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Primary Education in England: What you need to know

Last Updated: 22 May, 2024

Starting at around age five, children begin their formal educational journey by entering primary school. In this article, we will explore this critical phase of your child's educational development.

From the age of about five, children embark on their educational journey by entering primary school. In England, it is compulsory for children to start their education in September of the year they turn five, although some parents may choose to defer their child's start date by a year to better prepare them.

National Curriculum

The bedrock of primary education in England is the National Curriculum, designed for children aged five to eleven. This comprehensive curriculum includes subjects such as English, mathematics, science, art, design and technology, foreign languages, history, geography, music, and physical education. Unlike many countries, England does not adhere to a standard set of textbooks. Instead, schools utilise a variety of online and offline resources, providing teachers with the flexibility to create tailored handouts and homework.

Photo: 22/05/2024

Photo: 22/05/2024

School Day

A typical day at primary school runs from 8:30 or 9:00 AM to 3:00 or 4:00 PM and includes scheduled breaks for outdoor activities and lunch. After lessons, schools offer a range of extracurricular clubs—from ballet to chess—that may extend a child's day until 5:00 PM. Most schools are equipped with their kitchens, serving freshly prepared hot meals, and throughout the day, children have access to water, milk, and fresh fruit.

Photo: 22/05/2024

Learning and Assessment

Primary education in England is distinctly child-centred, with a strong emphasis on meeting individual educational needs. Teachers are committed to a personalised approach; for example, a child who excels in mathematics might receive more challenging tasks. Support for children with special educational needs, such as dyslexia, is readily available and provided free of charge in public schools. Assessment is multifaceted, combining formal methods like tests and exams with informal observations of a child’s overall development and achievements. Reports focus more on a child's attitude and engagement in learning rather than just test scores, with progress reports issued one to three times a year. Additionally, annual parent-teacher meetings offer a chance for detailed discussions about each child’s progress.

Play-Based Learning

A cornerstone of primary education in England is its focus on play-based learning, which nurtures creativity, social skills, and problem-solving abilities. A notable activity includes monitoring the life cycle of fertilised eggs in incubators, allowing children to observe the hatching of chicks and care for them before they are returned to a farm.

Technology Integration

Technology plays a pivotal role in enhancing educational experiences. Schools are equipped with interactive whiteboards, computers, tablets, and other digital devices that enrich learning and promote digital literacy. Some private schools integrate tablets directly into their classroom lessons.

Private and Public Primary Schools

While all schools adhere to the National Curriculum, private schools often go beyond its requirements. Many academically focused private schools advance their curriculum by a year to prepare pupils for entrance exams at 7+ or 11+ for subsequent private education. In contrast, public schools do not provide specific preparation for these exams; this responsibility falls to parents.


Entry into public primary schools is managed online through the local school authority, requiring proof of residency and local address. Admission criteria typically include proximity to the school, sibling attendance, and special circumstances like medical or social needs. Meanwhile, private schools conduct admissions on a competitive basis, with potential interviews and entrance exams covering English, maths, and logical thinking, regardless of the child's residential status.

For international families, children may need a student visa, and some private day schools are licensed to sponsor these visas. This enables families planning temporary relocations to apply for a 'Parent of a Child in School' visa for stays until the child turns 12.

At UK Study Centre, we are eager to support you through the preparation and admission process into the UK’s finest private schools. Please contact us here.

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