A level sociology revision – education, families, research methods, crime and deviance and more!

The Education System in England and Wales

Table of Contents

Last Updated on October 6, 2022 by

An introduction to the key features of the UK education system, including details of the Department for Education, OFSTED, key stages, exams, the National Curriculum, and some straightforward definitions of the different types of school in the UK.

I wrote this post to give students studying A-level sociology a more focused intro the topic than the Wikipedia entry on education in the UK , which IMO is a bit too formal, and not focused enough on the things people actually want to know about!

This post mainly deals with education in England, I’ll update with a focus on Wales and Scotland as and when I can…

Education in the United Kingdom is overseen by the Department for Education (DfE), which oversees the delivery of education to almost 12 million pupils aged 5-18 in 21 000 state primary schools, 4100 state secondary schools, as well as hundreds of further education colleges, with a total budget of £84 billion in 2015-16.

The DFE works with a further 17 agencies or public bodies, the most well-known of which is probably OFSTED, which has the responsibility for inspecting schools on a regular basis.

Local government authorities (LEAs) are responsible for state-funded schools and colleges at a local level, but in recent years most LEA schools have converted to Academy status which means they are free from local education control and receive their funding directly from central government and do not have to follow the National Curriculum.

There are five stages of education

  • Early Years Foundation Stage (ages 3–5)
  • Primary education (ages 5 to 11)
  • Secondary education (ages 11 to 16)
  • Further education (ages 16 to 18)
  • Tertiary education (for ages 18+).

School Leaving Age

Full-time education is compulsory for all children aged 5 to 18, either at school or otherwise. Children between the ages of 3 and 5 are entitled to 600 hours per year of optional, state-funded, pre-school education. This can be provided in “playgroups”, nurseries, community childcare centres or nursery classes in schools.

Students can leave school at 16 but must then do one of the following until they are 18:

  • stay in full-time education, for example at a college
  • start an apprenticeship or traineeship
  • spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training

The National Curriculum

The national curriculum is a set of subjects and standards used by primary and secondary schools so children learn the same things. It covers what subjects are taught and the standards children should reach in each subject.

Academies and private schools don’t have to follow the national curriculum. Academies must teach a broad and balanced curriculum including English, maths and science. They must also teach religious education.

Key Stages, and National Assessments/ Exams

The national curriculum is organized into blocks of years called ‘key stages’ (KS). At the end of each key stage, there are formal assessments of how children have progressed:

education system in england essay

The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE)

GCSEs are the main type of exam taken by pupils at the end of secondary education, aged 16, although they may be taken at any age. From 2017, GCSEs will be graded from 9 to 1 with 9 being the highest grade, replacing the old A* to G grading system)

BTECs can also be taken. The difference between BTECs and GCSEs is that the BTEC course is heavily coursework-based.

Most students will sit 8-10 GCSEs or BTEC equivalents.

There are a number of GCSEs available to students – English and Maths are both compulsory, but besides those students can choose from a range of science and humanities subjects, including sociology!

Achieving five or more A*–C grades, including English and Maths, is often a requirement for taking A-levels and BTEC Level 3 at a sixth form college or at a further education college after leaving secondary school.

Types of State-Funded School in England and Wales

The main types of state school include:

Local Education Authority Maintained schools

A local education authority maintained school is one in which the governing body (the head teacher, and governors) are responsible for the day to day running of the school, but the Local Education authority controls the following:

  • It owns the land and buildings, and is responsible for funding and the school.
  • It employs the staff and provides support services, for example, psychological services and special educational needs services.
  • It determines the admissions policies of the school
  • The pupils have to follow the national curriculum

(Voluntary aided) Faith Schools

Voluntary aided faith schools still follow the national curriculum, but they are free to teach what they want in terms of religious education. There are two important differences with regular LEA schools.

  • The land and buildings are usually owned by the religious organisation.
  • The religious organization, through the governing body, has more of a say in employing the staff and setting admissions criteria.

Academies receive their funding directly from the government, rather than through local authorities. In contrast to Local Education Authorities:

  • Funding goes directly to the governing body of the school from central government.
  • The governing body employs staff directly and can vary pay and conditions from staff member to staff member.
  • The governing body can select its own admissions criteria (in line with national guidelines)
  • The pupils do not have to follow the national curriculum

There are two types of academy: Converter academies – those deemed to be performing well that have converted to academy status; Sponsored academies – mostly underperforming schools changing to academy status and run by sponsors).

Free Schools:

Free schools are essentially a type of academy, but ‘any willing provider’ can set up a free school, including groups of parents.

Grammar Schools:

Grammar Schools are selective schools – they select pupils on the basis of academic ability, typically testing at the age of 10 or 11.

Independent schools

93% of schools in England are funded by state (ultimately paid for by the taxpayer), the remaining 7% are Independent, or private schools, funded privately by individuals, mainly by fees paid by the parents of the pupils who attend them.

Independent schools have more freedoms from government control than state schools.

Somewhat confusingly, some independent schools call themselves ‘grammar schools’ and ‘faith schools’.


This was a brief post designed to provide some introductory material on the education system of the United Kingdom, for students studying A-level sociology.

I teach this material as part of an introduction to education, right at the beginning of the sociology of education (SCLY1) module, typically taught in the first year of study.

A related post to be studied alongside this is Education in the U.K. – Key statistics

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Sources/ Find out More

Citizens Advice – Types of School

Full Fact – Academies – what do we know ?

Government Web Site – Faith Schools .

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2 thoughts on “The Education System in England and Wales”

Reblogged this on GCSE Sociology Resources .

Should be headed England really – there are no Free Schools or Academies in Wales. Standards in Wales are also worse than England according to various measures.Funding also varies e.g less per pupil spent in Wales than England.

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Education Policy Institute

Home / Publications & Research / Benchmarking English Education / Education: the fundamentals – Eleven facts about the education system in England

Education: the fundamentals – Eleven facts about the education system in England

A major new report on education in England is published today by UK 2040 Options, led by Nesta, and The Education Policy Institute.

The report combines data, analysis and insights from over 75 education experts on the education challenges facing the next government and possible solutions to improve outcomes.

The report shows that:

  • All sectors of the education system are facing a workforce crisis. In schools, only 69% of those who qualified 5 years ago are still teaching, and 15% of that cohort left in their first year. 
  • The pupil population in England is set to decline significantly due to low birth rates. The state school population currently stands at 7.93 million children, and this will fall by around 800,000 by 2032. 
  • The number of pupils with  an education, health and care plan for more complex  special educational needs and disabilities has increased by around 50% in just five years – but funding has not caught up with the level of need and is based (in part) on historic data.
  • Only 5% of primary schools reached the Government’s target of 90% of pupils reaching the expected standard in key stage 2 reading, writing and mathematics in 2019.
  • Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds experience an attainment gap (relative to their more affluent peers) equivalent to 19 months of learning by the time they sit their GCSEs. Two fifths of this gap has appeared by the age of 5. 
  • Absence from education is now one of the most pressing issues facing England’s education system – persistent absence (missing more than 10% of sessions) has increased from 13% to 24%.
  • Closing the gap between skill supply and employer demand could increase national productivity by 5% – 42% of vacancies in manufacturing and 52% in construction are due to skill shortages.

The report, which follows UK 2040 Options publications on  inequality and wealth ,  economic growth ,  health  and  tax , also includes evidence of progress. England recently came fourth in the world for primary school reading proficiency and well above average in maths and science in Years 5 and 9.

But the report also reveals a system that is struggling. Thousands of children start school each year without basic skills, the disadvantage gap is growing, and education at every level is experiencing a chronic recruitment and retention challenge.

Over 75 subject experts from across a range of sectors took part in the project. There was wide agreement about the need to grapple seriously with the workforce crisis across all parts of the system, and the group put forward suggestions for how this could be achieved while continuing to improve the quality of education provision. 

More broadly the group proposed policies to:

  • Support the growing number of children  with special education needs and disabilities and rebuild parents’ trust in the system;
  • Address challenges inside and outside the school gates to improve educational outcomes, including lifting families out of poverty and increasing targeted funding for disadvantaged pupils;
  • Make the skills system more equitable, higher quality and tailored to the needs of the economy. 

Alex Burns, Director of UK 2040 Options, said:   “Education has been less prominent than other areas in recent policy debate – we feel a long way away from “education, education, education”. But if we are to be serious about improving people’s lives and boosting the economy we will need to make sure that the education system is thriving. Whilst there are clear areas of progress, this report demonstrates the scale of the challenge for the future in areas like workforce, the disadvantage gap and support for children with special educational needs.” 

Jon Andrews, Head of Analysis at the Education Policy Institute, said:  “ Whatever the outcome of the next election, it is clear there is much to do to get education back on track following a hugely disruptive pandemic and a decade dominated by funding cuts. A focus on the early years, greater funding that is targeted at the areas in need of it the most, and a plan to ease the recruitment and retention challenges facing schools must form cornerstones of any new government’s education strategy.”

You can read the report in full here.

education system in england essay

About UK 2040 Options

UK 2040 Options is a policy project led by Nesta that seeks to address the defining issues facing the country, from tax and economic growth to health and education. It draws on a range of experts to assess the policy landscape, explore some of the most fertile areas in more depth, test and interrogate ideas and bring fresh angles and insights to the choices that policymakers will need to confront, make and implement.

