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The British State System

Schools Based on a Religious Foundation

In many areas the schools based upon a religious foundation are usually of a high educational standard and tend to be found at the top of the League Tables. This is not always the case and some can be of an unsatisfactory quality. In the case of the achieving schools, inevitably, parents want to try and obtain places in these successful establishments for their children. Wanting the best for their children, naturally means that some may even attempt a dramatic change in their cultural and spiritual lifestyle.

School Head Teachers and Governing Bodies are not naive and will not be coerced into offering places on a false premise. Some schools, welcome the diversity of an inter-denominational mix of pupils and will be happy to accept those from other faiths. A large number of these schools are, however, strictly true to their foundation. Some Roman Catholic Schools will not only wish to have baptismal certificates, but letters from the family's present parish-priest and even possibly from the priest in the parish into which they are moving; it is also more than likely that this priest is a member of the school's Governing Body.

Many Church of England Schools operate a similar entrance procedure. Schools of the Jewish Faith, which, like their Christian counterparts, are of a high standard, heavily oversubscribed and may even demand in the case of Orthodox Schools, proof that the mother and father have been married in an Orthodox Service.

Schools of this type are inevitably referred to as Voluntary Aided or Voluntary Controlled. The associated church therefore will appoint either part or all of the Governing Body; this in turn means that control of admissions is in their hands and any appeal is made to the school's Governing Body and not the Local Authority. It is highly unlikely that having been refused entry to one of these establishments an appeal to the Governing Body would be successful, although to say this never happens would be wrong.


State Secondary Schools

Every child in the State Sector moves onto a Secondary School at the age of 11.

Some areas still maintain Middle Schools for ages 8-12 but they are gradually being integrated into either Primary or Secondary. For an expatriate coming to the UK and arriving in good time it is a fairly straightforward procedure. The family will be able to register, for the coming September, for their child, with little difficulty. Coming at a later date has its drawbacks; once places have been allocated to all 11-year-old candidates, obtaining a place at one of the top State Secondary Schools can prove to be a challenge.

Consulting the Senior League Tables, which list all Secondary Schools, both Independent and State provides a sound indication to any parent about the benefits of Independent versus State Education.

The Tables are graded on GCSE results out of an A*- C pass rate and the A level mark gives points for the pass grades A-E. Parents need to be aware that some of the tables show the pass rate A* - C and A* - E. Employers will be looking for the highest grades and grades D and E are, by most employers not taken into consideration.

The Independent School , St Paul 's Girls' School, for example, demonstrates their impressive success in their percentage A*- B which in their case is a remarkable 100% and underlines their point.

If there is not a suitable, available school for a pupil within a reasonable distance, the LEA will normally pay for free buses for any child who has to travel over three miles to get to school. For an 11 year old, traveling at the beginning and end of each day is tiring and can be prohibitive for after school activities. It is another, seemingly small but important consideration to be made when making one's choice.


Geographical Considerations

In some areas such as Bishops Stortford, to give one example, there are some excellent State Schools, likewise in both counties of Hertfordshire and Essex, which surround the town. There are, however, no places available for an 11 year old in any of those top schools owing to the high density of population. Parents, by determination or necessity, who wish to live in these areas could find themselves in a situation where their child will be attending a school with a less impressive GCSE pass rate (34% to cite one example). In Buckinghamshire, where Grammar Schools are still in operation, a pupil might find themselves in a State School , with a GCSE pass rate of only 19%, if they have been unable to secure a place in one of the Grammar Schools.

In the areas in which Grammar Schools still operate - Buckinghamshire, Barnet and parts of Kent, to name a few, they will consider allowing candidates to take an entrance examination. Parents should note that in this instance the LEA will place pupils in the nearest Secondary School until they are able to take the examination, it is eventually marked and indeed, until a place may become available. Such a place could be any of the schools in the area including those of a less desirable, academic standard.

In some areas where there are large numbers of pupils on the waiting list, schools will not consider any candidate for entry into the school before the age of 16 and GCSE results can be checked. The school will fill any space, which becomes unexpectedly vacant by referring back to 11+ examination grades of prospective entrants on that waiting list.

If a family has to place both a Secondary School child and a Primary School child into education it is prudent to establish the older child first as the availability of Primary School places tends to greater.