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Can anyone talk me through what six form, A levels and GCSCs are?

(11 Posts)
gorionine Thu 27-Aug-09 10:19:41

I am foreign, My DD will start secondary school in sep 2010 and I have NO CLUE of what these things are. I have been in England for a decade and still do not understand a thing about the school system.

I need a bit of "secondary school for dumb parent" help please!

ZippysMum Thu 27-Aug-09 10:23:58

Is DD going into Year 7?

elvislives Thu 27-Aug-09 10:26:06

Secondary school runs from Y7 to Y13, but Y12 and Y13 are traditionally referred to as "Sixth Form", from the days when secondary school started from First Year at age 11.

GCSEs are the public exams that pupils take at the age of 16, at the end of Y11. All schools are different and vary with what they offer but most seem to take about 10 subjects.

After that they take AS levels in Y12, usually 4 subjects (effectively 1/2 an A level) and A levels in 3 subjects (called A2) in Y13.

That's it in a nutshell.

FWIW I was born in the UK and went through the state school system but everything changes so much and so often that when my DC1 went to secondary I had no clue either. You pick it up as you go along.

GrinnyPig Thu 27-Aug-09 10:30:19

GCSEs are taken in years 10 and 11. Some have course work and exams, some are all course work and some (maths is the only one I can think of)are 100% exam. The exams are sometimes taken as modules throughout years 10 and 11 and these results go towards the final grade.
Sixth form is years 12 and 13 and is currently not compulsory, but will be in a few years time. It is normal to take AS levels in year 12. Some pupils may drop one or two of these subjects for year 13 when they sit A levels. Pupils can change schools for sixth form and I personally find it a bit bizarre because even if they stay at the same school the pupils will say they now go to college. Uniform is usually not worn for sixth form.

Not all GCSEs and A levels are the same! Many threads on here about it. Some are considered to be soft subjects and would not be acceptable to all universities or employers.

Hope that helps. I was completely flummoxed about the whole situation too as I was brought up in a different system, so have had to learn as I go along.

ZippysMum Thu 27-Aug-09 10:36:48

In the UK, up to the age of 14 (Year 9), children study a broad range of subjects that includes (in almost all state schools) English, maths, science, history, geography, PE, ICT, design and technology (often includes art, food technology, design, and textiles) a modern foreign language (often French or German).

At the age of 14 (end of Year 9), the pupils choose 7, 8 or 9 of these subjects (and other subjects like media studies, photography and separate science might also become available as choices) that they are particularly interested in, and choose to study these for 2 years (through Years 10 and 11) as GCSE's. Most GCSE courses have an exam at the end of Year 11, though some are 'modular' and have exams and/or coursework all the way through. Every pupils has to study English, maths and science - some schools also insist on ICT, but after that the child can usually choose their own subjects.

At the age of 16, pupils who plan to stay on at school (if it has a 6th form) or who are going on to 6th form college can choose their A-Levels.These come in 2 parts - the first year is called A/S levels and in Year 12, usually pupils choose 3 or4 A/s -Levels. At the end of Year 12, exam results often mean that pupils will drop one A/S level and just take their 'best' subjects for A-Level. During Year 13 (last year of 6th form / college), pupils make applications to colleges and universities for degree courses.

A/S and A-levels, and GCSE's are not the only way to go, though they are a common route. There are also Diplomas, which begin in Year 9 and offer a more vocational route, often incorporating a qualification called a BTec, which is the equivalent to 2, 3 or 4 GCSEs. You will need to talk to your dd's tutors and to her about what is best for her.

It's also really important for her to get some good careers advice leading up to her choices in Year 9 and Year 11 so she is sure she can get into the course she wants after she leaves school. There are some really good websites and the school will have a careers advisor too.

Hope that helps!

gorionine Thu 27-Aug-09 12:19:02

Thank you so very much! I thought 6th form was something different all together rather than being a continuity of the education IYSWIM.

In your very valuable opinion, is it better to choose a secondary school that does have a 6th form or does it not matter if they have to change establishment to go to college? What is your experience?

gorionine Thu 27-Aug-09 12:21:40

ZippsyMum, You ask if she is going into year 7, I thought that was the only option. Is there some other choice? I am really blush of asking so many things but I have no idea what I am talking about!

ZippysMum Thu 27-Aug-09 12:29:50

It depends on the age of your DD. If she's 11, she would go into Year 7, at 12 they go into Year 8, at 13 into Year 9 (and so on).

As far as the 6th Form thing, it usually doesn't make a huge amount of difference. Even if the school does have its own 6th Form, your DD could choose to go to a college instead.

Colleges often have more in the way of choices of courses and some young people are ready for a change and feel more independent at a 6th Form College. Others prefer to stay with the friends and teachers that they know.

Don't worry about all the questions! It's great to while away the time lying on the sofa (waiting for twins!)

gorionine Thu 27-Aug-09 12:43:39

Sorry ZippysMum, I still do not get it. She will be 11 when she finishes year6 so yes she will be joining year7 but I thought all children finished primary at 11. AFAIKnew, children in England do not repeat a year, what would make them postpone secondary school auntil they are 13 for exemple? Why do they miss a year if they are older? how do they manage catching up?

Twins? how nice! when are you due? (Just to see how many more questions I can askwink!)

ZippysMum Thu 27-Aug-09 12:55:44

Hi again!

Sorry, should have read your OP more thoroughly that said you had been here 10 years! If you arrived in this country and DD was already 13, she would go into Year 9. I didn't realise she was already in primary school.

No, it would be very uncommon for a child to 'postpone' secondary school! Only if they were very ill, or sometimes parents choose to educate the child at home and then send them back to school or something like that.

I'm 34 1/2 weeks with the twins now - hoping to get to 36 weeks!!

gorionine Thu 27-Aug-09 13:01:32

Thanks again and all the best for the arrival of your two bundles of joy!

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