Reporting Year 2022

Education and training statistics for the UK

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See all updates (1) for Reporting Year 2022
  1. Added a footnote to the number of further education students. Corrected rounding error in "Further and Higher Education" (54% of further education students in Northern Ireland study part-time, not 55%)

Introduction

This release compiles information on education systems across the United Kingdom. Education is devolved in the UK, so each part of the United Kingdom has a separate education system.

In this release, there are sections focusing on the school system: numbers of schools, pupils and teachers and pupil to teacher ratios, covering the 2021/22 academic year.

This is followed by sections looking at post-compulsory education, which includes the number of further and higher education institutions and the number of students for the 2020/21 academic year. There is also a section on young adults (aged between 16-24) who are not in education, employment or training (NEET).

The next sections focus on students' qualifications taken in the 2020/21 academic year (although given the different qualifications systems and headline measures, it is not suitable to present a direct comparative picture of pupil performance across the UK), as well as the highest qualifications held by adults (aged 19-64) in the UK as of quarter 4 2021.

Finally, there is a section showing government education expenditure in the UK to the 2021-22 financial year.


Headline facts and figures - 2022

  • Pupil numbers in maintained schools increased in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland between 2020/21 and 2021/22 but decreased in Wales over the same period. Teacher numbers rose in every part of the UK at every level, except at nursery level across the UK and in primary schools in England.
  • Pupil to teacher ratios remained similar to last year suggesting the increase in the number of students has been offset by the increase in the number of teachers.
  • Pupil to teacher ratios in maintained schools were lowest in Scotland (13.2) and similar in Northern Ireland (17.7), England (18.0) and Wales (18.5).

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School numbers

In 2021/22 there were 29,682 maintained schools across the UK, an increase of 38 schools compared to 2020/21. This is driven by an increase in nursery schools and early learning and childcare providers in Scotland and in secondary schools in England.

Data on the number of schools in each part of the UK (and each region in England) is available in the underlying data.

Pupil numbers

The number of pupils in maintained schools continued to rise across the UK, with over 10 million pupils in 2021/22, an increase of 78,700 pupils (0.8%) from the previous year.

The number of pupils in maintained schools in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland increased by 0.9%, 0.5% and 0.7% respectively. In Wales there was a 0.8% decrease in the number of pupils, an estimated 3,600 pupils. This is because the number of pupils was higher in Wales in 2020/21 partly due to the later census date of April 2021 (usually January) which meant that more pupils had entered nursery classes by the census date.

The number of pupils in state-funded nurseries, secondary schools and special schools increased by 1.1%, 2.1% and 4.6% respectively across the UK between 2020/21 to 2021/22. However the number of pupils in primary schools fell by 0.3% overall.

It should be noted, state-funded nursery figures include pupils in other funded Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) settings in Scotland.

Pupil characteristics - Age

  • There were 5.5 million pupils in maintained primary school in 2021/22 across the UK. 93% of these pupils were aged 4 to 10 years old.
  • There were 4.2 million pupils in maintained secondary school in 2021/22 across the UK. 98% of these pupils were aged 11 to 17 years old.

Data on the number of pupils by gender and school type in each part of the UK (and each region of England) is available in the underlying data along with data by age and school type at a UK level.
 

Teacher numbers

The overall number of full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers working in maintained schools continued to increase. In 2021/22 there were 563,831 FTE teachers in total across the UK, an increase of almost 6,500 (1.2%) compared to the previous year. There were increases in the number of FTE teachers in each part of the UK at every level except in primary schools in England and nursery schools across the UK.

The largest FTE headcount increase across the UK was seen in secondary schools with 5,100 followed by special schools with 1,200 FTE teachers. Wales saw the highest percentage increase of FTE teachers of 3.0% (700 FTE) and England saw the lowest percentage increase (1.0%), however, as the largest part of the UK, it also had the largest headcount increase, of 4,400 FTE teachers across all education levels.

The impact of changes in both teacher and pupil numbers can be seen in the section on pupil teacher ratios.

