Education in the UK is compulsory from the ages of 5 to 16, but a significant number choose to remain at school until 18.

Unlike many countries, the UK does not actually have one education system but has a number of them operating harmoniously side-by-side: the system that your child will join depends on where you would like them to go to school, and the type of school you choose for them. However, in general terms, the differences in systemscentre around the division of schools and the examinations taken.

Independent schools tend to be divided into three parts; Maintained schools into two – but there are regional variations. Independent schools are able to choose their own curriculum and public examinations; Maintained schools follow the National Curriculum and the mandatory public examinations. However, all pupils in the UK leave school – at 16 or 18 – with almost identical qualifications. Most pupils at Independent schools in Scotland follow the same path as their counterparts in the rest of the UK.


Independent schools are what would be called ‘private schools’ in other countries. They are fully self-governing and funding and pupils pay fees to attend. In the UK, most independent schools are charitable (non-profitmaking) organisations.
There are around 1,280 independent Schools, educating around 520,000 pupils (about 8% of school aged children).

Of these, there are

487 boarding schools

with about 71,000 pupils boarding.


of pupils at independent schools come from outside the


Maintained schools are what would be called ‘public
schools’ in North America. Often referred to as ‘state
schools’ in the UK, they are controlled and funded by the
Government. They are usually run at country level by Local
Education Authorities.

There are

38 State Boarding Schools

with about 6,000pupils boarding.