About Nesta

We are Nesta . The UK’s innovation agency for social good. We design, test and scale new solutions to society’s biggest problems, changing millions of lives for the better.  This report was produced in partnership with Nesta, as part of UK 2040 Options.

education system in england essay

Jon Andrews

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British education system

British Boarding School

an introduction to the British education system

The education system in the UK is divided into four main parts, primary education, secondary education, further education and higher education.

The education system in the UK is also split into "key stages" which breaks down as follows:

  • Key Stage 1:  5 to 7 years old
  • Key Stage 2:  7 to 11 years old
  • Key Stage 3:  11 to 14 years old
  • Key Stage 4:  14 to 16 years old

UK primary education

primary school students

Primary school education begins in the UK at age 5 and continues until age 11, comprising key stages one and two under the UK educational system.

Some primary schools are split up into Infant and Junior levels. These are usually separate schools on the same site. The infant age range (Key Stage 1) is from age 5 to 7. The Junior age range (Key Stage 2) is from age 7 to 11. The year groups at primary School level are:

Year R (Reception) (age 4 – 5) Year 1 (age 5 - 6) Year 2 (age 6 - 7) The year when SATs testing takes place for Key Stage 1 Year 3 (age 7 - 8) Year 4 (age 8 - 9) Year 5 (age 9 - 10) Year 6 (age 10 - 11) The year when SATs testing takes place for Key Stage 2

secondary school - years 7 and 8

boys in classroom

Years 7 and 8 are the first two years of secondary school education in the UK. In some independent schools they are included in the Junior School, in others, they are part of the Senior School. 

Under the UK school system, all students study English, Maths, Sciences, a Humanity and a Modern Language. Besides these subjects, each school has a list with optional subjects (Art, Music, Drama, Latin, Sport Science, Design Technology, Computer Science),  and  students may choose a few subjects that interest them. 

In some schools, students sit the Common Entrance Exam in year 7. There are 3 examination sessions, in November, January and May/June. The transition from Junior to Senior School (from year 8 to year 9) may be conditioned upon the Common Entrance Exam results in those schools.

secondary school - year 9

St Mary's School, Shafestbury girls

Year 9 is a very important year in the British school system, as most of the students make the transition from Junior School to Senior School. It is also a very good foundation for the GCSE programme and it is an entry point to all schools. 

Students study English, Maths, Sciences, Humanity and Languages. In addition, students choose a few subjects from the optional subject list offered by each school. 

secondary education - years 10 and 11

science class of students

GCSE programme

In the last two years of secondary education, which are called Year 10 and Year 11, starting at age 14, students prepare for GCSE exams that are taken after two years (General Certificate of Secondary Education).

In the UK school system, during the GCSE programme, students study between 9 and 12 subjects. Some of them are compulsory (English, Math, 2/3 Sciences, History/Geography, a Modern Language etc.), some are chosen by each student according to their abilities and preferences. At the end of the 2 year GCSE programme, following the examinations on each studied subject, students receive their GCSE Certificates.

The chosen subjects and the GCSE results are very important for their Further Studies (A-Level or IB) and for their University admission.

Intensive 1 year GCSE

Some schools offer a 1 Year GCSE programme in Year 11 for international students seeking a school education in the UK. These intensive, one year courses, are available for students aged 15 plus, with the appropriate academic level from their own country. Fewer subjects are studied (maximum 6).

The IGCSE programme ( International  General Certificate of Secondary Education) prepare international students for A-Level and/or IB.

Students study between 5 and 7 subjects, English, Maths and Science being included. Each school has a list of available subjects for IGCSE students. At the end of Year 11, students take exams in each studied subject and receive IGCSE Certificates.

university preparation - years 12 and 13

sixth form students on steps in uniform

A level study

In the UK school system, once a student reaches the age of 16, they can start a 2 year programme which leads to A (Advanced) level examinations. Students specialise in 3 or 4 subjects, that are usually relevant to the degree subject they wish to follow at university. A levels are state examinations and are recognised by all UK universities and by institutions worldwide.

At the end of Year 13, following the examinations in each subject, the students receive A level Certificates.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

Those who would like to study more than 3-4 subjects, may continue their studies in a broader number of subjects with the International Baccaularete Diploma Programme, offered by some independent schools.

During the IB, students study 6 subjects, 3 at higher level (HL) and 3 at standard level (SL). Each school offers different subjects at different study levels (HL/SL). The IB programme also includes a compulsory Core programme consisting of Theory of Knowledge (TOK), Extended Essay (EE) and Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS).

Students take written examinations on each subject at the end of their courses.

further education - vocational courses

group of students at university walking away

International students can either choose a state sixth form college or a college of further education as an alternative to private education. Both offer GCSE and A level courses for students from the age of 16. Colleges of further education also offer foundation and diploma courses. All colleges can prepare students for entry to a  UK university or any university in the world. Bright World works with a number of state colleges in the UK which provide a multitude of vocational and academic courses. These courses can enable students to pursue their chosen career or to gain a place at a university of their choice.

The British school system also extends to BTEC courses which are designed for students who would like to develop practical knowledge and skills in a specific subject (Business, Psychology, Engineering, Sport, Art & Design) and find traditional exams challenging. Focussing on practical, skills-based learning, the BTEC students are assessed during the course. After each unit students are assessed through assignments, tasks or tests, and not at the end of the programme as it happens with GCSE or A-Level students.

university - foundation courses

Girl writing and studying in library

From age 17, international students can opt to study one year foundation programmes, instead of A levels or IB. These courses lead to private examinations that are an alternative to A levels. Foundation courses at colleges are recognised by universities with whom they have partnerships.

Some universities also offer foundation courses that lead onto their own degree programmes.

Bright World has partnerships with a number of colleges and Pathway providers and can help place students into Foundation and Diploma courses in London and across the UK.

university - undergraduate study

Student at Cambridge University

In the UK, a British bachelors degree normally takes three years to complete and most are awarded at honours level. Examples of first degrees are: BA (Bachelor of Arts), BEng (Bachelor of Engineering), and BSc (Bachelor of Science).

State colleges offer some 2 year vocational diplomas that grant exemption from the first and sometimes second year of a degree programme. Some private tutorial colleges offer a one year diploma programme which is equivalent to year 1 of university. Students taking 1 year diplomas are awarded second year entry at some universities.

university - postgraduate study

Girl studying with pencil and laptop

Postgraduate courses in the UK education system are very intensive. This means that the courses are usually much shorter than in other countries. A master's degree typically takes 12 months to complete, for example an MA - Master of Arts and an MEng - Master of Engineering. An MBA (Master of Business Administration) is a high profile Masters course which can take 2 years. Applicants will usually be high achieving with at least 2 years managerial experience. A PhD research degree in the UK can take between 2 and 7 years.

boarding schools

St John's School, Sidmouth

Bright World works almost exclusively with privately funded schools and colleges. A boarding school is a residential school where pupils live and study during the school year. There are approximately 500 boarding schools across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

UK boarding schools offer pupils an outstanding education, helping them to develop their skills and progress to university. All UK boarding schools have to meet strict government standards on the quality of their teaching, facilities and student care.

Many UK boarding schools combine beautiful, centuries-old buildings with a mix of modern classrooms and traditional architecture. The excellent facilities help make living and learning a great experience and pupils will will improve their  English skills while they study.

tutorial colleges

MPW College

Tutorial Colleges start at age 15 and have a more flexible programme range, focussing on fast access to UK university.

Many of the independent private sixth form colleges in Oxford, Cambridge and London work on a 'tutorial system' and are often referred to as 'tutorial colleges'. The tutorial system originates from Oxford and Cambridge Universities and is a very highly regarded and much tested system. It it is still used today and is the cornerstone of an 'Oxbridge' education. A tutorial is a small class of only a few students, in which the tutor (a lecturer or other academic faculty member) gives individual attention to the students.

state boarding schools

Study book

A state boarding school is one where you pay for boarding and the education is free. The government pays for the education as it would at any other state school in England.

Admission to state boarding schools in the UK is limited to children who are nationals of the UK and are eligible to hold a full UK passport, or those who are nationals of other European Union countries or those who have the right of residence in the UK. Please note that the holding of a BN(O) passport does not make the child eligible for a state boarding school in the UK.

F E Colleges

students at college

An FE college is an institution that provides education for those above school age (age 16). There are many types of FE colleges including, sixth form colleges, specialist colleges and adult education institutes. FE Colleges are state run and as such those members of the EU joining can benefit from free education. There is also a competitive fee structure available for non-EU international students.

pathway courses at university

university students on campus

If you need to improve your English language or study skills before attending a UK university, pathway providers offer unique foundation courses which often lead to direct degree-level entry upon completion. There are several private companies who operate Foundation and Diploma programmes on the campuses of UK universities. Often these courses offer accelerated access to undergraduate degrees.


mortar boards

The UK is one of the world's most popular destination for students from overseas. In fact, more than 400,000 international students enrol each year.International students considering an education in the UK have a choice of over 140 universities and higher education institutions, each offering a great range of tertiary qualifications that will be recognised the world over. Students join a 3 year undergraduate programme or a 1 year postgraduate course.

