How the two systems compare

31st March 2006 at 01:00

Starting school

Pupils start at 6

As young as four and a half

Teaching methods

Chalk and talk moving to differentiated group work

Group work established for many years


Primaries do more cross-curricular thematic work and projects

Heavier concentration on literacy and numeracy


Flexibility in drawing up weekly study plans

Teachers have more rigid targets and objectives

Primary science

Schools teach environmental studies but no science until secondary school

Primaries teach science from an early age


Primaries teach a first foreign language (usually English) from Year 3, often starting a second foreign language before end of primary and a third in secondaries

Languages are being introduced into English primary schools but most start French in secondary school. Foreign languages are not compulsory after the age of 14


Pupils change schools at 10 (12 in Berlin) to secondary level: Gymnasium (grammar), Realschule (secondary modern) or Hauptschule (lowest tier) schools, based on exams and teacher assessments

Pupils take Sats at 11, and transfer at 11, mainly to mixed-ability comprehensives


At 18 pupils take the Abitur (school- leaving) exam in five or six subjects including English and mathematics

Public exams at 16, (GCSEs), 17 (AS levels) and 18 (A2)


Team sports are not part of the curriculum because competition is seen as militaristic. They are provided after hours by outside clubs

Team sports are part of the curriculum

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today