Comprehensive schools were set up in the 1960s by the Wilson government, replacing the old system of Grammars and Secondary Moderns (where you went and a lot of your future depended on the dreaded 11 plus exams -- this system still prevails in Northern Ireland and small parts of England, and a variation on it can be seen in the ''Franchise/HarryPotter'' books and movies).

School buildings in the UK widely vary in age, from Victorian era to brand new. On TV, many are Victorian. Fortunately, the days of the outside toilets and outside swimming pools are gone. Actually, the "outside" has gone too, having been sold off to property developers.

British school pupils in almost all cases are required to wear school uniform and you can spot a troublemaker from a mile off by the fact that he or she [[CustomUniform isn't wearing it properly]] (skirt too short, tie askew, top button undone). It is of note that in some schools, not wearing one's uniform correctly has encroached en masse, to the extent that very few pupils wear the entire uniform correctly. They generally include a white shirt, tie, dark bottoms (trousers or skirts) and smart dark shoes.

These troublemakers also like to smoke behind the bike sheds, where romance also takes place. (Presumably, the smoke obscures said romance.) (These days smoking in the Staff Room is illegal, so pupils and teachers both disappear behind the bike sheds where they carefully ignore each other)

Kids in glasses are generally portrayed as 'swots', as are "prim and proper young ladies" (e.g., Hermione Granger from ''Literature/HarryPotter''). The former get bullied, the latter may turn out to be BeautifulAllAlong.

Gangs are common, both of the good ("let's have a jape") and bad ("let's nick the smart kid's lunch money") variety. Kids in TV schools display a far greater degree of coordination on their own than one ever saw in real life. The teachers have to be called "miss" or "sir" (a policy that only actually happens in some schools) and are generally highly strict. Whatever you do, don't annoy the Head Teacher.

They used to be able to administer a caning, but this was stopped in the 1980s; many a media commentator has called for its return. Highly popular for the expected hijinks the students (and also often teachers) will get up to, because really, really shouldn't get up to them. Such shows are naturally prone to DawsonCasting.

Scottish state schools aren't called comprehensives; typical terms are "high school" "academy" or "secondary school". There are a wide range of other differences, but none of them are relevant to the trope, except that uniforms seem to be more optional.

See also UsefulNotes/BritishEducationSystem. Compare and contrast with BoardingSchool, the other British education trope.

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'''Examples:'''

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[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* [[BritishComics British girls' comic]] ''Bunty'' had a long-running strip called ''The Comp'' about this type of school. The comic's flagship story, ''The Four Marys'', was set in an exclusive boarding school for girls; so ''The Comp'' was introduced as a more modern counterpart in an effort to represent the kind of school that readers might actually attend.

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[[folder: Film ]]

* ''Kes''
* [[Film/CarryOn Carry On Teacher]]
* Despite the above reservation about Scotland, surely we have to include ''Gregory's Girl''
* ''Theatre/TheHistoryBoys''

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[[folder: Literature ]]

* ''TheDemonHeadmaster'' is set in a "too good to be true" example (if the name wasn't a clue). The NewTransferStudent protagonist finds that almost everyone is a model student, and kids can even be found parroting facts back and forth during breaks. Then she finds herself reciting stock lines whenever someone asks her about the school, and has no idea why...

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[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* The archetypal example of such a setting is the children's SoapOpera ''Series/GrangeHill'' (1978-2008). If you're British and born before 1990, you can probably hum the theme tune.
** This can be split down to 1978-1989 or thereabouts - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BE7gAEsI0XY is the Tucker/Gripper/Ro-land era
** and younger viewers remember http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0E8AZ8bsdOY from 1990 onwards.
* ''WaterlooRoad''
* ''TheBootStreetBand''
* ''Behind The Bike Sheds'' was a short lived musical tv series set in one
* ''Series/TheSarahJaneAdventures'' series one had one episode set at the local comp (Park Vale High School, which despite the name is this trope and not a HighSchool) and the second series sees an increase in school set scenes because [[spoiler:the SuspiciouslySimilarSubstitute for Maria, Rani, is the daughter of the new Headmaster]].
* The ''Series/DoctorWho'' episode [[Recap/DoctorWhoS28E3SchoolReunion "School Reunion"]] was set at a comprehensive school.
* ''{{Teachers}}''
* ''{{The Inbetweeners}}'' is the single best, most realistic depiction of British school life ever seen. Of particular note is how up-to-date the insults are (bellend and dickwad are particularly popular) and how they don't shy away from having kids swearing, watching porn and going on and on about sex (you know, as actual secondary schoolers and 6th formers actually do).
* ''Please Sir!'', a sitcom (1968--1972)
* One episode of ''Educating Marmalade'' was a parody of Grange Hill and set in a comprehensive school.
* ''Series/TheBeiderbeckeAffair''
* Harmony attends one in ''The Queen's Nose''
* ''Palace Hill'' was a particularly surreal example, with members of the Royal Family, and for one series a young Margaret Thatcher, rubbing shoulders with working-class teenagers. Oh, and one of the school toilets was actually a "time khazi", which is how Maggie managed to be there.

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[[folder: Music ]]

* Immortalised in song by Madness in ''Baggy Trousers'' - "Lots of girls and lots of boys/lots of smells and lots of noise."
** Interestingly, written partly as a reaction to 'Another Brick in the Wall'- the slightly younger, working class members of Madness didn't entirely relate to [[BoardingSchoolOfHorrors that image of school]] - their own education had been slightly more relaxed, and they were aware that the teachers were making do as best they could with their situation as much as the children.

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[[folder: Video Games ]]

* The school in the ZXSpectrum games ''VideoGame/SkoolDaze'' and ''Back to Skool''.
** And for that matter, the free fan-made sequel for the PC called ''Klass of 99.''

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[[folder: Webcomics ]]

* ''{{Webcomic/Annyseed}}'' attends a Comprehensive school, although the laws of the ''Annyseed'' universe don't require the students to wear uniforms.

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