If the UK wants the best education system in Europe, it may have to increase its overall spending in this area, with the country spending just 4.6 percent of gross domestic product on education, one of the lowest shares in Europe. The UK also has a problem with overcrowded classrooms, having the highest pupil-to-teacher ratio in primary schools in Europe, and the fourth highest pupil-to-teacher ratio in European high schools. The situation in Nursery schools is even worse and has deteriorated the most in recent years, with a pupil to teacher ratio of 22.9 in 2018/19, compared with just 17.2 in 2010/11.
In terms of how students in the UK are evaluated, high school students in the United Kingdom are assessed through an academic qualification called a GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education), which is mainly taken by students when they are aged 16. Since the system was introduced in 1988, the proportion of students who achieved the standard pass grade of C/4 increased from 41.9 percent to a peak of 69.8 percent in 2011. Since that peak, the pass rate has remained relatively stable, fluctuating between 69.5 percent and 66.6 percent in 2017. The proportion of GCSE entries awarded a high pass grade of A/7 also peaked in 2011 at 23.2 percent, with only 20 percent of entries being awarded this grade in 2017.
Although pass rates have varied in recent years, a consistent fact is that girls have had a higher pass rate than boys since the introduction of GCSEs in the late 1980s. The gap between female and male students is even more pronounced when looking at higher pass rates, with approximately six percent more female GCSE entries achieving an A/7 or higher than male entries in 2019.