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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Primary schools
Primary education in England begins at age five. Local education authorities must provide all children with a school place no later than the start of the term after their fifth birthday.

The precise age at which schools take children varies from one area to another, but it is common for children to go to school at the start of the term in which they will become five.

A growing trend is for schools to admit new pupils at just one point in the year, which often sees them take children who will be five within the coming school year - September to August; under this system, summer-born children start school in the autumn, not long after their fourth birthdays.

Structure

Primary schools consist mainly of infant schools for children aged five to seven, junior schools for those aged seven to 11, and combined junior and infant schools for both age groups.

First schools in some parts of England cater for ages five to 10 as the first stage of a three-tier system: First, middle and secondary. Middle schools cover different age ranges between eight and 14 and usually lead on to comprehensive upper schools.

Class sizes

The government says research evidence suggests that smaller infant classes enable teachers to spend more time identifying each child's individual needs and difficulties, and offering the help they need to master the basics.

Average infant class sizes, 2001
Year 1: 26.1
Year 2: 25.9
Year 3: 27.8
The average class sizes of five, six and seven year olds suggest that the government is on target to fulfil its promise of classes of 30 or below.

But some parents have complained that reducing class sizes has worsened the problem of trying to get places for their children in popular, over-subscribed schools.

Test targets

The government has also set targets for levels of literary and numeracy, on the grounds that a child who does not learn to read well and handle numbers early on runs the risk of falling further behind in all subjects.

So, in England, by 2002: On average 80% of 11 year olds should be reaching the standard expected for their age in English and 75% in maths.

In 2000, the equivalent figures were 75% (English) and 72% (maths).

There are also wide variations between local education authorities across England.

Since September 1998, all primary schools in England have been strongly recommended - it is not mandatory - to devote at least an hour each day to literacy, with a similar daily numeracy session from September 1999.

Links to more Education stories are at the foot of the page.


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