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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. The notion of First Schools was mooted by the Plowden Report of 1967 which proposed a change to a three tier model including First Schools for children aged between 5 and 8, Middle Schools for 8-12 year-olds, and then Upper or High Schools for 12-16 year-olds.
In practice, two main models were used:
- 5-8 First Schools, followed by 8-12 Middle Schools, as suggested by Plowden
- 5-9 First Schools, followed by 9-13 Middle Schools, as implemented by the West Riding of Yorkshire in the mid-1960s. These are sometimes known as Lower schools.
although other options were implemented in different authorities, including using the term Primary School in place of First School.
First schools were officially introduced into the first areas to use them in September 1968.
Following the introduction of the National Curriculum after the Education Reform Act 1988, the new curriculum's splits in Key Stages at age 11 encouraged the majority of Local Education Authorities to return to a two-tier system of Primary and Secondary schools. Some areas had actually discontinued first and middle schools before this date; for instance Halesowen axed them in July 1982 and Aldridge Brownhills in July 1986. The majority of first and middle schools have been reorganised to infant and junior schools since, however; for example Dudley in September 1990.
In areas where the three-tier model has been replaced, first schools have been converted to infant or primary schools in many cases, or closed in others. No authority has introduced three-tier education in any area since 1995, although some new first schools have opened in areas which already have three-tier systems in place.