Whats a “public school”? A public school in Britain is not open to everyone; the ordinary, local schools where most people go are called “state” schools. Public schools are schools where parents have to pay money if they want their children to attend. Public schools are old, often traditional and prestigious institutions. Most of the kinds who go to them have very rich parents. Public schools are often single-sex, which means they dont permit girls and boys to be educated together. There are sometimes boarding schools, that mean that kids live at school during the week. Some famous public schools for boys are Eton college, Harrow and Malvern, and for girls, Benedon and Cheltanham Ladies College. Prince William was educate at Eton and his brother Harry is still a pupil there. Eton is renowned for its academic excellence and some of its traditions. The school was founded by Henry VI in 1440 1441 and was intended for 70 highly qualified boys who received scholarships. This dates back to the death of George III. The school wore mourning clothes but this later became established as the official uniform. Weblink: www.etoncollege.com.
This traditional public-school approach, together with the above-mentioned dislike of central authority, also helps to explain another thing: the NC, the purpose of which was to do away with the disparities in the type and quality of education, was not introduced until 1989 much later than in other countries.
§2. Pre-school and primary education.
There is no countrywide system of nursery (or pre-primary) schools. In some areas there are nursery schools and classes (or, in England, reception classes in primary schools), providing informal education and play facilities, but they are not compulsory and only 25% of 3-4 year-olds attend them. There are also some private nurseries and pre-school playgroups organized and paid by parents themselves where children are brought twice a week for an hour or two.
The present Labour government is working to expand pre-school education and wants all children to begin school with basic foundation in literacy and numeracy, or what is know as the three Rs (Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic). From September 1998 it is providing free nursery education in England and Wales for all 4-year-olds whose parents want it.
The average child begins his or her compulsory education at the age of 5 starting primary school (infant schools are for children between at the ages of 5 and 7 and junior schools for those between the ages of 8 and 11).
LEAs, in the partnership with private nurseries, playgroups and schools, have drawn up early years development plans of providing 4 year olds with basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. The plans are designed to show how co-operation between private nurseries, playgrounds and schools can best serve the interests of children and their parents. In addition, the government aims to establish early excellence centres designed to demonstrate good practice in education and childcare.
§3. 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 (known as an 11+), which consisted of intelligence tests covering linguistic, mathematical and general knowledge and 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 Labour Party, among other critics, argued that the 11+ examination was socially divisible, increasing the inequalities between rich and poor and reinforcing the class system.
The Labour 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 (SSFA) passed in July 1998. The Act establishes 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 (CTCs). In 1999 there were 15 CTCs 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 (now predominant) comprehensive schools. There should also be mentioned another type of schools, called specialist schools. The specialist school programme in England was launched in 1993. Specialist schools are state secondary schools specializing in technology, science and mathematics; modern foreign languages; sports; or arts in addition to providing the full NC.
State schools are absolutely free (including all textbooks and exercise books) and generally co-educational.
Under the new 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 (at secondary level), technology (including design), music, art, and physical education. For special attention there were chosen three of these subjects (called core subjects): English, science, mathematics, and seven other subjects are called foundation or statutory subjects. Besides, subjects are grouped into departments and teachers work in teams and to plan work.
Most common departments are:
- Humanities Department: geography, history, economics, English literature, drama, PE, social science;
- Science Departments: chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics;
- Language Department: German, French, English;
- Craft Design and Technology Department: information and communications technology, computing, home economics, and photography.
The latter (often as CTD) brings together the practical subjects like cooking, 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 subject area exemplifies the process approach to learning introduced by the NC.
It is worth mentioning here the growing importance of PSE (Personal and Social Education). Since the 1970s there has been an emphasis on pastoral care, i. e. education in areas related to life skills such as health (this includes looking at drug, discussing physical changes related to poverty, sex education and relationships). 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