Education in England is managed by the Department for Education. Local Education Authorities (LEAs) are responsible for implementing the policy for public education at the regional level.
Till recently, full-time education was compulsory for all children aged between 5 and 16. Students could continue their secondary studies for a further two years. However, the leaving age for compulsory education was recently raised to 18. State-provided schooling is free. England also has a tradition of independent schooling but parents may choose to educate their children by any suitable means.
The state-run schools and colleges are financed by the government and teach students free of charge between the ages of 3 and 18. Approximately 93% of English schoolchildren attend such schools.
State-funded nursery education is available from the age of 3, and may be full-time or part-time. If registered with a state school, attendance is compulsory beginning with the term following the child’s fifth birthday. Children can be enrolled in the reception year in September of that school year, thus beginning school at age 4 or 4.5.
Almost all state-funded schools in England are well-maintained schools, which receive their funding from LEAs. They are required to follow the national curriculum. There are two types of schools – LEA-maintained and Independent.
These schools are funded by the LEA and can be categorised as under:
• Community Schools: Here the LEA owns the land and buildings, but the governing body is responsible for running the school. The LEA funds the school and it employs the staff. It provides support services such as psychological services and special educational needs services. The admissions policy is usually determined and administered by the LEA.
• Voluntary Schools: These are of two types — controlled or aided. A voluntary-controlled school can also be called a religious or faith school. In a voluntary-controlled school, the land and buildings are owned by a charity, often a religious organisation such as a church. The charity appoints some of the members of the governing body, but the LEA is responsible for running the school. The school is funded by the LEA, which employs the staff and provides support services. The admissions policy is usually determined and administered by the LEA. In voluntary-aided schools, the land and buildings are normally owned by a charity, often a religious organisation such as a church, but the governing body is responsible for running the school. The school is funded partly by the LEA, partly by the governing body and partly by the charity. The governing body employs the staff. The LEA provides support services. The admissions policy is determined and administered by the Governors in consultation with the LEA and other relevant schools in the area.
• Foundation Schools: Under this, the land and buildings are owned by a governing body, which is also responsible for running the school. The LEA funds the school and the governing body employs the staff. The governing body provides most of the support services. The admissions policy is determined and administered by the governing body, in consultation with the LEA and other relevant schools in the area.
These are schools, which are not maintained by the LEA. In an independent school, the governing body is responsible for the day-to-day running of the school. The school is funded by fees paid by parents and, sometimes, charitable trust funds. The Head Teacher with the backing of the governing body employs the staff. The Head Teacher or the governing body may provide support services. The admissions policy is determined and administered by the Head Teacher and the governing body.
In all cases, the pupils have to follow the national curriculum.
A bulletin titled ‘The Composition of Schools in England’ was issued in June 2008. The purpose of this bulletin was to explore the data available on school composition in England. One of the issues the bulletin looks at is ‘how far pupils travel to school.’ It compares the distance travelled by pupils to the school they attend with distances to their nearest ‘suitable’ school.
Analyses were carried out on datasets that were generated from schools census files. These files included information on the nearest school and current school for each pupil as well as the ‘straight-line’ distance between the pupil’s home and the school. All figures are based on 2007 schools census data.
The distribution of pupils according to their Free School Meal (FSM) status by the distance travelled to their current secondary school shows a higher percentage of non-FSM pupils travelling over 2 miles from their home address to attend a school than their FSM counterparts. FSM pupils are more concentrated in schools, which are closer to their homes with over 50% of them attending a school within 0.8 miles of their home compared with 0.9 miles for non-FSM pupils.
The distribution of pupils according to the distance to their nearest Secondary School broken down by FSM status shows over half of FSM pupils lived within half-a-mile of their nearest school; over half of non-FSM pupils lived within 0.6 miles.
FSM pupils tend to travel shorter distances to their current school than non-FSM pupils. FSM pupils travel shorter distances than their non-FSM counterparts even when we account for the distance to the nearest school.
Are we ready to learn the right lessons from England on schooling?
(The author is Professor, Department of Education, Dr BR Ambedkar Open University, Hyderabad)