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100 Questions Answered: Education (Q64-Q67)

Q64. At what age do children go to school in Britain?

Children in Britain must attend school from the age of 5 (4 in Northern Ireland) until they are 16. Before the start of formal schooling, many children attend nursery schools or nursery classes attached to primary schools. In addition, some parents elect to send their children to private (fee-paying) nursery schools or kindergartens. In England and Wales, many primary schools also operate an early admission policy where they admit children under 5 into what are called reception classes.

Children first attend the infants school or department. At 7 they move to the junior school and the usual age for transfer from junior to secondary school is 11 (12 in Scotland). In some areas, however, "first" schools take pupils aged 5 to 8, 9 or 10, and pupils within the 8 to 14 age range go to "middle" schools.

Q65. What are the different types of secondary school?

Over 85 per cent of secondary school pupils go to comprehensive schools. These take children of all abilities, and provide a wide range of secondary education for all or most of the children in a district from the age of 11 to 16 or 18.

There are also other types of secondary school. Grammar schools offer a mainly academic education for the 11 to 18-year age group. Children enter grammar schools on the basis of their abilities, first sitting the 11 plus or entrance examination. Grammar schools cater for four per cent of children in secondary education.

A small minority of children attend secondary modern schools (around four per cent). These schools provide a more general and technical education for children aged 11-16.

City Technology Colleges (CTCs) aim to give boys and girls a broad secondary education with a strong technological and business slant. They are non-fee-paying independent schools, set up by the Government with the help of business sponsors who finance a large proportion of the initial capital costs and develop links with the schools. There are now 15 such colleges in operation in England and Wales.

Specialist schools, which only operate in England, give pupils a broad secondary education with a strong emphasis on technology, languages, arts or sports. There are over 250 specialist schools. They charge no fees and any secondary school can apply for specialist school status.

Q66. Why are "public" schools so called?

The independent school sector is separate from the state educational system,and caters for some seven per cent of all schoolchildren in England and four per cent in Scotland.

Parents of pupils attending independent schools pay for their education, and in some cases fees can amount to several thousand pounds a year. Some pupils gain scholarships and their expenses are covered by the schools.

About 250 of the larger independent schools are known for historical reasons as public schools. Eton, which was founded in 1440, is said to have been the first grammar schools to be called a "public school" because scholars could come to it from any part of England and not, as was generally the case, just from the immediate neighbourhood.

Originally, many public schools stressed a classical education, character training and sports, but the curriculum is now closely allied to state education.

In Northern Ireland there are a few independent fee paying schools catering for a very small proportion of the school population; they do not receive any support from public funds.

Schools in Scotland supported by public funds are also called "public schools" but they are not fee-paying, independent schools.

Q67. Which is the oldest university in Britain?


The University of Oxford was the first university to be established in Britain. Dating from the 12th century, it is organised as a federation of colleges which are governed by their own teaching staff known as "Fellows". The oldest college, University College, was founded in 1249. Other notable colleges include All Souls (founded in 1438), Christ Church (founded in 1546 by Cardinal Wolsey), the college chapel of which is also Oxford Cathedral, and Lady Margaret Hall (founded in 1878), which was the first womens college.

Today Oxford University is made up of 35 separate colleges, of which two are for women students only, and the rest take both men and women.

In 1208, scholars running away from riots in Oxford set up the first academic community in Cambridge. The University is also organised as a federation of colleges; the oldest, Peterhouse, dates from 1284. The largest college, Trinity, was founded by King Henry VIII in 1546.

Scotland also boasts a number of long-established universities. By the end of the Middle Ages Scotland had four universities at Edinburgh (founded 1583), Glasgow (founded 1450), Aberdeen (founded 1494) and St Andrews (founded 1411) compared to Englands two!

The University of Wales was founded in 1893. It consists of six colleges, the oldest one being St.Davids University College in Lampeter, founded in 1822.

Queens University, Belfast was founded in 1845 as Queens College, Belfast, part of the Queens University of Ireland which had other colleges at Cork and Galway. It received its charter as a separate university in 1908.

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