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ENGLISH - Education in the UK

An education reform act in 1988 allowed individual schools to control their own affairs and budgets, free from LEAs, and to receive grants directly from the government. It also established a controversial national curriculum, which was simplified in 1994 after complaints about its complexity. Legislation pertaining to education is laden with controversies because of education's importance in Britain.

Contrasts with American Education

Compared to the United States, fewer people go on to higher education in Britain, and there is more emphasis on segregating pupils at the lower levels on the basis of ability. Most British schools are funded by the central government, with local governments providing supplemental funding. England and Wales have a national curriculum of core courses for students 5 to 16 years old, and schools are inspected by the Office for Standards in Education. National tests at the ages of 7, 11, and 14 assess students' progress. Schools must provide religious education and daily collective worship for all pupils, although parents can withdraw their children from these. Full-time school begins at age 5 in Great Britain and at age 4 in Northern Ireland. In addition, about half of 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in specialized nursery schools or in nursery classes at primary schools.

In Britain, the term form is used to designate grade; old boys and old girls refer to people who have graduated from a school. Private schools or independent schools are called public schools, a term that means just the opposite in the United States. What are called public schools in the United States is called state schools in Britain. When a person is sent down from school, it means he or she has been thrown out. Grammar schools are university preparatory schools, most of which have been replaced by comprehensive schools catering to students of all academic abilities.

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