Saturday, February 18, 2012

English School System

For any of my American readers who are confused by the English school system, and how our years match up to your grades, here is a basic description.


Children start school the September or January just before they turn 5 years old.
Their first class will be a RECEPTION CLASS.

After this the school year finishes in the middle of July and re starts at the beginning of September.
Many children will have attended play groups and nurseries before they start school but these are not considered compulsory education.

Reception, Year 1 and year 2 are considered to be Key Stage 1 (so from the school year in which they become 5 to the school year in which they become 7).
Years, 3 through 6 are Key Stage 2 (so from the school year in which they become 8 to the school year in which they become 11).

In some areas Key Stage 1 is done at an INFANT school and Key Stage 2 at a JUNIOR school, but in most areas these days the two are combined in a PRIMARY school.

At the age of 11 they begin Key Stage 3, which is done at a SECONDARY school. Secondary school has 5 years (7 to 11) split into 2 Key Stages.
Key Stage 3 is years 7 to 9, (so from the school year in which they become 12 to the school year in which they become 14).
Key Stage 4 is years 10 and 11, (so from the school year in which they become 15 to the school year in which they become 16).

Key Stage 4 is when you study for the first level of qualifications, called GCSE's ( in my time they were GCE's and CSE's, but that's another story). There are now a number of different courses offered alongside GCSE's for the less academically minded students.

Compulsory education ends on the last Friday in June, of the school year in which s/he reaches the age of 16. This means that some children do indeed legally leave school without ever finishing their courses and gaining any qualifications.

Any education after this is OPTIONAL
Some SECONDARY schools have 6th form units, in other areas 6th form is done at a separate site, known as a 6th form college.
There are two years of 6th form, lower 6th and upper 6th. Most students at 6th form will be taking A-Levels, although again there are less academic courses such as B-Tecs. 6th form can also be used to retake any GCSE's etc that you didn't do well in. You can spend more than 2 years at 6th form if you need to and can find yourself in a odd situation like my eldest where because he did well in two of his subjects but not so well in the other two and decided to retake the first year of one and start a different subject from the start instead of the other, he was an upper 6th for half and a lower 6th for half.

After A levels if you wish to continue on in education you would attempt to get into a UNIVERSITY, where you would study for a degree in your chosen subject.

To make matters a little more confusing, many 6th form colleges are actually community colleges and offer many many different courses as well as the A levels, from cake decorating to part time degrees (which are issued through a relevant university).

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