Modern educational system in Great Britain consists of four levels: Elementary School, Secondary School, so-called post-secondary or Further Education and Higher Education. Nursery education takes place in nursery schools and pre-school classes. Children from 5 to 11-12 years old attend Elementary School. Beginning from 5 years children attend pre-preparatory schools of two years duration, from 7 to 11 years they attend primary, elementary or preparatory schools. At the age of 11-12 children begin to attend Secondary School.
Every school must provide children with consistent educational minimum which was assigned by legislation. Also, according the law, compulsory secondary education which is finished at the age of 16 must be free of charge. School leavers take finals and get GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education). With this Certificate a person can start his working career, but this Certificate doesn’t give him a right to enter the higher educational establishment.
Old system of schools still exists in some rural districts. On completing Elementary School, all pupils are divided in 3 different types of schools on the basis of the results of test exams: the most capable pupils (about 20%) enter Grammar School and study there for 5-7 years, less capable pupils (about 5%) enter Technical School and study there for 5, more rarely for 7 years and other pupils (about 70%) continue education in Modern School and study there for 4, but sometimes for 5 years. In higher forms pupils are divided into two groups with different educational programs: liberal education and mathematics and science study. In secondary technical schools general studies, technical and initial trainings are taught.
In big cities the reorganization of Secondary School led to uprise of Comprehensive Schools with general educational program for all pupils from 11 to 18. In many regions the concept of comprehensive school led to uprise of Lower Schools for children from 11 to 14 years old and Upper Schools for pupils from 14 to 18 years old. In some places Elementary and Secondary Schools were divided into three sequential levels. Middle School for pupils from 8 to 12 and from 9 to 13 years old arisen here. The main reason of such a variety of schools was the lack of a centralized funding for school reform. The solution was found in the introduction of a national system of examinations, which determine the standard of knowledge of Secondary School leavers. Types of Schools, their names, programs and instruction methods can vary. But the exams for awarding GCSE are the same and obligatory for everybody.
Secondary School, which ultimate in GCSE exams, lasts for 5 years. As noted previously, graduation from Secondary School doesn’t give the right to enter the university. In order to enter the university, you have to graduate from Sixth Form of Secondary School and to pass the exam and get GCE/A Level (General Certificate of Education Advanced Level). You have to study two years in order to get this certificate. If we compare our education system and education system in Great Britain, then Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) corresponds to our incomplete secondary education (9 forms of senior school), and GCE/A Level corresponds to our General Certificate of Secondary Education (11 forms) and pre-study courses in university.
The expressions Sixth Form and A Level Program (Advanced Level Courses) are denominative in Great Britain and used for denotation of different programs and courses, lead to getting GCE/A Level.