British, American, Canadian
and Commonwealth
School years, grades, and ages


4 turning 5reception (year 1)nursery school or preschool
5 turning 6year 2kindergarten
6 turning 7year 31st grade
7 turning 8year 42nd grade
8 turning 9year 53rd grade
9 turning 10year 64th grade
10 turning 11year 75th grade
11 turning 121st year secondary6th grade
12 turning 132nd year secondary7th grade
13 turning 143rd year secondary8th grade
14 turning 154th year secondary9th grade "freshman"
15 turning 165th year secondary10th grade "sophomore"
16 turning 17lower 6th year11th grade "junior"
17 turning 18upper 6th year12th grade "senior"

In both systems the school year generally begins in August or September and generally ends in May or June.


          The Canadian school system is similar to the American school system shown above. In Canada, there is kindergarten, grade 1, grade 2, and so on, to grade 12. The Canadian terminology is "grade 1," not "1st grade." Otherwise, the ages and grade levels as shown above for Americans are the same as for Canadian schools.
          Canadian schools have elementary school and high school. There is no middle school, junior high school, or junior secondary school. Canadian elementary school is kindergarten through grade 7. High school is grade 8 through grade 12. The "freshman, sophomore, junior" terminology is generally not used in Canada, but grade 12 students are sometimes known as "seniors" in Canada.
          Many Canadian home school families get their home school materials from the United States. Canadians are often quite familiar with American home school books and courses.


          Prior to the 1960's, schools in the United States were largely standardized by tradition. In this tradition, nursery school is private and rarely used. Kindergarten is usually private and frequently utilized as the age that a child first attends school. After kindergarten, formal schooling begins. "Grade school" is 1st through 6th grades. "Junior high school" is 7th and 8th grades. "High school" is 9th through 12th grades. A 9th grade student is also called a "high school freshman," or "freshman" for short. A 10th grade student is also called a "sophomore," an 11th grader a "junior" and a 12th grade student a "senior." Many private schools in the United States retain this traditional system, while the public schools tend to use the system described below.


          In the 1960'sand 1970's a significant amount of experimentation was done with public school education in the United States. These were done at the local level, the state level, and the national level. Some of the things tried were retained, and some of the things tried were found to be harmful and were abandoned. While local and regional variations still exist in the United States, what follows is the system that many of the public schools in the United States use as of AD 2000.
          Nursery school is optional and may be government or private. "Grade school" now begins with kindergarten, which is optional in most states but is almost always utilized by parents as the first year that a child goes to school. Grade school may or may not include sixth grade students, depending on where the local school system chooses to begin middle school.
          "Middle school" is for 7th and 8th grades, and sometimes includes 6th grade or 9th grade as well. "High school" begins in 9th or 10th grade, depending what the local school district defines as middle school, and runs through 12th grade. The traditional terms "freshman," "sophomore," "junior," and "senior" are still used.


          The educational system in the United States remains largely under the control of each state government. As such, the laws and systems will vary from one state to the next. Despite this, there is a remarkable amount of similarity between the states in the area of education. In most states, education is compulsory between the ages of 7 (first grade) and 16 (10th grade). The education may be public, private, or in a home school environment, so long as the educational content meets the state regulations
          In the United States, the word "home" is generally the key word for educating a child outside of a public or private school system. Those who home school in the United States will not recognize the word "otherwise" as having anything to do with home schooling.
          Relative to the UK, the United States has a more regionally diverse panorama of educational systems. Nethertheless, these educational systems tend to be stable over time, with the exception of the 1960's and 1970's.


          It is a greater challenge to describe the British educational system since it changes more frequently. However, let's have a go at it: "Primary school" begins with year 1, which is called "reception," and goes through year 7. From there, "junior secondary school" is two years, known as 1st year and 2nd year.
          "Secondary school" is divided into "O levels" and "A levels." The O levels are 3rd, 4th, and 5th years. After completing the O levels, a student may continue to A levels as university preparation, or may leave school. The A levels are divided into two years, known as lower 6th year and upper 6th year. After completing A levels the student would then proceed to university, test scores permitting.
          It is traditional in the UK to have a "gap year." This is a year between leaving secondary school and entering university. During this year the student often travels or does something adventuresome and hopefully educational, by means of a work experience.


          The modern UK system differs from the traditional system primarily in the elimination of "junior secondary school." These years have been incorporated into secondary school.
          In the modern UK system, nursery school (age 3 turning 4) is optional and private. "Primary school" begins with year 1, which is called reception. The last year of primary school is year 7, as in the traditional system.
          "Secondary school" begins with 1st year secondary and goes through 5th year secondary. Then the student either leaves school or continues to 6th year (which is two years, lower 6th and upper 6th) in preparation for university. A gap year is still common between completing secondary school and entering university.


          The U.K. underwent a time of educational experimentation in the 1960's and 1970's, much like the United States did, but with different outcomes. The principle result was a much more national educational system. County and regional educational differences were largely eliminated and all public schools in the UK must conform to the national curriculum. However, since education is a more volatile and political topic in the UK, the entire educational system of the UK can and sometimes does change when a new political wind blows.
          Relative to the United States, the U.K. has very little regional variation in school systems. However, the entire national system is more likely to change than the U.S. system.
          Since the law in the UK requires that children be educated in public schools "or otherwise," the word "otherwise" is associated with home education in the UK. Due to the large amount of home educational material coming from the United States, those who home school in the UK are often somewhat familiar with home school terminology and curricula from the USA.


          Many school systems throughout the Commonwealth use some variation of the British system described above. The school year may begin in January and end in December, though. School uniforms are more common in many Commonwealth schools.