The education system is divided into nursery (ages 3–4), primary education (ages 4–11), secondary education (ages 11–18) and tertiary education (ages 18+). Full-time education is compulsory for all children aged between 5 and 16, with a child beginning primary education during the school year he or she turns 5. Students may then continue their secondary studies for a further two years (sixth form), leading most typically to A-level qualifications. England also has a tradition of independent schooling, but parents may choose to educate their children by any suitable means.
The Advanced Level General Certificate of Education, commonly referred to as an A-level, is a qualification offered by education institutions in England, Northern Ireland, Wales, Cameroon, and the Cayman Islands. A-levels are studied over a two-year period and are recognised as the standard for assessing the suitability of applicants for academic courses in English, Welsh, and Northern Irish universities.
All maintained schools in England are required to follow the National Curriculum, which is made up of twelve subjects. The core subjects—English, Mathematics and Science—are compulsory for all students aged 5 to 16. A range of other subjects, known as foundation subjects, are compulsory at one or more key stages: Art & Design, Citizenship, Design & Technology, Geography, History, Information & Communication Technology, Modern Foreign Languages, Music and Physical Education.
Almost all state-funded schools in England are maintained schools, which receive their funding from local authorities, and are
required to follow the National Curriculum. In such schools, all teachers are employed under the nationally agreed School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document.