UK university placement

university students throwing mortar boards

For expert advice on UK and US university entry, Bright World has teamed up with Education Advisers Ltd, whose experienced consultants offer a full range of Higher Education services for international students. These range from complimentary advice on the best University Foundation courses, to bespoke Oxbridge and Medical School coaching and mentorship programmes. You can visit their websites at or or call +44 1622 813870 for further information.

guardianship and school placement advice

Boarding school guardianship.

If your child is attending a boarding school you will need to nominate a UK guardian. Bright World can help you with this service.

university guardianship

If you are under 18 when you start university you will need to nominate a UK-based adult or guardian. Bright World has a programme especially for you.

boarding school placement

If you are looking for a place at a UK boarding school Bright World can help you.

enquire today

Bright world uk schools placement service.

Enquire today and receive our free Guide to British Education

read our online brochures

Bright world guardianship programme.

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Bright World boarding school placements

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education system in england essay

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The UK education system – have we got it wrong?

In terms of the health and well-being of our pupils and teachers, the UK education system is arguably nearing breaking point. Recent reports reveal that up to 54% of teachers state their job ‘often’ or ‘always’ impacts negatively on their mental and/or physical health (OFSTED, 2019).

By Professor Frances Maratos - 4 March 2020

For pupils, the statistics are much worse. One in ten primary aged children, and one in seven secondary aged pupils suffers from a mental disorder. Over the past 15 years, in real terms, this equates to a 15% increase in pupils receiving an official diagnosis (NHS, 2018). So, what is causing this negative mental health spiral in the UK education system?

The security of competition

A lack of funding and investment, pressures on resources, and increasing pupil numbers are of course part of this problem. However, also contributing to the pressures pupils and teachers face – and endemic within the UK system – is the focus on insecure competition. Yet insecure competition is something we can change.

Imagine I want you to achieve the best you can in a new sport – let’s pick running. Every day I work on your technique and provide excellent tuition and coaching. On a weekly basis I measure your performance by making you run a race. Good so far, right?

What I haven’t told you is that each week you’ll be competing against the fastest man in the world (let’s say Usain). I now have two ways of presenting feedback to you. Week after week, I can tell you how you did in comparison to Usain, and guess what, week after week, you lose. Or, I can simply focus on your own progress and present you with your finish times. Sometimes you don’t do too well, but generally your performance improves over the weeks.

Too many times time we put our pupils and teachers in the former situation. We measure teachers and schools by how they perform compared to other schools (the often anxiety-provoking OFSTED report). And we measure pupils by how they perform compared to all other children of their age, and we do this from the age of 6!

This is insecure competition.

Learning from negatives

Too often in the UK education system we create environments that can lead to feelings of shame, criticism, guilt and threat; factors that contribute to poor mental health and increase vulnerability to psychological disorders.

Too little in the UK education system do we create the opposite. That is, environments that are safe, secure and allow children to learn from failure without negative repercussions. This is secure competition.

We put teachers and pupils in environments that promote social incohesion and believe it is beneficial. We put our children in direct competition with each other and expect them to thrive. We put our teachers and schools in direct competition with each other and expect that this will result in a high-performance culture. But it doesn’t. The above statistics reveal that subjecting pupils and staff to repeated insecure competition isn’t working.

Encouraging cohesion

To create an education system in which pupils thrive and teachers remain motivated, we need to create classroom environments where children feel safe, and secure competition is encouraged. We need to create an education system where schools and staff do not live in fear of performance metrics. Rather, to thrive, our pupils and teachers need a system that encourages safety, feelings of security and social cohesion.

But is there any proof for such an approach? In a simple answer, yes, Estonia.

Pupils in Estonia outperform pupils in England massively. In 2016, global tests revealed 15-year-old Estonian pupils ranked 3rd for science and 6th for reading (UK pupils ranked 15th and 22nd respectively). In Estonia, however, the focus on early years education is making children ‘school ready’ – this includes both socially and emotionally. This is a world away from the UK, where at age 6 we put our children in formal testing situations and print each school’s results in a national league table, something Estonia does not do.

More strikingly, in Estonia children are not grouped by level of ability. As one Estonian teacher has reported to the BBC: “If you teach them (children) by different levels of ability, you segregate them. Why would we do that in schools?”

Indeed, what greater way of encouraging social incohesion than segregating children?

Although, you don’t just have to take my word for insecure competition being a bad thing.

Strikingly, Ong Ye Kung, Singapore’s Education Minister, has abolished exams for primary aged pupils in years 1 and 2.

Because, he states simply: “Learning is not a competition”. 

For further information contact the press office at [email protected] .

About the author

Academic Frances Maratos, smiling.

Professor Frances Maratos Professor of Psychology and Affective Science

Frances Maratos’ research informs applied emotion regulation, compassion and wellbeing interventions worldwide. She is widely published and has excellent grant capture. Frances is the exiting Chair of the College of HPSC Research Committee. Her Professorial appointment reflects not only her international research profile but also her longstanding commitment to the University.

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Four major challenges facing Britain’s education system after the pandemic

education system in england essay

Associate Pro Vice Chancellor for Student Inclusion and Professor of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, University of East Anglia

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Helena Gillespie's research is funded by Erasmus+ and has previously been funded by Advance HE and HEFCE. She is a school governor, multi academy trust member and director of Norfolk Cricket Board.

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The UK goverment’s Department for Education has some new ministers in charge following the political turmoil surrounding Boris Johnson’s resignation. After resigning only two days into the job of education secretary, Michelle Donelan has been replaced by James Cleverly , MP for Braintree.

Donelan’s former role overseeing higher education has been filled by Andrea Jenkyns, MP for Morley and Outwood, who has been named skills, further and higher education minister . Jenkyns’ credentials as an educational leader were called somewhat into question when she was photographed making a gesture to the public gathered outside Downing Street that would certainly have landed her in detention.

While these appointments can be considered, to some extent, to be caretaker roles pending the appointment of the new prime minister in early September, the new ministers still face significant challenges as they oversee schools, colleges and universities. Here are four issues facing them as they get to work.

Getting exams back to normal

The first hurdle comes next month with the annual round of GCSE and A-level exam results. This will be the first cohort since 2019 to have formally sat their exams. The Department of Education will be hoping that the exam results, which have already been taken and marked, will not cause such headline grabbing disruption this summer as in the two previous years.

In 2020, the first year that exams were cancelled due to the pandemic, results were overturned after it became clear that the algorithm used by the government to standardise grades was penalising students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Pupils could choose to use teacher assessments to decide grades instead.

In 2021, the government again elected to use teacher assessment to decide results, but the approach resulted in many more top grades. The jump in A grades at A-level, from 38% to 44%, meant that there were not enough places at top universities to go around – and universities had to offer prospective students packages of support to persuade them to defer to a 2022 start .

However, it is likely that the return to exams will mean a drop in grades from 2021, and there may be many disappointed students and parents. Weathering grade fluctuations in future years while also closing gaps in attainment for students from disadvantaged backgrounds will be a difficult trick to pull off.

Addressing inequality

In November 2020, the Department of Education launched its flagship initiative to address pandemic learning loss in England, the National Tutoring Programme – which pairs schools with tutors who work with individual students or small groups to help them catch up in core subjects.

However, the House of Commons Education Committee recently reported that the National Tutoring Programme is failing to make an impact in the schools in deprived areas where children are most behind with their education.

Read more: The government's academic catch-up strategy is failing children in England

Problems with the catch-up strategy are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to endemic inequalities in education in the UK. School buildings in many areas are facing pressure from growing class sizes and wear and tear. A 2021 report by the Department for Education put the backlog of school maintenance in England at a cost of £11.4 billion, an eye watering sum at a time of economic crisis.

It is difficult to see how schools can level up for their pupils in buildings that are falling down. The education secretary must hope for sympathy and support around the new cabinet table to access the funds needed.

Provide support for teachers

The pandemic has had a serious impact on children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing and the problem remains acute. One of the short-term impacts of this is growing pressures on teachers in classrooms. For this reason as well as the rise in the cost of living, teachers are asking for a substantial pay increase .

Teacher with puppet talking to class

It seems unlikely that current proposals for pay rises in schools, which sit below the rate of inflation, will stop a ballot on strike action or address teacher shortages caused by so many leaving the profession. If the new minister is to be able to deliver meaningful educational recovery, schools are going to need to be better staffed and better supported by other sector agencies. Achieving this looks both difficult and expensive.

Free speech in higher education

On 27 June 2022, before her promotion to education secretary and subsequent resignation, Michelle Donelan had written to university vice chancellors advising them to consider whether their membership of certain diversity schemes was appropriate given their responsibility to uphold free speech. This was regarded with concern by many in the education sector as a move that blurred the lines between appropriate regulation and university autonomy.

In addition, the controversial Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, which seeks to ensure that free speech is protected on campus by limiting the “no-platforming” of speakers, is currently passing through the House of Lords. However, a recent survey has found that 61% of students think that universities should prioritise protecting students from discrimination rather than permitting unlimited free speech.

The new Department for Education team has much to do to ensure that good decisions are made on behalf of the UK’s children and young people.

