Schooling System In England Explained

I feel like I have to explain what "college" in England is all the time on here, because so many of you are from other parts of the world- mainly America and I'm sick of writing the same explanation over and over again- so I'm writing this MyTake to explain once and for all, and if anyone in the future mistakes college in England, for something it isn't I can just direct them to here.

So firstly, I'd like to explain the schooling system in England.


In England we have 'year groups'. In America you call 'year groups' grade. For example, we'd say Year 8, and you'd say 8th grade. Also our academic year starts in September and ends in July and we get holidays in between.

Schooling System In England:


Kids got to nursery from when they are 3-4-years-old.

Primary School:

Reception - Primary school begins with something we call 'reception'. Kids in reception are 4-5-years-old.

Year 1 - For kids aged 5-6-years-old.

Year 2 - For kids aged 6-7-years-old.

Year 3 - For kids aged 7-8-years-old

Year 4 - For kids aged 8-9-years-old

Year 5 - For kids aged 9-10-years-old

Year 6 - For kids aged 10-11-years old. This is the last year of primary school. Usually, in year 6, kids have exams in Maths and English (and some schools get selected for science exams too mine wasn't though). These exams are called "SATs" (pronouced "sats"). Kids have these exams so the secondary school they move on to, have an indication of the child's academic ability.

Secondary School:

Year 7 - For kids aged 11-12-years-old. This is the first year of secondary school, and work wise, it isn't that different to secondary school, and year 7 is just about settling in at secondary school because for some people it is a big transition.

Year 8 - For kids aged 12-13-years-old. When I was in 'year 8' we had 'creative' and 'tech' options. Basically for 'creative' options we had to pick between: art, drama, music or dance (I chose drama) and for 'techology' options we had to pick between: 'tech' (where you'd study textiles, woodwork, and cooking), 'computer science' and 'health and social care' (I chose computer science). But we didn't study those until next year. That was back in my day (2015-2016) though. My little brother is in year 8 right now, and soon he's going to have to pick his GCSE options.

Year 9 - For kids aged 13-14-years-old. In year 9, we studied our creative options and I picked drama so I didn't have to study art or music anymore, and I picked computer science so I didn't have to study 'tech' anymore. Year 9 was the year I picked my GCSE options.

GCSEs by definition: "a qualification in a specific subject typically taken by school students aged 14–16, at a level below A level."

GCSEs have mandatory and optional subjects.

Mandatory subjects are: Maths, English Literature, English Language. For my school, 'Religious Studies' was also mandatory (we weren't even a religious/faith school so I don't know why). And usually combined science which is just two science GCSEs.

My school offered a range of optional subjects: Triple Science (Chemistry, Biology, Physics- 3 science GCSEs instead of two), History, Geography, French, Spanish, Health and Social Care, Computer Science, Food Technology (basically cooking), Technology (textiles, woodwork), Business Studies, Media Studies. -that's what I can remember.

Now based on your ability you could pick either two or three subjects. I was allowed to pick three.

I originally picked:

Triple Science, Computer Science and Media Studies.

But I got told, too much kids picked 'Media Studies' as an option and there weren't enough teachers to teach it, so I had to switch to 'Business Studies'.

In terms of studying GCSEs we began to study our science GCSEs and English Literature GCSE in year 9.

Year 10 - For kids aged 14-15-years-old. This is the year when we started studying all of our GCSE options we picked.

Year 11 - For kids aged 15-16-years-old. This is the year we further study our GCSE subjects and have exams on the subjects we have studied since year 10, in May and June for about a month. My GCSE exams started on the 13th May and my last exam was on the 14th June. We got a week's break in between and I had a total of 19 exams.

And because we finish our exams in June- we get an early summer. Usually the summer holidays start in July and end in September.

College or Sixth Form?

Now, here's where people get confused.

Once your GCSE exams have finished- you can choose to stay on at secondary school until you are 18- we call this 'sixth form'.

Or you can choose to leave secondary school, and go to a college.

At college and sixth form you can study at the exact same level, the environment of the two are just different though, in my eyes, college gives you more independence.

This time last year, I was deciding:

"Do I stay on at secondary school? Should I move to a different sixth form or should I go to college?"

I had three colleges in mind, and two sixth forms. Then I decided that I wouldn't go to one of the college's in mind, because it is about 2 hours away from where I live, then I decided I wouldn't go to the next college I had in mind because it didn't have the exact course I wanted to study, then I decided I wouldn't go to one of the sixth forms I had in mind, because of distance and it didn't have the subjects I wanted.

