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School years (United Kingdom)

School years in the United Kingdom differ depending on whether you live in England or in Scotland, each of which has a separate education system. The two education systems have different emphases. Traditionally the English system has emphasised depth of education whereas the Scottish system has emphasised breadth. Thus English students tend to sit a small number of more advanced examinations and Scottish students tend to sit a larger number of less advanced examinations.

It is hoped that this reference chart will be useful to those unfamiliar with the two school systems. It should be noted that local English practice can vary from this general picture although Scottish practice is well nigh universal.

In general, the cut-off point for ages is the end of August, so all children must be of a particular age on the 1st of September in order to begin class that month.

English and Welsh system

  • Infant School
    • New system year 1, age 5.
    • New system year 2, age 6.
  • Primary School
    • New system year 3, age 7.
    • New system year 4, age 8.
    • New system year 5, age 9.
    • New system year 6, age 10.
  • Secondary School
    • New system year 7, old system year 1, age 11.
    • New system year 8, old system year 2, age 12
    • New system year 9, old system year 3, age 13
    • New system year 10, old system year 4, age 14
    • New system year 11, old system year 5, age 15
  • Sixth Form College, last two years of schooling before college or university.
    • New system year 12, old system lower 6th, age 16.
    • New system year 13, old system upper 6th (VI in latin numerals), age 17.

Over the years, the names and age ranges of schools has been altered by governments. The table above lists the current usage.

In times past, major exams were:

  • 11+ (eleven plus), mostly used as an entrance qualification to old system year 3 in selective schools.
  • O levels - Ordinary level exams. Old system year 5, usually after two year courses of teaching. The exams were mostly two papers each of around 2 hours per subject. A typical pupil would sit around 10 subjects.
  • A levels - Advanced level exams. Old system upper VI. Two year courses. In the 1960s, 2 subjects were typical, in the 1970s and 1980s, 3 subjects were typical and in the 1990s 4 were typical - Either the exams are less taxing or the level of pupils ability generally increased.

Scottish system

  • Nursery School
    • Year 1, age 3 - 5.
  • Primary School
    • Primary 1, age range 4 - 6.
    • Primary 2, age range 5 - 7.
    • Primary 3, age range 6 - 8.
    • Primary 4, age range 7 - 9.
    • Primary 5, age range 8 - 10.
    • Primary 6, age range 9 - 11.
    • Primary 7, age range 10 - 12.
  • Secondary School
    • First year, age range 11 - 13.
    • Second year, age range 12 - 14.
    • Third year, age range 13 - 15.
    • Fourth year, age range 14 - 16.
    • Fifth year, age range 15 - 17.
    • Sixth year, age range 16 - 18.

Note that the age ranges specify the youngest age for a child entering that year and the oldest age for a child leaving that year. Also note that children may leave school at the end of any school year after they reach 16 years of age and that they may attend Scottish universities when they are 17. Therefore two sets of national examinations are held. The first set, the "Foundation" and "Credit" examinations, take place in the Fourth year of secondary school and show basic education level. The second set, the "Higher" and "Higher Still" examinations take place in the Fifth and Sixth years. A third level, the "Sixth Year Studies" examinations, are sometimes taken by students intending to study at an English university and cover the gap between the Scottish "Higher" level and the English "Advanced" level courses.

See also: Sixth form, School grades (Canada), School grades (US)

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