The structure of primary education: England and other countries
The structure of primary education: England and other countries

Anna Riggall and Caroline Sharp

Research Report, February 2008

This review was specially commissioned for the Primary Review and examines international survey evidence on the performance of English children of primary school age in relation to those from other countries. It was commissioned to place the structure and phasing of the English primary education system in international perspective. It considers changes during the years following the 1967 Plowden Report, and draws comparisons between England and five other countries. The report covers:

  • The current structure of the English primary school system
  • Changes in the structure of primary education since 1967
  • The structure of primary education in five other countries
  • The impact of different school structures on learning and teaching.

Key Findings:
  • There is little evidence to support common-sense assumptions that spending longer in primary schools (due to a lower age of starting school, longer period of primary schooling and/or a longer school year) results in higher attainment.
  • School starting age is a contentious issue: proponents of an early start argue that it raises standards; opponents argue that it may detract from other kinds of experience and activity which are important to young children’s development and learning.
  • Research continues to raise questions about the appropriateness of the curriculum, pedagogy and environment offered to children during the early years of English primary schooling, especially to four-year-olds in primary school reception classes.

Further Information:
Format: PDF, 38pp, ISBN: 9781906478179
Sponsor(s): Primary review NFER

How to cite this publication:

Riggall, A. and Sharp, C. (2008). The Structure of Primary Education: England and Other Countries (Primary Review Research Briefings 9/1). Cambridge: University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education.