This article was amended on July 19 2022 to reflect that the National Tutoring Programme and Condition of School Buildings Survey refer to England.

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Education system in UK – Cause & Effect

Introduction Education in the UK is devolved with each of the smaller countries within the UK. This means there are governments in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland that deal with education their own way. There are five stages of education in the UK, which include early years teaching, primary school, secondary school, Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE). In my cause and effect essay, I show the effect of school rules and rankings and graduation rates in the UK. Cause The UK is traditionally one of the highest ranked countries when it comes to education, but over recent years, their ranking against the world has stagnated a little, especially when it comes to PISA tests (Program for International Student Assessment).

Effect The UK education system is still good and ranked highly, but it has caused more people to consider teaching their children at home. There are a growing number of parents that are teaching their children at home in the UK. The numbers are still small in comparison to the number of children that attend school. Part of the reason that there are more children being taught at home is because there are now free and easy-to-use tools on the Internet that parents can use to teach their child a little easier than before. Cause It is compulsory for children to attend school from the age of four in Northern Ireland and five in the rest of the UK, and children are not allowed to leave school until the age of 16. The only way to avoid going to school is via home schooling, but a child must still complete a curriculum that is overseen by a tutor upon occasion. Effect It has become more difficult for students to miss school, and many have to attend school no matter what. However, thanks to the Internet, students are discovering that if they behave badly then they can be expelled. If they are not accepted into other schools, then their parents are forced to teach them from home. Cause The University and college system in the UK is truly top class, with many of the Universities and colleges having notoriety and esteem around the world. Graduation rates within UK colleges and Universities are very high, and any student in the UK can find funding in order to attend University apart from in special circumstances. Effect The UK stands in second place across Europe and in sixth place worldwide when higher education from Universities and colleges is counted in with the figures whilst ranking. There are so many students attending college and so many graduating that the UK world ranking and European ranking is very high. If graduation rates from colleges and Universities were not counted, then the UK is no longer second place in Europe when it comes to education rankings.

Conclusion The UK education system is clearly very good and of a very high standard, though some of their high rankings on the world stage are backed up by their very strong college system and even stronger University system, with the college system giving A-level qualifications and Universities giving degrees.

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UK Education System Guide

education system in england essay

The UK education system is reputed worldwide for its high quality and standards. Britons enter the education system at the age of three, and up to 16 are obliged to attend school (compulsory education), while afterward is upon their choice.

Generally, the British higher education system has five stages of education: 

  • Early Years
  • Primary Years
  • Secondary Education
  • Further Education (FE)
  • Higher Education (HE) 

Besides sharing many similarities, the UK education system at different levels at each zone of administration (England, Scotland, and Wales) differs a bit. Generally speaking, these differences could be more meaningful if we discuss UK higher education as one.

In the UK, everybody over five and under 16 is obliged to attend school. This aging time frame contains two sections of the education system in the UK: Primary and Secondary Schools.

The Compulsory Education in the UK 

Compulsory education in the UK is divided into four key stages, distinguished by a student’s age. The first stage includes 5 to 7-year-olds, and the fourth and final stage lasts from the age of 14 to age 16. 

Here are the four stages of mandatory education in the UK and the curricula for each key stage:

First Key Stage 

The first key stage in compulsory education in England includes children from 5 to 7 years old, otherwise known as a primary school, comprising the first two years. 

Here are some of the main subjects that this stage of mandatory education includes:

  • English Language 
  • Mathematics
  • Physical Education

During the first year of this stage, the curriculum structure contains the Phonic screening, a short assessment of kids’ ability to decode and understand phonics properly. Typically, the teacher will ask the students to repeat a list of around 40 words out loud. At the end of this stage (the same in all stages), these pupils will sit for an examination to measure their English, Maths, and Science knowledge development.

Second Key Stage

Between 7 to 11 years, pupils will be in the second key stage of compulsory education. The second key stage includes years 3 to 6. At this level, the curriculum is designed to give students a more advanced understanding of the previously gained knowledge on the core subjects. 

At the end of this stage, the school will test students in the following subjects:

  • English reading.
  • English grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Mathematics.

In English and Mathematics, the testing will be done through national assessment tests, while the teacher will independently assess the level of improvement of each student in Science.

Third Key Stage

Pupils aged 11 to 14 belong to the third stage of compulsory education, or years 7 to 9. This education level is essential to a certain degree because only a few years later, they will sit for the GCSE national qualification. 

The curriculum during this stage of education will also contain new subjects at which students are supposed to get some basic knowledge before moving any further in the upcoming stages of education.

The subjects learned in Key Stage 3 are:

  • Art and Design
  • Physical Education 
  • Modern Foreign Languages 
  • Design and Technology and Computing

At the end of the third Key Stage, some students may take their GCSE or other national qualifications. 

Fourth Key Stage

The final stage of compulsory education, key stage 4, lasts from 14 to 16 and includes years 10 to 12. The fourth key stage is the most common period for students to undertake the national assessment tests that will lead them to take a GCSE or other national qualifications.

The compulsory national curriculum at this stage contains the “core” and “foundation” subjects.

Here are the “core” subjects taught at the fourth key stage:

And here are the “foundation” subjects taught at the key stage 4:

  • Citizenship

Additionally, schools in the UK are obliged to offer one of the following subjects during this stage of education.

  • Design and Technology
  • Modern Foreign Languages

The Higher Education System in the United Kingdom 

In particular, UK higher education is valued worldwide for its renowned standards and quality. Its higher education’s prestige also emanates from its graduates’ work afterward. Many eminent people in many different areas whose work reached global recognition came from British universities. 

Some universities and other higher education providers are ranked top among universities worldwide. The UK capital city, London, not by accident, is considered to be the world’s capital city of higher education. With its four universities ranked in the world’s top ten, London has the highest number of worldwide-ranked universities per city.

By definition, UK higher education is the level of education that follows secondary school at the hierarchy of the educational system in the UK. When high school is over, Britons have to sit in a standard examination, making them eligible not to continue their education at a higher level.

What is the Difference Between Colleges and Universities?

In the UK education system, in contrast to the US higher education, there is a difference between college and university. While in the US, there is no distinction between college and university, with most people referring to a higher education provider as a college, in the UK, this is not the case. 

In the UK, a college is a further education institution that prepares students to earn a degree. At the same time, a university is a licensed HE institution that awards students with a degree at the end of their studies. 

Studying in the UK as an International Student 

If you’re an international student , you must know that not all higher education providers in the UK are referred to as a university. This issue is regulated by law. 

As this official regulation states, a higher education institution can be labeled as a university under these circumstances:

  • If it gets approved by the Privy Council under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992.
  • If it gets approval under the provisions of the Companies Act 2006.

International students from countries other than the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland must apply for a student visa to study in the UK.

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The UK Higher Education Degree Levels and Programs

Based on the actual education regulations in the UK education system, Higher Education comprises the following levels of courses. 

1. Undergraduate Courses

Undergraduate courses in the UK include a wide range of first degrees which are listed below.

  • Bachelor’s Degree 
  • Honors and Ordinary Degrees 
  • Qualified Teacher Status 
  • Enhanced First Degrees 
  • Intercalated Degrees (medical schools or other specific study fields allow students to take a year off between the second and third years to study a different area which can be a BA, BSc, or master’s degree program).

Here are other undergraduate courses: 

  • Foundation degrees 
  • Higher National Diploma HND (or equivalent) 
  • NHC (or equivalent), etc.

An undergraduate course usually takes three years; however, Scotland is an exception, where undergraduate courses take four years to complete. The higher education system in the UK has many universities that offer 4-year undergraduate courses, also known as “ sandwich courses .” This program includes a one-year work experience —usually carried out in the third year.

Keep in mind: Some British universities offer fast-track programs where you can obtain a Master’s degree at the undergraduate level. Unlike traditional undergraduate courses, fast-track programs allow students to attend an additional year of studying instead of taking a Bachelor’s degree which leads to a Master’s program. 

Besides, it costs much less than the typical 3-year undergraduate courses; however, it usually is much more intense with shortened holiday breaks and a heavy schedule.

2. Postgraduate Courses 

The postgraduate degree programs are only obtainable if you have a bachelor’s degree at an accredited university (not necessarily one in England).

The postgraduate level includes the following degrees:

  • Master’s Degree (Taught or Research). Master’s degrees usually last one year or longer if they are research-based.
  • Doctorate. The typical doctoral degree takes three years to complete. 
  • Postgraduate Diplomas.
  • Postgraduate Certificates of Education (PGCE).
  • Professional Degrees.

Note: To enter this level, it is usually required to have a first degree (Bachelor’s).

The Higher Education Curriculum and Admission Process 

In the UK’s education system, most syllabi are set by the universities offering them and are not controlled by the government or certain British educational institutions. The only exception to this is teacher education programs, which the government has a lot of say over. 

The British government has established the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) to maintain those standards. Most countries have specific regulations for their teachers, so this isn’t any different than studying teaching in your home country. Because of its strict rules and high standards for teacher education programs, the UK is considered to have some of the best teacher education programs in the world.

