Education in Great Britain

Education in Great Britain


The British education system has much in common with that in Europe,

that :

        Full-time education is compulsory for all children in the middle teenage years. Parents are required by law to see that their children receive full-time education, at school or elsewhere, between the ages of 5 and 16 in England, Scotland and Wales 4 and 16 in Northern Ireland.

        The academic year begins at the end of summer.

Compulsory education is free charge, though parents may choose a private school and spend their money on education their children. About 93% of pupils receive free education from public funds, while the others attend independent schools financed by fees paid by parents.

        There are three stages of schooling with children, moving from primary school to secondary school. The third stage provides further and higher education, technical college of higher education and universities.

There is, however, quite a lot that distinguishes education in Britain from the way it works in other countries. The most important distinguishing features are the lack of uniformity and comparatively little central control. There are three separate government departments managing education: the Departments for Education and Employment is responsible for England and Wales alone; Scotland and Northern Ireland retain control over the education within their respective countries. None of these bodies exercises much control over the details does not prescribe a detailed program of learning, books and materials to be used, nor does it dictate the exact hours of the school day, the exact days of holidays, schools finance management and such lick. As many details possible are left to the discretion of the individual institution.

Many distinctive characteristics of British education can be ascribed at least partly, to public school tradition. The present-day level of grass-root independence as well as different approach to education has been greatly influenced by the philosophy that a school is its own community. The 19th century public schools educated the sons of the upper and upper-middle classes and the main aim of schooling was to prepare young men to take up positions in the higher ranks of the army, the Church, to fill top-jobs in business, the legal profession, the civil serves and politics. To meet this aim the emphasis was made on character-building and the development of team spirit rather than on academic achievement.

Such schools were (and still often are) mainly boarding establishments, so they had a deep and lasting influence on their pupils, consequently, public-school leaves for formed a closed group entry into which was difficult, the ruling elite the core of the Establishment.

The 20th century brought education and its possibilities for social advanced within everybodys reach, and new, state schools naturally tended to copy the features of the public schools. So today, in typically British fashion, learning for its own sake, rather than for any practical purpose is still been given a high value. As distinct from most other countries, a relatively stronger emphasis is on the quality of person that education produces rather than helping people to develop useful knowledge and skills. In other words, the general style of teaching is to develop understanding rather than acquiring factual knowledge and learning to apply this knowledge to specific tasks.

2.Public Schools For Whom?

About five per cent of children are educated privately in what is rather confusingly called public schools. These are the schools for the privileged. There are about 500 public schools in England and Wales most of them single-sex. About half of them are for girls.

The schools, such as Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester, are famous for their ability to lay the foundation of a successful future by giving their pupils self- confidence, the right accent, a good academic background and, perhaps most important of all, the right friends and contacts. People who went to one of the public schools never call themselves school-leaves. They talk about the old school tie and the old boy network. They are just old boys or old girls. The fees are high and only very rich families can afford to pay so much. Public schools educate the ruling class of England. One such school is Gordonstoun, which the Prince of Wales, the elder son of the Queen, left in 1968. Harrow School is famous as the place where Winston Churchill was educated, as well as six other Prime Ministers of England, the poet Lord Byron, the playwright Richard Sheridan and many other prominent people.

Public schools are free from state control. They are independent. Most of them are boarding schools. The education is of a high quality; the discipline is very strict. The system of education is the same: the most able go ahead.

These schools accept pupils from preparatory schools at about 11 or 13 years of age usually on the basis of an examination, known as Common Entrance. There are three sittings of Common Entrance every year in February, June and November. Scholarships are rarely awarded on the results of Common Entrance. The fundamental requirements are very high. At 18 most public school-leaves, gain entry to universities.


Great Britain does not have a written constitution, so there are no constitutional provisions for education. The system of education is determined by the National Education Acts.

Schools in England are supported from public funds paid to the local education authorities. These local education authorities are responsible for organizing the schools in their areas.

Lets outline the basic features of public education in Britain. Firstly, there are wide variations between one part of the country and another. For most educational purposes England and Wales are treated as one unit, though the system in Wales is a little different from that of England. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own education systems.

Secondly, education in Britain mirrors the countrys social system: it is class-divided and selective. The first division is between those who pay and those who do not pay. The majority of schools in Britain are supported by public funds and the education provided is free. They are maintained schools, but there are also a considerable number of public schools. Parents have to pay fees to send their children to these schools. The fees are high. As matter of fact, only very rich families can send their children to public schools. In some parts of Britain they still keep the old system of grammar schools, which are selective. But most secondary schools in Britain, which are called comprehensive schools, are not selective you dont have to pass an exam to go there.

