Education in UK.
This explanatory text is about independent schools in the United Kingdom and about universities in the United Kingdom. These schools are said to be ‘independent’ because they are no under the direct control of the government. They do have to follow some laws set by the government. Independent schools are sometimes called ‘public school’. This is confusing because independent schools are fee paying schools. They are open to the public just like a five star hotel is open to the public. They are open to people who have the money. Rather than use the expression ‘public school’ many people now call them ‘independent schools’. In the United Kingdom people seldom use the term ‘private school’ even though this would make more sense. This is because independent schools are almost never businesses – they are charities. Independent schools are usually run as a charitable trust. This is counter-intuitive since the beneficiaries of these charities are usually wealthy children who attend such financially exclusive schools. The schools were founded sometimes by the king, sometimes by a church, sometimes by a wealthy merchant and occasionally by a donation from a company. Any extra money they have is not profit to be given to an owner or to shareholders. Leftover money is put into improving the facilities of the school or providing a subsidized or even a free education for children for middle income or low income families. Private school in the UK meant that very small number of schools that really were run as business where a profit was made and there are virtually none of those.
Although the following information is mainly about independent schools much of it is also true of state schools. State schools are those schools that charge no fees and are funded by the taxpayer. These schools are under the control of the government. About 93% of children in the United Kingdom attend state schools. Only 7% attend independent schools.
Independent Primary schools are often called Preparatory Schools. They are ‘preparatory’ in that they prepare pupils for their secondary school. Prep schools take pupils aged 7-13. Some prep schools have a junior section which take pupils even from the age of 4. There are hundreds of preparatory schools in the UK. They are known as Prep Schools for short.
Primary School refers to the fact that the school is educating younger children aged 4-11 or even sometimes aged 4-13.
1. At what age do children start school?
Children start school aged 4. The first year in School is called Reception. Children turn 5 during this school year. The next year of School is called Year 1 during which they turn 6. The next year is called Year 2 and so on. Before the age of 4 many children attended nurseries but that is not compulsory. In nursery children generally do not learn to read.
2. Are schools often single sex?
The majority of schools are mixed. Quite a few are single sex. It is quite easy to get into an all girls’ school. There are not many of them. They tend to be small schools and not so well-funded. They have difficulty attracting pupils so they often take girls with poor academic results. Of course a smart girl can do there and some of the pupils at girls’ schools are very brainy. All boys’ schools tend to be the very prestigious ones that have managed to maintain all-male status. They were founded centuries ago and are very well endowed. They are usually schools with hundreds of pupils and superb facilities.
3. Do most schools have uniforms?
Yes, almost every school has a uniform. Some schools have a dress code instead. The dress code tends to be for pupils in their last two years at school. The last two years at school are Year 12 and Year 13. Collectively these are known as Sixth Form.
4. Do many schools have a religious affiliation?
Yes, a majority of schools have a religious affiliation. Many schools are either Church of England schools or Roman Catholic schools. A handful of schools are Methodist or Jewish. The fact that a school is attached to a particular religious denomination does not have to be much. Schools accept pupils who do not belong to that same religious denomination. However, most pupils will be members of the religious community that the school belongs to. A school with a religious character will have worship according to the rites of that denomination. This might be once a week it might be every day. Some schools with a religious character have their faith as a low key thing. Others are very intense about it.
5. What is the usual number of children in a class?
25 pupils is about the maximum number of pupils in a classroom at one time. In Primary School (up to the age 11) the teacher often has a teaching assistant there too. The best schools have smaller class sizes. In excellent schools class sizes can be very small – as few as 4 in one class. Secondary Schools tend to have smaller class sizes especially in unpopular subjects like Physics, Latin, Russian or Ancient History.
6. At what age can you attend boarding school?
Pupils can start boarding school at the aged of 7. It is very rare to begin boarding school this young. Pupils tend to begin boarding older such as the age of 11 or 13. It is easiest to get in to a boarding school very young since very few pupils apply to start at such an age. Moreover, the school will make more money by having the pupil there for longer.
7. How common is boarding?
Boarding is rare. About 5% of the British population attends boarding school. These are often British people living overseas. To attend a boarding school aged 7 is extremely rare. To be a boarder by the age of 16 is not as rare.
8. What are the fees for boarding schools?
Fees for boaring schools vary enormously. GBP 25 000 is about the cheapest for a secondary boarding school. Eton costs GBP 34 0000 a year. Millfield is the most expensive school of all and its fees are GBP 40 000. Fees cover accommodation, meals, lessons, most sports and so on. Musical instrument lessons are extra. Certain activities such as riding or theatre trips cost extra. The fees do not include the cost of the uniform.
9. What subjects do children do in primary school?
Children start off by doing English and Maths. English is often called Literacy. Later on more subjects are added. They may so some Science, Information Technology, Physical Education, Drama, Art and Music. The best schools start a foreign language which is usually French. The ablest linguists may try another modern language such as Spanish. Very brainy pupils will then begin Latin. Outstanding pupils will try Ancient Greek. Primary schools dip into History and Geography sometimes. They may also do Religious Studies.
