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Secondary education

After the age of 11, most children go to comprehensive schools of which the majority are for both boys and girls. About 90 per cent of all state-financed secondary schools are of this type. Most other children receive secondary education in grammar and secondary modern schools. Comprehensive schools were introduced in 1965. The idea of comprehensive education, supported by the Labour Party, was to give all children of whatever background the same opportunity in education.

At 16 students in England and Wales take GCSE examinations. In 1988 these examinations replaced the GCE and O-levels which were usually passed by about 20 per cent of school students. GCSE examinations are taken by students of all levels of ability in any of a range of subjects, and may involve a final examination, and assessment of work done by the student during the two-year course, or both of these things. Some comprehensive schools, however, do not have enough academic courses for sixth-formers. Students can transfer either to a grammar school or to a sixth-form college to get the courses they want. At 18 some students take A-level GCE examinations, usually in two or three subjects. It is necessary to have A-levels in order to go to a university or Polytechnic. But some pupils want to stay on at school after taking their GCSE, to prepare for a vocational course or for work rather than for A-level examinations. Then they have to take the CPVE examination which means the Certificate of Pre- Vocational Education. In Scotland students take the SCE examinations. A year later, they can take examinations called Highers after which they can go straight to a university. Secondary education in Northern Ireland is organized along selective lines according to children's abilities. One can hardly say that high quality secondary education is provided for all in Britain. There isa high loss of pupils from working-class families at entry into the sixth form. If you are a working-class child at school today, the chance of your reaching the second year of a sixth-form course is probably less than that for the child of a professional parent. Besides, government cuts on school spending caused many difficulties.

The school year is divided into terms, three months each, named after seasons: autumn term, winter term and spring term. The autumn term starts on the first Tuesday morning in September. In July schools break up for eight weeks. Life at school is more or less similar everywhere. Each group of 30 pupils is the responsibility of a form tutor. Each schoolday is divided into periods of 40 - 50 minutes, time for various lessons with 10 - 20 minutes breaks’ between them. On important occasions such as end of term or national holiday, called in English schools speech-days pupils are gathered in the assembly area or hall. Most of the pupils' time is spent in a classroom equipped with desks and a blackboard, nowadays often called chalkboard because normally it is brown or green. The desks are arranged in rows, the space between the rows is called an aisle. In addition to classrooms there are laboratories for Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Technical rooms are for Woodwork, Metalwork, and Technical Drawing. There are rooms for computer studies. Many young people use them for school exercise. They are now able to write their own games as well. The Physical Education lessons are conducted at the gymnasium, games-hall or at the playground in front of the school building. There are also language laboratories and housecraft rooms. Every school has a library and a school canteen. The Staff common room is for teachers. In case of illness a schoolchild may go to the sick room. Pupils at many secondary schools in Britain have to wear a school uniform. This usually means a white blouse for girls (perhaps with a tie), with a dark-coloured skirt and pullover. Boys wear a shirt and tie, dark trousers and dark-coloured pullovers. Pupils also wear blazers - a kind of jacket – with the school badge on the pocket. They often have to wear some kind of hat on the way to and from school - caps for boys, and berets or some other kind of hat for girls. Shoes are usually black or brown. And no high heels! Young people in Britain often don't like their school uniform, especially the hats and shoes. Sometimes they do not wear the right clothes. Schools will often give them warning the first time that this happens but then will punish them if they continue not to wear the correct uniform. Senior student don't have to wear their school uniform. It sounds logical to say that the school's function is to train a pupil's mind and his character should be formed at home. Teachers would be pleased if the problem could be solved so easily. But children don't leave their characters at home when their minds go to school. Many of them have personality problems of one kind or another. The pupils who violate various school regulations may be punished in the following ways: for lateness, truancy they may be reported to the Headmaster or named in school after assembly. They may be detained in school after ordinary hours. Corporal punishment has recently been banned in state schools. But in most public schools it is still allowed. Caning is the usual punishment for serious misbehavior in class, damage and vandalism. Many teachers remark that standards of discipline have fallen since corporal punishment was banned by the government. You may want to know whether there are any rewards and prizes for the best pupils. Of course, there are. Each school has its system of rewards: medals and prizes.

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