Another important feature of schooling in Britain is the variety of opportunities offered to schoolchildren. The English school syllabus is divided into Arts and Sciences, which determine the division of the secondary school pupils into study groups: a Science pupil will study Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Economics, Technical Drawing, Biology, geography; an Art pupil will do English Language and Literature, History, foreign languages, Music, Art, Drama. Besides these subjects they must do some general education subjects like Physical Education, Home Economics for girls, and Technical subjects for boys, General Science. Computers play an important part in education. The system of options exists in all kinds of secondary schools.

The National Curriculum, which was introduced in 1988, sets out detail the subjects that children should study and the levels of achievement they should reach by the ages of 7, 11, 14, and 16, when they are tested. Until that year headmasters and headmistresses of schools were given a great deal of freedom in deciding what subjects to teach and how to do it in their schools so that there was really no central, control at all over individual schools. The National Curriculum does not apply in Scotland, where each school decides what subjects it will teach.

After the age of 16 a growing number of school students are staying on at school, some until 18 or 19, the age of entry into higher education in universities, Polytechnics or colleges. Schools in Britain provide careers guidance. A specially trained person called careers advisor or careers officer helps school students to decide what job they want to do and how they can achieve it.

British university courses are rather short, generally lasting for 3 years. The cost of education depends on the college or university and special which one chooses.

4.Education in Britain.




nursery school playgroup or kindergarten



reception class

year 1

infant school



year 2

year 3

year 4

year 5

year 6


primary school

junior school






year 7

year 8

year 9

year 10

year 11

secondary school






year 12

year 13

sixth form college



first year (fresher)

second year

third/final year

University or Polytechnic







5.Pre-primary and Primary Education.

In some of England there are nursery schools for children under 5 years of age. Some children between two and five receive education in nursery classes or in infants classes in primary schools. Many children attend informal pre-school playgroups organized by parents in private homes. Nursery schools are staffed with teachers and students in training. There are all kinds of toys to keep the children busy from 9 oclock in the morning till 4 oclock in the afternoon while their parents are at work. Here the babies play, lunch and sleep. They can run about and play in safety with someone keeping an eye on them.

For day nurseries, which remain open all the year round, the parents pay according to their income. The local education authoritys nurseries are free. But only about three children in 100 can go to them: there arent enough places and the waiting lists are rather long.

Most children start school at five in primary school. A primary school may be divided into two parts-infants and juniors. At infants school reading, writing and arithmetic are taught for about 20 minutes a day during the first year, gradually increasing to about 2 hours in their last year. There is usually no written timetable. Much time is spent in modeling from clay or drawing, reading or singing.

By the time children are ready for the junior school they will be able to read and write, do simple addition and subtraction of numbers.

At seven children go on from the infants school to the junior school. This marks the transition from play to real work. The children have set periods of arithmetic, reading and composition which are all Eleven Plus subjects. History, Geography, Nature Study, Art and Music, Physical Education, Swimming are also on the timetable.

Pupils are streamed, according to their ability to learn into, A, B, C and D streams. The least gifted are in the D stream. Formerly towards the end of their fourth year the pupils wrote their Eleven Plus Examination. The hated 11 + examination was a selective procedure on which not only the pupils future schooling but their future careers depended. The abolition of selection at Eleven plus Examination brought to life comprehensive schools where pupils can get secondary education.

6.Secondary Education.

The majority of state secondary school pupils in England and Wales attend comprehensive schools. These largely take pupils without reference to ability or aptitude and provide a wide range of secondary education for all or most children in a district. Schools take those, who are the 11 to 18 age-range, middle schools (8 to 14), and schools with an age-range from 11 to 16. Most other state-educated children in England attend grammar or secondary modern schools, to which they are allocated after selection procedures at the age of 11.

Before 1965 a selective system of secondary education existed in England. Under that system a child of 11 had to take an exam, which consisted of intelligence tests covering linguistic, mathematical and general knowledge which was to be taken by children in the last year of primary schooling. The object was to select between academic and non-academic children. Those who did well in the examination went to a grammar school, while those who failed went to a secondary modern school and technical college. Grammar schools prepared children for national examinations such as the GCE at O level and A-level. These examinations qualified children for the better jobs, and for entry higher education and the professions. The education in secondary modern schools was based on practical schooling, which would allow entry into a variety of skilled and unskilled jobs.

