Secondary School Age UK

Secondary School Age UK, England, Wales, Scotland, N Ireland

The UK has secondary schools for children to attend in Wales, N Ireland, Scotland and England with each of the 4 nations of UK responsible for education in they’re country.

The UK has a slightly different education system depending on which part the school is in with each of the 4 nations education systems devolved and run separately, which results in different rules and age groups for secondary school pupils.

Compulsory education at secondary school age in UK is 11-16 in England & Wales, 12-16 years old in Scotland, and optional for students age 16-18 years old. UK school leaving age is 16 years of age, although some pupils continue studying until 18 at secondary school in sixth form.

England & Wales secondary school years and ages UK

School YearAge
Year 711-12
Year 812-13
Year 913-14
Year 1014-15
Year 1115-16
Year 1216-17
Year 1317-18

Schools in England & Wales have very similar education systems secondary school age range 11-18 years olds. Wales & England school pupils spend 5 years in compulsory secondary school from years 7-11 and optional for years 12-13.

Secondary sixth form year 13 pupil age is 17-18 years old, year 7 pupil age 11-12 with year 11 age UK 15-16 and start of sixth form year 12 age 16-17 years old.

In Wales pupils are allowed to leave school the last Friday in June, if they will be 16 years old by at the end of school summer holidays. Similarly in England

UK government website states “You can leave school on the last Friday in June if you’ll be 16 by the end of the summer holidays”.

Scotland secondary school age

All subjects taught for years 7, 8, 9 for 11-14 years olds are compulsory for school children. As with all UK school children subjects must be studied:

  • Maths
  • English
  • Sciences: Biology, Chemistry, Physics
  • Physical education
  • Music
  • History
  • Geography
  • R.E
  • PSHE
  • IT
  • Food technology
  • Art
  • Modern foreign languages
  • Design technology

During the first year of secondary school pupils are more independent than primary school age groups. Year 8 (12-13 years old) in England schools see students tackling more difficult topics and introduced to more practical class work.

UK school teachers give less homework in year 7 & 8 at 11-13 year old than older school students.

England & Wales secondary school age range in UK is from 11-18 years old. In UK English pupils spend 5 years in secondary school compulsory years 7-11 (11-16) and 2 years optional year (12-13) until 18 year old.

Secondary school age Scotland

Scotland pupils spend 4 compulsory years in secondary school from 12-16 years old (S1-4) with S5/S6 16-18 years old as voluntary extended study.

S1, S2, S3: Secondary school student’s age Scotland is 12-15 years old where they follow a general broad education of compulsory subjects.

S4 senior phase: 15-16 year old secondary students in Scotland study not only core subjects of sciences, English, maths, but choice subjects too study towards qualifications.

S5 & S6: 16-18 years olds in Scotland is optional study for one or two years.

School leaving age is 16 years old in Scotland.

Scottish government law “Your child can leave school at Christmas or summer following their 16th birthday”. 

Secondary school age N Ireland

In N Ireland at post-primary level (Secondary) key stage 3 covers years 10, 9, 8 and years 11 & 12 for KS4. Secondary school age in N Ireland starts about 12 years old and pupils study for 5-6 years, depending if they stay for optional study.

Education Authority Northern Ireland lists children’s birth dates to work out a pupil’s school year they enroll.

Secondary children's age
Secondary children’s age in N Ireland

Northern Ireland school leaving age

“If you turn 16 during the school year (between 1 September and 1 July) you can leave school after 30 June.

According to Northern Irish Government “If you turn 16 between 2 July and 31 August you can’t leave school until 30 June the following year”.

School curriculum in Northern Ireland follows similar subject areas to the rest of the UK.

Key stage 3 pupils must study post-primary curriculum including:

  • RE
  • Mathematics and numeracy
  • Modern languages
  • Arts
  • Science and technology
  • Language and literacy
  • Environment and society
  • Mathematics and numeracy
  • physical education (PE)

Key stage 4 students study core subjects of maths, sciences, English, PE, music, although get to choice optional subjects all leading to external GCSE examinations at 16 years old. Northern Irish school students can continue studying in years 13 & 14 until 18 years old towards A Levels or vocational qualifications.

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