10 Fun Facts about British Schools and Education system


Although we may know the ‘traditional educational system as elementary school, middle school, and high school, other countries have their own unique schooling system that is characteristic of their nation. 

Even though numerous countries have a similar setup, the education system in each country varies depending on when it was created, how the students learn in the classroom, and the goals of the education board.

One of the countries of the world that has an organized education system is the United Kingdom. Let’s see interesting facts about education in England specifically. 

The world’s 2nd-oldest school is in England

The inner of Mint Yard, with the Parry Block on the centre – By By Ymblanter – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47095959

The King’s School, located in the proper town of Canterbury, is the second-oldest school in the entire world, having been founded just before 600 CE. First created as an all-boys school, admission for female students opened in the early 1970s, furthering inclusivity and allowing girls in the school after Sixth form.

Whipping boys

Edward VI and his Whipping Boy – By By Walter S. Stacey, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48374409

Education in England used to be strict and by the book. Unfortunately, schooling was not affordable or practical for every child during the Tudor reign. During this time period, the rules were strict, with the children often beat with canes if they misbehaved r didn’t understand the lesson plan. The recipient o the most punishment was the whipping boy, who was the victim if a rich and elite boy acted up during class. 

Grammar Schools

Laboratory, Brecon County School for Girls – By By Thunderbirds12345 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=85571064

If you didn’t have enough money to attend school in the olden days, chances were very slim that you would receive an education. In Tudor England, grammar schools were created and reorganized, specifically made for children of the wealthy elite. 

However, eventually, new grammar schools were built for children of the poorer families. Even though they were allowed to receive an education, many children did not attend since they had to work for their families, make money to provide for the home, and spend the day earning money or toiling away on the farm.

The First Secular Institution was created in the 19th century

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Until the beginning of the 19th century, Christianity and education were one and the same. Teachers created their class’ curriculum based around religion and Christianity, with almost all educational institutions and primary schools sponsored, funded, and controlled by the church. 

The first secular institution, one that was not controlled by religion, was established in the 19th century. The University College London accepted students of any religion, instead of just Christianity or Catholicism. 

Another secular university established was King’s College London, eventually combing with the University College London to create the infamous University of London as we know it today. 

Tortoise Races

Trinity College Great Court – By By Rafa Esteve – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51077381

This might not be something you immediately think of when you imagine education in England – but it is an interesting and unique part of the country’s history. The annual tortoise race was held between Balliol college and their long-time rival, Trinity College.

Balliol College in Oxford, England, is one of the city’s oldest colleges, founded in 1263 by a rich landowner from Durham. Trinity College in Cambridge was founded in the late 16th century by King Henry VIII. Two respected and prestigious universities decided to have an annual tortoise race to see who was the best educational institution in the country.

Each university had a tortoise that competed against the other. A circle with a diameter of 8 metes is made, with the tortoises placed in the middle. The first tortoise to reach the outer line was crowned the winner. Although a slow race, this annual event was extremely important for bragging rights to both colleges.

In 2004, Balliol College won the competition. However, by a cruel twist of fate, the college lost their tortoise. Instead of believing they lost their animal in the celebrations, they accused Trinity of ‘stealing’ their tortoise. In retaliation, they put washing liquid in Trinity College’s foundation.

A long-standing rivalry that has been in place for centuries continues to unfold between two highly-touted universities in the country. 

Oral Exams

New College Durham – By By NCDOfficial – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18961777

Oral exams held in colleges are rigorous and intensive tests that were held over three days. Initially, there were no written exams in institutions, with the teachers and headmasters using oral exams to test the students’ knowledge at the end of the year.

Free Faculties

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The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition of government helped create new faculties in England funded by taxpayer ‘pounds’, helping children of all backgrounds and educational levels go to school. 

Unfair Pay Scales 

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The pay difference between male and female teachers was quite high during the mid-19th century, showing a serious bias and discrimination between genders when it came to salary – despite no difference in reputation or past work history. 

The education system is broken into various stages

Primary school in England – By By Andy Mabbett – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=90102031

The stages of the England education system are broken into Key Stages: Early Years Foundation, primary education, Juniors, secondary education, and tertiary education.

School is mandatory until 16 years old

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Education is mandatory in the country until 18 years old – but going to school is compulsory until 16. After a pupil turns 16, education can be academic, vocational, or earning Level 3 qualifications like work-based apprenticeships.