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    Газета School English #10, 2005

    The System of Education in Great Britain

    Надежда Никифоровна Рогожина Надежда Никифоровна Рогожина, проректор по международным программам, зав. кафедрой лингвистики и межъязыковой коммуникации Самарского муниципального университета Наяновой, кандидат педагогических наук, доцент.
    Директор негосударственного учреждения дополнительного образования “World Class-Samara”.
    Dear Reader,
        It has become a tradition in Russia to mark the Teacher’s Day on the first Sunday of October, but October 5 is the International Teacher’s Day and I am happy to introduce our guest Dr David Moon to you. He taught in different British Universities specializing in Russian history which he made the subject of his research. He learnt the Russian language to read special literature in the original and work in the archives in Russia. Dr Moon speaks Russian very well, that is he is able to travel independently, watch TV and films in Russian, he is able to appreciate a joke and laughs in the right places! Staying in Samara David worked in the Regional library, archives, visited museums, different educational establishments, met with his colleagues-historians. He also found time to visit the swimming pool regularly!

        The students of Nayanova University were lucky to get a chance to listen to the lecture delivered in English by Dr Moon “The System of Education in Great Britain”. Next to the column you will find the text of this lecture and a humorous poem about a family historian.


    David Moon David Moon teaches history at the University of Durham in England. From 1999 to 2005, he taught at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow (Scotland).
    In this lecture I will talk about the system of education in Great Britain - schools and universities.
    I am a university lecturer and teach history. I have taught at several universities in England and Scotland. Since 1999, I have been a lecturer at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. Now I am moving to the University of Durham in Northern England.

  • English and Scottish systems

  •     Important to note that there is not one system of education in Great Britain, but two different systems. One in England (and Wales) and a different system in Scotland.

        Throughout this lecture I will point out the differences between the English and Scottish education systems.

        The reason why there are different systems of education systems in England and Scotland is because of the history of the two countries. Until 1707 England and Scotland were two separate, independent countries. When they united in 1707 to create Great Britain, Scotland retained its system of education. And the two systems of education in England and Scotland have developed separately since 1707. Scotland has a long history of education, which Scots are very proud of. Until the 19-th century, for example, Scotland had more universities than England, but England was larger than Scotland.

        Before I talk in more detail about the educational systems, there are other important points to note.

  • State and Independent or Public schools

  •     Most schools and universities are funded by the state, and are controlled by the ministries of education in England and Scotland. But, there are also indendent or private schools. They are largely independent of state control and do not receive funding from the state. Instead, parents pay the schools for their children’s education. Confusingly, these private schools are called ‘public schools’. Some of the most famous schools in Great Britain are ‘public’ schools: for example, Eton and Harrow, which are boys schools near London, and Fettes College in Edinburgh in Scotland. Around 6 per cent of children attend public schools, but they are mostly from wealthy families. As a result, these schools are seen as schools for the ‘elite’.

        Members of the Royal family and leading politicians were educated at public schools.

        Princes William and Harry went to Eton school. Tony Blair went to Fettes college, Edinburgh.

        The idea that public schools are elite schools is, of course, very controversial. There are also many very good state schools, but the public schools are often wealthier and have better resources, e.g. - more teachers, computers, better science labs, sports facilities, etc.

        In recent years there have been scandals when the newspapers have reported that leading politicians have sent their children to public schools instead of state schools. If leading politicians send their children to public schools, it is argued, why should the rest of the population have any confidence in the state schools?

        There is only one private university in Britain - Buckingham University. All the rest, including Oxford and Cambridge and the ancient Scottish universities, receive most of their funding from the state, and are part of the state system of education.

  • Church Schools

  •     A further complication - not all state schools are the same. The state also funds schools run by some churches. These are not schools to train priests or ministers of religion, but schools which reflect the values of the churches. There are Church of England schools, Roman Catholic schools, a few Jewish schools. Recently there has been a debate over schools for Moslems. (There are large Moslem populations in many cities in Britain.)

    Church schools are controversial because they educate children of different religions separately. Some people think it would be better for all children to be educated together, regardless of their religion. This is an important issue in Scotland, where up to a third of the population are catholics, and their is a history of tension between protestants and catholics.

  • Schools

  •     I will now talk about the school systems in Britain. I will concentrate on the State schools, which are attended by 94 % of children.

        Education in Britain is compulsory from the ages of 5 to 16, and state schools are free.

        The school year is 39 weeks long and is divided into three terms: autumn (September to Christmas); winter (January to Easter) and summer (Easter to July).

        School holidays: the summer holiday is around 6 weeks long; and there are two-week holidays at Christmas and New Year and at Easter. There are one week holidays in the middle of each term (‘half term’).

        In Scotland, the school year starts a little earlier, in late August, and ends at the end of June.

        The school year starts at slightly different dates in different cities and we do not have a big festival for the start of the school year like you do here in Russia.

  • National Curriculum

  •     In 1988 there was a major change in schools in Britain when the government introduced the National Curriculum. The National Curriculum lays down what subjects are to be taught in state schools and what levels children are expected to achieve.

        New Standard Tests were introduced for children at ages 7, 11, 14 and 16.

        The tests have two aims:

    1/ to make sure children have learned what they are supposed to learn and
    2/ to make the schools and teachers are teaching them properly.

        The aim of the National Curriculum is to raise standards of education, make sure all children learn basic skills, and get a balanced education that prepares them for work or further study.

        Before the National Curriculum was introduced in 1988, individual cities or counties and the schools were responsible for devising their curricula and the subjects to be taught. There was a big debate in the 1980s about educational students and the need to improve them. Since 1988, there has been a big debate over whether the NC has improved standards. The tests have been very controversial. In particular, many people criticized the tests for 7 year olds as it was felt that children of that age were too young to have to sit tests. In Scotland, some of the tests have been abolished.

    (to be continued)


    I’ve been doing family history for nearly 30 years,
    Diligently tracing my illustrious forebears,
    From Pigeon Lake to Peterborough, Penrith to Penzance,
    My merry band of ancestors has led me quite a dance.

    There’s cooks from Kent
    And guards from Gwent
    And chimney sweeps from Chester.
    There’s even one daft fisherman lived all his life in Leicester.

    There’s no - one rich or famous, no not even well-to-do,
    Though a second cousin twice removed once played in goal for Crewe.
    I’ve haunted record offices from Gillingham to Jarrow;
    The little grey cells of my mind would humble Hercule Poirot.

    I’ve deciphered bad handwriting that would shame a three year old,
    And brought the black sheep of the family back into the fold.
    My bride of just three minutes, I left standing in the church,
    As I nipped into the graveyard for a spot of quick research.

    Eventually I found an uncle, sixty years deceased.
    That was far more satisfying than a silly wedding feast,
    After three weeks of wedded bliss, my wife became despondent
    She named the public records office as the co-respondent.

    I didn’t even notice when she packed her bags and went
    I was looking for a great granddad’s will who’d died in Stoke on Trent
    But now my 30 year obsession is lying in the bin
    Last Tuesday week, I heard some news that made me pack it in.

    It was then my darling mother, who is not long for this earth,
    Casually informed me they’d adopted me at birth!

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