Primary and secondary schools in the UK



Education UK, apart from obligatory Primary and SEcondary school, includes optional Pre-school at the age from 3 to 5 years,

Preparatory School – primary school, which begins at 5 and ends at 11, in some private schools at 13 years, a Secondary (High) school, from age 11 (13) to 16 years. After graduation from compulsory secondary education, the British students choose to go to work, complete vocational courses, or undergo a 2-year University preparation, which is called Six Form.

Pre-school education in the UK.

Pre-school consists of 2 stages of preschool education, which is possible to join at any time. Depending on the region and the prestige of the preparatory school, the place either can be obtained at the last moment or require a long queue. For example, places to some London day schools are recommended to be booked on the day the baby is born. In many schools, there is a rule of Siblings First. The places become free only after the school allocates places for the children of the family, whose children are already studied or are in the school. Therefore, even if you believe that you can teach your child to read and count at home, the sooner he'll enter the school system in the UK, the higher the guarantee to get a place in a good primary school.

The first year of Pre-school, where kids stay from 3 to 4 years, called the Nursery. The nursery is similar to our kindergarten and children can be here only for the first half of the day, or for an additional fee they can stay until 4 pm. But it should be noted that Nursery children do not sleep during the day. For admission to Nursery children do not need to take the entrance tests and it is easier to get a place, that is why many parents prefer to start education at this age.

For admission to the second year of Pre-school, which in Britain is called Reception, many schools require the passing of special tests, which may not require the ability to read and count, still expose the child to substantial stress.

In a good private school this year is considered mandatory, so parents who consider the education of their children in a private school should make an inquiry as early as possible, as good preparatory school is a key to future motivation and progress of the child.

Primary education in the UK. Preparatory School

At the age of 5 years in the UK, it starts compulsory schooling. For admission in good primary school, public or private, parents put children on a waiting list, sometimes even before they are born. If everything goes well with the waiting list and the child successfully passes the entrance tests, then the place is confirmed. Otherwise, you can choose a less prestigious school or get a guaranteed place in the school in the area.

Private schools are divided into Day and Boarding Schools, where children can live either 5 days a week (if the family lives not very far and can take the child for the weekend) or a 7-day boarding (if the child goes home only on holidays).

The cost of education in a Day private school can cost 5-7 thousand pounds per term (average £ 20,000 per year), while the cost of education with accommodation at UK boarding schools starts from £ 25,000 in primary school and can reach 50-55 thousand in high school (the average cost of boarding schools in the UK 32-33 thousand pounds a year, not including an extra one-time payment upon enrollment).

The age of Preparatory School, which is also called Primary Education in the UK is a little confusing, as in some schools it considered to be from 5 to 11-year-old, in the others from 5 to 13.

In any case, the first year of Primary school is not evaluated, when at the end of the second year, which here is a Key Stage 1, the children pass the first exams. Next time British students take exams in the sixth year of their study, Key Stage-2. The results of both Key Stages are entered into a national database of academic achievement.

Secondary education in the UK. Secondary School (High school).

At the age of 11 (13) years, the British children are transferred to secondary school, which again, to confuse the whole world, at the same time is called either Secondary School, or High school, while the British themselves say that it is one of the same.

So why such confusion? The whole point of translation mistakes. Primary School – an accurate meaning is the school of the first level. Secondary School (also known as High school) – actually has a meaning as a school of the second level, so it is a higher level.

No matter how you would call it, during schooling on the second level, children learn all basic disciplines, and the list of additional disciplines is very impressive. In a good British school, all children can develop their talents during the school day and parents don't need to bring them around the city for classes of extra curriculum activities.

At the age of 14, at the end of year 9 of the British school, children again pass the required examinations - Key Stage 3 and move to the 2-year program of preparation for final exams of Secondary School - GCSE.

GCSE (full name General Certificate of Secondary Education) is preparation for the final exams of Secondary School Key Stage 4 in 8-10 subjects, some of which are mandatory for all students, some are selective. At the age of 16, compulsory education ends in the UK.

Preparation for universities in the UK. Six Form.

All British students who want to continue education in the universities should study at school for 2 more years and successfully complete the program of Six Form, which is offered as a special Six Form Colleges or at Secondary School (High school), or even schools of full cycle, which take from a very early age (can be from 6 months of age).

There are not so many schools that offer Six Form, as it may seem. For example, in the whole of Britain, there are about 40 public institutions offering the Six Form program.

