The Department for Education is one of 25 ministerial departments in the UK government and it is responsible for children’s services and education. It also has responsibility in England for policy in higher and further education and for apprenticeships.
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Its aim is to provide equal opportunities for children without regard for their background or family circumstances.
The department oversees the teaching and learning of children in early years’ centres and in primary schools, as well as young people under the age of 19 in secondary education, sixth form centres and colleges.
It supports professionals who work with children and young people and helps those who are disadvantaged to achieve more.
It is also a responsibility of the Department for Education to ensure local services protect and support children.
Policy for education, youth and children is devolved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to their respective governments.
Like the other ministerial departments such as Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Department for Transport, Ministry of Defence and the Home Office, the Department for Education mainly operates from ministerial offices in London.
It does have staff in a number of other locations around the country but most of its business is conducted from the capital.
The department employs almost 4,000 people under the auspices of the Secretary of State for Education.
There are also senior roles for three Ministers of State with responsibilities for certain areas of education, such as school standards, apprenticeships and higher education.
Staff work closely with agencies, at national and local level, which look after children.
They liaise with local authorities and with the professionals who work in schools, children’s services and health services.
One of its key priorities is to protect children and young people from being harmed.
There is also an onus on the Department for Education to support vulnerable youngsters and make sure they get the same opportunities as other children.
Staff in the department are charged with helping young people get the best teaching they can and to achieve as much as they can in school, regardless of where they live or how disadvantaged they may be.
The Department for Education also prioritises preparing young people for adult life by giving them access to further and higher education to help them improve their options for jobs.
The Department for Education’s aim is to provide equal opportunities for children without regard for their background or family circumstances.
Ofsted, which inspects schools and child care centres, is one of the 17 agencies and public bodies which the Department for Education is supported by.
In fact, Ofsted, which stands for the Office for Standards in Education, is a non-ministerial department within the government. Find out more about Ofsted in our Office for Standards in Education article.
You may also have heard of Ofqual, which regulates qualifications, exams and assessments, and which is also a non-ministerial body which supports the Department for Education.
There are three important executive agencies which are allied to the Department for Education.
These are the Education and Skills Funding Agency, the National College for Teaching and Leadership and the Standards and Testing Agency.
The Department for Education is a great first port of call for anyone considering a career in teaching.
It can advise on what options students have for training to become a teacher and whether candidates can get help with funding their course.
The department will also be able to give guidance on who is eligible to be a teacher in UK schools and roughly how much they will earn.
Their website also gives prospective teachers an insight into the career, with information on how far they can progress in the profession and the emotional and professional rewards from teaching in school classrooms.
As a parent, you may wish to contact the Department for Education to register a complaint about a school or a childminder.
You can also speak to them about applying for a school place for a child, appealing a decision about a school place or checking school league tables. Read more about school league tables in our informative What Does a School League Table Show? article.
The department will also be able to help if you want to know about special educational needs and disability support for a child.
You can call the Department for Education on 0370 0002288 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Now you know the purpose and responsibilities of the Department for Education, but does anything else leave you stumped? If so, you might want to take a look at the EQ Knowledge Bank. We have articles on all aspects of schooling which aim to answer the questions parents want to ask. But that's not all - we also have loads of advice on parenting which could help to keep your child happy, confident and safe. Why not check it out?