Reporting year 2023

Education and training statistics for the UK

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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 2022/23 academic year.

This is followed by sections on further and higher education, which includes the number of providers and the number of students for the 2021/22 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 2021/22 academic year (although given the different qualifications systems, headline measures and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, 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 2022.

Finally, there is a section showing government education expenditure in the UK to the 2022-23 financial year.


Headline facts and figures - 2023

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School numbers

In 2022/23 there were 29,616 maintained schools across the UK, a decrease of 66 schools compared to 2021/22. This is predominantly driven by a decrease 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 in the UK, with over 10 million pupils in 2022/23, an increase of 65,653 pupils (0.7%) from the previous year. The number of pupils in maintained schools in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland increased by 0.8%, 0.3% and 0.5% respectively. In Wales there was a 0.3% decrease in the number of pupils, an estimated 1,300 pupils.

The number of pupils in state-funded nurseries, secondary schools and special schools increased by 0.2%, 1.6% and 5.4% respectively across the UK between 2021/22 to 2022/23. However the number of pupils in primary schools fell by 0.3% overall.

Data on the number of pupils by sex 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 2022/23 there were 567,309 FTE teachers in total across the UK, an increase of almost 3,500 (0.6%) compared with 2021/22.

The FTE increase across the UK was seen across all phases expect in primary and nursery schools. The largest FTE increase across the UK was seen in secondary schools with 2,916 followed by special schools with 1,323 FTE teachers whereas primary and nursery schools saw a decrease of 1,303 FTE.

The FTE increases were seen in each part of the UK except in Scotland which saw a decrease of just under 100 FTE (0.2%) compared to the previous year. Northern Ireland saw the highest percentage increase of FTE teachers of 2.6% (497 FTE), with Wales at 0.9% (228 FTE) and England at 0.6% (2,845 FTE).

Teachers characteristics - Sex

The teaching workforce across the UK is consistently predominantly female: 74% in 2022/23, the same as 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 sex and school type 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.

In Wales, the decrease in the number of pupils but increase in the number of teachers in 2022/23 across maintained schools has meant that there were fewer pupils per teacher so a decrease in the PTR from the previous year. 

In Northern Ireland, the increase in the number of pupils and larger increase in the number of teachers has meant a decrease in the PTR from the previous year.

In Scotland, the small increase in the number of pupils and small decrease in the number of teachers meant the PTR stayed the same to the previous year.

Whilst the number of pupils increased in England, PTRs remained very similar to the previous year suggesting the increase in the number of pupils has been partially offset by the increase in the number of teachers.

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 increased in 2021/22, rising in every part of the UK and by 4.8% overall compared to 2020/21 (136,770 students). However, the increase seen in 2021/22 follows years of decline. Since 2015/16 the total number of FE students across the UK has decreased by nearly 20%. Decreases over this period are seen in each part of the UK except in Scotland where the number of FE students has increased by 21% since 2015/16.

In 2021/22, females accounted for 56% of FE students across the UK. Whilst there were more female FE students than male FE students, males were more likely to participate in FE at a younger age than females were. In 2021/22, 71% of males participating in FE were less than 30 years old. For females this figure was 52%. In addition, there were twice as many females in FE aged 30 and over than there were males.

Higher education students

In 2021/22, there were 2.97 million students in higher education (HE) in UK further education colleges or higher education providers. Nearly two thirds of HE students were studying first degrees (also known as bachelor's degrees), 24% were studying a masters or other postgraduate courses, 4% were undertaking a PhD and 8% were 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.

The most popular subject was Business and Management with 18% of all students enrolled (over half a million students), followed by Subjects allied to Medicine (12%) and Social Sciences (10%). Business and Management had the second most equal split between male and female students after Biological and Sport Sciences.

The six subjects with the highest enrolment are presented in the chart below by sex. The numbers of students studying subjects other than those in the top six by enrolment are not presented in the chart below, but the figures are available in the table and in the underlying data as well as by level of study.

The majority of students studied full-time but proportionally more females than males studied part-time (23% vs. 19% respectively across all course levels). This trend is predominantly driven by differences at postgraduate level, where 38% of females (178,825 students) studied postgraduate level courses part-time compared to 30% of males on postgraduate courses (103,065 students). The difference was much smaller at undergraduate level, with 17% of females (207,410 students) studying undergraduate courses part-time compared to 15% of males (139,305 students).

