British Studies Web Pages
|The Naming of Schools|
The absence of a single centralised system of names for understanding educational terminology can cause considerable misunderstandings. Below is a brief description of what names are applied to what establishments.
There are a number of different types of pre-school education; they all offer pretty much the same thing but are governed by different rules. Interestingly, this is seen as the first stage of the National Curriculum, though the level of education on offer varies. There is little formal teaching but lots of play, stories and educational games.
State Nursery Schools
These are for three to four year olds and are open during the school terms. Children attend for five half day sessions per week.
Private Nursery Schools
Accept children from the ages of 2-5 and offer full or half day sessions and may be open during the school holidays.
Nursery in State Primary Schools
Accept children from the age of 3 or 4 and are open during term time.
Pre-school playgroups generally take children between the ages of 3-5. Most are open for half days at least and depending on parents’ needs may stay open longer.
These accept children under 5 for the whole working day depending on the needs of the parent.
Usually from the age of 5 (the key date in the UK is September 1st not January 1st). All 5 year olds must be in education so some start at 4½. It is divided into:
· Infant school 5-7 year olds
· Junior School 7-11 year olds
Usually from the age of 11 and compulsory until the age of 16. Mostly mixed schools (officially co-educational) but there are still many single sex schools to be found. (commonly know as boys/girls schools) Some Local Education Authorities (LEAs) have middle schools from age 9 or 10 until 13 or 14. The school before this may be known as first school.
Some recent history
After the war most pupils in secondary education in England and Wales were divided according to a test taken at the age of 11 called, unsurprisingly, the 11 plus. The successful candidates, about 30% of entrants, went on to grammar schools whilst those who were not successful went to secondary modern schools. These did not offer A -levels and did a different final school exam, CSE (Certificate of Secondary Education), rather then the O-levels (ordinary as opposed to Advanced level, an exam for 18year olds) taken at grammar schools. Thus, most people had to take a test to see if they would eventually be clever enough to go to university at the very young age of 11 - at least seven years before university started.
From the mid sixties most LEA’s changed to comprehensive schools where children of all abilities were mixed together. Although there was more flexibility in this system children were still placed in classes according to ability. In terms of exams and final leaving certificates these were altered in the mid eighties. GCSE’s (General Certificate of Secondary Education) were introduced which were taken by all pupils at the age of 16. A greater emphasis on coursework rather than on final exams has resulted in increasing numbers of students leaving with better qualifications. Similar ideas were adopted at A-level (courses studied from the age of 16-18) and again, since the changes, standards appear to be rising.
Other State Sector Terms:
These are for pupils aged 16 -18 and offer A levels. Most are attached to secondary schools and in this case most of the pupils will be from that school, although others can apply to enter.
Private schools are fee paying establishments that have to conform to the same standards as state schools. Some of them are day schools and some of them are boarding schools where pupils live at the school. Many of these are single sex schools. The more exclusive schools are known as public schools. Famous examples of these are Eton and Harrow. Princes William and Harry went to Eton.
For those youngsters who wish to go on to private secondary school prep school (preparatory school) are an option. These are private schools for 8-13 year olds.
Grant Maintained Schools
These are schools which although within the state system, receive private money and have considerable independence. If they wish they may change their status and become grammar schools, admitting only the brightest students.
The Oxford Guide to British and American Culture is a good starting point with clear explanations of the schools systems in the UK and the US.
Some extra notes