All state schools in Britain are free, and schools provide their pupils with books and equipment for their studies.
Education is compulsory from 5 to 16 years. Parents can choose to send their children to a nursery school or a pre-school play group to prepare them for the start of compulsory education. Children start primary school at 5 and continue until they are 11. At primary school children become acquainted with Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and develop their creative abilities, they are taught to sing, dance, play, draw. Primary children do all their work with the same class teacher, except for physical education and music, which are often taught by specialists.
Most children are taught together, boys and girls in the same class.
At 11 most pupils go to secondary schools called comprehensives with 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 6th form at school or at a sixth form college. The 6th form prepares pupils for a national exam called “A” level (Advanced Level) at 18. Pupils need “A” levels to enter a university. Other 16-year olds choose a college of further education to study hairdressing, typing or mecanics.
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 fulltime study. Most students graduate at 21 and are given their degree at a special graduation ceremony.
Seven per cent of British Schoolchildren go to private schools. There are 3 levels of private schools: primary schools (age four to eight), preparatory schools (age eight to thirteen). At the age of 13 children take an examination. If they pass it, they go to public school, where they usually remain until they are 18. Many preparatory and most public schools are boarding schools, the children live at school during the school terms. But though these schools are called public, they are, in fact, private and it can be very expensive to send a child to such a school.
The most famous public schools have a long history and tradition. It is often necessary to put a child’s name on a waiting list at birth to be sure he or she get 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.
It is situated in Eton, a town about 20 miles west of London, on the River Thames. The school was founded in 1440 by King Henry 4, and some of the original buildings are still standing. Many famous figures from British public life were educated at Eton. Immediately opposite Eton, across the Thames, is Windsor, a town which is closely associated with Eton. Windsor Castle, the largest castle in England and a favourite home of the Royal family, dominates the skyline the town.
Traditionally, public schools were always single-sex schools but now many of them are becoming co-educational, both boys and girls attend the school. Eton, however, still remains a public school for boys only