So it was down to one more college (we'll call it X college) and my secondary school's sixth form. Ideally, I wanted to go to X college because it was just one bus ride away from my house, and it had all the subjects I wanted to study.

Then there was my secondary school sixth form, truth be told, I didn't want to go there. They put me on some random courses I didn't want to do- but it's 5 minutes away from my house.

Luckily, I got to go to X college. And I'm studying three A-Levels there now.

A-levels by defintion - " a qualification in a specific subject typically taken by school students aged 16–18, at a level above GCSE."

College and Sixth Form:

Year 12/1st Year - For kids aged 16-17-years-old. This is where we study the 1st year of our A-Levels and it's currently the year I am in now. And we'll sit AS exams in May and/or June. AS is basically the first year of A-Level.

Year 13/2nd Year - For kids aged 17-18-years-old. This is where we study the 2nd and final year of our A-Levels. Then we will sit our A-Level exams in May-June.

A little more about College in England:

Sixth forms are usually restricted to just 16-18-year-olds. But people of almost any age can attend a college. At my college any aged 14 and above can attend.

In my classes there are kids aged 16-19. There are courses avaliable for adults too- but they don't put the adults with the kids. The adults have courses called 'access' courses.

Saying that, at my college from what I have seen it is mostly young people, aged 16-in their 20s. And if you're over 19, you have to pay to study a course.

After College/Sixth Form?

Ideally, you'd leave college or sixth form at 18-years-old and go to university. As for the duration of university courses, it depends on what you study.

Any last words?

I hope you learned something for this MyTake.

Thanks for reading :) <3

Just a pic of Spidey because why not?
Just a pic of Spidey because why not?
Schooling System In England Explained
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Most Helpful Guys

  • FunkyMonkee
    So, what are levels? A levels, O levels, etc..
    What are GCSE's?
    "Secondary School:

    Year 7 - For kids aged 11-12-years-old. This is the first year of secondary school, and work wise, it isn't that different to secondary school"
    I would hope NOT! It IS secondary school, isn't it?
    Over here, we have Kindergarten for kids 5 years old. 1st grade through 6th is primary for kids 6 through 12 years old. Jr. High school is 7th & 8th grade for kids 11 to 13. High school is 9th through 12th grade for kids 14 to 18 years old. You can go to college at 16 or 17, but most got at 18 or later. I went at 27.
    When I went to grade school (Kindergarten to 12th grade), we'd start in mid Sept. and get done in late May or very early June. In 12th grade, you get out in early May. This is SUPPOSED to give you a head start in finding a job before the 16 and 17 year olds get out.
    These days, they send their kids to pre-school and nursery school so they can get started on their indoctrination by the time they're 3. They're not even out of diapers yet, still shitting their pants, can't even talk well and they're going to school!!! Also, they now start going to school in mid-Aug. and don't get out `til late June! Big deal! A 6-week break!! And, when you go to college, it's party central and you have a few classes thrown in here & there, too. Might as well learn SOMETHING beside how to play naked beer pong!!
    Is this still revelant?
    • Pete671

      GCSE is General Certificate of Secondary Education, they are stand alone exams which often have a high proportion of assignments as part of the assessment,,,
      O levels are GCSE at "ordinary" level, A levels are "advanced",
      You can take NVQs (national vocational qualifications) instead of A levels, they are more practically based,,,

    • @Pete671 I forgot, we have SAT's over here, too. We pronounce them, Ess Aye Tee's.

    • "I would hope NOT! It IS secondary school, isn't it?"
      Lol, sorry, I meant primary school. Blame it on the night lol, it was late.

      And as for what you said, about university- yeah I know there's the 'party college students' here too, but I don't think that's gonna be me. I'm not really one for parties, and dancing late at night and going crazy lol- I'm the type to stay in and watch a movie or something.

      Andd I wouldn't drink because I'm a Muslim.

    • Show All
  • curiousnorway
    In Norway we've:

    - Kindergarten (1-5 yo)

    - Elementary school (1-7th grade, 6-12 yo)

    - Middle school (8-10th grade, 13-15 yo)

    - High school (1-3 years, but sometimes 4.)
    In high school the youngest are 16, but people in all ages can go there. You can choose between theoretical courses only like one including math, science, languages, history etc. and profession oriented courses. E. g. hairdresser, designer, chef and nurse.

    - University and college. (3 years is bachelor and 5 years is master)
    You goes to lectures, reads and takes exams. University students are more independent than college ones.

