According to the UK Government, Britain has the largest EdTech sector in Europe. Boasting ‘unrivalled expertise’ in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented/virtual/mixed reality, and online education, the UK has become a global hotspot for the industry.
Last year, the number of EdTech firms surpassed 1,000 for the first time, and over the past five years, UK schools have spent more than £1bn on digital learning tools.
Data released by the Digital Economy Council showed that the nation’s EdTech industry is one of the fastest growing in Europe, on target to be worth over £3.4bn by the end of 2022.
Education systems differ across the home nations, so we’ve outlined some key facts below which will help you gain a basic understanding of how these various systems operate.
Across the UK:
- There are 33,000 schools, with 10.3 million pupils on roll (POR)
- The average school budget is £1.2m per primary school and £5m per secondary school
- There are 142 universities, the majority of which are in England
- Children aged between 5-18 are entitled to free education
- All young people are legally required to attend school between the ages of 5-18. However, 16–18-year-olds can elect to go into training instead
A common misconception is that there is one education system across the UK. In fact, each country – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – takes a different approach to the way education is run and funded.
How is education different across the UK?
8.8 million learners are currently moving through the education system in England. Pupils attend different types of institution depending on how old they are.
|Early years (nursery)||3-4|
|Primary school Years 1 – 2 (Key stage 1), Years 3 – 6 (Key stage 2)||5-7 6-11|
|Secondary school Years 7-9 (Key stage 3), Years 10 – 11 (Key stage 4)||11-14 14-16|
|Further education (Key stage 5)||16-18|
How is education in England funded?
State schools are funded through their local authority, which almost always operates as a traded service. In England, an academy programme allows individual schools to opt out of local authority control and receive funding directly from the Government.
Many academies are part of a multi academy trust (MAT). There are currently 1,170 MATs that manage at least two schools. However, around a third of these control a larger number of schools, with some responsible for considerably more.
Independent fee-paying schools
There are around 3,000 private schools in England (often called ‘independent’ or ‘public’) which charge fees to attend. Children here will often start in private nurseries, move to prep schools, and then affiliated private secondary schools. Many private schools also offer the ability for children to start at nursery level and stay until the age of 18 – called ‘all through’.
There are also around 7,000 international schools overseas which follow the English curriculum.
The Department of Education Northern Ireland (DENI) oversees the education of approximately 345,000 learners in approximately 1,130 schools – 94 nursery, 790 primary, 192 secondary, 39 special and 14 independent schools.
One thing to note is that the naming convention for year groups is different in Northern Ireland:
- 4-5-year-olds start in year 1 rather than reception
- 11-year-olds start secondary school in year 8 rather than year 7
- Many schools still use the old system informally, calling the first year of secondary school form one, and the two A-level years sixth form
In Scotland, the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is the national curriculum used from nursery school all the way through to secondary school. The education system has five levels, which run from ages 3-18 and unlike England, Wales and Northern Ireland there are no phases or stages.
- Early – which covers pre-school and Primary 1 (P1)
- First – to the end of P4
- Second – to the end of P7
- Third and fourth – Secondary 1 (S1) to S3
- Senior – S4 to S6
Scotland also has its own qualifications awarding body – the Scottish Qualifications Agency (SQA).
There are around 725,000 learners in Scotland in just over 5,000 schools, including 2,630 early learning centres, 2,001 primary schools, 357 secondary schools and 111 special schools.
How is education funded in Scotland?
The 32 local authorities in Scotland procure on behalf of their schools, but schools also have their own budgets.
Education in Wales is controlled by the devolved Welsh Parliament, which used to be called the Welsh Assembly. There are a number of Welsh language schools that use Welsh as the first language in school or teach children it as a second language.
There are around 500,00 learners in Wales, in 1,553 schools – including 9 nursery schools, 1,219 primary schools, 23 middle schools, 182 secondary schools, 80 independent schools and 40 special schools.
Schools in Wales follow the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework (NLF). The curriculum for Wales identifies different areas of learning, including: personal and social development; wellbeing and cultural diversity; language, literacy and communication skills and mathematical development.
Do you need help getting your product or service into UK schools?
With years of hands-on experience in the education sector, we can help you get noticed by schools and formulate strategies to suit the range of different education systems.
If you need guidance on how to bring your product or service to the UK market, The Wisdom Partnership can assist. We’ve got many years of experience across the education sector in each of the UK home nations – experience to help make your business a success.
 As published by Business Leader Magazine – October 2021