The school system in the UK varies from country to country. For example, the school systems in Wales, Northern Ireland and England tend to focus on specialized knowledge, whereas the system in Scotland is based on general knowledge.
In the UK, parents can decide whether their little ones should go to a kindergarten (playgroup), toddler group, nursery school or whether they should stay at home. School attendance is only compulsory from the age of 5 to 16.
In the UK it is compulsory to wear a school uniform, but you can choose between a mixed school or an all-girls or boys school.
Most parents here send their children to state schools, for which no school fees have to be paid. Annual fees only have to be paid for private schools, which are also numerous.
The school year is divided into 3 school phases (three terms). Unlike in Germany, the school day starts relatively late, at around 9 a.m. and continues until around 3 p.m. There are around 12-13 weeks of vacation per school year.
The grades in Great Britain consist of the first seven letters of the alphabet. Where A is the best grade and G is the worst. All grades that are worse than C are considered not passed. Nevertheless, all students are automatically transferred to the next higher class. The schools offer various tutoring programs for students with learning difficulties.
The school system
The UK school system can be divided into 5 phases:
1st phase: Early childhood education (pre-school) from 3 to 5 years of age
The parents decide whether their little ones attend a kindergarten (playgroup), a crawling group (toddler group) or a preschool (nursery school). This entitlement exists for 38 weeks per year for 15 hours per week.
Phase 2: Primary School from 5 to 11 years of age
Compulsory schooling begins at 5 years of age (except in Northern Ireland at 4 years of age). The children attend primary school for about 6 years, which is often divided into the “Infant School” (2 years) and the “Junior School” (4 years). During this time the students take 2 SAT tests in which they are tested in reading, writing, arithmetic and spelling.
3rd phase: secondary school from 11 to 16 years of age
For secondary schools, depending on the area, you can choose between the school types comprehensive school (high school), grammar school (grammar school) and other independent, publicly funded schools (academies).
The students can then decide whether to leave the school with the “General Certificate of Standard Education” (GCSE) and begin an education or continue to school.
4th phase: Further education from the age of 16
The pupils can attend the “6th form college” (upper level or grammar school) for a further 2 years. Advanced courses are chosen to develop in a certain direction. Usually the topics are academic.
However, there is also the opportunity to take various vocational school courses that focus on gaining practical experience.
5th phase: higher education
The prerequisite for starting the course is the previous successful completion of the advanced courses. The first degree (Bachelor) is achieved after 3 years. The master’s degree is achieved after one to three years and a doctorate (PhD) often requires a further three years of study.
Applications for a study place must be submitted to the “Universities and Colleges Admissions Service” (UCAS).
Foreign students can either apply as visiting students directly to a UK university or apply for a place at UCAS. You cannot acquire a degree as a visiting student.
Tuition fees depend on the subject and the nationality of the student. Participants in an Erasmus exchange program and BAFöG recipients are exempt from this fee.
Out and about in…
If you are traveling by car yourself, you have to be prepared for 2 things that are quite different from German roads: left-hand traffic and the indication of the distances in miles. Those who get used to this change will most likely enjoy driving a car. The motorway network is very well developed, there are many four-lane trunk roads and not to forget the Eurotunnel, which connects Great Britain with mainland Europe.
The bus transportation over land is very good and cheap.
The rail network consists of two independent sub- networks. One in Northern Ireland and the other in the UK.
The UK’s air traffic is of international importance and is the largest in Europe with around 200 million passengers per year. Of these approximately 200 million passengers, the London airports alone account for 125 million. The largest airports in the country include London Heathrow, followed by London Gatwick and Manchester Airport.
Even the shipping is by separating Northern Ireland from Britain and the many offshore islands, of great importance. The main ports are Felixstowe, Tilbury, Southampton and Teesport.
Single track roads are a specialty in the north of Scotland, but not uncommon.
The Scottish City Link bus company allows you to travel between the largest cities in Scotland and key points such as airports. The Scottish Postbus can be used to get to remote parts of the country. There are also a few train lines.
However, there are many regular ferry services between mainland Scotland and the Scottish islands. The main ferry ports in the west are Oban and Mallaig. You also have access to international ferry connections.
… Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland has three international airports, two in Belfast and one in Derry. There are three main highways in the country. All start from Belfast and lead to Dungannon (M1), Antrim (M2) and Ballymacarrett (M3). Northern Ireland only has a rail network of around 340 km, but bus traffic is very well developed.
You can recognize motorways by an M followed by the respective number. Expressways, usually with 2 lanes in each direction are indicated with an A in. Secondary roads are recognizable by a B.
In rush hour, if possible, you should use the back roads as they are less congested. On weekdays, rush hour goes from around 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. in the morning and in the evening from around 4:30 p.m. to around 7:30 p.m.
EU citizens can easily use their EU driving license. Travelers from a non-European country need an international driver’s license.
For any checks it is also necessary to have a rental agreement (if it is a rental car), proof of ownership and proof of insurance in the car.
You are allowed to drive a foreign vehicle in the UK for up to 6 months within a year. The prerequisite is that all taxes and insurance for the vehicle have been paid in your home country.