High schools in the UK are normally called secondary schools or senior schools especially if they are private (or independent as we say in the UK). All high (secondary) schools must by law educate children up to the age of sixteen when they will sit their GCSE (general certificate of secondary educations) examinations. These examinations normally comprise 7 or 8 subjects of which mathematics and English are compulsory.
After GCSEs students may continue with A (advanced) level studies for another two years after which they may go to university where they will normally spend 3 years obtaining a degree rather than the usual 4 years.
A level exams are equivalent to: a) IB (international baccalaureate), b) AP (advanced placement exams), c) first year university in most countries.
A levels are unusual because universities normally demand only 3 subjects to be taken as examinations in order to qualify (sometimes 4). Indeed because of this concentration and focus, A levels are very attractive to international students.
Private Colleges in the UK
In the UK Private High Schools are generally called Private Colleges for A levels. What is special about private A Level colleges?
The first thing to say about private A Level colleges is that they are a part of a larger group of independent High Schools in Britain. There is no doubt that this sector includes many of the best schools in the world. They are highly selective, using competitive entry examinations and interviews to choose talented and motivated pupils. This emphasis on high achievement is reflected in the schools’ excellent exam results, which enable their students to enter the top British universities. For example, 50% of all undergraduates at Oxford and Cambridge have previously been schooled in the independent sector, even though only 8% or so of school students are educated privately.
Private A Level Colleges are a special form of High (or senior) School, which focus on Advanced Level (A Level) examinations and students in the age group of 16-18. This is the most significant difference between colleges and more traditional High Schools; they are also less traditional (no school uniforms or bells) and are universally co-educational (many private High Schools are single- sex throughout the school or at least in the lower years). Private colleges adopt a ‘grown-up’ approach to education and so help students prepare for the freedom that they will experience when they arrive at university. They also offer a broader range of subjects and are much more flexible with a variety of points of entry: for example, all private colleges offer one-year A Level programmes. They also focus on individual attention, organizing classes in very small groups with plenty of teaching time and exam preparation. Many students decide on a private college in order to ensure the best possible academic results.
Ashbourne College in Kensington exemplifies all of these qualities, as well as having its own distinctive culture and friendly atmosphere. It has a balance of British and international students, who enjoy a remarkable array of extra-curricular activities, as well as achieving exceptional academic results and university placements. Rated as ‘Outstanding’ by OFSTED, it is one of the most highly regarded private colleges in London.