It may seem small, but not many British students want to continue their education at University. Also, it is believed that from 16 years of age, the child is independent enough to study in another city the family might consider a Six Form in a private schools, which are many times more.

In any case, to go to Six Form, where students study 3-5 subjects of their choice at the advanced level (A-level), the student needs to have high previous academic performance and receive marks, not below A-C at GCSE.

Some schools, for admission to Six Form, require previous academic performance in selected subjects with marks A-B or even A*-A.

It all seems not very significant for parents of foreign students who decided that they are ready to send their child of age 16-17 to UK school to the program preparing to a good British University.

Unfortunately, many parents think good academic performance at home-country and fairly good English should be sufficient for admission to A-level of most prestigious British boarding schools, especially if the price is around 40-50 thousand pounds.

But if you think about it, for a place in Form Six your child has to compete with children for whom English is their mother-tong language, or with those who studied in Britain for more than a year. For those children Six Form was a goal of their life and to continue studying in Form Six, they had to receive good results under the British education system.

British schools can be either Selective (which only accept the best students) and Non-Selective (which accept a wider variety of students). The most prestigious schools which from year to year show the best results and are located at the top of the league tables are always very Selective.

That is the reason they can show the best results because every year they select the best students.

By the way, all public schools that offer Form Six, are always very Selective, as the British system initially allows entrance to the universities only to the most diligent and successful students.

At the same time, good students achieve excellent results at Non-Selective Schools. The fact that the school is Non-Selective, does not mean that the level of teachers here, below, or level of infrastructure in the school worse. Non-Selective Schools can be cheaper or more expensive than Selective Schools, with excellent infrastructure, a variety of subjects offered for different levels of education. Just such schools can not stand high in the rankings, as they are trying to give chance to more students.

Usually, at Non=Selective Schools, it would be more comfortable and easier to integrate into the education system for foreign students that studied in a completely different system. That is why the parents need to soberly assess the place of which school should they have to choose for their child, depending on previous academic performance, knowledge, including proficiency in English and the age at which they decide to enter the child to a British school.

The age at which foreign children can join a British school.

The admission of foreign students to the British education system can be at any age. The boarding school accepts children who came to Britain without their parents, from 10-12, which is considered optimal for the children to join the new educational system and achieve good results.

The majority of our families are willing to send their children to study abroad at the age of 15 when they finish 9th grade and receive compulsory secondary education. Usually, this decision is dictated by financial uncertainty, as children who have completed compulsory secondary education at home can always return back to their educational system.

Many parents justify the decision by saying that they are not ready to let go of the child from the family in a gentle child or teenage age.

I must say that 15 years is the wrong time to integrate into the British education system if you want to save time and money. To enter Six Form, the child must successfully complete 10 or even 11 grades of our school.

Of course, parents can choose a 1-year preparation program for Six Form, which is offered by international colleges and some private schools, which are used to working with foreign students. Such programs will improve English and academic performance in core subjects, but it is not a substitute for the 2-year program of graduating from British Secondary school and GCSE results, and therefore cannot be recognized by a large number of schools offering Six Form program. Typically, schools that offer a 1-year preparation program for Six Form, prepare students for themselves, or the Program can be recognized as additional results for admission to the last 2 years of University preparation by other international colleges.

British schools or international colleges.

When there is a question of the choice between a traditional British School and an International College, parents need to consider the age when the child joins the British education system and what they actually want to achieve.

Both of them would prepare students for admission to the University. But if insight the walls of a traditional British boarding school all students have many opportunities to study and do some extracurricular activities to develop hidden talents, in international colleges, usually there are not many extra sections, and all attention will be focused on the study. It should be understood that the later a child joins a new system of education, the less time he has left for the disclosure of additional talents promised by British boarding schools.

At the same time, the international colleges that deal only with foreign students who need to integrate quickly into the British education system, know how to help your child achieve high results at Six Form and, usually, for the same period of time, to prepare for more high-ranking University.

Writing this, in no way I want to say that the international College is the only correct choice to start education in Britain at the age of 15-16 years. Some children would study longer and complete 2-yar GCSE following by a 2-year A-level Program, some might find alternative Six Form programs that are offered after they complete GCSE.

The only thing I want to emphasize that entering your child into a different educational system is a big step and you should carefully study the new system and not expect your children to perform higher of their limits.

Table of compliance of choldren age to the British system.


Age of children


The British name




























First Form




Second Form




Third Form




The Forth Form




Fifth Form




Six Form




Six Form


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