Independent or Private Schools

Independent schools are fee paying, privately run schools. Some are part of a national group of schools, while others are completely independent. They are able to provide excellent education through small class sizes and extensive facilities. Students often reach high levels of academic achievement, gaining places at some of the most prestigious universities. Entrance to these schools is normally based on academic ability, tested through an entrance examination, and the entry criteria and fees vary from school to school. Many of these schools will offer boarding facilities, with host family accommodation being used for half terms and exeat weekends. Alternatively, accommodation can be provided through a host family living nearby.

State Schools

These are predominately government funded schools, meaning that there are no costs for any student holding a British passport and residing in the UK. This entitles students to access full time education up until they are 19 years of age.

These schools provide and wide and varied curriculum, as well as covering the core subjects such as English, Maths and Sciences in class sizes of approximately 30 students. Each school provides a good range of facilities including sports and music.

Entrance to these schools is via application and dependent upon the relative Admissions Authority. Admission to each year group is based on age, and places are granted on spaces being available at the chosen school. Many students continue to study at UK Universities or Colleges.

Other students may be able to attend a UK School for a period of up to 6 months. Please contact Alpha Guardians if this something you are interested in.

Ages 11-14

From the age of 11 to 14, students in British state and private schools study a broad range of 10 to 15 subjects that usually follow the guidelines of the National Curriculum. No public examinations are taken during this time.

Ages 14-15

(School years 10-11) Traditionally, at the age of 14 students start a programme that lasts for 2 years during which time they study 5 to 10 subjects of their choice. After this two year period, students take GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) state examinations. These qualify students to continue onto A-level or BTEC level 3 (or equivalent) for university preparation.

Ages 16-17

(School years 12-13) Once a student reaches the age of 16 they can start a 2 year programme which leads to A (Advanced) level examinations. Students specialise in 3 or 4 subjects of their choice that are usually relevant to the degree subject they wish to follow at university.  A levels are state examinations and are recognised by all UK universities and many institutions worldwide. Alternatively, students can follow a more vocational route of qualifications, such as BTEC or NVQ in a wide range of subjects.


Universities provide higher education throughout the UK and Scotland, where students can gain academic degrees in various academic disciplines. Universities typically provide undergraduate education for students aged 18 or above, postgraduate education with some also offering Foundation Learning Degrees. Students normally live in Halls of Residence, based on or near the Campus.

Alpha Guardians will be able to advise you about applying to university and student life and are happy to act as guardian to those requiring this service.

The University of Suffolk offers an attractive portfolio of courses from applied social sciences, arts and humanities to nursing and midwifery.


Some of the most common frequently asked questions are addressed here.

How long is my course?

Both GCSE’s (years 10 and 11) and A Levels (years 12 and 13) are studied over a two year period, with examinations being taken in the summer of the second year. Results are published for these examinations during August of the same year.

What subjects will I study?

For students in year 7 – 9 (age 11 -13), all subjects will be studied, giving students the opportunity to experience and learn about many different things. The core subjects, English, Mathematics and Sciences are studied throughout years 7 – 11, where other subjects, such as Art, Music and Technology can be either studied until GCSE or dropped in favour of other subjects, such as Business or Humanities. Typically students entering year 10 will study around ten subjects which they will pursue to GCSE. For year 12 entry, students normally study three subjects of their choice to an in depth level.

What will a boarding school be like?

As with all schools, boarding schools vary, however in the lower years it is most likely that you will share a bedroom and bathrooms with others. As you progress through the school, and particularly in sixth form, it is more likely that you will have your own room to sleep and study.

The boarding house will have house parents, who live on the premises to look after you, along with other staff to assist you. All meals are provided and snacks are available outside of mealtimes.

A great advantage of boarding school life is the wide range of activities and experiences, which gives you the opportunity to develop a multitude of skills and interests that can often contribute to career development.

Will I have to wear school uniform?

Up to completion on year 11, students are expected to wear full school uniform. Guidance on individual schools uniform policy is provided once a school place is offered. For students in sixth form, years 12/13, dress is smart casual or business wear.

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