10. What is the system for numbering the school years?
Pupils begin in Reception. The nexy year is called Year 1. Then it is Year 2. Then it is Year 3 and so forth. The last year of school is Year 13. Year 12 and Year 13 together are known as Sixth Form. Many schools have their own sui generis manner of naming the year groups but the national system is as described above.
11. How often do children in primary school do official tests?
Yes, children in Primary school do public examinations. The main pubic exams for Primary school pupils are for those aged 7 and 11. There are additional public exams that schools can choose to do every year of a child’s life. Not many school bother to put children in for public exams every single year because this would be too time consuming and stressful for the children.
12. What sports do people play in primary school?
In Primary school pupils play many different sports such as football, basketball, rugby, netball, cricket and tennis. Very few schools offer rowing. There is also hockey. In the United Kingdom this is field hockey and not ice hockey. Field Hockey in the UK is for both boys and girls. In the USA field hockey is a girls’ sport.
13. Do many men teach in primary school?
No, not many men teach in Primary schools. Overall about 70% of teachers are women. But in Primary schools around 90% of teachers are female. If a man applies for a job as a Primary school teacher he usually gets it because schools are very keen to have male teachers. Little boys are often only taught by women up to the age of 11. They then get the notion that reading and writing is feminine and they are put off education. Many children come from broken homes and they do not know their fathers well. Having male influence in the child’s life is seen as positive.
14. Do they learn a foreign language in primary school?
A few schools have a foreign language. The better the school the more likely it is to introduce a foreign language. The first foreign language is usually French and the second foreign language is now usually Spanish. German has all but disappeared from British school. A handful of schools have introduced Chinese because French is not so useful.
Some schools do not do modern languages in Primary School because they say their pupils cannot master written English so it would be futile to confuse them with another language.
15. What proportion of schoolchildren are Chinese?
About 2% of the children at British schools are Chinese or of Chinese origin. Often they are Hong Kongers or Chinese Malaysian. The first boy from mainland China to attend Eton started in 1997. The proportion of pupils of Chinese stock is higher in London than elsewhere. Some schools have an especially high proportion of Chinese pupils. For instance Rodean (an illustrious girls’ school) is about 20% Chinese.
16. What is the system for awarding grades to work?
A* is the best grade. It is pronounced ‘A Star’. Below that is A then B, then C, then D. E is the lowest pass grade. Grade U is below and E grade and a U is a fail. Grade U is so terrible that is has no value. Even an E grade has some value. In reality an E is very bad. Grade C is the lowest grade that indicates that work is satisfactory. A* grades are quite rare. About 7% of results are awarded an A* grade.
17. At what age does secondary school begin?
Some secondary schools take pupils aged 11. They start in Year 7. Other secondary schools being aged 13 and these pupils join the school in Year 9.
18. Are there entrance exams to secondary schools?
Yes, there are entrance examinations. These are usually 11+ or 13+. 11+ is because the pupil will begin the school at the age of 11. The girl or boy will be either aged 10 or 11 when she or he sits the exam. The 13+ is for the girl or boy to begin the school at the aged of 13. The child will be 12 or 13 when she or he takes the exam.
These consist of English, Maths, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning. Sometimes they have the pupils sit tests in Science or other subjects such as History, Geography, Religious Studies, French and Latin.
There are Common Entrance papers. It is called ‘’Common Entrance’’ because most 300 or so independent schools in the United Kingdom have Common Entrance as the admission test. So it is ‘common’ to hundreds of schools. The advantage of this system is that a child can attend any Primary school and then go to any public school by sitting the same exam. A Primary school does not have to prepare Louis for Harrow’s special exam; to prepare Sadie for St Mary’s Calne’s unique exam to prepare Alice for the different exam that is set by Queen Ethelburga’s school and so on. All pupils in the class can be prepared for the same exam regardless of which school they are going on to.
Note that it is MOST secondary schools that use Common Entrance as their admission test. Some of them do NOT use Common Entrance but have their own entrance exam that is a little different from Common Entrance.
19. Are there middle schools?
There are not many middle schools. Usually there are just two sorts of school by age group: Primary School and Secondary School. There are a handful of Middle Schools which educate pupils aged 9-13.
20. What are the 20 top independent schools in the country?
This question cannot be answered definitively. Necessarily this is somewhat a matter of opinion. There are league tables published each summer that rank schools according to their exam results. Different newspapers calculate this differently. Moreover, most schools do A levels but some do the International Baccalaureate. It is hard to find a fair way of establishing equivalency between results in one system and results in the other. A school does much more than produce exam results. We need to take into account sports, music, plays, the facilities, the happiness of the pupils and the characteristics that the school imbues them with. Such criteria defy any numerical expression. We consider the overall prestige of the school and naturally the oldest schools have the best established reputations. Below is one attempt to list the top 20 schools.
