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The British Education System
State Education in Britain.
All state schools in Britain are free, and schools provide
their pupils with books and equipment for their studies.
Nine million children attend 35.000 schools in Britain.
Education is compulsory from 5 till 16 years. Parents can
choose to send their children to a nursery school or a preschool
playgroup to prepare them for the start of compulsory
education. Children start primary school at 5 and continue
until they are 11. Most children are taught together, boys and
girls in the same class. At 11 most pupils go to secondary
schools called comprehensives which accept a wide range of
children from all backgrounds and religious and ethnic
groups. Ninety per cent of secondary schools in England,
Scotland and Wales are co-educational.
At 16 pupils take a national exam called "G.C.S.E."
(General Certificate of Secondary Education) and then they
can leave school if they wish. This is the end of compulsory
Some 16-year-olds continue their studies in the sixth form
at school or at a sixth form college. The sixth form prepares
pupils for a national exam called "A" level (advanced level) at
18. You need "A" level to enter a university. Other 16-yearolds
choose to go to a college of further education to study
for more practical (vocational) diplomas relating to the world
of work, such as hairdressing, typing or mechanics.
Universities and colleges of higher education accept
students with "A" levels from 18. Students study for a degree
which takes on average three years of full-time study. Most
students graduate at 21 or 22 and are given their degree at a
special graduation ceremony.
1. What do state schools in Britain provide their pupils
2. What can parents choose?
3. When do children start primary school?
4. When do pupils take a national exam called GCSE?
5. What prepares pupils for a national exam called "A"
6. How long do students study for a degree?
7. Whom do universities and colleges of higher education
The British Education System
Seven per cent of British schoolchildren go to private
schools called independent schools. There are 2.400
independent schools and they have been growing in number
and popularity since the mid-1980's.
Parents pay for these schools, and fees vary from about
250 pounds a term for a private nursery to 3.000 pounds a
term or more for a secondary boarding school. Most
independent schools are called prep (preparatory) schools
because they prepare the children for the Common Entrance
Exam which they take at the age of 11. This exam is for
entry into the best schools.
The most famous schools are called "public schools" and
they have a long history and traditions. It is often necessary
to put your child's name on a waiting list at birth to be sure
he or she gets a place, Children of wealthy or aristocratic
families often go to the same public school as their parents
and their grandparents. Eton is the best known of these
The majority of independent secondary schools, including
public schools, are single-sex, although in recent
years girls have been allowed to join the sixth forms of boys'
Independent schools also include religious schools (Jewish, Catholic, Muslim etc.) and schools for ethnic minorities.
1. How many independent schools are there in Britain?
2. Why are most independent schools called preparatory
3. What school is the best known public school?