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Stages of schooling
All children must, by law, receive full-time education between the ages of five and 16. In the state school system education is divided into different stages.
Between the ages of two and five, many children attend pre-school. The government’s Sure Start scheme provides free nursery education for all three and four year-olds. The government is working with local authorities to develop a network of children’s centres dealing with early education, childcare and family and health services. Primary EducationChildren start primary school education in the term after their fifth birthday. Primary education is divided into infants (five to seven) and juniors (seven to 11). The two stages can be combined in one primary school or separated into infant schools and junior schools.
Children first start school at the age of five
Most pupils start secondary school at 11 years old. All secondary schools take pupils through to 16 years of age, when compulsory education ends. At some pupils may stay on until 18 to complete A levels or further vocational study. Further education may also be continued at a college. The three-tier systemSome areas operate a three-tier school system, where pupils attend lower, middle and upper schools. Pupils attend first school from five to eight or nine years old, middle school from eight or nine and then go on to upper school at 12 or 13.
Types of school in the state sector
The types of school in England are defined by who employs the staff, controls admissions and owns the land and buildings. There are four main ways in which a school may be organised, with academies and city technology colleges operating slightly differently
. Secondary schools can also specialise further to become faith schools or city technology colleges, for example.
Types of mainstream school
These were previously county schools. The LA employs school staff, owns the school lands and buildings and decides the arrangements for admitting pupils.
Many of these were formerly grant maintained schools. The school's governing body employs the school staff and has primary responsibility for admissions. The school land and buildings are owned by the governing body or a charitable foundation. A new type of foundation school involves setting up a trust. One of the main differences of trust schools is that the trust appoints the school's governors.
Many of the voluntary-aided schools are church schools. The governing body employs the staff and decides admission arrangements. The land and buildings are normally owned by a charitable foundation.
These are almost always church schools and the land and buildings are almost always owned by a charitable foundation. However, unlike voluntary-aided schools, the LA employs the school staff and has responsibility for admissions.
Alternative school modelsAcademies:
The government wants to replace weak and failing schools with 'academies'. These are schools that are state funded and free to students but they have much more independence than most secondary schools. They are established by sponsors from business, faith or voluntary groups working with the community, and they can be more flexible with their curriculum and staffing to meet local needs. They were originally set up as a way of bringing high-quality schools with heavy investment in facilities and technology to disadvantaged areas. A private organisation must put in £2m and the government will provide the remaining £20m or so. The Labour government has set a target of 200 city academies by 2010.
City technology colleges:
These are funded directly by the government and offer a wide range of vocational qualifications alongside A-levels or equivalents. They teach the national curriculum and focus on science, mathematics and technology.
Types of school specialism
Any maintained secondary school in England can become a specialist school in areas such as technology, languages, sports or arts. The schools meet full national curriculum requirements, but have a special focus on the chosen speciality. They raise £50,000 from private sector sponsorship and prepare plans for improvements in teaching and learning. The Labour government wants all schools except for academies to become specialist schools by 2008. The idea is that by specialising in one subject, standards increase across the curriculum. So even if a school specialises in arts, science provision will not be affected.
Some local authorities still run a selective secondary school system with grammar schools. Pupils in these areas will sit a test at the age of 11 called the 11-plus. The results of this test will determine whether they gain entry to the local grammar school. There are around 150 state grammar schools in England.
Faith schools are schools with a religious character. Any new faith schools must have the agreement of parents and the local community, and be approved by the LEA. Nearly half of faith schools are voluntary-controlled. They teach the locally agreed religious syllabus and the LEA is the admissions authority. Voluntary aided faith schools are responsible for setting their own admissions policies and teach religious education according to their religious beliefs. Faith schools admit pupils on religious affiliation but many admit those who are not of the school faith.
Special needs schools:
An estimated one in five children has some form of special educational need. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 asserts the right of children with physical or behavioural problems to be taught with mainstream classes. As more children with special needs are taught in mainstream schools, special schools for children with mild or moderate difficulties are being closed. There are still about 1,150 schools for pupils with special needs. Some of these are run by voluntary organisations and others are in hospitals.
Pupil referral units:
A pupil referral unit (PRUs) is a type of school established and maintained by LAs. They provide education to children who may not otherwise receive a mainstream education. A PRU might include teenage mothers or pupils excluded from school, for example. The aim of these units should be getting pupils back into mainstream education. They are run by a management committee made up of a range of people from school governors to representatives from social services.