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Everything you need to know about primary education in England

Government expenditure on education (including primary education) in the UK is one of the highest among OECD countries (OECD includes 38 member countries that describe themselves as committed to democracy and the market economy) - and it shows. The country is well-known for its high scores in tests of mathematics, reading, and science as well as high standards and a broad and well-rounded approach in primary education, including a strong focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.

The British curriculum, also known as the National Curriculum for England, is one of the most widely taught educational systems in the world. According to ISC Research, nearly half of all international schools that teach the English language offer a British-based curriculum.

Scroll down to find out more interesting facts about primary education in England:

All children in England between the ages of 5 and 16 who reside in the UK, including international students who have the right of abode, are entitled to a free place at a state school. State schools receive funding through their local authority or directly from the government and include community schools (they are established and fully funded by local authorities and follow the National Curriculum) and other types of schools (like foundation schools and free schools) which have more freedom and flexibility.

And, of course, outside the mainstream primary school system there are independent schools where parents pay fees. These schools have complete autonomy over their curriculum and have even more flexibility when it comes to what and how they teach. Tuition fees depend on the child’s age and whether they are day or boarding students.

There are also special online international schools with ESL (English as a Second Language) support and the educational setting that allows children who speak little English or no English at all to not only learn or improve the language but also begin studying subjects in English and catch up with the British curriculum and British teaching styles.

Compared to their peers in other European countries, British children start school early - typically in the September after their fourth birthday. Primary education continues until age 11.

The National Curriculum divides education up into ‘key stages’ of learning. In the primary

years these are:

  • the Foundation Stage (ages 3-5)

  • Key Stage 1 (Year 1 and Year 2 of primary schools, ages 5-7)

  • Key Stage 2 (Years 3 to 6, ages 7-11)

The Foundation Stage is focused on areas such as social, emotional, physical, mathematical and creative development, language and literacy. In the National Curriculum, there is a strong focus on ‘core’ subjects of English, Maths and Science. Typically, kids also study subjects such as design and technology, computing, history, geography, art and design, music, physical education, and ancient and modern foreign languages (at Key Stage 2).

Primary school children are taught key skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, creativity and communication. The typical school curriculum also includes relationships and health education, and religious education (however, parents can withdraw their children from religious education classes).

Children’s progress isn't assessed using grades. Typically, teachers will use statements such as 'working towards the expected level of attainment' or 'working below the expected level of attainment' to describe it, pointing out areas that need more development and support.

At the end of Year 2 (KS1) and the second in Year 6 (KS2) pupils sit the End of Key Stage Tests and Assessments (SATs) - standardized tests that assess their learning progress. KS1 SATs test reading and maths, KS2 SATs - reading, grammar, punctuation, spelling, and maths.

LEO International Online School offers a wide range of distance learning programs based on the British Curriculum depending on the level of English and background of the student, including Primary KS1 and KS2 programmes that allow for children who are non-English speaking to be immersed in the language. Learn more about these programmes and our other courses here, and don't hesitate to contact us at

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