    Some people are also apprentices after high school instead of going to the university.
    Is this still revelant?
    • Cool! It's kind of similar to the American one, isn't it? :)

    • Yes, it's. It's less confusing too in my honest opinion.

    • I mean I guess it's what you've grown up with really. See as a Brit, I found the American one confusing because I've grown up with this one. :)

    • Show All

Most Helpful Girls

  • R_ūshī
    We have that system over here too haha.

    Although we take the As and A levels at the same time, after the 2 years and it's the same with our O levels.

    Our secondary schools are also called colleges and the mandatory subjects for O levels are English, French and Maths. Some schools also have French litterature as a fourth compulsory subject.

    Ohh and we also have to take the General paper as a mandatory subsidiary subject for A levels.
    Is this still revelant?
  • MsElizabeth96
    This isn't just England? Isn't it like that in the rest of Britain too?

    Actually, I know it's the same in Wales, but there might be a little variation in Scotland
    Is this still revelant?

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What Girls & Guys Said

  • liam2409
    Even as a Brit I didn’t realize that there was a difference between sixth form and college since they’re used so interchangeably. Also I’m pretty sure that AS levels have changed or that they don’t do them anymore.
  • Aguysopinion4799
    I took
    1) Drama
    2) DT (Design and Technology)

    Religious studies were not mandatory in our school and a lot of people used those lessons to play about because they weren't religious.

    We did Music and it was fun but we didn't have any homework revolving around music except once when we worked in groups and had to play our own personal tune in a group, I was the pianist in my group.

    In Drama we took everything very enjoyably but also seriously, it was a fun environment but because everyone was acting all the time, we put a lot of effort into always having a strong amount of energy in our acts.

    DT for me was primarily wood working but a little bit of making circuit boards as well. I found it rather easy on the wood working part but when it came to electrical stuff, I was bad.

    I left to do College, my sister did Sixth Form while I went for a college in doing multiple different subjects, building up all those qualifications.

    I would definitely recommend college instead for people, it is a more relaxed environment and it gets you a huge fresh start, though my secondary school was only bad memories in terms of most peoples behaviour and the staff, so I suppose I was somewhat driven out of the school from not liking it. :p

    Thank you for reading this far and also thank you for explaining to people from abroad how our academic system works! <3
  • aguyintheworld
    Look I can explain it to you and I didn't have to read it and I'm not English this is what I could tell you you have Primary School then you have secondary school then you go to uni
  • WhereAmI
    What you call college is the equivalent of some US community colleges around here where people try to get their associates degree.

    I consider them 2nd high schools for some who couldn't qualify to get into a university. 😂
  • Lemia
    Us Brits Have Nursey
    Primary School
    Secondry School

    Or if your like me Went to special school
  • call_me_scar
    Well that's better than the schooling in america are's just ends with a bang And some news coverage for a week
  • nerms123
    Sounds very complicated
  • zagor
    Here college and university is usually interchangeable, though all universities are colleges but not all colleges are universities.
    • goaded

      The UK used to have Polytechnics and Universities at that level; they both awarded degrees and, a couple of decades ago, most polys (if not all) became universities.

  • broncobryan
    Ok stop explaining, because we dont care. No offense or anything. Hate to sound like a dick, but we dont. Sorry.
    • Why come to the thread then? The whole point of stuff being posted here is so the people who are interested can read it, and personally I thought it was a very interesting and well written MyTake. I say that as a Brit who went through all of that myself, and it's useful for people in other countries to understand our system and how it's different.

      If you weren't interested, then that's fine. There's a button in the shape of a cross in the top right corner of your screen, feel free to click on it. But don't moan because someone's posted something that is interesting to others but not to you. The only dick here is you.

    • Well said walsallguy90. Broncobryan sounds like he has many friends.

    • Look at one his questions on his profile. Apparently the loser had sex in the backseat of the hummer. Who the hell would have sex with this loser. Ewww.

  • NickiB
    Oh cool.

    I love how educational your posts are.

    I learn a lot.
  • GoodGuyBreakingBad
    Thanks for sharing your MyTake with us , very well appreciate it :)
    Cool. It would be interesting to go to school there. 😎
  • JamesRandiDebates
    Maybe give a brief description of what A levels are.
  • WhiteShoulder
    Thank you <3
  • dreamstar72
    Very well written actually learned something
  • 40Ninjas
  • CT_CD
    Thanks for explaining
  • Sasuke124
    Thanks for sharing! I learned something new. haha
  • S8nBam
    As a brit. I learnt something new 🤣🤣