The teaching workforce across the UK is consistently predominantly female: 74% in 2021/22. The greatest proportion of female teachers is at nursery level and the share decreases for each successive level of education: across the UK 85% of FTE at primary level are female and 64% at secondary level.

Data on the number of teachers by gender and in each part of the UK (and each region of England) is available in the underlying data.

Pupil to teacher ratios (PTRs)

Pupil to teacher ratios (PTRs) show the number of pupils for every teacher. Across the UK, the PTRs follow a similar pattern across all levels of education, with Scotland having the lowest PTRs and England, Wales and Northern Ireland all having very similar PTRs.

Whilst the number of pupils increased in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, PTRs across maintained schools remained very similar to last year suggesting the increase in the number of pupils has been offset by the increase in the number of teachers. In Wales the decrease in the number of pupils but increase in the number of teachers has meant that there were fewer pupils per teacher so a decrease in the PTR from last year.

Further and Higher education

2019/20 and 2020/21 data covers the months of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). This may have affected enrolment figures and therefore extra care should be taken in comparing and interpreting trends over time.

Further education students:

The total number of students in further education (FE) in the UK continued to decrease in 2020/21, falling in every part of the UK and by 4.5% overall compared to 2019/20.

In 2020/21, females accounted for 55% of FE students across the UK, however, this is mostly driven by England where 56% of FE students are female. In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales females accounted for 47%, 51% and 52% of FE students respectively.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, more FE students study part time (49% and 54% respectively) whereas in Wales more students study full time (44%). In addition, in Scotland and Wales, over 15% of students are on work-based learning. Mode of study breakdowns for England are unavailable.

Higher education students:

In 2020/21, there were 2.9 million students in higher education (HE) in UK further education colleges or higher education providers. Nearly two thirds of these were studying first degrees (also known as bachelor's degrees), 1 in 5 studying a masters or other postgraduate aims, 1 in 25 doing a PhD and 1 in 10 on other undergraduate courses.

More females than males made up the overall student population (57%) and females made up a greater share at every level, including at PhD level (in which 50.3% of students were female, or just over 600 more females) where in previous years there were more males.

In 2020/21, 21% of all HE students were from overseas (606,800 students). The number of overseas students as a proportion of total students was greater for postgraduate courses (39% of postgraduate students) than for undergraduate courses (15% of undergraduate students).

Overseas students' predominantly study full-time, but this is particularly noticeable at postgraduate level where 91% of postgraduate overseas students study full-time compared to 45% of postgraduate UK students.

In 2020/21, Business and Management courses attracted the highest number of students with 17% of all students enrolled (nearly half a million students), followed by Subjects allied to Medicine (12%) and Social Sciences (10%).

For females the most popular subjects were Subjects allied to Medicine (17% of all female students) followed by Business and Management courses (15%) and Social Sciences (12%). 

For males the most popular subjects were Business and Management courses (21% of all male students) followed by Engineering and Technology (13%) and Computing (10%). 

Biological and Sport Science courses had the most even split between males and females [49% of students were female compared to 51% of males], followed by Business and Management courses (52% male and 48% female). Veterinary sciences had the highest percentage of female students (82%) followed by Psychology (81% female). Engineering and Technology had the highest percentage of male students (80%).

The seven subjects with the highest enrolment are presented in the chart below by gender. The number of students studying Biological and Sport Science, Veterinary sciences and Psychology are not presented in the chart below, but these figures are available in the table and in the underlying data as well as by level of study.

Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET)

The percentage of 16–24-year-olds not in education, employment or training (NEET) in April to June 2022 was estimated at 10.4%. This is up 0.1 percentage points on the previous quarter and up 1.0 percentage points compared with April to June 2021, but down 0.6 percentage points compared with pre-COVID-19 levels (October to December 2019).

The trend is similar for males and females: 

  • An estimated 11.0% of men and 9.8% of women were NEET. This is an increase of 1.0 and 0.9 percentage points respectively compared with April to June 2021. However compared with pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, the NEET rate has fallen by 0.1 percentage points for men, but 1.2 percentage points for women.
  • Of the estimated 711,000 people who were NEET, 385,000 (54%) were men and 327,000 (46%) were women.

