GCSE Sociology: Education 1: The structure of the education system I Oxford Open Learning

GCSE Sociology: Education 1: The structure of the education system

This new series of blogs on education in GCSE Sociology builds on the ideas in the previous series, Key concepts in education. The first blog looks at the structure of the education system.

The Structure of The Education System

Both the A level and GCSE Sociology courses cover education, but the type and quantity of information covered by the course is different, so this blog will focus on what is required by the GCSE. There will be a separate series on education in A Level Sociology.

In the last blog in the A Level and GCSE Sociology series Key concepts in education we covered the Marxist and Functionalist Approaches to Education. We now turn to the structure of the education system.

There are five stages to the education system.

Early Years/Preschool education In the UK there is free, part time provision for  children aged 3 – 4. This can include:

  • State nursery schools
  • Private preschools
  • Nursery classes in primary schools
  • Private nurseries etc.
Primary Education The majority of state primary schools cater for children aged 5 – 11 years of age.
Secondary education Secondary education usually caters for children aged 11 – 16. Some schools will have a sixth form where children can study until 18.In some areas there are middle schools, which take children from 8 – 12, 9 – 13 or 10 – 13. But this is not the model in all areas of the UK. There are several different types of secondary school:

  • Academies
  • Comprehensives
  • Faith schools
  • Grammar schools
  • Private schools
  • Specialist schools
Further Education On the whole, further education caters for students over 16 who have completed their compulsory education.  Further Education can be provided at:

  • Further Education Colleges
  • Sixth forms

Students usually study for A levels and vocational qualifications etc.

Higher Education This usually refers to universities providing higher level vocational and academic courses, usually at degree level. BUT higher education is now sometimes provided in further education colleges.

Tracey Jones


If your interested in studying  GCSE or A Level Sociology visit the Oxford Open Learning home page or contact a Student Adviser.

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