The School Education in Great Britain ( )

                    The School Education in Great Britain

       The aim of education in general is to develop to the full the talents
of both children and adults for their own benefit and that of society  as  a
whole. It is a large-scale investment in the future.
      The educational system of Great  Britain  has  developed  for  over  a
hundred years. It is a complicated system with wide variations  between  one
part of the country and another. Three  partners  are  responsible  for  the
education service: central government   the  Department  of  Education  and
Science (DES), local education authorities (LEAs), and  schools  themselves.
The legal basis for this partnership is supplied by the 1944 Education Act.
      The  Department  of  Education  and  Science  is  concerned  with  the
formation of national policies for education.  It  is  responsible  for  the
maintenance of minimum national standard of  education.  In  exercising  its
functions the DES is assisted by Her  Majestys  Inspectorate.  The  primary
functions  of  the  Inspectors  are  to  give  professional  advice  to  the
Department, local education authorities, schools and colleges,  and  discuss
day-to-day problems with them.
      Local education authorities are charged with the provision and day-to-
day running of the schools and colleges in their areas and  the  recruitment
and payment of the teachers who work in  them. They are responsible for  the
provision of buildings, materials and  equipment.  However,  the  choice  of
text-books and timetable are usually left to  the  headmaster.  The  content
and method of teaching is decided by the individual teacher.
      The administrative functions of education in  each  area  are  in  the
hands of a Chief Education Officer who is assisted by  a  deputy  and  other
          Until recently planning and organization were  not  controlled  by
central government. Each LEA was free to decide how  to  organize  education
in its own area. In 1988, however, the National Curriculum  was  introduced,
which means that there is  now  greater  government  control  over  what  is
taught in schools. The aim was to provide a  more  balanced  education.  The
new curriculum places greater emphasis on  the  more  practical  aspects  of
education. Skills are being taught which  pupils  will  need  for  life  and
       The chief elements of the national Curriculum  include  a  broad  and
balanced framework of study which emphasizes the practical  applications  of
knowledge. It is based around the core subjects of English, mathematics  and
science ( biology, chemistry, etc.) as well as a number of other  foundation
subjects, including geography, history, technology and modern languages.
       The education reform of 1988 also  gave  all  secondary  as  well  as
larger  primary schools responsibilities for  managing  the  major  part  of
their budgets, including costs of  staff.  Schools  received  the  right  to
withdraw from local education authority control if they wished.
       Together with the National Curriculum,  a  programme  of  Records  of
Achievements was introduced. This programme contains a system of  new  tests
for pupils at the ages of  7, 11, 13 and 16. The aim of these  tests  is  to
discover any schools or areas which  are  not  teaching  to  a  high  enough
standard. But many believe that these tests are unfair because they  reflect
differences in home rather than in ability.
       The great majority of children (about  9  million)  attend  Britains
30,500 state schools. No tuition fees are payable in any of them. A  further
600,000 go to 2,500 private schools, often referred to as  the  independent
sector where the parents have to pay for their children.
       In most primary and secondary state schools boys and girls are taught
together. Most independent schools for  younger  children  are  also  mixed,
while the majority of private secondary schools are single-sex.
       State schools are almost all day  schools,  holding  classes  between
Mondays and Fridays. The school year normally begins in early September  and
continues into the following July. The year is divided into three  terms  of
about 13 weeks each.
       Two-thirds of state schools are wholly owned and maintained by  LEAs.
The remainder are voluntary schools,  mostly  belonging  to  the  Church  of
England or the Roman Catholic Church. They are also financed by LEAs.
       Every state school has its own governing body (a board of governors),
consisting of teachers, parents, local politicians, businessmen and  members
of the local community.  Boards  of  governors  are  responsible  for  their
schools main policies, including the recruitment of the staff.
       A great role is played  by  the  Parent  Teacher  Association  (PTA).
Practically all parents  are  automatically  members  of  the  PTA  and  are
invited to take part in its many activities.  Parental  involvement  through
the PTA and other links between parents and schools is  growing  .  The  PTA
forms both a special focus for parents and much valued additional  resources
for the school. Schools place great value on the PTA as a further  means  of
listening to  parents  and  developing  the  partnership  between  home  and
school. A Parents Charter published by the Government in 1991  is  designed
to enable parents to take more informed  decisions  about  their  childrens
       Compulsory education begins at the age of 5  in  England,  Wales  and
Scotland, and at the age of 4 in Northern Ireland. All pupils must  stay  at
school until the age of 16. About 9 per cent  of  pupils  in  state  schools
remain at school voluntarily until the age of 18.
       Education within the state school system comprises either  two  tiers
(stages)  primary and secondary, or three tiers    first  schools,  middle
schools and upper schools.
       Nearly all state secondary schools are  comprehensive,  they  embrace
pupils from 11 to 18. The word comprehensive expresses the idea  that  the
schools in question take all children in a given  area  without,  selection.

