The UK School System

Find out more about the UK school system, the type of schools that we work with and how the academic year works.

We support a large portfolio of loyal schools in Greater London and across the whole of the UK. The British school system allows for a broad range of teaching styles and techniques in a wide spectrum of school environments, from challenging inner-city schools to leafy, affluent schools in suburban areas. High expectations and standards drive the success of our schools and London is probably the most innovative and exciting place to teach anywhere in the UK.

Types of Schools in the UK

Community/State Schools: These schools are entirely funded by the Government. Also known as Mainstream schools.

Grammar Schools: Whilst funded by the Government, students must complete entrance exams and meet certain criteria to be considered for admission.

Voluntary Aided Schools: Religious in ethos, they set their own admissions procedures. They work with local governments but are independent in their practice. There are no fees payable for these schools.

Independent Schools: Also known as‘Private’ schools – these are funded through tuition fees paid by parents.

Academies: These schools are independent and can follow the standard British curriculum or create their own bespoke curriculum.

The British National Curriculum is taught in all state schools as well as in some private schools.  The curriculum comprises of a number of subjects, with its core areas being English (Language Arts), Mathematics and Science. Other subjects taught include; Design & Technology, Computing, History, Geography, Art & Design, Music, Physical Education, Religious Education, and Modern Foreign Languages (usually French, Spanish and German), amongst others.

For more information on the national curriculum please go to to find planning ideas and for some additional useful resources.

Curriculum Key Stages

The school system in the UK categorises age groups as ‘Key Stages’. The list below shows a breakdown of the different stages in primary and secondary schools.


EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage): Ages 3-5 (Reception)
Key Stage 1: Ages 5-7 (Year 1 & Year 2)
Key Stage 2: Ages 7-11 (Year 3, Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6)



Key Stage 3: Ages 11-14 (Year 7, Year 8 & Year 9)
Key Stage 4: Ages 14-16 (Year 10 & Year 11)
Key Stage 5: Ages 16-18 (Year 12 & Year 13)

A Typical School Day

The school day for students generally begins between 8:30am – 8:45am and ends at between 3:00pm – 3:45pm with a lunch break for an hour at around midday. As a substitute teacher, you will be expected to be present in school from 08:00am – 8:15am. This gives you a chance to sign in, to familiarise yourself with the school and to introduce yourself to your main contact person. This also gives you plenty of time to set up the classroom/s, to consult the absent teacher’s planning and to deal with any other duties that could be assigned to you, such as playground supervision before school starts, etc.

The Academic Year

Term 1:

September – December
One week’s holiday in October & a further two weeks in December for Christmas.

Term 2:

January – April
One week’s holiday in February & two more weeks in April for Easter.

Term 3:

April – July
One week’s holiday in May & six weeks from the end of July for Summer break.

No half term teaching period is ever more than 8 weeks long without a break, so you will have plenty of opportunities and time to travel around the UK and Europe, should you wish to, in the school holidays.