Even though universities set the syllabi, the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) in the British school system has a lot of say in the admission procedures of each university. This office was created so everyone who wishes to attend university in the UK can do so. They also promote fair access to higher education, even for those attending university as international students. Appropriate access also includes those of different cultures, different races, different nationalities, and those who have disabilities.

UK Tuition Fees and Costs

The reputation of British higher education goes hand in hand with its costs. Tuition fees may vary from university to university, as well as from one location to another.

So it’s always advisable to check the university’s website before making further study plans. Indeed, to attend a British university, you need a lot of money packed in —whether you’re a native or not— but since there are many scholarship schemes , you can always apply for one.

The tuition fees of UK universities also vary depending on the degree level and study program. The average tuition fees for international students range from ~£17,109 (USD 20,876) to  ~£22,200 (USD 27,000). 

  • Undergraduate tuition fees: International students pay around £11,400 – £38,000 (USD 13,900 – USD 46,355).
  • Postgraduate tuition fees: International students pay around £9,000 – £30,000 (USD 10,980 – USD 36,570)

International students are a substantial part of the student population in British universities. The UK is the second most popular study destination for international students, following the US at the top. If you decide to be one of more than a million international students in the US, you’re one step away from a guaranteed brighter future.

Academics and employers value the UK education system and its higher education degrees worldwide. The UK has a rich history of quality higher education, and each university has excellent options for any student.

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Education policies in the UK since 1944 Essay

Introduction, origin of education policies, education policies post 1944, evaluation of the 1944 education act, the tripartite system, evaluation of tripartite system, the callaghan ruskin college speech, evaluation of callaghan’s speech, reference list.

Education policies have developed from the sixth century and it is still evolving up to the current day. The paper will look at a brief history of the evolution of education policies to the time period of the 1940’s decade and then focus on the major development of education policies from 1944 to the end of the 20 th Century.

Education policies have seen a major change from the Balfour act, the tripartite system, the 10/65 and had major professionals in the political and education systems try to change the way that education policies are formulated like Ellen Williamson, Winston Churchill and Callaghan among others.

Most of the education policies that were established in 1944 have remained the same especially in terms of administering bodies and duties of officials like the ministry of education and the local education authorities. The issue of funding for education has remained a contentious issue and it keeps on changing with the changes in the views and voting powers of the politicians in office.

Education was introduced in Britain by Romans in the sixth Century. The Romans introduced the learning of Latin and Christianity in Britain with the arrival of St. Augustine.

The schools were originally known as grammar schools and song schools whereby, individuals were prepared for performance and entry to other professions like civil service, teaching and many other careers. The grammar schools gave provision of general education services needed by individuals who wanted to enter into careers like law, medicine, astronomy and theology (ATL 2011, p.3).

In the late 19 th Century, the British government had established school boards that had been issued with the mandate of ensuring that elementary education was provided to locals in various areas where the schools were located.

Ainley and Allen (2010 p. 138) wrote that, “Using education to promote economic reconstruction and democracy would empower people to take an active part in a broader democratic discussion about the best policies for sustainability, economy and employment. Such an approach would represent an inversion of the master servant relationship of education to the economy.” The two authors try to imply that evolution of education policies are meant to change the society positively.

In current day, independent schools have been criticized for only considering elite cases which was not the original intention of education policies. Most grammar schools are not spared of criticism either due to their nature of being too selective when it comes to admitting students.

They also ask for a given amount of school fees for boarding facilities which prove restricting to parents. Most of the comprehensive schools in the country are also located in neighbourhoods where only rich individuals can be able to live, which further prove to be restrictive to many individuals. Public schools have not been spared either as most of their entry requirements are quite restrictive.

The entry requirements to most public schools are directed towards pupils who have attended private preparatory schools or have been privately tutored both of which are expensive options.

To try and bridge the gap created by the schools system being selective of students that can afford the expensive fees, the Thatcher government came up with Assisted Places Scheme in 1980 to assist able students whose parents or guardians could not be able to pay for the expensive fees required of public and independent schools. This policy was helpful to the society as it enabled children from lower income families to access education.

The change in the policies included the change in ages whereby, some schools established evening schools for adults and the established separate classes for students that were seen to show promise in class through their dedication and commitment to their studies. This led to outrage from other schools that were following the laid down school policies and also from the churches that felt that their followers were being taken away from them especially through the evening classes.

Other schools felt that their students would be tempted to leave their current schools and go to the schools that were not following established rules which the schools predicted would lead to depletion of their funds. In the early 20 th Century, the Balfour Education Act was established with the development of elementary schools that had been established by the government which also funded the schools.

The Balfour Act was established through the support of Arthur Balfour who had been elected to the Conservative government and he presented his education bill to the House of Commons. Balfour thought that England was not doing enough to stay ahead in the education front in terms of enrolment, curriculum and public support.

The Balfour Act made for a provision which gave room for two education systems with educational and social functions for individuals (Osler & Starkey 2005, p.33). This is an indication of the positive intentions of policy change to the members of the community.

Britain had been at war for about eight months with the Germans in the 1940’s. The then President of the Board of Education, Herwald Ramsbotham was able to lead the senior officers of the education board to form what would later be known as the 1944 Education Act.

The act, which had the support of the Prime minister, had the original intention of ensuring that students all over England got similar privileges and opportunities in education. The proposals that were made by the education board were documented in the ‘Education after the war- Green book’ (Ward & Eden 2009 p.666).

The book made the proposal that the differentiation that existed between elementary and secondary education should be removed and that education should be comprised of primary, secondary and higher education.

The proposals also set out that the role of ensuring that education is provided for the public who need it and that it should be made available by the local education authorities. The post war education system bill was passed by parliament under the persuasion of Butler and therefore, the 1944 education act is commonly known as the Butler Act (Ainley & Allen 2010, p.20).

The act served to set the guidelines for the ministry of education on which the Minister for education and the Central Advisory Councils for Education would get the guidelines for running education systems in England.

The statutory system of education was also provided for in the 1944 education act where guidelines were laid down with consideration of factors such as local education authorities, school management, transition arrangements, special education treatment, compulsory school age, provision for further education, secular instruction, appointment and dismissal of teachers, special education treatment, compulsory school age to be adhered to, higher education provision, prohibition of child labour and provision of services like feeding and medical services in specific schools (Crick 1998, p.333).

The education act of 1944 played a pivotal role in transforming the lives of British citizens. It ensured provision of education to all and advancement in science in science and technology.

The central administration act made reasonable appropriate demands on the minister of education who would have the duty of making an annual report to parliament on the progress of education in the various counties and county boroughs in England and Wales. The duties of the minister for education were set to be properly executed with the provision of offering of advisory services from Councils of education in England and in Wales.

Part II of the statutory system of education was organized into primary, secondary and further education levels. The intention of the education for all the levels was aimed at mental, physical, moral and spiritual growth and development of students. The local authorities of the areas around the schools had the duty of ensuring that the schools run smoothly as was expected.

The local authorities of the areas around the schools were also mandated with the duty of ensuring that children under the age of five attended nursery school so as to get a good base for their education. Children who had disabilities were also catered for in the education policies where appropriate facilities were made available to children who had disabilities (Tomlison 2010 p.6).

The local authorities also made it necessary to have religious studies available to schools so as to positively nourish the spirituality and morality of students that attended schools. Religious education was also expected to provide a good base for students who wanted to pursue careers that were religion specific for example clergy men.

In terms of religion, the local authority was issued with the necessary power to agree with local, regional and international religious leaders on the necessary religious instruction material to be used for students The local authority was also issued with a mandate for determining the best instructional material for the students and the best teaching methods to be used by teachers for effective learning. Religious education helped in shaping moral development of the British citizens.

Special schools were given a provision in the education act proposal whereby, the local authority was mandated with the duty of seeking medical attention on behalf of children that were suspected of having disabilities so that classification into different classes could be made and assistance to the children given accordingly.

If medical personnel recommended that a child needed special attention in school or more medical attention, it would be appropriate for the local authority to involve the parent in alternative forms of education for that particular child. A section in the education act also provided for a mandatory school going age for children between the ages of five and fifteen. Parents of children of this age were obligated to ensure that their children get the necessary education (Ward & Eden 2005 p.111).

The 1944 act might be criticized that it was made hurriedly with the intention of fast establishment of education policies to cater for the post war needs of Britain. It is however worthy to note that the education policies that were made were made with the intention of providing a good basis for the establishment and development of good education structure.

A good example of the positive effects of the establishment of proper education policies is the inclusion of both young and older children into the creation and cultivation of an education culture of trying to involve the children to actively and continuously make a positive change in their own lives and in the community.

Overall, the 1944 education act had a positive effect as it had the intention of providing medical and dental health, free milk and meals and free support services like transport and clothing grants to school going children. The 1944 education Act also had the provision which led to the development of the Central Advisory Councils of Education in both Wales and England. It is these two Central Advisory Councils that led to meaningful reports in the education sector (Osler & Starkey 2005 p.77).

The Central Advisory Councils for education came up with the 1959 Crowther Report which was about the education of 15 to 18 year olds, the 1963 Newsom Report which focused on educating children that were less capable in comparison to other children in schools and the 1967 Plowden Report that focused on children and their primary schools. The 1944 education act was amended in some sections by legislation in the year 1996 through the then Education Act.

