Great Britain

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Before 1965 a selective system of secondary education existed in England. Under that system a child of 11 had to take an exam (known as ‘an 11+’), which consisted of intelligence tests covering linguistic, mathematical and general knowledge and which was to be taken by children in the last year of primary schooling. The object was to select between academic and non-academic children. Those who did well in the examination went to a grammar school, while those who failed went to a secondary modern school and technical college. Grammar schools prepared children for national examinations such as the GCE at O-level and A-level. These examinations qualified children for the better jobs, and for entry higher education and the professions. The education in secondary modern schools was based on practical schooling, which would allow entry into a variety of skilled and unskilled jobs.

Many people complained that it was wrong for a person’s future to be decided at a so young age. The children who went to ‘secondary moderns’ were seen as ‘failures’. More over, it was noticed that the children who passed this exam were almost all from middle-class families. The Labour Party, among other critics, argued that the 11+ examination was socially divisible, increasing the inequalities between rich and poor and reinforcing the class system.

The Labour Party, returned to power in 1965, abolished the 11+ and tried to introduce the non-selective education system in the form of ‘comprehensive’ schools, that would provide schooling for children of all ability levels and from all social backgrounds, ideally under one roof. The final choice between selective and non-selective schooling, though, was left to LEAs that controlled the provision of school education in the country. Some authorities decided for comprehensive, while others retained grammar schools and secondary moderns.

In the late 1980s the Conservative government introduced another major change. Schools cloud now decide whether to remain as LEA-maintained schools or to ‘opt-out’ of the control of the LEA and put themselves directly under the control of the government department. These ‘grant-maintained’ schools were financed directly by central government. This did not mean, however, that there was more central control: grant-maintained schools did not have to ask anybody else about how to spend their money.

A recent development in education administration in England and Wales in the School Standards and Framework Act (SSFA) passed in July 1998. The Act establishes that from 1.09.1999 all state school education authorities with the ending of the separate category of grant maintained status.

There are some grant-maintained or voluntary aided schools, called City Technology Colleges (CTCs). In 1999 there were 15 CTCs in England. These are non-fee-paying independent secondary schools created by a partnership of government and private sector sponsors. The promoters own or lease the schools, employ teachers, and make substantial contributions to the costs of building and equipment. The colleges teach the NC, but with an emphasis on mathematics, technology and science.

So, today three types of state schools mainly provide secondary education: secondary modern schools, grammar schools and (now predominant) comprehensive schools. There should also be mentioned another type of schools, called specialist schools. The specialist school programme in England was launched in 1993. Specialist schools are state secondary schools specializing in technology, science and mathematics; modern foreign languages; sports; or arts – in addition to providing the full NC.

State schools are absolutely free (including all textbooks and exercise books) and generally co-educational.

Under the new NC a greater emphasis at the secondary level is laid on science and technology. Accordingly, ten subjects have to be studied: English, history, geography, mathematics, science, a modern foreign language (at secondary level), technology (including design), music, art, and physical education. For special attention there were chosen three of these subjects (called ‘core subjects’): English, science, mathematics, and seven other subjects are called ‘foundation or statutory subjects’. Besides, subjects are grouped into departments and teachers work in teams and to plan work.

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