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Could Someone in the UK Explain Education Terminology to me?

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Anonymous

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Being something of an Anglophile, I watch most American PBS programming licensed from British (BBC) sources. Occasionally I hear references to public school that infer they are not 'public' in the sense that they are government supported and open to all citizens. I've heard private schools mentioned but could infer nothing from context.

Similarly, I don't understand 'forms'. What is the meaning of 'upper' and 'lower' (as in the upper fifth or the lower third) with regard to forms?

BobH, trying to leap the language chasm.
 

PowerTool

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For some unknown reason,you have to pay for "public" schools - probably the best known being Eton and Harrow.
"Forms" in the educational context are school "years" - until recently,the school year you were in was only in relation to the individual school,as opposed to your whole school time (e.g. the age of 5 to 16)
So when going to secondary school at the age of 11,you would be in first year (or "first form"),whereas now it is "year 7" (having previously done the other 6 years at infant and junior school)

Clear :?:

Thought not :D
 

Steve Maskery

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Hi Bob
We do this deliberately. It's what makes us quaint.

Public schools are private, in that they choose their intake, and charge the parents hefty fees. They are like private schools, which do the same. Public schools sometimes issue scholarships for talented kids from poorer backgrounds, but those kids are not going to be in the same class. Well, the same class yes, but not the same social class.

There are also State schools, which are open to the public, though of course, they are not Public schools, and many members of the public can't get a place for their children. They either have to travel to another state schoold open to the public, further away, or pay for a private school or a Public one.

A form is a class. Not a social class, just a class, all the same year. We used to sit on forms in the school hall during assembly. So the 6th form is for those who stay on after compulsory education, to do A levels, often in preparation for University. As opposed to Prep schools which are in Preparation for Public schools (which, you will remember, are private). 6th forms are usually lower (during which year year they will usually have their 17th birthday) and upper (18 ).

Haven't come across Lower 3rd etc, we didn't have that. Have you been reading Billy Bunter? 3rd Years would be 14 years old, of course, (unless tey were 10) and maybe the Upper 3rd is the class of brighter children, but I'm guessing there.

Personally I went to an English grammar school. It wasn't a public school, anyone could go if they passed the exam, and we weren't taught grammar, except in Latin and French lessons.

I don't have kids, and having taught for four long dark miserable years inthe 80s, I come out in a rash just thinking about schools, but my understanding is that now things are different in that they are called Year 6 and Year 10 etc.

Hope that clears that up.
Cheers
Steve
 

wizer

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If I remember correctly (it wasn't that long ago), Upper and Lower forms are/were basicaly the 'clever' and 'not so clever' kids. I'm sure there is a more PC way of putting it ;) (I was in the lower form) :p
 

Chris Knight

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Upper and lower forms were different years rather than streams by ability and they varied as to where they applied by schools, based on what junior forms the schools had - preparatory years. Thus at my school I started in form 2 after the 11 plus, went through 3 and 4 then into lower fifth, upper fifth, lower sixth, upper sixth. My wife went to a different school where the first secondary form was the third and thus they had an extra form in the fourth year as well as fifth and sixth years.
 

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Bob H

Did you get the jist of that, seems confusing but I guess no more that your terminology to us Brits.

I see the posts above have left out another type of school, its the "approved", very good education I understand for those naughty type children. Not sure that they exist now, or if they do the name will have been changed to fit in with political correctness.
 

Shady

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Bob: lots of amusing demonstrations of how to confuse you here...

Basically, 'public' schools are what the US call (far more sensibly) private schools. A network of schools that offer day schooling and/or boarding, that receive no state funding. They are an emotive subject for many here, because any discussion is inextricably linked with issues of 'class' (as in class warfare, as opposed to which 'year class' you're in). The weird use of 'public' comes, I suspect, from history, when they would have been the only available 'public' form of education, as opposed to closed (church?) schooling.

'Forms' is simply a variant of 'year' or 'class'. From my memory, upper and lower refer only to the 6th form - the last 2 years of your schooling. You start in the lower 6th, then move on to the upper 6th. All of this is again linked to history. HTH.
 

