UK School System

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In England children must attend school from the age of 5 to 16 and many extend their education to 18 before entering university or college. From the age of 5 to 11, children attend primary schools (combined infant and junior schools) and generally at 11 they then transfer to secondary schools.

The structure of the education system in England has changed considerably over the last few years, reflecting the Government's aims to improve quality, increase diversity and make institutions more accountable to students, parents, employers and taxpayers.


State 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 five 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 currently 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 schools. These provide a wide range of secondary education for children of all abilities from a particular district, in the eleven to sixteen 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).

The School Day

Teaching hours in schools are from approximately from 8.30am to 3.30pm.  In addition to this, teachers may also be expected to stay for staff meetings of at least one hour per week.

Teachers are also expected to prepare lessons and mark work before and after teaching hours although permanently employed teachers do benefit from PPA (Planning, Preparation and Assessment) time which is made up of 10% of their normal teachers hours per week.

Structure of the typical school day

Primary School

All schools have control over the structure of their own school day although most will finish at 3.30pm. The statutory Literacy Hour and Numeracy Hour is a feature of all school timetables.

The example below illustrates what you will typically find in a primary school. Teaching Personnel Consultants will be able to provide further details of the exact timetable of each individual school.

09.00am Registration

09.10am School Assembly

09.30am Literacy Hour

10.30am Break-time

10.45am Numeracy Hour

11.45am Subject class

12.15pm Lunch

13.30pm Afternoon Registration

13.35pm Classes

14.45pm Break-time

15.00pm Classes

15.30pm End of school day

Secondary School

A typical day is shown below. However, there is much variation within secondary schools and you will need to speak to your consultant to obtain timetable information for schools. Some secondary schools operate a two-week timetable, which means that if you are in the school for more than one week you may not be teaching the same class at the same period each week.

09.00am Registration

09.20am Period 1

10.00am Period 2

10.40am Break

11.00am Period 3

11.40am Period 4

12.20pm Lunch

13.20pm Registration

13.40pm Period 5

14.20pm Period 6

15.00pm Period 7

15.40pm School ends