The UK education system

Ashbourne College offers both GCSE and A-level qualifications for students who are mostly aged between 14 and 19.

Our small Middle School offers GCSE courses to pupils who take around eight GCSEs, usually at the age of 16. The GCSE courses can be taken over 1 or 2 years.

While most of our GCSE students live with their families in London, 50% of our A-level students are from overseas. They are taught with British students to take A-level exams in three (occasionally four) subjects in their final year at school.

While the GCSE and A-level pages offer more detailed information about these courses, it might be helpful to provide a wider overview of the UK education system for anyone intending to enter it from overseas.


The UK education system

In the UK, the education system is split into four areas:

  • Primary Education
  • Secondary Education
  • Further Education
  • Higher Education

Primary and Secondary education is split into four ‘Key Stages’:

  • Key Stage 1: 5 to 7 years old
  • Key Stage 2: 7 to 11 years old
  • Key Stage 3: 11 to 14 years old
  • Key Stage 4: 14 to 16 years old

Key Stages 1 and 2 are covered in Primary education and Key Stages 3 and 4 are covered in Secondary education.

A student is tested at each Key Stage but the most important of these tests are the GCSE examinations, which take place at around age 16.

After the completion of these Key Stages, students have the opportunity to choose between going into further education or leaving academic education altogether.

Further Education takes place usually when a student is between 16-18 years old. This period is also referred to as ‘Sixth Form’. It is during this period that students take academic qualifications, usually A levels. Ashbourne is predominately a sixth-form college dedicated to the study of A levels, although GCSE courses are also offered.

Please download our high school prospectus and get in touch if you would like to find out more or apply.