Compare and Contrast the Primary Education System in the UK and Germany



Primary education is one of the most important stages in the formal schooling system. This paper surveys primary education in the United Kingdom and Germany from three perspectives: from the point of view of the funding available in these countries for primary level education, on the differences in the teachers’ pay in both the countries and on the similarities and dissimilarities of the curriculum in these countries for this stage.

In the UK, the control over the primary education lies in the hands of the national and central Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), and to a certain extent local authorities, voluntary bodies and governing bodies of educators also have a certain part of the responsibilities (Riggall & Sharp, 2008).

In Germany, school education is a subject for the 16 individual Länder or federal states and falls under the education departments and policies of each separately. However, there is an overall structure that is the same throughout the country (UK-German Connection, 2016).

Although both these countries are part of the European system, there are many similarities and dissimilarities in the funding, teachers’ pay and the curriculum in primary educational level.

Primary Education On Funding in the UK and Germany

 With regard to the funding of primary education, in Germany the public sector school system is funded mainly on the basis of the responsibilities that are shared by the Länder and the local authorities and the federal government itself does not directly finance the schools. The schools are maintained by the Schulträger that are common to one or more municipalities (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2014). These funds are decided on the basis of the projected strength of the schools each year and allotted to such expenditures as teaching aids and transport. The salaries for the teaching, non-teaching and supplementary staff are paid by the government of the land (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2014).

In the U.K., the maintained schools under the different categories of community schools, trust schools, voluntary controlled and voluntary aided schools are funded through the local authorities and these funds devolve mainly for the salaries and recruitment of teaching and non-teaching staff, teaching resources and necessary infrastructure such as heating and lighting, and capital expenditures for furnishing durable non-consumables, repairs and maintenance of infrastructure and so on (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2014). However, these schools are allowed their own leeway in allotting the expenditure according to their needs. Other than this, the Education Funding Authority also allots a certain amount of funding for basic needs such as in supporting the capital expenditure that may be needed for expansion or adding new pupils (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2014). For instance, Local Authorities receive more funding when they add more pupils to the school strength, are given more authority over their spending choices, with the involvement of the governing bodies, parents and teachers (Riggall & Sharp, 2008).

At the same time there are also Academies in the U.K. that are publicly funded but run by private agencies. Some of these schools may be free schools, and studio schools. These schools are run by Academy Trusts and allotted funds by the Educational Funding Agency of the Department of Education. The expenses are of these funds are categorised into payments for staff, specific resources that are targeted for victims of social deprivation to provide teaching resources and operational goods and services and also for refurbishment and other capital expenses. Academies are allowed to source extra funding from other sources also (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2014).

Primary School Teachers’ Pay in the UK and Germany

Teachers are one of the foundations of any culture and good working conditions, and attractive salaries are the pre-requisites for recruiting more efficient teachers into the system, that in turn will influence the future of the country (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2014a). While most of the countries in the European Union, such as in the United Kingdom, have a central authority that decides on the salaries and other allowances for teachers and heads of schools, in Germany the regional governments of the Länder are responsible for setting the salaries (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2014a).

There are many studies that demonstrate that Germany pays its primary teachers between €38,000 and € 51,400 (Alumniportal: Deutschland, n.d.). However, the European Commission Report (2014a) gives a range of € 42,000 to € 55,465 for primary school teachers in the academic year 2013-14.

This same report (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2014a) shows that in the maintained schools in England and Wales of the United Kingdom, the actual average salary of fully time primary teachers is between € 36,600 and € 42,172 per annum.

This shows that the teachers with the most experience in the United Kingdom gross about the same salary as the entry level teacher in Germany.

Curriculum in Primary Education in The UK and Germany

The curriculum in both the countries under study are quite different in the sense that there is more centralisation in the U.K. while in Germany, the education at the primary level is more individualised and depends on the talents, skill and abilities of the pupil.

In the U.K., children move into the primary stage at the age of 5 and although the National Curriculum does not embody an assessment-led curriculum for the children of this stage, yet the schools are forced to conduct Qualification and Curriculum Authority tests in order to meet the standards set by the government. The subjects at this stage include English, Maths and a modern foreign language (Cockburn & Handscomb, 2006).

The German children enter primary school only at the age of six. All children enter the Grundschule and this stage covers 4-6 grades depending on the regulations in the different Lands (OECD, 2003). The subjects at subjects are the same for all students and the teachers recommend what type of higher education they will follow according to their abilities like that of working independently, their academic achievements, their confidence levels and so on (Riggall & Sharp, 2008).                                                                                                       


To sum up briefly, there are some significant differences in the primary education system in the U.K. and Germany. The main differences in the funding are that funds are available at the local authority level as well as from the ventral Educational Authority in the U.K. whereas the regional Land has all funding authority in Germany. The teachers are paid at a much higher level in German when compared to the U.K. thus attracting more skill and talent. There are no formal assessment systems at the primary level in Germany and children are directed to higher courses according to their teachers’ recommendations of their abilities, while the primary pupils in the U.K. are forced to undergo various assessments to judge their abilities and meet the government’s standard. There are a lot of good points that the primary education can gain from observing their German counterpart.


Alumniportal: Deutschland, n.d. Starvation wage or living wage? A look at teachers' salaries in Germany and the world. [Online]
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[Accessed 21 March 2016].

Cockburn, A. D. & Handscomb, G., 2006. Teaching Children 3 to 11: A Student's Guide. 2nd ed. London: Paul Chapman Publishing.

European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2014a. Teachers' and School Heads Salaries and Allowances in Europe, 2013/14, Luxembourg: Eurydice Report, Publications Office of the European Union.

European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2014. Financing Schools in Europe: Mechanisms, Methods and Criteria in Public Funding, Luxembourg: Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, European Union.

OECD, 2003. Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers: OECD Activity Country Background Report for the Federal Republic of Germany, Paris: OECD.

Riggall, A. & Sharp, C., 2008. The Structure of Primary Education: England and Other Countries, Cambridge, UK: University of Cambridge.

UK-German Connection, 2016. German School System. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 21 March 2016].



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