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The UK Private School System

For parents unfamiliar with the UK education system it can be quite confusing, not least because different education stages are called different things in the state and private sectors, and there are also different transition points between schools. See below for the main types of school and curriculum followed at each stage.

Age from September 1st School Year Independent Schools* Curriculum/Exams**
Age 3-4 Nursery Pre-prep Schools broadly follow the National Curriculum (but they are not obliged to do so). Supplemented with additional subjects usually including languages. There is generally also a much greater emphasis on sport and the arts.
4-5 Reception
5-6 1
6-7 2
7-8 3 Preparatory (prep) As above but depending on the school there will be an emphasis on preparation for private senior school entrance exams at either 11+ or 13+ (referred to a Common Entrance)
8-9 4
9-10 5
10-11 6
11-12 7 Prep or Senior (depending on the year of entry to senior school)
12-13 8
13-14 9 Senior School In Year 9 students follow a broad curriculum covering all subjects. Some schools start GCSEs at this stage.
14-15 10 Two year GCSE/IGCSE courses in core subjects + 4/5 options
15-16 11
16-17 12 Sixth Form A Levels/Pre-U The International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB) BTECs
17-18 13

* Some private schools cater for all ages from 3-18 so the transition from one school stage to the next is a smooth one and children generally do not have to sit entrance tests except in the most competitive schools. These are known as “all through” schools.

** There are a few private international schools in the UK that follow the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) up to age 12, and then the Middle Years Programme (MYP)  from 12-16. Others offer the American curriculum or those of other countries. Please ask us for details if you are interested in alternative curriculums.