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Shady":2zmln9sc said:
From my memory, upper and lower refer only to the 6th form
No, it was definitely variable between schools. In my Primary school I went from Kindergarten to Lower 1, Upper 1, Lower 2, through to Lower 3 etc etc. Luckily my Secondary schools both went in for the Upper and Lower designation too, or I'd have been as confused as Bob is now... Within those years, at least in Secondary school, each year then got split into 2 or 3 forms; for instance U4a, U4b, U4c in one school, or U4 and the form teacher's initial for the other. Then those got split differently for some subjects like Maths and French where there was streaming. Now I'll admit to having gone to a private, or "independent" school <gasp>, but the idea that they're inevitably for "posh kids" is erroneous <exhibit A - me :wink: >. Oh, the smart, well-known ones like Eton and that are, but there are, or were :? , a lot that were predominantly filled with the product of middle class (I know, horror of horrors that anyone should admit to being "middle class") folks just trying to get their children off to a good start. In the Boarding school line, it was mainly folks living overseas, service personnel, foreign students with a touching faith that the English education system was still the best in the world, and actually, quite a few lame ducks. My last school had a disproportionately large number of persons with various health issues which no state school would have been willing, or able, to care two hoots about. Pastoral care tends to be better if you're paying. :roll:

Anyway, not a bad explanation of the difference between public and private here.

Cheers, Alf
 

Adam

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Shady":1z0yqemj said:
'Forms' is simply a variant of 'year' or 'class'. From my memory, upper and lower refer only to the 6th form - the last 2 years of your schooling. You start in the lower 6th, then move on to the upper 6th. All of this is again linked to history. HTH.
I went to a run-of-the-mill comprehensive and we were in forms - and had a "form" tutor from the moment we started in the 2nd year. (Now year 11?).

A "comphensive" school is the school which is government funded and open to all citizens. So its "free". As such. All things being not equal however, and some comprehensives are better than others, (in fact some comprehensives are better than some private or public schools.). When this is the case, parents move to the area to ensure their children get inside the catchment area of the "good" school, which drives up house prices. So indirectly you do pay for it!

Adam
 

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To really add to the mix (and Steve, your description was perfect, if not transatlantically useful) I went to Private School. (Lower class public so was not liked by public school pupils, but still not State so not liked by the mass of school pupils - great!).

My form was, for example at age 16, U5H1. Upper 5th, ie age 16, H (stream for Maths (H,M,L) and 1, stream for english (1,2 3). Therefore with approx 110 in a year and 6 forms, maths and english re-streamed, it was like a red arrows display everytime the bell went! Still, it seamed to work so someone must have put the hours in on the timetable!
 
A

Anonymous

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Whatever the 'form' your education system takes, it seems to suit, for it has produced quite an intelligent and civil lot in you!

Our system is quite straightforward: Kindergarten for 5-year olds, then grades 1 through 12 (although the ninth thru twelfth are also called the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years in high school just as the first through fourth years are in college or university). Our public schools are where most children are educated though there is very great variability in the quality of instruction. We do have private schools funded through tuition payments. Few of these are boarding schools, and those that are have mostly high school age students and teach the children of the very wealthy - Murricans don't like to think there are social classes, don't you know.. (Oh, I forgot the school names: elementary, 6th grade center, middle school - which is sometimes called junior high, and high school.) Education is compulsory to age 16 in most places, I think. There are various 'tracks' in high school supposedly to prepare students for either vocational employment or further education at college or university. Principally there are 3: vocational (no stringent academic requirements); scientific prep with emphasis on math and science; and academic prep with emphasis on language and economics. Better students accomplish both the scientific and the academic tracks. These tracks vary widely by school jurisdiction and may be non-existent in the worst of our schools. We Murricans are too prone to believe that the precept 'all men are created equal' refers to ability as well as opportunity at law; so the use of tracking is sometimes attacked by those with political bents. Historically, American public schools were run by individual principals and teachers and not much meddled with by bureaucrats and politicians until the late '50's and early '60's. Since then, there has been a continuing demise in the quality of education students receive -- even to the point that many colleges and universities must offer remedial instruction before engaging in the appropriate level. This is true of most public higher learning institutions and many of the privately funded ones. As proof, I offer my personal experience: Although indifferent to schooling after the age of 13, I accomplished both the scientific and academic tracks in the late '50's and actually placed beyond all English language and mathematics requirements on university entrance exams; therefore not required to take any of those required for a degree. Advanced placement was common in those days. I was not an exceptional student and certainly applied myself little to studies before university. It was the quality of the teachers and the level of accomplishment expected from students that prepared me thusly. Alas, my sources tell me that this not true today and that very few students qualify for advanced placement in math and grammar.

