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Discussion: UK Education and Basic Laws - dorsetgirl
June 20th, 2007
07:02 pm
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Discussion: UK Education and Basic Laws

Discussion: UK Education and Basic Laws

Some answers to questions raised by Sytaxia.

1). Is there one legal driving age across the UK, and what is it?  I know it's 18 in some parts, but is that for the entire UK?  Are the laws governing this divided by country (do you prefer the term "state" when referring to England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, at that?), or by county, or by another system?  Here, some states set it as low as 13, others are up to 18...


Our age for driving is 17, except on private land where it’s up to the landowner. Scotland has always had a separate legal system from England&Wales, but until recently most everyday things were identical everywhere (the vast majority still are). We do not use the word State in a geographical sense; it is only used in the sense of the Government/machinery of state etc.


Each country is split into a number of counties for various administrative purposes. Counties set different rules for schools admissions etc, but in most matters counties do not set their own rules, and never their own laws. County Councils have responsibility for running roads, hospitals, schools, stuff like that.

2). I've always heard that 18 was the legal drinking age in the UK, but is it only for parts of the UK?  What is the legal drinking limit where you're from?  Is smoking legal at 18 in the UK, or does one have to be younger or older to buy cigarettes?


18 is the legal drinking age across the whole country (we tend to use the word country for the whole lot, and for the individual countries within it!

3). How old does one have to be to be tried as an adult in the UK?


The age of criminal responsibility is 10, but I think you get tried as an adult at 16 – only guessing though. 16 is the minimum legal age for marriage, for sexual consent and for leaving school. 17 is the age for driving and joining the Army. 18 is the age for drinking and voting.



6). Is Sam likely to have gone to university, or not?  Is training/technical college very common, as opposed to university?


Sam did not go to university. We worked out that he left school at 18 – presumably after A-Levels – because he said “1988 was a good year – year I graduated from the Force”, which we are guessing was Police Training College.

7). I know from talking to a friend of mine that they only spent three years for a BA in the UK, and that they only studied inside of their concentration - is this common in the UK?  In the US, a BA/BS takes four years, three are on your concentrations/majors, and one is spent on "general bachelor's requirements," which must include math, science, literature, and multicultural studies that are not relevant to your concentration/major.  Is there a similar system in the UK?


No, most BA/BSc degrees are 3 years, and you have a single “major” as you call it. The exception would be a languages degree where you are expected to spend a year in the foreign country, or something like Business Studies where you might spend a couple of 6-month periods in industry placements. There is no compulsion whatsoever to study a minor or any other subject.

8). Sam referenced something called "BUPA," and when I looked that up, I found out it was a form of health insurance - do many people in the UK have health insurance?  I always thought that the NHS covered everything that wasn't cosmetic...  What are the limitations of the NHS?  One of the things that's always made Western Europe seem so much better than the US to me is the idea that hospitals can't turn injured/ill people (especially children - gah!) away, like hospitals in the US will. 


As an over-simplification, most people who have BUPA or similar have it as a perk from their employers. I don’t think most people pay for it themselves. Perks arose because a previous Labour Government laid down strict rules about the amount of pay increases companies could give their staff. To get round this, employers started improving people’s packages with cars, shares, health insurance etc. The “Prices and Incomes Policy” is long gone, but the perks are still there, except they’re more harshly treated nowadays for tax.


The limitation of the NHS is simply money, as it’s paid for by taxes; also, because it’s a pretty large organisation and it’s not exactly staffed by the kind of people who know how to run anything, it can be pretty inefficient. If you turn up at Casualty / A&E / ER with something that’s not life-threatening, you could sit there waiting for 6-8 hours, but you will in the end get seen, and it will be free. In general, emergencies will be seen pretty quickly and given the appropriate up-to-date treatment. Where the whole thing doesn’t work so well, is with things like cancer, hip replacements etc, where people may have to wait an unacceptably long time to get scans, consultations etc, and they may be refused certain expensive new drugs.


People have things like BUPA simply in order to get seen more quickly. Also, if it turns out to be serious, BUPA will cover the cost of the drugs etc that the NHS cannot afford to give to everyone who needs them.

9). How far across the UK does public transportation run?  We saw Sam driving a jeep, and the motorways always seem to be packed in everything that I've ever seen, but I've looked up information, and it seems like buses and trains can take you to stops nearly ANYWHERE in the UK, which I find amazing - how hard is it to get along without driving in the UK


In towns, it’s not too bad without a car. I live in a town of about 7,000 people, and we have trains to local larger towns (eg clothes shops, department stores) and to London 3 times an hour throughout the day. By contrast, we only have one bus per hour to the same places. There are, however, many towns which since the 1960’s (wiki the “Beeching Axe”) have no trains at all.


The villages which use my town as a local banking/supermarket/railway centre have 2-3 buses per day. If you live there without a car, you are severely limited; people often have to get lifts and hire minibuses to get their children to secondary schools (11-18).


10). Are there many schools taught in foreign languages in the UK?  I know that I've heard of Welsh being spoken more frequently today than it was 10 years ago, but do they teach students in Welsh, as well?  What about other languages, for areas that have high populations of immigrants?  A lot of the schools that I attended as a child/teenager didn't offer many courses in English - I took a lot of math and science courses in Spanish, and I was part of a very small minority that read British and American lit out of translation.  Do they have schools that teach strictly in foreign languages for the majority student body in the UK?


Until very recently, all schools, and all lessons within them, were taught in English, even when the pupils were Welsh- or Gaelic-speaking. This country is totally crap at teaching languages. We basically start teaching languages at secondary school, ie at exactly the point when the language-learning parts of the brain shut up shop. Someone else may be able to tell you more about Welsh-medium schools, and I’m sure a read about a whole ONE gaelic-medium school.

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