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. 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.
(School years 7-10) 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.
(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.
(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. At the end of year 1 students take AS level examinations. During year 2 they continue with 3 or 4 of these subjects and convert them into full A level qualifications at the end of the year, following their final exams. 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.
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