r06 Schools in Britain
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6 – Schools in Britain
In Britain school is compulsory from the age of five to the age of sixteen.
Parents can send their children to nursery school when they are two years old. At nursery school they play,
sing, listen to stories and by doing amusing activities they improve their language and learn simple arithmetic
It is divided into Infant School (ages 5 – 7) and Junior School (7 – 11). In Infant School the children learn to
read and write and the basics of arithmetic.
In Junior School they study history, geography, mathematics, science, English and, in some schools, also a
foreign language. Physical Education is usually given twice a week. Outside the normal time-table there are
many activities in which the children can také part: sports, drama, music and so on.
All children go to Comprehensive Schools where they must study the three basic subjects: English, science
and mathematics plus history, geography, technology, music, art, physical education, religious education and a
foreign language. They can also study extra subjects like a second foreign language, computer studies,
woodwork, electronics, economics, philosophy etc. All state school are free and there is no charge for textbooks
or exercise books, either.
When schoolchildren are 16 years old they také a national examination, the GCSE (General Certificate of
Secondary Education). It is a written examination, usually in 6 or 7 subjects. This exam marks the end of
After GCSE boys and girls can leave school and go to work or they can continue their studies. They can
attend Colleges of Further Education for more practical diplomas (hairdressing, typing, mechanics etc.), or Sixth
Form Collages which prepare them for university. At the end of the course the students také another national
exam called the GCE A (advanced) level. This exam is mainly for those who wish to go on to higher education.
The number of subjects varies from 1 to 4, and 3 are usually required for entry to university. It is important to get
very good results because the number of places available in the universities and polytechnics is limited.
About 7% of British children attend independent or private schools. Some of these are boarding schools,
which means that the pupils live there and only go home for holidays. Independent schools are very expensive
but the government provides funds for very clever children from poorer families if their parents wish to send
them to a private school.
The stages in these schools are different:
Pre-preparatory schools from the age of 5 to 8;
Preparatory schools from the age of 8 to 13;
Public/other independent schools from 13 to 18. The pupils must pass a special exam (Common Entrance
Exam) to attend these very exclusive schools.
The most famous public schools are Eton (founded in 1440), Harrow (1571) and Rugby (1567).
There are many rules in British schools with punishments that vary depending on the seriousness of the
Here is a list of some of the most common offences:
Arriving late at school
Refusing to do homework
Playing truancy (not going to school)
Cheating during tests and exams (copying)
Not wearing your uniform
And here is list of some of the most common punishments:
Detention – having to stay at school an extra half-hour
Lines – your teacher gives you a sentence, like "I must not be late" and you must write it fifty times
Exclusion – you cannot come to school for a few days or weeks
Expulsion – This is the most serious. You have to change schools and your report card goes with you.
There are 35 universities in England, 8 in Scotland, 2 in Northern Ireland and 4 in Wales. Entrance to
university is not easy; it is very competitive and the results of the GCE A-level exams are very important. A
student can apply to up to five different universities. Almost 90% of students get a degree.
There are three different kinds of degrees:
Undergraduate – BA or BSc (Bachelor of Arts or Science) which is awarded after three years courses (six
years for medicine and veterinary science) and a final exam;
Postgraduate – MA or MSc (Master of Arts or Science) after a further one or two years' study, and a thesis;
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) granted to students after three years of research work. This is for those who wish
to become academics or teach in a university.
Students usually choose universities that are not near their homes. They can either live on the campus or rent
flats with other in the town.
Life is very intensive and students do not usually have time for a job, but they are given a financial grant,
which helps to pay fees and maintenance. If the grant is not sufficient they can receive a loan from the
government which they must pay back when they start earning money.
If students do not complete their course in time they must leave without a degree.
Students whose A level results are not high enough for university acceptance may attend polytechnics which
were originally established in the 1960s to provide more practical and vocational education at lower degree
levels. There are many part-time and evening courses, offering opportunities to those whom are already working.
These offer a wide range of degree, certificate and diploma courses and include Art Colleges, Technology
Institutes, Business Schools and so on.
The Open University
Founded in 1969 to provide opportunities for working-class students who had left school at the age of 16 and,
as adults, wanted to improve their education, it has become very popular. It provides degrees for adults of all
ages and no special qualifications are required. Students study at home through special television programs,
audio and videocassettes, correspondence tuition and summer schools.