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Education in Great Britain 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 pre-school 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.
Primary education in Britain In some areas of England there are nursery schools 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 organised 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.
Secondary education in Britain 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 GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) and then they can leave school if they wish. This is the end of compulsory education. 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-year-olds 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.
The British education system. Private education. 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 schools. 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' schools. Independent schools also include religious schools (Jewish, Catholic, Muslim etc.) and schools for ethnic minorities.
The important feature of schooling in Britain is the 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, 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. Computers play an important part in education.
School life of British children The school year is divided into terms, three months each, named after seasops autumn term, winter term and spring term. The autumn term starts on the first Tuesday morning in September. In July schools break up for eight weeks. Life at school is more or less similar everywhere. Each group of 30 pupils is the responsibility of a form tutor. Each schoolday is divided into periods of 40—50 minutes, time for various lessons with 10—20 minutes breaks between them. On important occasion such as end of term or national holiday, called in England schools speech-days pupils are gathered in the assembly area or hall.
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