9 of these are part of the ‘Clarendon Nine’. They are called this because in the 1860s Parliament had Lord Clarendon spent a couple of years leading an inquiry into public schools and producing a report on public schools. He investigated the nine most honourable schools in the country. His report became the basis for the Public Schools Act which was a law passed by Parliament to regulate such schools.
The top 20 independent schools in the country are roughly as follows. The Clarendon Nine: Eton (boys), Harrow (boys), Winchester (boys), Merchant Taylor’s (mixed), Shrewsbury (mixed), Charterhouse (mixed), Westminster (mixed), St Paul’s (separate boys and girls schools under the same name) and Uppingham (mixed).
Others are Wellington College (mixed), Oundle (mixed), Sherborne (separate boys and girls schools under the same name in the same town), Radley (boys), Rugby (mixed), Gordonstoun (mixed), Fettes (mixed), The Perse School (separate boys and girls school under the same name in the same town), Wycombe Abbey (girls), St Mary’s Ascot (girls) and St George’s Ascot (girls).
Note that Wellington College, which is very famous, is not the same place as Wellington School which is all but known.
Many schools have the word ‘college’ in the name. In the United Kingdom a college can mean a secondary school – for example Eton College, Winchester College, Radley College etc…
21. Is it easier to get into a boys’ school or a mixed one?
It is easier to get into a mixed one. Boys’ schools often suffered falling numbers in the 1970s and 1980s due to economic difficulties. Some of them took girls in the Sixth Form to make up numbers. Eventually many of them went mixed throughout. The schools that have managed to remain all male are the highly successful ones. They tend to be ancient and wealthy. They produce an excellent crop of exam results each year and they are renowned.
Mixed schools are usually the second tier ones.
22. Is it easier to get into a girls’ school or a mixed one?
It is generally easier to get into a girls’ school than a mixed one. Until the late 19th century female education was considered unimportant. There were not many girls’ schools and there were no universities that admitted women until the 1860s. Boys schools had already existed for centuries. The boys’ schools were often amply endowed and had superb facilities. These glorious boys’ schools started to go mixed in the 1970s. They are already large and could afford better gymnasia, swimming pools, larger libraries, proper theatres and so on. They were also famous because they had been around for so long. Girls’ schools started haemorrhaging pupils as their girls left to go to formerly boys’ schools that had turned mixed. Some girls’ schools went bust.
Girls’ schools tend to be for those aged 11-18. Mixed schools tend to be for pupils aged 11-18. Therefore by the age of 16 a girl will have been in that same school for 5 years. She may well be bored of it. Girls often choose to switch to mixed schools at that point. Often they wish to meet boys at that stage of their lives.
Girls’ schools do not have enough applicants. This means that have to take almost anyone who applies. That does not mean that all the girls who attend them are below par academically. There are very clever girls who attend them. Some of these schools produce excellent results.
23. Which schools have the highest proportion of Chinese pupils?
Shrewsbury, Rodean and St Paul’s are all know to have a large number of Chinese pupils.
24. Are schools near the capital the best?
There is not much of a geographical pattern to this. School in or near London are not necessarily the best. Certain schools dominate certain regions. Rugby is the most notable school in the West Midlands of England. Gordonstoun is the most illustrious school in the north of Scotland. Sherborne is the most magnificent school in south-west England.
Boarding was always a father-led phenomenon. Married women usually work now. As they make a financial contribution then tend to demand a share in the decision-making. Women, being more sentimental on the whole than men, are less inclined to see their children attend boarding school especially at an early age. This has meant that British boarding schools have difficult in attracting so many British pupils who are living in the UK. The British military abroad often paid for the children of officers to attend boarding schools in the UK. This has been cut back. The same is true of the British diplomatic service. Moreover, British businesspeople abroad often send their children to British schools overseas such as the British School of Shanghai or the British School of Moscow. So fewer Britishers living abroad send their children back to boarding school in the United Kingdom.
British boarding schools have dealt with this in a number of ways. They take more foreign pupils. They also have weekly boarders. A weekly boarder sleeps at the school 5 nights a week and goes home on the weekend.
Even those pupils who are boarders tend to be at a school within a two hour drive of their home. This enables the parents to visit the child frequently.
Schools that were formerly all boarding now take some day pupils as well.
The cost of running schools went up because government regulation insisted on more supervision of pupils. This led to a rise in staffing costs. Boarding schools used to have rather primitive dormitories and bad food. The dormitories have become more comfortable and the food has improved immeasurably. Schools have competed by building astro turf pitches, purpose-built theatres, Olympic size swimming pools and so forth. All this has led to fees rising astronomically. Middle class Britishers who could previously afford such schools have found them priced out of such schools.
25. Describe a typical school day for secondary pupils?
Boarders will get up at about 7.30. There will be a rising bell. Then they will have to get dressed and go to breakfast. In many schools there is a brief assembly of chapel service at about 8.30
Lessons usually commence at 9 am. A lesson is about 40 minutes. Sometimes there is a double lesson which means 1 hour and 20 minutes. This is especially so in subjects that need a long time to get going such as PE, Art or Drama.
