EDUCATION IN GREAT BRITAINCategory: Educational System
Free or Fee-Paying?. Class-divided and Selective. General Education Subjects. Options. The Main Stages
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 and they themselves choose how to do it.
Let’s 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 country’s 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 is also a considerable number of public schools. Parents have to pay fees to send their children to these schools. The fees are high. As a matter of fact, only very rich families can send their children to public schools as well as to the best universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge.
Another important feature of schooling in Britain is a variety of opportunities offered to schoolchildren. The English school syllabus is divided into Arts (or Humanities) and Sciences, which determine the division of the secondary school pupils into study groups: a Science pupil will study Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics (Maths), Economics, Technical Drawing, Biology, Geography; an Art pupil will do the English Language and Literature, History, foreign languages, Music, Art, Drama. Besides these subjects they must do some general education subjects like Physical Education (PE), Home Economics for girls, and Technical subjects for boys, General Science. Computers play an important part in education.
There is a system of careers education for schoolchildren in Britain. It is a three-year course.
The system of option exists in all kinds of secondary schools. Besides, the structure of the curriculum and the organization of teaching vary from school to school. Headmasters and headmistresses of schools are given a great deal of freedom in deciding what is taught and how in their schools so that there is really no central control at all over individual schools.
The National Education Act of 1944 provided three stages of education; primary, secondary and further education. Compulsory schooling in England and Wales lasts 11 years, from the age of 5 to 16. 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 and Polytechnics. British university courses are rather short, generally lasting for 3 years. The cost of education depends on the college and speciality which one chooses.
Pre-primary and Primary Education
Nurseries. Primary School. Streaming. The Eleven Plus Examination. No More of It?
In some areas of England there are nursery schools 3 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 play-groups 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 o’clock in the morning till 4 o’clock 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 (he parents pay according to their income. The local education authority’s nurseries are free. But only about three children in 100 can go to them: there aren’t enough places, and the waiting lists are rather long.
Most children start school at 5 in a 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 modelling 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 7 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 abilities to learn into A, B, С and D streams. The least gifted are in the D stream. Formally 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.
Comprehensive Schools. Grammar Schools. Secondary Modern Schools. The Sixth Form. No More Inequality?. Cuts on School Spending
After the age of 11, most children go to comprehensive schools of which the majority are for both —boys and girls.
About 90 per cent of all state-financed secondary schools are of this type. Most other children receive secondary education in grammar and secondary modern schools.
Comprehensive schools were introduced in 1965. The idea of comprehensive education, supported by the Labour Party, was to give all children of whatever background the same opportunity in education. Only about 20 per cent of children study for the General Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level (GCE О-level). Most children do not pass GCE examinations. They leave school at 16 without any real qualification and more often than not increase the ranks of unemployed people.
Pupils of modern schools take their Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) examinations while in grammar schools almost all children stay to sixteen to take О-levels. More than half of them stay on to take А-levels. Some comprehensive and many secondary schools, however, do not have enough academic courses for sixth-formers. Pupils can transfer either to a grammar school or to a sixth-form college to get the courses they want.
The majority of schools in Scotland are six-year comprehensives. Secondary education in Northern Ireland is organized along selective lines according to children’s abilities.
One can hardly say that high quality secondary education is provided for all in Britain. There is a high loss of pupils from working-class families at entry into the sixth form. If you are a working-class child at school today, the chance of your reaching the second year of a sixth- form course is probably less than one-twelfth of that for the child of a professional parent.
Besides, government cuts on school spending caused many difficulties.
Secondary School Examinations
Time for Examinations. GCE. CSE. The Sixth Forms. CEE. GCSE
Pupils at secondary schools in England (that is, pupils between the ages of twelve and eighteen) have two main exams to worry about, both called GCE — General Certificate of Education.
They take the first one when they are about fifteen. It’s called O- level. There is an exam which you can take instead of О-level: it is called the CSE (Certificate of Secondary Education), and it is not as difficult as O-level.
Most pupils take О-level in about seven or eight different subjects. There are lots of subjects to choose from —everything from carpentry to ancient languages.
For a lot of jobs, such as nursing, or assistant librarian, you must have four or five О-levels, and usually these must include English and Maths.
You may leave school when you are 16. But if you stay at school after taking О-level, you go into the sixth form. The sixth forms and sixth-form colleges offer a wide range of courses. Ordinary level alternative, CEE (Certificate of Extended Education) and CSE courses are offered to pupils who need qualifications at a lower level. But if you have made up your mind to gain entry to a university, Polytechnic or college of further education you have to start working for the second main examination — A-level.
Most people take А-level when they are about eighteen. It is quite a difficult exam, so people don’t usually take it in more than 3 subjects— and some only in one or two subjects.
Three А-levels are enough to get you in to most universities. For others, such as Oxford and Cambridge, you have to take special exams as well. A new school-leaving certificate is planned, however, and O-level and CSE will be replaced by one public exam, the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). It is to show how children worked throughout 5 years of secondary school.