Ellen Wilkinson had been the minister for education who had been elected to lead the ministry after the Second World War. Ellen Wilkinson was tasked with the mandate of seeing through the education act that had been established. Ellen liked the Act because she personally felt that the education Act gave the progress and fostered the growth and development of learners to become more creative and confident; both in the classroom and outside of the classroom (Tomlison 2000 p. 64).

Wilkinson had ambitions that included increasing the school going age of children to sixteen years old and to offer the meals to the school going children at no fee at all. The introduction of free milk was a success in schools but the introduction of free meals proved to be difficult which led to the depression and eventual death of the then education minister; Ellen Wilkinson. George Tomlison took over as the education minister in the beginning of the year 1947.

Tomlison hoped to publicize the comprehensive education system. In the comprehensive education system, all school going children were supposed to attend one common school instead of what was being witnessed at the time. The school going children were divided by the idea of making a choice between secondary, modern, grammar and specialist schools (Crick 1998, p.201).

Even politicians that supported the Labour party hoped that a new government would bring with it the introduction of an education system that would not favour any group of students but would instead offer equal opportunities for all school going children. This idea was however not achieved because of private schools and what was referred to as the direct grant schools did not change into the recommended universal schooling system where all the school going children were given equal opportunities.

Critics of the then government felt that not enough attempts were made to try and start up the universal education system. The Atlee government instead introduced the tripartite education system which had the grammar, technical and secondary modern schools ideas being implemented into workable systems.

The tripartite system had the goal of introducing three types of education systems that would be controlled and funded by the state. The modern schools that would be established had the aim of enrolling children who would be working class individuals and their future employment would not require them to have any specific knowledge or technical skill. Most of the politicians in the Labour party were against the proposal.

Once the education policy was discussed in parliament, the proposal was rejected on the basis that it offered no new insight into improvement of the existing education system (Tomlison 2000 p.88). In my opinion, this policy would have brought more harm than good to the intentions of education to the British citizens.

Critics argued that the tripartite system was similar to the system of education that needed to be abolished because it had only promoted conflict by stratifying individuals into different groups based on their wealth and social status.

The existing government however, worsened matters by making it difficult for some children to enter into the grammar schools, refusing some of the existing secondary schools to offer exams and declining to approve proposals that were presented by local authorities on issues concerning improvement of running of local schools.

The tripartite system increased competition of entry into grammar schools and promoted the concept among individuals that the working class children were of lower intelligence in comparison to other children. The development of primary education was therefore seen as taking a back seat as emphasis was now made on the teaching of students to pass exams so that they could gain entry into the present day competitive grammar schools, and not to gain knowledge that would be used in future.

In the years between 1951 and 1964, Britain saw the return of the Conservatism party which led to major reforms in the education sector. The conservatisms’ managed to come up with the 10/65 circular which had the goal of ending separation in the system of getting into schools by students.

The force with which members of the government who wanted to see change in the system of schools seemed to diminish with the existence of limitations in pursuance of elimination of division of the schools into different groups based on unfair systems. With the introduction of the Certificate of Secondary Education, there was even more pressures on schools to divide up the students to those that were performing and the non performers (Crick 1998 p.76).

The 1960s decade however saw the development of elementary school education to an education system that put a lot of emphasis on the development of individual personality of children rather than on formal education. This kind of education appreciated and valued that individuals are different and that education only might not be enough for an individual to succeed.

Callaghan made his speech in 1976 where he made it known that the curriculum did not put enough emphasis on skills that were needed by students such as basic reading, writing and arithmetic.

He felt that teachers, employers, parents and trade unions should be allowed to discuss the effects of education on the school going children and whether they benefited from the education that they get from the schools or whether it is just a formality. Callaghan felt that there was a deficit in the education that was being provided in schools especially when matched up to the economic needs needed by the country in order to remain competitive in the global market (Osler & Starskey 2005, p.55).

Callaghan’s speech was not fully welcomed as it was seen by many people as being an attack on the teachers who felt that they did the necessary things to ensure that students learn what is necessary. The speech however, inspired some changes in the education system with the establishment of Assessment of Performance Unit and the mass Testing of Local education Authorities. The education sector saw a minor restructuring with its integration into the social and economic sectors (Tomlison 2000 p.391).

The aim of the education policies by Margaret Thatcher was to change the system of public schools to become more profitable and to change their governance from local authorities to the central government. One of the primary motives for Thatcher was to try and equalize the opportunities made available to pupils when entering into schools regardless of their social or economic backgrounds.

The 1974 Act seemed to flop as most of the politicians were seen to prefer policies that would put up more secondary schools instead of increasing pressure on the already existing secondary schools to select from a wider range of pool of pupils especially the secondary schools.

Unfortunately, some of the education policies seem to have changed to the disadvantage for the majority of English citizens because most parents would like to take their children to good schools but they have restrictions based on academic capability of the students and the financial capability of their parents.

Most of the education policies that were made in 1944 have remained intact and have benefitted English citizens in terms of provision of free primary and secondary education. Higher education is made available to English citizens at reduced fees in comparison to international students.

Education is an important part of the society as it produces civilized individuals. Education cannot however compensate for society as they both need each other to survive. The society needs education in order to produce skilled and educated people who know how to behave in the society.

A society has rules and regulations and when most people are educated, they do not have to keep on being followed so that they can follow the rules. Education needs the society so that it can develop into a system that benefits the society and develops with time so as to help future generations (Osler & Starkey 2005 p. 58).

With the recent economic crisis, most of the educated young people do not have jobs and most of them feel that the education system has let them down for giving them training that does not offer them jobs. Education can therefore not compensate for society.

Ainley, P. & Allen, M., 2010. Lost Generation? New strategies for youth and education . London: Continuum.

ATL., 2011. The future of state education: how everything you value is disappearing , London: Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Crick, B., 1998. Education for Citizenship and the teaching of Democracy Schools: Final Report of The advisory group on Citizenship . New Yolk, NY: Bradshaw Press.

Osler, A. & Starkey, H., 2005. Changing Citizenship, Democracy and Inclusion in Education , Buckingham: Open University Press.

Tomlinson, S., 2000. Education in a post welfare society, Second Edition. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Ward, S., & Eden, C., 2009. Key Issues in Education Policy . London: Sage.

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‘You Can Hear a Pin Drop’: The Rise of Super Strict Schools in England

Inspired by the academic success of schools like the Michaela secondary school in northwest London, some principals are introducing tight controls on students’ behavior.

A class of students sitting at desks with their heads bowed and one hand raised, while a teacher stands at a whiteboard at the front.

By Emma Bubola

Emma Bubola visited the Michaela Community School in London and interviewed teachers, educational specialists and students from around England.

As the teacher started to count down, the students uncrossed their arms and bowed their heads, completing the exercise in a flash.

Listen to this article with reporter commentary

Open this article in the New York Times Audio app on iOS.

“Three. Two. One,” the teacher said. Pens across the room went down and all eyes shot back to the teacher. Under a policy called “Slant” (Sit up, Lean forward, Ask and answer questions, Nod your head and Track the speaker), the students, aged 11 and 12, were barred from looking away.

When a digital bell beeped (traditional clocks are “not precise enough,” the principal said) the students walked quickly and silently to the cafeteria in a single line. There they yelled a poem — “ Ozymandias ,” by Percy Bysshe Shelley — in unison, then ate for 13 minutes as they discussed that day’s mandatory lunch topic: how to survive a superintelligent killer snail.

In the decade since the Michaela Community School opened in northwest London, the publicly funded but independently run secondary school has emerged as a leader of a movement convinced that children from disadvantaged backgrounds need strict discipline, rote learning and controlled environments to succeed.

“How do those who come from poor backgrounds make a success of their lives? Well, they have to work harder,” said the principal, Katharine Birbalsingh, who has a cardboard cutout of Russell Crowe in “Gladiator” in her office with the quote, “Hold the Line.” In her social media profiles , she proclaims herself “Britain’s Strictest Headmistress.”

“What you need to do is pull the fence tight,” she added. “Children crave discipline.”

While some critics call Ms. Birbalsingh’s model oppressive, her school has the highest rate of academic progress in England, according to a government measure of the improvement pupils make between age 11 and 16, and its approach is becoming increasingly popular.

In a growing number of schools, days are marked by strict routines and detentions for minor infractions, like forgetting a pencil case or having an untidy uniform. Corridors are silent as students are forbidden to speak with their peers.

Advocates of no-excuses policies in schools, including Michael Gove , an influential secretary of state who previously served as education minister , argue that progressive, child-centered approaches that spread in the 1970s caused a behavioral crisis , reduced learning and hindered social mobility.

Their perspective is tied to a conservative political ideology that emphasizes individual determination, rather than structural elements, as shaping people’s lives. In Britain, politicians from the governing Conservative Party, which has held power for 14 years, have supported this educational current, borrowing from the techniques of American charter schools and educators who rose to prominence in the late 2000s.

The hard-right firebrand Suella Braverman , a former minister with two Tory governments, was a director of the Michaela school. Martyn Oliver, the chief executive of a schools group known for its strict approach to discipline, was appointed as the government’s chief inspector for education last fall. Ms. Birbalsingh served as the government’s head of social mobility from 2021 until last year, a position she held while running the Michaela school.