There is a mid morning break at about 10.30. This lasts roughly 30 minutes. During this time pupils have a snack.
There will be another two or three lessons before luncheon. Luncheon may be in one large dining room for the whole school. In some cases it is in a small dining room in the boarding house. Meals usually follow a cafeteria pattern. More rarely pupils will be seated and have a more formal meal that is served to them.
After luncheon there will be games in the winter and then two more lessons once it is getting dark. In the summer there will be a couple more lessons and then games. This varies according to the number of hours of daylight.
Lessons or games will finish at about 5 pm. Then pupils will go back to their boarding hosues to start on homework. They will do about two hours a night. The younger pupils will do less and the older ones shall do more.
Dinner will be served at about 7 pm.
Sometimes there are things to do after dinner such as training for a special sport in the gym such as squash. There might be a debating society meeting. There could be a play on in the school theatre. Pupils will also have some free time to pursue hobbies or socialize.
Bedtimes will be staggered according to age. Pupils will have to go to bed any time from 9 pm up to 11 pm.
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27. Do most schools have a school song?
Yes, most schools have a school song. This is sung at large gatherings in the school. This is always sung at the last service or assembly of the term. Examples include ‘’The Eton Boating Song’’ or the song of Harrow School which is ‘’Forty Years On.’’ Gordonstoun uses a German hymn in translation ‘’We kneel and appeal to the God of all justice…’’
28. How often do pupils play sport?
Pupils play sport most days. This is on top of PE lessons which are twice weekly.
British public schools tend to subscribe to the view that one needs a healthy body for a healthy mind. Parents buy into the notion that their children must exercise daily.
29. Which sports to they play?
Almost all sports are available at the best schools. These include sports previously mention but they also include more unusual sports such as riding, sailing and rowing. There is even shooting. Boxing is now outlawed at school.
30. Is it prestigious to be good at games?
Yes, it is considered to be very prestigious to be good at games. This is especially so in the case of boys. A boy who is a gifted sportsman will be popular with his peers. If a boy is very bad at games life will be difficult for him.
31. What artistic activities go on at schools?
At these schools there are Art lessons. Art soon become optional in Secondary Schools. Art as a subject includes painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture and photography. It can include textiles. Drama is a subject that also becomes optional. Those who do not do Drama as a subject can still take part in plays. Sometimes Drama is called Theatre Studies. There will be a choir to sing in chapel and maybe some choruses for non-religious singing. There will be an orchestra and sometimes there will be bands playing other sorts of music such as swing, jazz or rock music. Pupils are often encouraged to form their own bands and to rehearse in their free time. Schools sometimes hold informal concerts for music other than classical music.
32. How stringent in discipline?
Discipline varies considerably. Some schools are very strict and the school is very orderly.
A boarder represents GBP 30 000 a year to the school. A school cannot easily replace such a person. They are reluctant to expel pupils because this would be a financial loss. Schools sometimes fail to expel extremely rude and disruptive pupils even when they should do so. The best schools have the best discipline. The worst schools have trouble attracting pupils and they are therefore loathe to exclude bad pupils.
Possession of drugs usually leads to expulsion as does having sex at school. Violent bullying is also an expulsion offence. This can include threatening another pupil with a knife.
33. What is done about bullying?
There are rules against bullying and all schools are required to have policies on this. Schools vary in how stringently they enforce these. Some schools are too harsh and suspend pupils for saying a rude word to another pupil. Others are too lax and they look the other way when older pupils are cruel to younger ones. Most schools get it about right.
34. How much are the fees?
Fees vary from GBP 25 000 a year for boarding up to GBP 40 000 for boarding. Millfield is the most expensive because it has superb sports facilities. Preparatory schools are cheaper than their secondary equivalents. Schools in the London area are more expensive because the cost of property is more and the teachers need to be paid more to reflect the higher cost of living in the London vicinity.
Day fees are roughly half of boarding fees.
35. How can I tell a good school from a bad one?
How is the school doing in exam league tables? How do educational consultants consider the school? Does it take a huge number of pupils from abroad? That is a bad sign. This means not enough British pupils will go there.
Is there a high turnover of staff? That is a bad sign. A superb school will attract excellent teachers and keep them for a long time.
How hard are the entrance exams? A school that will take anyone is not worth going to.
36. Are children allowed out for the weekend?
In boarding schools children are usually allowed out for a few weekends to stay with their family or with their friends’ families. For instance if a Chinese girl is in school in the United Kingdom and her parents come to the UK for a while she will be allowed to go and stay with them for a weekend. She may also go and stay at the house of a British friend. The number of weekends a pupil is allowed out is limited. It might be two per term. It also varies according to age. The older one are allowed more weekends off.
37. Is it bad to be a boarder in a school with mostly day pupils?
This is not ideal. If 9 out of 10 pupils at a school are day pupils they obviously they get more attention. The boarders are somewhat neglected.
Most independent schools are boarding schools with a few day pupils. A handful of schools are resolutely 100% boarding.
