Pre Prep schooling officially starts the September after a child turns 4 years old (Reception year), and finishes the summer after the child turns 7 years old (the end of Year 2). However, many UK private schools accept children from age 3 or even younger. There are only a handful of schools offering boarding for Pre Prep age and in those cases it is weekly boarding for local residents or boarding for young children of the UK Armed Forces.
The Preparatory schooling starts the summer after the child turns 7 (Year 3) and finishes either in the summer the child turns 11 (year 6) or the summer the child turns 13 (Year 9).e It is called "preparatory" because the children are usually being prepared for entrance to Independent Senior Day or Boarding Schools.
A lot of independent senior schools start their senior sections aged 11, indeed nearly all senior girls' schools start aged 11, however, 'Heritage Public Schools' do not start until aged 13. Therefore prep boarding schools will normally finish at age 11 or 13. Some prep schools have boarding facilities but again they are sometimes on a weekday only basis. However, those Prep schools which specialise in Heritage Public Schools preparation can be full board only with no day pupils.
Senior School starts either aged 11 or 13 and finishes when the child is aged 18. The last two years of senior school are called 'Sixth Form' and this is when a child is aged 16 to 18. Despite the standard entry ages above, many schools will also permit entry at ages 12 and 14. Most schools will not allow entry at age 15 because it is half way through the 2 year GCSE curriculum, but we can sometimes find solutions as some schools will offer 1 year intensive GCSEs. For similar reasons it is difficult to get entry at age 17 because of the 2 year curriculum. The older the age range, generally the higher proportion of boarders.
A separate category of school is the Sixth Form College. Originally this was an education institution only teaching A Levels to young people aged 16 to 18. However the curriculum has widened to include International Baccalaureate, Pre-U, BTECS and Foundation Programmes. Additionally some colleges have moved their entry ages downwards to permit GCSE students.
What is the oldest age one can enter a UK private school?
Most UK schools will not accept new starters of 18 or over. Sixth form colleges and International Study Centres can be more flexible sometimes accepting a start age up to 23.
Table of UK ages and year groups (but bear in mind there is usually no boarding until ages 7 or 8)
9th January 2019
8th January 2019
7th January 2019