Stage 2 — Secondary Education (11-16 years old)
Compulsory secondary education covers schooling from the age of 11 to 16. Pupils follow a common curriculum ultimately leading to GCSE exams (General Certificate of Secondary Education). GCSEs are typically taken in 9 or 10 subjects.
From 11-14 all pupils study the following subjects:
- Art & Design
- Design & Technology (DT)
- Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
- Modern Foreign Languages
- Physical Education
For their final two years in secondary school pupils can drop several of these and select the subjects they wish to study for GCSE. Some subjects such as PE and citizenship remain on the curriculum but will not necessarily be subjects for GCSE examination.
After their GCSE exams pupils can choose to leave school and enter work, move on to study vocational qualifications begin modern apprenticeships or continue their academic studies in the sixth form.
As with primary education, public schools do not take pupils from outside the European Union. Private schools accept overseas pupils who meet their entry criteria.
Note that private schools are more commonly called independent schools in the UK. Confusingly, the most prestigious and historic of these are also called public schools, but that does not mean they are open to the general public!
Private schools vary in their entry criteria generally the better the school, the greater the ability expected of pupils! Usually an entrance examination will be sat which will focus on English, mathematics and science. However, it may also test general reasoning. An interview may also be required as well as a report from the pupils current school.
It is expected that over the next few years these systems may change to avoid exams which are all about factual recall. New approaches are likely to assess students in ways that reward creative, independent thinking.
Everyone aged 5 to 18 can receive primary and secondary education in private schools in the UK. The most common age for overseas pupils to enter is 11-13 years old. 16 years of age is also an excellent time to enter British schools or colleges in order to prepare for university by studying A-levels or IB.