38. What are the rules on guardianship?
Everyone under the age of 18 who does not have his or her parents living in the United Kingdom must have a legal guardian who is living in the UK.. This legal guardian is often a relative such as an aunt. It can be an older sibling. It could be a friend of the family. Some legal guardians are people who are paid to perform this role. The legal guardian must be an adult of any nationality. The guardian can be either gender. He or she may do a lot or may do a little depending on what is agreed with the parents.
The guardian is kept informed by the school as much as the parents are. If a child is in disciplinary trouble the guardian is informed and may be called in to meet the teachers.
If a pupil is suspended or expelled he or she goes to the guardian’s house. The guardian and the parents must then make arrangements for the pupil. He or she may be found another school or else flown out of the country.
The guardian is in loco parentis – that is a legal status meaning ‘in place of the parents.’ Supposing a child falls gravely ill and medical treatment is needed. The school will try to contact the parents for legal permission for medical treatment. If the parents cannot be contacted immediately then the guardian has the legal power to authorize or refuse some medical treatment.
39. What are expulsion offences?
Drugs and heavy violence.
40. What are weekly boarders?
They stay the school 5 nights and a week and go home every weekend. Some schools have a lot of weekly boarders. Sometimes parents live nearby but work very long hours so they would have very little time for their children Monday to Friday so weekly boarding makes sense.
Full boarders are those who stay at school even over the weekend.
41. Can a child live with a guardian an attend school as a day pupil?
Yes, this is possible but very unusual. The school will need to agree to this arrangement.
42. Which schools are mixed in the sixth form?
Quite a few schools are mixed in the Sixth Form for example Westminster School and Rugby School.
43. Which schools are the hardest to get into?
Eton, Winchester, St Paul’s, Westminster, Wycombe Abbey and St Mary’s Ascot are the most difficult schools to get into. Their admissions requirements are high. Pupils must also register for them very early.
44. Are there schools that specialize in teaching low ability pupils?
Yes, some schools are best at teaching those who are academically subnormal. Ampleforth is best at helping pupils with severe learning difficulties. There are smart pupils there but they are few. Bruern Abbey is a school for boys who are scholastically feeble.
45. Which schools specialize in teaching those with English as a second language?
Yes, there are several. Sherborne Boys’ School and Sherborne Girls’ School are British schools in the town of Sherborne. There are foreign pupils in Sherborne Boys’ and Sherborne Girls’ so long as they speak excellent English. In that same town is Sherborne International School. Sherborne International is a mixed school for those who speak English as an additional language. It has many pupils from China, Spain, Russia and Saudi Arabia. It teaches them through English. After a year or two they can transfer to the main Sherborne – girls or boys. They could go on to another school such as Sedbergh or Worth. Alternatively they may stay at that same school for the rest of their education.
King’s Ely School is a small school near Cambridge. King’s Ely is a mixed school for British pupils. There are foreign pupils there who speak fluent English. There is King’s Ely International which is a separate school in the same town. King’s Ely International is for those who speak English as a second language. Girls and boys go there for a year or two to get their English up to speed. They can then transfer to the main King’s Ely. They could continue in King’s Ely International or perhaps go to another school altogether.
Queen Ethelburga’s School in Yorkshire takes a lot of pupils with English as an additional language.
Some schools have pupils with limited English concede a year. For instance a boy who is 12 may be put in a class with 11 year olds to make up for the fact that his English is below par. This means he will finish school aged 19 rather than the usual 18.
46. Which schools get the best academic results?
Westminster gets more pupils into Oxford and Cambridge than any other.
The best schools for academic results are Winchester, Wycombe Abbey, Eton and St Mary’s Ascot.
47. What subjects are compulsory in lower secondary school?
Lower secondary means Years 9, 10 and 11. The obligatory subjects are English, Maths, Information Technology (Computers), Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Most pupils will do a modern language (mostly French) and a Humanities subject such as History or Geography. There are many optional subjects that pupils can pick such as Latin, Ancient History, Electronics and so on. There are rare subjects that very few schools offer such as Geology. The most intellectually elite pupils do Ancient Greek.
48. What public exams will the child have to sit in his or her mid teens?
Pupils do a set of exams called the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). To pass GCSE a pupil needs to pass five subjects including English and Maths. This is extremely easy. To be considered to have done well a pupil needs five C grades or above. This is not hard at all. Many pupils do far more than five subjects. Doing ten is common. The brainiest ones do fifteen.
49. Will the child have a personal tutor at the school?
Yes, a child will be assigned a form tutor. A form is a group of pupils who are from the same age cohort. The tutor will not teach them as such. He or she will meet these pupils and speak to them about Personal Social and Health Education. He or she will be the point of contact for the school and the parents. He or she will monitor the academic progress and general wellbeing of these pupils. The tutor is usually separate from the housemaster or housemistress.
50. What do you mean by dormitory?
A dormitory is a large bedroom that is shared by a few pupils. This could be as few as 4 pupils or as many as 14. Dormitories are always single sex.