       NURSERY EDUCATION. Education for the under-fives, mainly from 3 to 5,
is not compulsory and  can  be  provided  in  nursery  schools  and  nursery
classes attached to primary schools. Although they are called schools,  they
give little formal education. The children spend most of their time in  some
sort of play activity, as far as possible of an  educational  kind.  In  any
case, there are not enough of them to take all children of that  age  group.
A large proportion of children at this beginning stage  is  in  the  private
sector where fees are payable. Many children attend  pre-school  playgroups,
mostly organized by  parents,  where  children  can  go  for  a  morning  or
afternoon a couple of times a week.
       PRIMARY EDUCATION. The primary school usually takes children  from  5
to 11. Over half of the primary schools take the complete age group  from  5
to 11. The remaining schools take the pupils aged 5 to 7   infant  schools,
and  8 to 11  junior schools. However,  some  LEAs  have  introduced  first
school, taking children aged 5 to 8, 9 to 10. The first school  is  followed
by the middle school which embraces children from 8 to 14.  Next  comes  the
upper school (the third tier) which keeps middle school  leavers  until  the
age of 18. This three-stage system (first, middle  and  upper)  is  becoming
more and more popular in a growing  number  of  areas.  The  usual  age  for
transfer from primary to secondary school is 11.
       SECONDARY EDUCATION. Secondary education is compulsory up to the  age
of 16, and pupils may stay on at  school  voluntarily  until  they  are  18.
Secondary schools are much larger than primary  schools  and  most  children
(over 80 per cent) go to comprehensive schools.
       There are three categories of comprehensive schools:

       1) schools which take pupils from 11 to 18,
       2) schools which embrace middle school leavers from 12, 13or  14  to
          18, and
       3) schools which take the age group from 11 to 16.
The pupils in the latter group, wishing to continue their  education  beyond
the age of 16 (to be able to enter university) may  transfer  to  the  sixth
form of an 11-18 school, to a sixth-form college or to  a  tertiary  college
which provide complete courses of secondary education. The tertiary  college
offers also part-time vocational courses.
       Comprehensive schools admit children of all abilities and  provide  a
wide range of secondary education for all or  most  of  the  children  in  a
       In some  areas  children  moving  from  state  primary  to  secondary
education are still selected for certain types of school according to  their
current level of  academic  attainment.  There  are  grammar  and  secondary
modern schools, to which children are allowed at the age of 11 on the  basis
of their abilities. Grammar schools provide a mainly academic education  for
the 11 to 18 age group.  Secondary  modern  schools  offer  a  more  general
education with a practical bias up to the minimum school-leaving age of 16.
       Some local education authorities run technical  schools  (11    18).
They provide a general academic education, but place particular emphasis  on
technical subjects. However, as a  result  of  comprehensive  reorganization
the number of grammar and secondary modern schools  fell  radically  by  the
beginning of the 1990s.
       There are special schools adapted for  the  physically  and  mentally
handicapped children. The compulsory period of schooling here is from  5  to
16. A number of  handicapped  pupils  begin  younger  and  stay  on  longer.
Special schools and their classes are more generously staffed than  ordinary
schools and provide,  where  possible.  Physiotherapy,  speech  therapy  and
other forms of treatment. Special schools are normally maintained by  state,
but a large proportion of special boarding  schools  are  private  and  fee-
       About 5 per cent of Britains children attend independent or  private
schools outside the free state  sector.  Some  parents  choose  to  pay  for
private education in spite of the existence of free state  education.  These
schools charge between 300 pounds a term for day nursery  pupils  and  3,500
pounds a term for senior boarding-school pupils.
       All independent schools have  to  register  with  the  Department  of
Education and Science  and  are  subject  to  inspection  be  Her  Majestys
Inspecrorate, which is absolutely independent. About 2,300  private  schools
provide primary and secdondary education.
       Around 550 most privileged and expensive schools are  commonly  known
as public schools.
       The principal examinations taken by secondary school  pupils  at  the
age of 16  are  those  leading  to  the  General  Certificate  of  Secondary
Education  (GCSE).  It  aims  to  assess  pupils  ability  to  apply  their
knowledge to solving practical problems. It is the  minimum  school  leaving
age, the level which does not allow school-leavers to enter  university  but
to start work or do some vocational training.
       The chief examinations at the age of 18 are leading  to  the  General
Certificate of Education Advanced level (GCE  A-level).  It  enables  sixth-
formers to widen their subject areas  and  move  to  higher  education.  The
systems of examinations are  co-ordinated  and  supervisedby  the  Secondary
Examination Council.
       Admission to universities is carried out by  examinationor  selection
(interview). Applicants for places in nearly all the universities  are  sent
initially to the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS). In  the
application an applicant can list up to five  universities  or  colleges  in
order to preference. Applications must be sent to the  UCAS  in  the  autumn
term of the academic year preceding that in which the applicant hopes to  be
admitted. The UCAS sends a copy to aech  of  the  universities  or  colleges
named. Each univesity selects its own students.
       The overall pupil-teacher  ratio  in  state  primary   and  secondary
schools is about 18 to 1, on of the most favourable in the world.

"The School Education in Great Britain ( ) "