Education: Education in the UK is free and compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 and 16 (4 to 16 in Northern Ireland). Parents on low incomes can get help with costs of extra charges, and with the cost of school meals.
Education at state schools in the UK is free, but there are also another type of school called independent schools. There are about 2,500 independent schools in the UK. About 8% children go to these schools. At independent schools parents must pay the full cost for their child’s education.
In England, the curriculum is divided into four stages: Key Stage I, II, III and IV. Students are tested at the end of each key stage at ages 7, 11, and 14. At 16 they usually take the GCSE and at 18 those who have stayed at school take GCE exams.
The education system varies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
At 16, young people can leave school or stay to do their GCE in preparation for university. Some young people go to their local further education college to improve their exam grades or to get new qualifications for a career. Most courses are free up to the age of 19. Further education colleges also offer courses for adults over the age of 19, but they are usually not free.
More students go to universities now than in the past. Most people go to university at the age of 18, but it is also possible to go later in life. The tuition fees and the living cost can be very expensive, but most students can get a low-interest loan from a bank. They don’t have to pay anything towards their fees during or before their studies. When they finish university and start to work, they must pay back the loans.