The ‘map’ of the British Education System and Terms Used

The Map of the British Education System & Terms Used

Nursery or ‘Kindergarten’
Your child can have a formal education from the age of 3 onwards by attending a nursery.
Most nurseries are privately owned and run, but increasingly more and more state primary schools are adding a nursery facility onto their school site. This encourages continuity for the child, so that s/he may be on the same site between the ages of 3 and 11. The nursery years (ages 3 to 4) are sometimes called Foundation.

There is no legal obligation for children to attend nurseries or school until they reach 5, but many working parents find that a nursery is an ideal place for their children to go to whilst they are at work. Some children may attend nursery for just one or two days a week at first, before attending for longer periods once they have settled in.

The term ‘kindergarten’ has been extensively used for many years now and originates from Germany where it means ‘garden of children’. These usually have more varied subjects that include music, and various forms of playing and art to give the children a more broad-based education in their ‘early years’. Kindergartens can operate from the ages of 2 to 7 years depending on the different countries, but generally in UK children go on to Primary school at 5 years.
Finland is a country that is highly successful in their development of early years systems and methods which are being adopted more and more around the world.

How nurseries help children
Nurseries help children to grow and develop in many different ways. Firstly, they help children to socialise and meet both other children and adults. This is a very important stage in a child's personal development. Secondly, they help children to learn through play and games. although children may think they are playing whilst they are at nursery, they are in fact learning all the time. They can learn things like counting, sorting, colours and numbers whilst they are playing.

Finally, nurseries help children to become more independent. This means that they are not so reliant on their parents, but soon learn to think for themselves and make decisions. Away from their home they discover that there are lots of other things to discover and learn from.

The education system in the UK is divided into four main parts:

1. Primary education
2. Secondary education
3. Further education
4. Higher education

Children in the UK must legally attend primary and secondary education which runs from about 5 years old until the student is 16 years old.

The education system in the UK is also split into "key stages" which breaks down as follows:
• Key Stage 1: 5 to 7 years old
• Key Stage 2: 7 to 11 years old
• Key Stage 3: 11 to 14 years old
• Key Stage 4: 14 to 16 years old

Generally key stages 1 and 2 will be undertaken at primary school and at 11 years old a student will move onto secondary school and finish key stages 3 and 4.

Students are assessed at the end of each stage. The most important assessment occurs at age 16 when students pursue their GCSE's or General Certificate of Secondary Education.
Once students complete their GCSE's they have the choice to go onto further education and then potential higher education, or finish school and go into the working world.

An overview ‘map’ of the education system in the UK is divided into five main sections:

Primary Education
Primary education begins in the UK at age 5 and continues until age 11, comprising key stages one and two under the UK educational system.

Secondary Education
From age 11 to 16, students will enter secondary school for key stages three and four and to start their move towards taking the. Primary and secondary education is mandatory in the UK; after age 16, education is optional.

Further Education
Once a student finishes secondary education they have the option to extend into further education to take their A-Levels, GNVQ's, BTEC's or other such qualifications.
UK students planning to go to college or university must complete further education.

Higher Education
Probably the most important subject area. Most international students will enter directly into the UK higher education system, after completing their home country’s equivalent to the UK’s “further education” if they come to the UK at that age.

Entry Requirements
Each level of education in the UK has varying requirements which must be satisfied in order to gain entry at that particular level, and also each individual school being applied for will have their own entry requirement and test level in order to get an offer.

Primary School
A school usually including the first three grades of elementary school but sometimes also including kindergarten.
Primary schools admit children from the ages of 5 through to 11. Some primary schools are split up into Infant and Junior levels. These are usually separate schools on the same site. The infant age range (Key Stage 1) is from age 5 to 7. The Junior age range (Key Stage 2) is from age 7 to 11.

The year groups at primary School level are:
Year R (Reception) (age 4 – 5)
Year 1 (age 5 - 6)
Year 2 (age 6 - 7) The year when SATs testing takes place for Key Stage 1
Year 3 (age 7 - 8)
Year 4 (age 8 - 9)
Year 5 (age 9 - 10)
Year 6 (age 10 - 11) The year when SATs testing takes place for Key Stage 2

Secondary Education System
Secondary education in the UK normally starts for most students at the age of 11 years old. Though not common, in some parts of the UK there are middle schools which run up to 12 or 13 years old.

For international students coming into the UK for secondary education, it is common to either enter at the age of 11 or wait until the age of 13 and have one year in the school before starting the two-year GCSE program which will run from 14 to 16 years old.

From the age of 11-14, students will study a broad range of subjects such as English, Music, Maths, Sciences, etc. On reaching 14 yrs. pupils generally enter into the first year of a 2 year process known as the GCSE (or SCE for those who are in Scotland). GCSE's are a set of exams that test the pupil’s knowledge and skill.