Well, I guess our system is not as straightforward as I thought !

Thank you for the education and your forbearance with my ignorance.

BobH
 
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Anonymous

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Bob - let's start on universities!

The standard bachelor's class in the UK is generally three years, unless you do a sandwich course, when it can be up to 5 years. But in Scotland there are some 4 year degree courses to bachelor level. Med school is something else -- in the US you do your bachelor's first then go to med school, in the UK you enter med school courses after 6th form (usually with all top grades as the compteition is fierce), and it's typically a 5 year course before starting work as a dogsbody in a hospital working long hours for peanuts. Of course you could always be a vet, which is a shorter course than becoming a medical doctor...but equally competitive.

My wife is currently looking at doing a PhD here, and the choices are equally confusing -- does she go part-time over three years, or full time over the same period? Does she teach a few undergrads and receive free tuition and a stipend, or does she pay the high fees? And, which school will support her research......? She has ruled out Tufts (one of her almer maters) and Harvard purely on the grounds of cost...... fun!
 

andrewm

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White House Workshop":3ggydg38 said:
But in Scotland there are some 4 year degree courses to bachelor level.
Except that Scottish Highers mean that in Scotland they only have one year in the six-form so start University at age 17. Hence the first year of a four year course is the same as the last year at school in England. So, in reality a four year course at a Scottish University is no different to a three-year course at an English University. Indeed if you are from England and attend a scottish University you can often skip the first year.

caveat: That is how it was when I was applying so this information may be **cough** years out of date.

Andrew
 

Midnight

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Except that Scottish Highers mean that in Scotland they only have one year in the six-form so start University at age 17.
<chokin...

yer way off....

after GCSE's, pupils doing higher studies go through 5th and 6th years.... only forms ye'll find is paperwork...

Highers are reguarded as being slightly easier than A levels.. however... 6th year studies (taught after getting your highers) are regarded as being harder.... I've yet to hear of any Scots uni accepting 17 year olds from Englandshire or otherwise.....
 
A

Anonymous

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Aye, and my bairns went through Ayr Academy, too, so I too have no idea where Andrew's idea came from. On the other hand, I was educated at an English grammar school and took the first 4 of my O-levels at 14, not 16 as was usual. Those were REAL GCE O-levels, too, not the GCSE's they used to take at the secondary modern school and which have now become the new standard where you can get an A* in some subjects with as little as 50% marks. No wonder so many kids leaving school aren't capable of the jobs we as employers need them to do! </rant off>
 

andrewm

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Midnight":h9tgxc62 said:
I've yet to hear of any Scots uni accepting 17 year olds from Englandshire or otherwise.....
Not quite what I was suggesting but from memory when I was applying for my degree several of the Scottish University prospectuses (prospecti?) were suggesting that if you were 18 and had A Levels then you may be able to skip the first year. I was looking for a four year sandwich course with a year in industry at the time and the ever helpful careers master kept finding four year courses for me which turned out to be at Scottish Universities and therefore with no year out and which I would probably have been excused the first year anyway.

Of course things may have changed now.

Andrew - who ended up doing a three year course anyway.
 

Neil

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andrewm":30nyit8f said:
caveat: That is how it was when I was applying so this information may be **cough** years out of date.
Me too, Andrew - I applied to two Scottish universities and both gave me offers to skip the first year. Didn't go to either of them though...

Cheers,
Neil
 
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