Many schools provide single bedrooms especially for Sixth Formers. Sometimes two pupils of the same gender share a room.
51. What is a house in a boarding school?
Boarding schools are divided into houses. These are normally separate buildings. The pupils all belong to a boarding house and that is where they go and sleep. A boarding house has a housemaster in the case of a boys’ house or a housemistress in the case of a girls’ house. The housemaster or housemistress is like a parent for the pupils. Housemaster and housemistress are often abbreviated to HSM. Sometimes people say houseparent because it is neuter. The parents can contact this person about anything to do with their offspring. The HSM lives in the house.
Houses have house flags and house games shirts. They compete against each other in sports, in academic prizes and cultural events. They put on house plays. One of the pupils is appointed the house captain.
A house typically has 50 pupils. It is a reasonably small community where everyone knows everyone. Schools can have over 1 000 pupils so being in a house means things are more manageable and less intimidating than being lost in an enormous community.
52. Is there any anti-Chinese sentiment?
There is very little Chinese sentiment in the United Kingdom. The small amount of racism that exists in the United Kingdom is directed towards Muslim people and Eastern Europeans. Chinese people have lived in the UK for almost 400 years. At first miniscule numbers of Chinese folk lived in this country. Now over 1% of the population is of Chinese origin. There are Chinatowns in Liverpool, Manchester and London. About 14% of the population of the UK is non-white so Chinese pupils are not the only ones of non-European origin.
53. Is there a discount for sending a second sibling to a school?
Yes, there usually is such a discount. These are often small like 10% off the second child and 20% off the third child. Sometimes these discounts only apply while the children are all in school. For instance, Annabelle goes to school and pays the full fee. Her sister Belinda joins the school next year and there is a 10% discount for Belinda but the parents are still charge the full fee for Annabelle. When Annabelle finishes school Belinda’s parents are charged the full fees for Belinda for the remainder of her time. Fee discounts usually apply to step siblings and half siblings.
54. What are the visa rules?
You need to apply for a student visa in good time. The government wish to see that someone is coming to study and not to work illegally. They also want to know that the parents have the money to pay for the child. You will need to deposit a specified amount of money in a bank account for at least 28 days and leave it there. If you withdraw some of this before 28 days are completed then the visa will be refused. The rules are always changing.
There are also school visit visas. For instance if you wish to visit schools to take a look then there is a special visa for that. School will know what to do to support these applications. The visa will expire some time after the pupil has finished the course. The pupil will not have to leave the country the very next day! The visa will usually run on for another 2 months after the end of the course to allow the pupil to pack things up and say goodbye.
55. What are the holidays?
There is a week of half term in October. There is a holiday around Christmas and New Year for about three weeks. There is a half term in mid February for one week. There is an Easter holiday in late March/early April for two or three weeks. There is a half term in late May/early June for about one week. The summer holidays begin the last week of June or first week of July depending on the school. The whole of August is off. Term beings the first week of September. Note that the religious holidays follow the Western ecclesiastical calendar and not the Orthodox calendar.
56. How rigorous is the curriculum?
The curriculum is fairly rigorous in the Humanities. Pupils have to think for themselves: to come up with opinions and defend them with hard evidence. Maths and Sciences are at a lower level than in Russia. Likewise the standard in languages is low. A Britisher who can converse in a foreign language is considered to be highly intelligent.
57. What are optional subjects in the early teens?
In the early teens anything apart from Maths, English, Science, a modern language and IT is optional. The options are History, Geography, Religious Studies, Citizenship, Ancient Greek, Latin, Drama, Art and Music.
58. What subject must pupils do in their last two years of schooling?
There are no compulsory subjects in these two years in A level schools. The IB system has already been adumbrated.
59. What are optional subjects in their last 2 years of school?
In their last two years pupils can do almost anything. All the subjects mentioned above can be done. Some subjects are only available in these last two years such as History of Art, Economics, Business, Politics and Law. Very few schools offer Law.
60. How easy is it to change school?
It is easy to change school if going to a bad one that is desperate for pupils. To get into a good one midway through the course is difficult. The obvious times to change schools are the start of Year 9 or Year 12. To change mid way through Year 10 for instance is problematic. People are in the middle of a course. The Geography that a boy has done at Worth School may not be the same Geography that they do at Downside School. One school may do a project in Zimbabwe and the other a project on Nepal for example.
GCSEs are run by three different exam boards: OCR, AQA and Edexcel. Different schools use different exam boards. The exam boards have slightly different curricula. They are supposed to be all equally challenging.
61. What is the university application procedure?
In the autumn of Year 13 pupils may start to apply. They apply via UCAS – Universities and College Application Service. This is a four page form. There is some biodata to fill in and also a personal statement of up to 4000 characters. The school will write a secret reference about the pupil. All exam results and predictions to date are stated.
UCAS needs to be applied through by 15 January. One can apply for five courses. Over the coming months universities make conditional offers. As in they will accept Hannah if she achieve grade C in Geography, Grade C in Spanish, grade B in English and grade B in Maths – for instance. Exam results come out in July. All being well she will start her course in October. That will be a year after the application process opened for her.
