There are two parallel school systems operating in the UK, namely the state schools and independent schools.
The state schools are maintained and funded by local authority, which offer free education to all children aged 5 -16. Most state schools have to follow the national curriculum.
There are also two types of state schools – non-selective Comprehensive Schools and selective Grammar Schools. Comprehensive schools are “neighbourhood” schools for all students in a specified area without reference to their academic abilities. It accounts for 90% of the secondary schools, and nearly 88% of secondary school pupils go to comprehensive schools. In contrast, Grammar schools are selective schools designed for academically superior students. Grammar schools are single sexed schools i.e. Children either go to a boys Grammar School or a Girls Grammar School.
Though there are also some state maintained boarding schools, they only available for UK and EU residence. For children from the non-UK/EU countries, they can only attend the independent fee-paying schools.
The independent schools are private schools, sometimes known as public schools, catering primarily for children aged between 7 and 18. They are privately maintained by fees paid by parents, and do not have to follow the National Curriculum as their counterpart state schools do, although most independent schools will follow the GCSE curriculum for nationally recognised qualifications.
As of 2011 there were more than 2,600 independent schools in the UK, educating about 7% of UK children. These private schools adopt academically challenging curriculum, enriched by outstanding range of activities, aiming at high academic quality, prestigious status as well as shaping characters of students’ individuality. They are highly respected in the world, and attract more than 50,000 international pupils from around the world every year according to statistics of UK Independent School Council in 2017, and most of them come from more privileged backgrounds making them more academic, social and self-confidence. A study by Sutton Trust shows that 80% of those who hold key positions in British society received privileged private education in the UK.
The term public school typically refers to a group of the oldest, most expensive and exclusive fee-paying private independent schools, particularly in England, which cater primarily for children aged between 13 and 18. The seven English public schools, namely Charterhouse School, Eton College, Harrow School, Rugby School, Shrewsbury School, Westminster School, Winchester College, as defined by the Public Schools Act 1868, are the oldest and most famous and respected secondary schools in the world, educating many sons and daughters of the English upper and upper-middle classes.
State Schools vs Independent Schools
For more than a decade, the Sutton Trust educational charity has been carrying out surveys on the educational backgrounds of the UK’s professional elite across a range of sectors. These include members of the House of Commons and House of Lords, top solicitors, barristers and judges, leading news journalists, top medical professionals, FTSE 100 chief executives, university vice-chancellors, leading scientists and scholars and a selection of the most famous people in the arts, etc.
Across the years, these study reports have shown the staying-power of the privately-educated at the top of the UK’s professional hierarchy. Even when those with such backgrounds retire from the top of their field, they are frequently replaced by those with a similar educational past. The chart below shows the data adopted from Sutton Trust’s reports for seven key professions in 2007, 2012 and 2016 respectively.
The Sutton Trust’s study on the educational backgrounds of nearly 8,000 elite people also reveal that 80% of those who hold key positions in British society received privileged private education in the UK, despite only about 7% of the UK children being educated at private schools. Ten leading independent schools accounted for 12% of the leading people. These schools are: Eton College; Winchester College; Charterhouse School; Rugby School; Westminster School; Marlborough College; Dulwich College; Harrow School; St Paul’s Boys’ School; Wellington College.
Click the link to view top 300 UK independent schools rankings.
Due to traditions, social and cultural differences, the Chinese education is much different from the British education, especially in teaching and learning methods, many Chinese parents send their children to the UK independent schools for world-class education.
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