Tom Bennett, a government adviser for school behavior, said that sympathetic education ministers had helped this “momentum.”

“There are lots of schools doing this now,” Mr. Bennett said. “And they achieve fantastic results.”

Since Rowland Speller became the principal of the Abbey School in the south of England, he has cracked down on misbehavior and introduced formulaic routines inspired by Michaela’s methods. He said that a regulated environment is reassuring for students who have a volatile home life.

If one student does well, the others clap twice after a teacher says, “Two claps on the count of two: one, two.”

“We can celebrate lots of children really quickly,” Mr. Speller said.

Mouhssin Ismail, another school leader who founded a high-performing school in a disadvantaged area of London, posted a picture on social media in November of school corridors with students walking in lines. “You can hear a pin drop during a school’s silent line ups,” he wrote.

The remarks triggered a backlash, with critics likening the pictures to a dystopian science fiction movie.

Ms. Birbalsingh argues that wealthy children can afford to waste time at school because “their parents take them to museums and art galleries,” she said, whereas for children from poorer backgrounds, “the only way you’re going to know about some Roman history is if you’re in your school learning.” Accepting the tiniest misbehavior or adapting expectations to students’ circumstances, she said, “means that there is no social mobility for any of these children.”

At her school, many students expressed gratitude when asked about their experiences, even praising the detentions they received, and eagerly repeating the school’s mantras about self-improvement. The school’s motto is “work hard, be kind.”

Leon, 13, said that initially he did not want to go to the school, “but now I am thankful I went because otherwise I wouldn’t be as smart as I am now.”

With around 700 students, Michaela is smaller than the average state-funded secondary school, which has around 1,050, according to the government. It is so famous that it attracts about 800 visitors a year, mostly teachers, Ms. Birbalsingh said. A leaflet handed to guests asks them not to “demonstrate disbelief to pupils when they say they like their school.”

But some educators have expressed concern about the broader zero-tolerance approach, saying that controlling students’ behavior so minutely might produce excellent academic results, but does not foster autonomy or critical thinking. Draconian punishments for minor infractions can also come at a psychological cost, they say.

“It’s like they’ve taken 1984 and read it as a how-to manual as opposed to a satire,” said Phil Beadle, an award-winning British secondary school teacher and author.

To him, free time and discussion are as important to child development as good academic results. He worries that a “cultlike environment that required total compliance” can deprive children of their childhood.

The Michaela school made headlines in January after a Muslim student took it to court over its ban on prayer rituals, arguing that it was discriminatory. Ms. Birbalsingh defended the ban on social media, saying it was vital for “a successful learning environment where children of all races and religion can thrive.”

The high court has not yet issued its decision in the case.

Proponents of the strict model and some parents say that children with special education needs thrive in strict, predictable environments, but others saw their children with learning difficulties struggle in these schools.

Sarah Dalton sent her dyslexic 12-year-old son to a strict school with excellent academic results. But his dread of being penalized for minor mistakes created unbearable stress, and he started showing signs of depression.

“ There was this fear of being punished ,” she said. “His mental health just spiraled.”

When she moved him to a more relaxed school, he started to heal, Ms. Dalton said.

In England, government data last year showed that dozens of superstrict schools were suspending students at a far higher rate than the national average. (The Michaela school was not among them.)

Lucie Lakin, the principal of Carr Manor Community School in Leeds — which does not follow the zero-tolerance model — said that she realized the approach was spreading when a growing number of students enrolled at her school after being expelled. Her school earns high academic scores , but she said that was not the only goal of an education.

“Are you talking about the school’s results being successful, or are you trying to make successful adults?” she asked. “That’s the path you’ve got to pick.”

In the United States, charter schools that adopted similar strict approaches were initially praised for their results. But growing criticism from some parents , teachers and students in the mid-2010s triggered a reckoning in the sector.

In 2020, Uncommon Schools, an American network of charter schools and one of the pioneers of the “no excuses” approach, announced it was abandoning some of its strictest policies, including “Slant.” The organization said it would remove “undue focus on things like eye contact and seat posture” and put greater emphasis on building student confidence and intellectual engagement.

“A titan in the world of education falls to progressive pressure,” Ms. Birbalsingh wrote on social media . “Uncommon you have just let hundreds of thousands of children down.”

Audio produced by Patricia Sulbarán .

Emma Bubola is a Times reporter based in London, covering news across Europe and around the world. More about Emma Bubola

Blog The Education Hub

School funding: Everything you need to know

education system in england essay

No school, child or local authority is the same and school funding needs to reflect that. That’s why sometimes it can seem complicated.

Here’s what you need to know about school funding.

How are schools funded?    

Most state-funded schools in England receive funding through two main funding pots which determines what the money can be spent on – revenue funding and capital funding.    

Schools can decide how they spend their revenue funding. It is used to pay for the day-to-day running costs of a school, such as teacher pay , support staff pay, energy bills, minor maintenance, and teaching materials.   

Capital funding is a separate pot of money used to pay for new school buildings and improvements to the school estate.  

How does government decide how much revenue funding each school gets?  

Each year, the government allocates money for all state-funded mainstream schools, including academies and council-run schools, using a formula that ensures funding is fair and reflects their pupils’ needs.  

This is called the National Funding Formula (NFF) which you can read more about here .   

This formula takes a variety of factors into account, such as the number of pupils a school has and how its location may affect the school’s running costs.  

T he funding system also protects schools against large decreases in per-pupil funding from one year to the next, giving schools stability to help their budget planning.   

Schools have the flexibility to decide how to use this funding. Most of the money is spent on paying staff, but it can also be used for other costs such as classroom materials and energy.  

Independent or private schools operate outside this system and raise their funding through fees.  

How much is spent on school funding?  

In autumn 2022 , we announced that in 2023-24, schools will get an extra £2 billion of revenue funding and the same again in 2024-25.   

And in July 2023, we announced further funding for the next two academic years to support that year's teachers' pay award - with over £480 million going into schools this academic year, and over £825 million for the next.

This is on top of the £1.5 billion increase schools were already set to receive in 2023-24, bringing the overall funding increase this year to £3.9 billion, compared to 2022-23.  

It means that total school revenue funding in England is £57.7 billion for 2023-24, rising to £59.6 billion for 2024-25.    

As a result, in 2024-25 schools will receive the highest ever in real terms per pupil, as measured by the GDP deflator measure of inflation – the routine measure of public spending.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in 2019-20 the UK was the highest spender in the G7 on schools and colleges delivering primary and secondary education as a share of GDP.  

The department’s published statistics on school funding over recent years provide data on funding for pupils aged 5-16. This coverage has been chosen both to capture core funding for schools and to ensure the series is as comparable over time as possible, despite changes to the specific grants allocated to schools over time.  

What does this money mean for my child’s school?  

The additional £2 billion will mean that a typical primary school with 200 pupils can expect to receive around an extra £35,000 in funding.    

A typical secondary school with 900 pupils would receive an additional £200,000.    

  Schools can choose how they spend the additional funding, for example, on staffing, classroom materials, or other running costs.   

Overall, funding for mainstream schools is increasing by around £310 per pupil this year – which is on top of the average £300 per pupil increase last year (2022-23). Additional funding for teachers’ pay is on top of this.  

In total, average per-pupil funding in schools for 2023-24 is £7,460.    

You may also be interested in:

  • What is pupil premium funding for schools and how will it benefit my child?
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Tags: primary school , primary schools , School funding , schools , Secondary School

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education system in england essay

Alcohol Exclusion Laws and Its Drawbacks

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Since the repeal of the 18 th Amendment in 1933, alcohol consumption has become prevalent among many Americans. Alcohol intoxication is an increasing contributor to emergency room visits wherein individuals present to the emergency department (ED) in an inebriated state,  often with secondary injuries or severe medical co-morbidities related to alcohol poisoning. The ED is a stressful environment with providers working under taxing conditions while triaging difficult cases. Alcohol related visits contribute to this added stress for staff given that intoxicated individuals increase wait times for the ED, use up valuable resources, and have the capacity to act violently towards providers. As one nurse puts it, some intoxicated individuals  present with “an aggressive state, perhaps have been in a fight, blood everywhere, careening  around the place – it can make things very difficult.” [1] To combat these circumstances, thirty-four States including the District of Columbia have implemented a countermeasure recognized as Alcohol Exclusion Laws (AELs). 

AELs reduce or cut insurance coverage of certain visits to the ED if the cause of the visit is due to alcohol intoxication. [2] The vast implementation of this law is derived from the idea of individual decision making, that it is an individual’s choice to consume alcohol, and therefore they hold a personal responsibility for their intoxication. By using insurance coverage as a leverage, the law aims at reducing the number of ED visits relating to alcohol intoxication, saving resources, and deterring irresponsible drinking. While the intention behind AELs aims for positive change, it is unethical to use AELs, a form of financial leverage, to address certain problems within emergency medicine. 