62. What are the top 10 universities in the country?
The top 10 are Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, LSE, Edinburgh, Bristol, Durham, Warwick, Nottingham and Manchester. This is approximate and looking at overall prestige. There are legal tables and these fluctuate from year to year.
63. How can one distinguish a good university from a bad one?
Is it hard to get in? Does it charge the maximum fees? Does it offer interviews? Does if offer Medicine? Does it not advertise? Does it mainly do traditional subjects that you have heard of rather than new fangled ones? If they answer to all of these is yes then it is a good university. A superb university does not need to advertise.
64. How can one maximizes one’s chances of getting into a great university?
Apply for an unpopular subject such as Classical Civilisation, Religious Studies, Norwegian or Physics. Apply to one that is far from London. Prepare for the interview with mock interviews. Read up on the university and come across as enthusiastic. In the case of Oxford and Cambridge do an open application which is to say do not specify a college that one wishes to attend.
65. At university does one study a single subject or several?
usually one takes a single subject. It is possible to do joint honours – as in a degree in two subjects such as French and Spanish or Maths and Physics. They can be two unrelated subjects such as Philosophy and Business or Portuguese and Biology.
66. How long does a Bachelor’s degree take?
A Bachelor’s degrees normally takes three years. In the case of a language it is usually four years. Medicine takes five years likewise Veterinary Medicine. Architecture takes seven years.
67. What are the fees?
Overseas fees are from GBP 13 000 for most subjects. This covers lectures, exams, access to libraries. Extras include food, clothes, accommodation, books etc…
Scientific subjects cost more like GBP 20 000.
Medicine and allied subjects cost about GBP 30 000.
68. What subjects have the best and the worst employment prospects?
Law, Business and Economics have the best employment prospects. Modern language graduates have fairly good employment prospects. Job opportunities for Humanities graduates are not great. The worst job outlook is for those with degrees in soft subjects such as Art, Drama, Media Studies, Cultural Studies etc…
69. Can you start Medicine at the age of 18?
Yes, you can start Medicine at this age and graduate aged 23. The next two years a doctor works as a junior officer and sit regular exams. After that age there are more exam through the rest of one’s career.
70. Can you start Law at the age of 18?
Yes, you can start it at that age. A law degree takes three years unless it is Law with Law Studies in Europe which lasts four years. After a Law degree there are at least two further years of full-time study to become a lawyer.
71. How do students succeed at university?
They take a subject that they like. They study hard and they attend lectures. They put in a lot of time to written work. They seek help when they need it. They do not overburden them with too many extracurricular activities nor do they do too much paid work. They keep themselves happy. They hone their exam skills. They do their coursework early. They arrange a job or further study before graduating so that stress is gone.
72. Which universities have the most Chinese students?
Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, Imperial, Manchester and Warwick have the most Chinese students.
73. What is the grading system for degrees?
A First class degree is the best. Then there is a ”two one” degree (written as 2:1). Then there is a ”two two” degree (written as 2:2). Then there is a third class degree (3rd).
A degree in a science subject will be awarded a Bachelor of Science – B.Sc. A degree in a Humanities subject will get a Bachelor of Arts – B.A.
74. Do the students have to live in university accommodation?
In the first year they do. Thereafter they do not but this option is offered.
75. How safe are students in university?
They are very safe. There are lit paths. People in their mid 20s are there to help the undergraduates. There is CCTV and security guards.
76. What is the drop out rate?
The drop out rate is about 10%. It varies a lot according to university and subject. The least intelligent pupils are the most likely to drop out.
77. Why do people drop out?
They are poorly motivated. They fail their exams. They have problems in their personal lives. A university will not admit someone who cannot complete the course. Dropping out is seldom due to not being capable of doing the subject.
78. How easy is it to change subject or university?
In the first month one can change university but this is not automatic. Universities are loathe to accept people at that stage. The top universities will not accept people at this stage. One can move from a mid level university to a low level one. It is impossible to trade up at this stage. CHanging midway through a degree is very rare and problematic.
Changing subject is unusual and it is not easy. One has to change to a subject with an admission tariff with the same score or a lower score than you achieved for your current subject. For instance, if someone scored AABB to read English then this person could change to read History if it also required AABB. However with those results if you wanted to read Law which required AAAA then you would not be allowed to do so.
79. What is meant by college in your country?
A college can mean a secondary school.
A college can mean a place of tertiary education which offers courses up to Bachelor’s level but not beyond. It can mean a constituent institution of a university.
For instance Oxford University is divided into thirty-nine colleges. In this case a college is like a dormitory or a fraternity.
80. What are the arrangements about Master’s degrees in your country?
A Master’s degree takes one or two years full-time depending on the subject. It is possible to do it part-time. So degree that would normally be one year full-time is two years part-time. So a degree that would be two years full-time is four years part-time.
Some Master’s degrees can be applied for via UCAS and some not depending on the policy of the university. The top universities do not use UCAS. There are interviews in many cases. A university will want to see an academic transcript and some samples of work.