Most schools follow the same method when it comes to GCSE's and pupils take the following core subjects:

• English
• Maths
• Sciences (either combined or separate Biology, Chemistry and Physics)

Students typically then select an additional 4 or 5 subjects in which to take in their GCSE's, and they can be subjects like French, German, Business Studies, Design and Technology, Music, Sports Science, Geography, History and many other options.

At state schools’ students typically take 5 to 10 GCSE's, depending on the student's ability and drive. For independent schools, which are usually a lot more results driven, it is not uncommon for students to take as many as 11 or 12, focusing more on academic subjects compared to the arts subjects.

GCSE's take a total of 2 years to get to the exam stage and mark the end of compulsory education for students in the UK. Once they have completed their GCSE's students then have the choice to either move into further education (with a view to higher education) or can leave school and look for work.

Further Education System
When students reach the age of 16 and have completed their GCSE's they have a few options to choose from:

• Find work
• Academic Qualifications
• Vocational Qualifications

If students opt for carrying on with their education this will take two forms, either by pursuing further academic qualifications or by following a more vocational pathway.

Academic Qualifications
Most schools in the UK have what is called a "6th Form" for students to enter after they have taken their GCSE's. As an alternative, there are many "6th Form Colleges" that will offer the same courses from students at schools that do not have a 6th form.

Here students typically study A-levels which are further academic qualifications required of students before they enter higher education and a degree program. A-levels, like GCSE's, follow a two-year program and there are two components to them, full A-levels and half AS-levels. Generally, A-levels comprise of 6 modules, and an AS-level 3 module.

Students will generally take between two to three A-levels but depending on their academic ability and drive they may take more.
Students at independent schools may take anywhere up to 5 A-levels.

The International Baccalaureate is also now offered by more schools in the UK as an alternative to A-levels. This comprises studying 6 subjects including a language and a science and effectively offers a broader base of understanding a range of subjects rather than the specialising of 3 subjects, which is common number to most A level candidates. They are becoming increasingly popular with universities for assessing applicants.

Higher Education System
The UK has a vast variety of higher education opportunities to offer students with over 100 universities offering various degree programs for students from the UK and around the world. In the UK about one-third of all students go on to some form of higher education and this number is well over 50% for students from Scotland. This makes competition for places very fierce and so it is advised to apply early for courses.

In the UK most, undergraduate degree programmes take three years to finish; however, the “sandwich course” is increasing in popularity, which is four years and involves one year in the work place (normally in the third year). In Scotland the courses are four years in length for undergraduate programs.

For graduate or ‘Masters’ programmes they are generally shorter in length and undertaken after graduation of your undergraduate program. Some professional degrees like medicine, veterinary, law etc. have longer programs that can be as much as five years.

Choosing the right school is dependent on many factors such as:

• Location of the school?
• How much does it cost?
• Size of the school?
• Access to home comforts? Place of worship, home foods?
• Courses available?

Entry Requirements
Each level of education in the UK has varying requirements which must be satisfied to gain entry at that level. Depending on the programme, the entry requirements will vary for international students.
What is vital throughout all courses and schools is that pupils need to show competency in the English language.

English Language
For most schools and courses, the level of understanding and competency in English will be key to acceptance in a major programme such as a degree program. Pupils need to make sure they have a good level of English understanding.

GCSE Entry Requirements
Entrance to take GCSE's will depend very much on the school with which the pupil is attending as they will generally need to register with a school for GCSE education years well in advance (14 to 16 years old). Apart from the school’s requirements, the main requirements by the exams boards in the UK is that pupils have a good level of English ability as the exams will be taken in English.

A-level Entry Requirements
As with GCSE's it will be very dependent on the school the pupil wishes to attend as to what the requirements are to study A-levels there.

For example, a 6th Form College may require that you have at least 5 GCSE pass grades of C or above, compared this to an independent school who may require 10 GCSE pass grades of B or above.

It must be considered that A-levels are a much higher level of work and so a very good understanding of the English language will be needed to work at this level. Some people say that A-levels are harder than most degrees programmes as they prepare you for higher education.

University Entry Requirements
Each course in the UK sets its own entry, so they vary considerably.

Most degree programmes will require that the student has passed either A-levels and attained certain grades, for example 4 B grades, or equivalent grades in a BTEC or GNVQ.
So, within a university different courses will have different requirements and universities may have certain requirements that all students will have to meet. For example, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge generally require all students to attend an interview, other universities will not require this.

Also, an international student coming to the UK can still attend University even though they may not have taken A-levels and have not been educated in the UK system, but they will need to contact the administrator of the programme to find out what credentials from the home country need to be provided.