Stigma is prominent in almost all substance abuse cases including those seen with alcohol intoxication. Many patients feel embarrassment or shame when seeking medical attention for a condition that was brought on by alcohol misuse. A personal account by Jonathan Hunt Glassman, a former alcoholic and NBC contributor, emphasizes on this negative bias. He knows firsthand how unsettling an ED visit can be. He felt demoralized from a superficial prognosis  made by a nurse on his complex alcohol abuse condition, in which the nurse said, “You need to  stop drinking.” [3]

Whether it be from shame or insecurities about an individual’s condition, the stigma behind substance abuse cases in the emergency department and the daunting task of asking for help can turn a lot of patients away from seeking and receiving medical treatment. The implementation of Alcohol Exclusion Laws can amplify this already present stigma. A study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) analyzed States that implemented and continued to enforce Alcohol Exclusion Laws and the stigma in those states surrounding alcohol-related ED visits. The result from the study showed that AELs correlated with an increase in stigmatization regarding medical attention for alcohol-related incidents, and that AELs “negatively impact people’s willingness to seek medical care after alcohol-related injuries or  illnesses.” [4] Both the NIH study and the personal account by Hunt-Glassman go on to show that  AELs have the adverse effect of reinforcing the stigma surrounding alcohol cases in the ED.  While the idea behind AELs is in good faith, it contributes to the stigma. This contribution ethically challenges the idea that the emergency room is a space where the treatment of injuries is carried out without biases infringing on such medical care. The mission of EDs is to provide medical care to anyone in need. AELs have the effect of discouraging these patients from seeking help with the unintended consequence of doing them harm. 

A point of argument for the implementation of AELs is that it is the individual’s choice to be intoxicated and therefore justifiable that an individual receives less insurance coverage for medical expenses from a preventable intoxication. The idea of it being an individual choice to become intoxicated is one of the strongest supports for these exclusion laws. However, it is unjust to assume that all alcohol intoxications come by choice. Instances that disprove this assumption include both the college party scene and bar scene. Spiked drinks significantly increase alcohol concentration and can cause any responsible drinker to become intoxicated without intention or against their will. Additionally, alcoholic beverages served in various social gatherings like those in or around college campuses may not have a clear percentage of alcohol determination. Liquor containing high percentages of alcohol, such as Everclear which contains up to 190 proofs, are often masked by sweeteners and flavorings. Cocktails like these can cause a person to become dangerously intoxicated without their realization or intention. Some may argue that consuming an alcoholic beverage still holds accountability, that the person should be aware of the potential for a tampered drink, and therefore AELs should remain in use to deter this. However, like any law, AELs needs to have defined restrictions and/or exemptions. If the individual choice argument is used in favor for AELs, then how far reaching can the laws be applied? An attorney who specializes in these exclusion laws believes that AELs often offer more ambiguity than clarification when it comes to insurance policy, which leads to further ways insurance claims can be denied. [5]

In summary, the idea behind the use of Alcohol Exclusion Laws aims to reduce intoxication cases in the ED, however, there are drawbacks and aspects of this law that challenge the ethics of seeking medical care from the emergency department. The present stigma surrounding going to the ED for alcohol-related emergencies is already prevalent in hospitals across the country. When applying AELs, the present stigma may be magnified and further push the idea that seeking help for alcohol-related emergencies is shameful and embarrassing for patients, and therefore should be punished via financial means. Secondly, one of the main justifications for AELs is the idea that it is a deliberate intention to become intoxicated. It isn’t always the intention of individuals to get drunk when they choose to consume alcohol. There are additional factors that may play a part to exonerate a person’s accountability. It is difficult for people to recall the specifics of a situation when they become intoxicated; in some cases, accountability cannot be determined and the used of AELs can become unjustified. Overall, Alcohol Exclusion  Laws try to solve the issue of alcohol incidents in a way that produces more detriment than progress. A method to combat the issue of irresponsible drinking and intoxication in the emergency room within the US should not use AELs and financial leverage as one of its forefronts. In fact, a study that based its findings obtained from the Behavioral Risk Factor  Surveillance System nationwide survey that spanned twenty-four years from 1993-2017,  showed no real impact on binge drinking or increased alcohol consumption. [6] Given the downsides to AELs and its proven non-significant effects, several States have already repealed their AELs. For all these reasons, it would be beneficial to find an alternate method to address alcohol related issues within healthcare.

[1] Gregory, A. (16 Jun 2014). Nurses say drunk patients should be banned from A&E as ‘waste of resources’ UK:  Mirror. 2 (Jan 2008).

[2] Alcohol Exclusion Laws. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

[3] Glassman, J.H. (28 Apr 2022). Why don’t alcoholics get prescribed the medication they need?. NBC. rcna26425.

[4] Azagba, S., Ebling, T., Hall, M., (2023). Health claims denial for alcohol intoxication: State laws and structural stigma. Wiley Online Library . 

[5] (7 Sep 2021). The Alcohol Exclusion Chart Denied Life Insurance Claim.

[6] Azagba, S., Shan, L., Ebling, T., Wolfson, M., Hall, M., Chaloupka, F., (26 Nov 2022). Does state repeal of alcohol  exclusion laws increase problem drinking? National Institutes of Health .

William Ngo

Second place winner of Voices in Bioethics' 2023 persuasive essay contest. 

Disclaimer: These essays are submissions for the 2023 essay contest and have not undergone peer review or editing.

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    A 2021 report by the Department for Education put the backlog of school maintenance in England at a cost of £11.4 billion, an eye watering sum at a time of economic crisis.

  14. Education system in UK

    Cause. The UK is traditionally one of the highest ranked countries when it comes to education, but over recent years, their ranking against the world has stagnated a little, especially when it comes to PISA tests (Program for International Student Assessment). Effect. The UK education system is still good and ranked highly, but it has caused ...

  15. UK Education System Guide 2023

    The tuition fees of UK universities also vary depending on the degree level and study program. The average tuition fees for international students range from ~£17,109 (USD 20,876) to ~£22,200 (USD 27,000). Undergraduate tuition fees: International students pay around £11,400 - £38,000 (USD 13,900 - USD 46,355).

  16. (PDF) Educational inclusion in England: origins, perspectives and

    Following an historical review of evidence on inclusive education/mainstreaming, the core of the paper is a detailed examination of all the papers published in eight journals from the field of ...

  17. (PDF) Education in the U K

    D Priestland. Priestland, D. (2013). Britain's education system is being tested to destruction. From: The growth of private and for-profit higher education providers in the UK ...


    See Full PDFDownload PDF. EDUCATION SYSTEM IN THE UK Across the UK there are five stages of education: early years, primary, secondary, Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE). Education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 (4 in Northern Ireland) and 16. FE is not compulsory and covers non-advanced education which can ...

  19. Higher education in the UK: Systems, policy approaches, and challenges

    increase the total number of international students choosing to study in the UK higher education system each year to 600,000 by 2030. The latter ambition was met for the first time in 2020/21, with 605,130 international higher education students studying in the UK in universities, further education colleges, and alternative providers.

  20. Education policies in the UK since 1944

    The post war education system bill was passed by parliament under the persuasion of Butler and therefore, the 1944 education act is commonly known as the Butler Act (Ainley & Allen 2010, p.20). ... This essay, "Education policies in the UK since 1944" is published exclusively on IvyPanda's free essay examples database. You can use it for ...

  21. Education System Of Britain Essay Example

    According to the research of Oversea Education Center (2000), is that "Education in the United Kingdom (UK) is compulsory for everyone between the ages of five to sixteen. " This mean that no one left behind in their system that everybody must be in school to learned and participate. I believed that the learning and participation of ...

  22. Primary teachers' experiences of neo-liberal education reform in

    The English education policy context. In England, the impact of neo-liberal policy reform is evident across all phases of education; in the early years (Bradbury and Roberts-Holmes Citation 2017), primary education (Brown and Manktelow Citation 2016), secondary education (Hall and McGinity Citation 2015), post-compulsory education (Smith and O'Leary Citation 2013) and higher education ...

  23. Is Britain's Education System Meritocratic?

    To conclude the education system in contemporary cannot be classed as meritocratic as it does not always allow students to achieve the best they can according to their abilities. Gender, social class and many more crucial factors may determine if British students succeed at school and beyond. Department for Education and skills (2007) Gender ...

  24. Essay About Education System in The Uk

    Essay About Education System in the Uk - Free download as PDF File (.pdf), Text File (.txt) or read online for free. Scribd is the world's largest social reading and publishing site.

  25. 'You Can Hear a Pin Drop': The Rise of Super Strict Schools in England

    "Three. Two. One," the teacher said. Pens across the room went down and all eyes shot back to the teacher. Under a policy called "Slant" (Sit up, Lean forward, Ask and answer questions ...

  26. School funding: Everything you need to know

    According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in 2019-20 the UK was the highest spender in the G7 on schools and colleges delivering primary and secondary education as a share of GDP. The department's published statistics on school funding over recent years provide data on funding for pupils aged 5-16.

  27. Alcohol Exclusion Laws and Its Drawbacks

    Voices in Bioethics is currently seeking submissions on philosophical and practical topics, both current and timeless. Papers addressing access to healthcare, the bioethical implications of recent Supreme Court rulings, environmental ethics, data privacy, cybersecurity, law and bioethics, economics and bioethics, reproductive ethics, research ethics, and pediatric bioethics are sought.