81. Are there post study work visas?
No, sadly post study work visas have been abolished.
82. How does one need to prove proficiency in English in order to enter a university?
One may have to sit IELTS or TOEFL. Those who have had all their education conducted through the English language will be excused.
83. What is IELTS?
This is the International English Language Testing System. There are two sorts of IELTS – General and Academic. For the purpose of getting into university only the academic IELTS is acceptable. This requires reading, writing, speaking and listening. Speaking is done on a different day from the others. This can be done at a British Council. It costs over GBP 100 and is valid for two years. There are grades 1 to 9. These can be given as decimals such as 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 etc… There is no pass mark. Each course decides it own admission criterion.
84. What is TOEFL?
This is Test of English as Foreign Language. TOEFL is like IELTS. TOEFL involves many short multiple choice questions. It requires the four skills – reading, writing, speaking and listening.
85. Where do the leaders of the country study?
Oxford and Cambridge. Almost every university educated Prime Minister has attended one of these universities. The only exceptions are Gordon Brown who attended Edinburgh and Neville Chamberlain who attended Mason College which later became Birmingham University.
86. How long are university holidays?
University holidays are very long. The Autumn Term usually begins at the start of October. It ends in early December. The next term (Spring) begins in mid January and goes on until mid March or late March depending on the date of Easter. The Summer Term is from late April until late June. It varies a little between universities. Some universities have half terms – optimistically called reading weeks.
Those who are in the Clinical Stage of Medicine have only 4 weeks off a year. It is like having a full-time job. The same is true of Dentistry of Veterinary Medicine.
87. How much of a degree is assessed by exams and how much by written projects?
Degrees are largely assessed by exams sat in an exam hall. There are some written projects but these rarely count for more than 10% of a degree result. Some subjects are assessed by practicals such as Chemistry or Drama.
88. What subjects are not worth doing?
Subjects that have very long course titles are seldom worth doing. If you have never heard of a subject it may not be with doing. These are subjects such as the much maligned Media Studies, Cultural Studies, American Studies and so on. American Studies will include Literature by American writers, the History of the United States, the American Economy, the Geography of the United States and so on.
89. How much teaching time does a student get?
Undergraduates do not get much contact time. They seldom have more than three contact hours a week. These are lectures and tutorials. In a lecture there will be dozens of students and possibly hundreds. A tutorial at Oxford and Cambridge will have perhaps three undergraduates and a tutor. At other universities there may be 20 undergraduates in a tutorial.
Students are not kept busy because the university cannot afford to employ enough people to keep the students occupied. There are endless books that undergraduates can read. There are not that many pieces of written work to do. Many undergraduates have enough time to do a part-time job.
Subjects such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Medicine and Engineering will have more contact hours since students need to do experiments under supervision.
90. Which subjects are the most demanding?
Medicine and Engineering are like having a full-time job. An undergraduate will be busy for 40 hours a week with tutorials, lectures and experiments.
91. Should I get someone to assist with my university application?
Yes, it is a very wise idea to have an educational consultant guide you through this process. She or he can draft you UCAS personal statement, advice on courses to apply for and provide interview practice.
92. What ongoing support can I get from an educational consultant whilst at university?
Yes, you can get this. This will include guidance with dissertations and extra tutorials.
93. Can I do paid work whilst a student?
Overseas students can do up to 20 hours a week paid work in term time and up to 40 hours a week in holiday time. This is not strictly policed.
94. Can I do unpaid internships whilst a student?
Yes, this is permitted.
95. What is student life like?
Student life is very fun and many people are nostalgic about it later. There is a lot of drinking. There are many societies and clubs involving all sorts of activities such from singing to rowing to chess to debating. It is well worthwhile joining a few clubs to meet people outside one’s subject.
96. What are the fun events of the university year?
At Oxford there is May Morning. On 30th April there are huge all night parties. There are also bumping races – rowing races where boats try to bump the race in front. People who are not racing still celebrate. There are college balls.
Cambridge has May WEEK which is a week of parties. It is celebrated in June.
Many universities have balls and other parties near the end of the year.
97. What are the major sports matches between universities?
Yes, there are many. The most famous ones are the Varsity March. This is between Oxford and Cambridge. These universities play rugger at Twickenham in December.
There is the University Boat Race every March on the Thames. This is between the two great English universities.
98. Can I see a marvelous promotional video from an outstanding university?
SHOW THE VID
SHOW THE VID
99. What is the oldest university in the land?
Oxford. It was founded in the 13th century AD at least. Legends about it go back until the 9th century but these are unlikely to be true.
100. Is it possible to get a full scholarship to universities?
There is the Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford. This is open to citizens of Commonwealth countries, Germany and the United States. These are for postgraduates only. These are for people to begin their course under the age of 25.
Other universities do not offer full scholarships. They offer small amounts of the fees. Sports scholarships are worth as little as 10% off the fees.
One cannot defer fees. One must pay each year up front.