I wrote a post, School Daze, about Spud’s last days at school (until he goes back for two more years in September). It was understandably a little confusing for non-Brits, as Janie pointed out, so here’s a brief explanation:
Children start school the year they turn five, in Reception, presumably named because it is the first time they are received into school. I think it is the equivalent of the American kindergarten, but many schools don’t even have gartens, kinder or otherwise, especially in the inner cities.
Next come Years One and Two, ages six to seven, known as the Infants.
Years Three to Six – eight to eleven – are known as the Juniors.
We have infant schools and junior schools and infant and junior schools, which are known as Primary Schools.
High School follows at eleven, turning twelve, starting in Year Seven, to Year Eleven at sixteen.
It is legal to leave school at sixteen and go out to work or on to College or Sixth Form. College is not varsity, it is for further studies aged seventeen-eighteen. Colleges – also known as Sixth Form Colleges – are separate institutions which only teach that age group.
Some high schools have sixth forms, but most state schools in Stockport do not have a sixth form. State schools are public schools, not to be confused with schools known as public schools, which are private schools.
Private schools and grammar schools – which are fee-paying high schools, apart from those grammar schools which are not fee-paying high schools – usually do have a sixth form.
The term, Sixth Form comes from the days when high schools were known as Secondary Schools and had First Year to Fifth Year instead of Year Seven to Year Eleven.
Secondary schools were known at one time as Secondary Moderns or Comprehensive Schools. Secondary Moderns were not comprehensive in their teaching and Comprehensives were ultra-modern until pupils trashed them.
We now also have Academies, which are privately sponsored state schools, but I don’t want to confuse you so forget about them. Everyone else does.
Sixth Forms consist of Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth. Despite there being seven years of secondary schooling (two optional), there is no Seventh form – not even when there was no Year Seven.
The Scots have a different system - and probably the Welsh and Northern Irish, as well.
An important point to remember: the Northern Irish are British as well as Irish, and not just Irish like the Irish. The English are British and the Welsh are sometimes Welsh and sometimes Welsh and British. The Scots are a law unto themselves and tend not to worry about British law, preferring Scots law, because we – the English, who are British like the Scots – will never take away their freedom.
I hope this helps.