The trend is similar for 18-24 year olds however for 16-17 year olds estimated NEET levels decreased compared with April to June 2021:

  • The percentage of 16-17 year-olds who were NEET in April to June 2022 was estimated at 3.0%. This is a decrease of 0.6 percentage points compared with April to June 2021 and a decrease of 1.6 percentage points compared with pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.
  • The percentage of 18-24 year olds who were NEET in April to June 2022 was estimated at 12.5%. This is an increase of 1.4 percentage points compared with April to June 2021, but down 0.3 percentage points compared with pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.

Qualification headline measures

Qualifications headline measures for the 2020/21 academic year

Given the different qualifications systems and headline measures, it is not suitable to present a direct comparative picture of pupil performance across the UK.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the summer exam series did not take place in all parts of the UK in 2021. As a result most of the headline measures across the UK have either been significantly affected or not calculated and published for 2020/21. The data that has been published should not be directly compared to attainment data from previous years for the purposes of measuring change in student performance.

  • In England, due to the ongoing disruption to education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was considered no longer fair for exams to go ahead as planned. Instead, for 2020/21, pupils were only assessed on the content they had been taught for each course. Grades were determined by teachers based on the range of evidence available and they are referred to as teacher-assessed grades, or TAGs.
  • In Scotland, following cancellation of the exams in 2020/21, an Alternative Certification Model (2021 ACM) based on demonstrated attainment was put in place. Under the 2021 ACM, teachers and lecturers collected evidence of learning and skills before using their professional judgement to determine provisional grades for their individual learners, with flexibility around the timing and nature of assessment. Local and national quality assurance of the provisional grades against the national standard was undertaken before they were submitted.
  • In Wales, for 2020/21, outcomes for learners were based on Centre Determined Grades (CDGs). Schools, colleges, and other exam centres made a holistic judgement of a learner’s attainment in areas of the course they had covered. CDGs provided the ability to reflect local needs and circumstances, and recognised variation of learner experience and disruption from the pandemic. Grades were based on assessment evidence, and centres had flexibility as to how they took forward assessments depending on their individual learners’ experiences.
  • In Northern Ireland results awarded by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) for GCSEs and A levels were based solely on the Centre Determined Grades (CDGs) provided by schools and colleges. CDGs were based upon evidence gathered from across each qualification specification supplemented by assessment resources provided by CCEA. Quality assurance checks were conducted in each NI examination centre.

More detail on how each part of the UK awarded and presented its performance measures can be found at the relevant sources for each part of the UK and each level of education:

Key stage 4 performance, Academic Year 2020/21 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK (explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk)

A level and other 16 to 18 results, Academic Year 2020/21 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK (explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk)

Summary Statistics For Schools In Scotland 2021 - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Examination results: September 2020 to August 2021 | GOV.WALES

Year 12 and Year 14 Examination Performance at Post-Primary Schools in Northern Ireland 2020-21 | Department of Education (education-ni.gov.uk)

Highest qualification for adults aged 19-64

Across the UK, an estimated 83% of adults aged 19-64 have a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 2 (e.g. GCSE grade 9-4/A*-C, National 5 grade A-C) or above. This decreases to an estimated 66% with NQF level 3 (e.g. A Level, T Level, Highers) or above and an estimated 47% at level 4 (e.g. higher apprenticeship) or above.

A higher percentage of females than males are qualified to each of these levels.

A higher percentage of 25–29-year-olds have NQF level 2 or above (90%) or NQF level 3 or above (76%) than any other age groups. The proportion of adults with these qualifications then broadly decreases as age increases. For NQF level 4 or above, 30 to 39-year-olds have the highest rate of this qualification.

Education expenditure

Education expenditure in the United Kingdom for the 2021-22 financial year

Total UK government expenditure on education across the UK increased by 5.2% from FY 2020-21 to FY 2021-22. Primary and secondary education saw an increase in spend of 4.2% and 8.0% respectively, while tertiary education saw a 3.9% decrease in spend.

Expenditure on education in real terms increased by 5.4% from FY 2020-21 to FY 2021-22. Expenditure on education as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decreased by 0.2 percentage points.

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