Infant school

Infant school

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An Infant school is a term used primarily in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 for school
School
A school is an institution designed for the teaching of students under the direction of teachers. Most countries have systems of formal education, which is commonly compulsory. In these systems, students progress through a series of schools...

 for children between the ages of four and seven years. It is usually a small school serving a particular locality.

An infant school forms part of the local pattern of provision for primary education
Primary education
A primary school is an institution in which children receive the first stage of compulsory education known as primary or elementary education. Primary school is the preferred term in the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth Nations, and in most publications of the United Nations Educational,...

. In England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 children start at infant school between the ages of four and five in a Reception
Reception (school)
Reception or Primary 1 or FS2 is the first year of primary school in the United Kingdom and South Australia. It is preceded by nursery and is followed by Year One in England and Wales or Primary 2 in Northern Ireland and Scotland.Pupils in Reception are usually aged between four and five...

 class. They sometimes attend part-time (mornings only or afternoons only) for the first term or two. Reception is the final part of the Foundation Stage
Foundation Stage
Foundation Stage is the British government label for education of pupils aged 3 to 5 in England. In Northern Ireland, it is also used to refer to the first two years of compulsory education for pupils aged 4 to 6.-England:...

, and is compulsory (unlike Nursery
Nursery school
A nursery school is a school for children between the ages of one and five years, staffed by suitably qualified and other professionals who encourage and supervise educational play rather than simply providing childcare...

). Pupils then transfer to Year One
Year One (school)
Year One is an educational year group in schools in many countries including England, Wales, Australia and New Zealand. It is usually the first year of compulsory education and incorporates students aged between five and six.-Australia:...

 in the September following their fifth birthday, and to Year Two
Year Two
Year Two is an educational year group in schools in many countries including England, Wales, Australia and New Zealand. It is usually the second year of compulsory education and incorporates students aged between six and seven.-Australia:...

 the following year. These two years form Key Stage 1
Key Stage 1
Key Stage 1 is the legal term for the two years of schooling in maintained schools in England and Wales normally known as Year 1 and Year 2, when pupils are aged between 5 and 7. This Key Stage normally covers pupils during infant school, although in some cases this might form part of a first or...

 in the English education system
Education in England
Education in England is overseen by the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Local authorities take responsibility for implementing policy for public education and state schools at a regional level....

. At the end of this time, pupils will move to a linked junior school
Junior school
A junior school is a type of school which caters for children, often between the ages of 7 and 11.-Australia:In Australia, a junior school is usually a part of a private school that educates children between the ages of 5 and 12....

.

In some areas of England, provision of education at this age is made in First school
First School
First school and lower school are terms used in some areas of the United Kingdom to describe the first stage of primary education. Some English Local Education Authorities have introduced First Schools since the 1960s...

s catering for pupils aged up to eight or nine. In some parts of the Welsh valleys a child can attend infants school from the day after their third birthday.

History


The first infant schools were established by Samuel Wilderspin
Samuel Wilderspin
Samuel Wilderspin was an English educationist known for his pioneering work on infant schools. His belief was that a child should be encouraged to learn through experience, and to development in feelings as well as intellect...

, influenced by the schools set up at New Lanark
New Lanark
New Lanark is a village on the River Clyde, approximately 1.4 miles from Lanark, in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. It was founded in 1786 by David Dale, who built cotton mills and housing for the mill workers. Dale built the mills there to take advantage of the water power provided by the river...

 by Robert Owen
Robert Owen
Robert Owen was a Welsh social reformer and one of the founders of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement.Owen's philosophy was based on three intellectual pillars:...

. They influenced development in continental Europe and North America.

When education became compulsory in England from 1877, infant schools were incorporated into the state school system.

Infant and junior schools were often separate schools, but the final three decades of the 20th century saw many infant and junior departments coming together as single primary schools. The late 1960s and 1970s saw hundreds of infant schools in Britain abolished in favour of 5-8 or 5-9 first schools, but some of these were abolished in favour of a return to infant schools by the early 1980s and most of them have now followed suit.

The introduction of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998
School Standards and Framework Act 1998
The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 was the major education legislation passed by the incoming Labour government of Tony Blair.This Act:* imposed a limit of 30 on infant class sizes....

  meant that classes in infant schools in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

are limited to no more than 30 children per school teacher.