In 2021/22, 23% of all HE students were from overseas (681,600 students). The number of overseas students as a proportion of total students was greater for postgraduate courses (45% of postgraduate students) than for undergraduate courses (14% of undergraduate students). Slightly more overseas students were female than male (51% share or 18,610 females more) and at postgraduate level there were more male overseas students than UK male students (17,160 more overseas male students to male UK students at postgraduate level).

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 2023, in the UK, was estimated at 11.6%. 

This is up 0.3 percentage points on the previous quarter and up 0.5 percentage points compared with pre-COVID-19 levels (October to December 2019). The increase is entirely driven by young males whose NEET rate in April to June 2023 was estimated at 12.2%. This is up 1.1 percentage points, both on the previous quarter and compared with pre-COVID-19 levels. In contrast, the NEET rate amongst females remained stable at 11.0%.

Of the estimated 794,000 16–24-year-olds who were NEET, 427,000 (54%) were male and 367,000 (46%) were female. 

The percentage of 16–17-year-olds who were NEET in April to June 2023 was estimated at 3.6% and the percentage of 18–24-year-olds who were NEET in April to June 2023 was estimated at 13.8%, both up 0.3 percentage points on the previous quarter.

Qualification headline measures

Qualifications headline measures for the 2021/22 academic year or summer 2022 exam season

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

The summer exam series took place in all parts of the UK in 2022. This was the first time summer exams took place since 2019 after two years of cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Across the UK, to recognise the disruptions faced by students during the pandemic, changes were made to the 2022 summer exams. As a result the headlines measures across the UK have either been significantly affected or not calculated and published for 2021/22. 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, examinations took place with adaptations to recognise the disruption faced by students taking exams in 2022. The adaptations for GCSEs, AS and A levels included the provision of advance information, optional content and support materials in some GCSEs, and changes to coursework requirements in some subjects. The grading approach reflected a midpoint between summer 2019 and 2021. Appropriate adaptations were in place for vocational and technical qualifications, with grades based on outcomes from a range of assessments.
  • In Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) put course assessment modifications in place and took a more generous approach to grading. In addition, due to further disruption during the academic year, revision support was provided in the run up to exams that complemented the existing course modifications. Further, the appeals approach in 2022 provided learners with direct access to an appeal where their awarded grade was less than their teacher submitted estimate, and took into account alternative evidence. Following review of that evidence, where SQA assessed that a higher grade had been achieved, then the higher grade was awarded.
  • In Wales, a series of adaptations were made to exams, and advance information was provided for some subjects to allow learners to focus their learning and revision. The approach to grading ensured that results broadly reflected a midway point between 2021 and 2019 outcomes.
  • In Northern Ireland there was a managed return to public examinations in 2021/22 academic year. There were some adaptations to qualifications awarded by the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), which provides the majority of GCSE, AS and A levels delivered in Northern Ireland schools. These adaptations included the option to omit one unit of assessment from each specification, and was designed to reduce the burden of assessment on students to take account of the disruption they experienced due to COVID.

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 2021/22 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK (explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk)

A level and other 16 to 18 results, Academic year 2021/22 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK (explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk)

Schools in Scotland 2022: summary statistics - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Examination results: September 2021 to August 2022 | GOV.WALES

Year 12 and Year 14 Examination Performance at Post-Primary Schools in Northern Ireland 2021-22 | Department of Education (education-ni.gov.uk)

Highest qualification for adults aged 19-64

Across the UK, an estimated 83.1% 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 67.0% with NQF level 3 (e.g. A Levels, T Levels, Highers) or above and an estimated 48.4% at level 4 (e.g. higher apprenticeship) or above (e.g. higher national diploma, degree apprenticeship, bachelor's, master's, doctorate).

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

A higher percentage of 25–29-year-olds are qualified to each of these levels than any other age group, The proportion of adults with these qualifications then decreases as age increases.

Education expenditure

Education expenditure in the United Kingdom for the 2022-23 financial year

Total UK government expenditure on education across the UK increased by 5.1% from financial year 2021-22 to financial year 2022-23. Primary and secondary education saw an increase in spend of 2.2% and 7.1% respectively, while tertiary education saw a 3.6% decrease in spend.

Expenditure on education in real terms decreased by 1.3% from financial year 2021-22 to financial year 2022-23. Expenditure on education as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decreased by 0.1 percentage points.

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