Today was the first day of school and all went well. The kids met with the head teacher for each grade level in the morning and then headed off to their Form which is similar to homeroom. G was paired with a buddy who has the same class schedule and L was given a schedule with her chosen classes. Nobody got lost and they both survived the full day.
G is actually in Grade 9 this year and L in Grade 10. The school system in England is strongly based on national test scores. In grades 10 and 11 all students take GCSE tests which help determine if they will be attending college/university or perhaps a vocational program. School is mandatory until students are 16 and complete Grade 11. At that point they can continue for two more years in the Sixth Form, which is sometimes called college, before heading off to University. All of this is contingent on their test scores. Students do not automatically go to college or university. Career planning and careful class selection begins in Year 10.
Also, at 16, if university is not really your thing, you are presented with training opportunities for different vocations. You can take up an appreticeship or a part-time training course in plumbing, childcare, hairdressing, catering, construction, etc. This allows students a better chance at finding regular employment. The government is slowly raising the mandatory school age and by 2015 it will be 18. L&G won’t be jumping off at 16. L is taking the courses this year that will help her get into the Sixth Form.
We will update you during the school year as we better learn the overall system.