined in the White Paper follow on from and continue major reforms introduced by the Coalition Government in office from 2010 to 2015. These include a major review of the National Curriculum as well as reforms to general and vocational qualifications. The aim has been to raise levels of achievement; to encourage schools and colleges to offer a broad and balanced curriculum with a strong academic core, particularly in maths and English; and to ensure that the qualifications offered are rigorous and better prepare students for progression to further study or employment.

For summaries of reforms to curriculum, assessment and qualifications since 2010, see:

  • House of Commons Library briefing on the school curriculum and assessment (November 2016)
  • House of Commons Library briefing on the English Baccalaureate (January 2017)
  • House of Commons Library briefing on GCSE, AS and A Level reform (January 2016)
  • The Department for Education’s progress report (February 2015) on the Wolf Report (March 2011).

 A package of reforms to technical education is also being introduced. These build on the reforms recommended by the Wolf Report. The Post-16 Skills Plan, published in July 2016, sets out its vision for technical education, based on the work of an independent panel, led by Lord Sainsbury. The Plan aims to replace the thousands of courses which currently exist with 15 routes into skilled employment. Each route, such as health and science, construction, social care, or engineering and manufacturing, will take place either at a college, and include a work placement, or through an apprenticeship. The first routes will be made available from 2019 and all will include English, maths and digital skills, according to employers’ needs.

Apprenticeships are also being reformed. English Apprenticeships: Our 2020 Vision, published in December 2015, set out the Government’s plans for raising the quality of apprenticeships and achieving three million apprenticeship starts by 2020. The plan also confirmed that new employer-led apprenticeship standards would replace the existing frameworks. It also proposed that the term apprenticeship should be protected in law; this measure was given legal force by the Enterprise Act 2016. Funding is being provided through an Apprenticeship Levy on employers. Coming into effect in April 2017, the levy will be set at 0.5 per cent of any large UK employer’s pay bill worth more than £3 million.  The Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 includes an obligation for the Government to report each year on the progress made towards meeting this target.

For summaries of reforms to apprenticeships since 2010, see:

  • House of Commons Library briefing on apprenticeships policy 2010-2015 (August 2015)
  • House of Commons Library briefing on apprenticeships policy since 2015 (November 2016).

 

Article last reviewed January 2017.