Overview of the British System

The school education system in the United Kingdom is divided into two stages:
  • Primary education
  • Secondary education

By law, all children of compulsory school age (between 5 and 18 years old) must receive a full-time education. A new National Curriculum was introduced in the UK in 2014/15 although independent schools are not required to adhere to it. The Royal School uses the National Curriculum as a framework but offers many extra opportunities.


Primary Education:

This is divided into two tiers:

  • Pre Prep is also known as Infants – Reception class, Year 1 and Year 2 (4 years old to 7 years old)
  • Prep is also known as Juniors – Year 3 to Year 6 (7 years old to 11 years old)

Secondary Education:

  • Seniors – Year 7 to Year 11 (11 years old to 16 years old)

After five years of secondary education, pupils take exams in a range of subjects at the level of General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). The GCSE is a single subject exam, set and marked by independent exam boards. British pupils usually take up to ten GCSE exams in different subjects, including Mathematics and English Language. GCSE subjects are graded on a 9 (high) to 1 (low) scale, with grade 4 being a 'standard pass' and grade 5 being a 'strong pass'.

  • Sixth Form - Year 12 and Year 13 are also known as Sixth Form or Lower and Upper Sixth (16 years old to 18 years old).

After taking GCSEs pupils may take a higher level of secondary school exams known as A Levels (typically in 2-4 subjects) after a further two years of study. A Levels (short for Advanced Level) are required for university entrance in the UK.

Independent schools, private schools or public schools are privately funded from tuition fees and are independent of government although the majority follow the National Curriculum and sit GCSEs and A Levels.