COMPULSORY SCHOOLINGCategory: Education
Education is compulsory between the ages of five and sixteen. The minimum leaving age has been raised from fifteen to sixteen in 1972—73. Compulsory schooling is divided into a primary and secondary stage. The transition from primary to secondary schooling is normally made around the age of eleven. Since the Education Act, 1964, gave local education authorities the power to establish other ages of transfer, there are now areas in which the transition occurs when children are ten, twelve or thirteen.
Over 90 per cent of children attend schools which are wholly maintained by the local education authorities and at which no fees are charged. The education of about 5 per cent of the population is financed mainly by parents’ contributions at either direct grant or independent schools.
The direct grant schools are a small group of 320 schools which span the state and independent system. They receive a large part of their income in the form of a direct grant from the Department of Education and Science. These shools, which include some of the most prestigious grammar schools in the country have to award free places to at least a quarter of the pupils admitted to the school: these places are allocated by the governors or through the local education authorities and are available only to pupils who have attended maintained or grantaided primary schools for at least two years. Local education authorities may take up a larger proportion of free places, though they do not usually take, up more than half. Parents pay the fees for the remaining places. Fees are based on a scale related to the parents’ income. Independent (public) schools do not receive grants from public funds. But 10 per cent of the places in independent schools are paid for by the government or local education authorities. Independent schools have to be registered with the Department of Education and Science.