Many people complained that it was wrong for a persons future to be decided at a so young age. The children who went to secondary moderns were seen as failures. More over, it was noticed that the children who passed this exam were almost all from middle-class families. The Labor Party, returned to power in 1965, abolished the 11+ and tried to introduce the non-selective education system in the form of comprehensive schools, that would provide schooling for children of all ability levels and from all social backgrounds, ideally under one roof. The final choice between selective and non-selective schooling, though, was left to LEAS that controlled the provision of school education in the country. Some authorities decided for comprehensive, while others retained grammar schools and secondary moderns.

In the late 1980s the Conservative government introduced another major change. Schools cloud now decide whether to remain as LEA-maintained schools or to opt-out of the control of the LEA and put themselves directly under the control of the government department. These grant-maintained schools were financed directly by central government. This did not mean, however, that there was more central control: grant-maintained schools did not have to ask anybody else about how to spend their money.

A recent development in education administration in England and Wales in the School Standards and Framework Act passed in July 1998. The Act established that from 1.09.1999 all state school education authorities with the ending of the separate category of grant maintained status.

There are some grant-maintained or voluntary aided schools, called City Technology Colleges. In 1999 there were 15 City Technology Colleges in England. These are non-fee-paying independent secondary schools created by a partnership of government and private sector sponsors. The promoters own or lease the schools, employ teachers and make substantial contributions to the costs of building and equipment. The colleges teach the NC, but with an emphasis on mathematics, technology and science.

So, today three types of state schools mainly provide secondary education: secondary modern schools grammar schools and comprehensive schools. There should also be mentioned another type of schools, called specialist schools. The specialist school programmer in England was launched in 1993. Specialist schools are state secondary schools specializing in technology, science and mathematics; modern foreign languages; sports; arts.

State schools are absolutely free (including all textbooks and exercise books) and generally co-educational.

Under the NC a greater emphasis at the secondary level is laid on science and technology. Accordingly, ten subjects have to be studied: English, history, geography, mathematics, science, a modern foreign language, technology, music, art and physical education. For special attention there of these subjects (called core subjects): English, science, mathematics and seven other subjects are called foundation or statuary subjects. Besides, subjects are grouped into departments and teachers work in teams and to plan work.

Most common departments are:

        Humanities Departments: geography, history, economics, English literature, drama, social science;

        Science Department: chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics;

        Language Department: German, French, English;

        Craft Design and Technology Departments: information and communications technology, computing, home economics and photography.

The latter brings together the practical subjects like cooing, woodwork, sewing, and metalwork with the new technology used in those fields. Students can design a T-shirt on computer using graphics software and make-up the T-shirt design. Students can also look at way to market their product, thus linking all disciplines. This subjects area exemplifies the process approach to learning introduced by the NC.

It is worth mentioning here the growing importance of personal and Social Education. Since the 1970s there has been an emphasis on pastoral care, education in areas related to life skills such as health (this includes looking at drug, discussing physical changes related to poverty, sex education and relationship). There are usually one or two lessons a week, from primary school through to sixth form and they are an essential part of the schools aim to prepare students to life in society.

Education in Britain is not solely concentrated on academic study. Great value is placed on visits and activities like organizing the school club or field trips, which are educational in a more general sense. The organization of these activities by teachers is very much taken for granted in the British school system. Some teachers give up their free time, evenings and weekends to do this unpaid work. At Christmas teachers organized concerts, parties and general festivities. It is also considered a good thing to be seen to be doing this extra work since it is fairly essential for securing promotion in the school hierarchy.

Classes of pupils are called forms (though it has recently become common to refer to years) and are numbered from one to beginning with first form. Nearly all schools work a five-day week and are closed on Saturdays. The day starts at nine oclock and finishes between three and four. The lunch break usually lasts about an hour-and-a-quarter. Nearly two-thirds of pupils have lunch provided by the school. Parents pay for this except for the 15 per cent who are rated poor enough and have it for free. Other children either go home for lunch or take sandwiches.

Schools usually divide their year into tree terms starting at the beginning of September:





(about 2weeks)





(about 2 weeks)





(about 6 weeks)

Passage from one year to the next one is automatic. At the age of 14 pupils are tested in English, mathematics and science, as well as in statutory subjects. At that same age in the third or forth pupils begin to choose their exam subjects and work for two years to prepare for their qualifications. The exams are usually taken in fifth form at the age of 16, which is a school-leaving age. The actual written exams are set by outside examiners, but they must be approved by the government and comply with national guidelines. There are several examination boards in Britain and each school decided that boards exam its pupils take. Most exams last for two hours, marks are given for each exams separately and are graded from A to G (grades A, B, C are considered to be good marks).

16 are an important age for school-leaves because they have to make key decisions as to their future lives and careers. There is a number of choices for them.

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2009 .