Education in Northern Ireland

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Education in Northern Ireland differs slightly from the system used elsewhere in the United Kingdom. The Northern Irish system emphasises a greater depth of education compared to the English and Welsh systems. The majority of examinations sat, and education plans followed, in Northern Irish schools are set by the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA).

In general, the cut-off point for ages is the end of August, so all children must be of a particular age on the 1st of September in order to begin class that month.

School holidays in Northern Ireland are also considerably different to the rest of the United Kingdom. Northern Irish schools generally only get 1 day off for the half term holiday (in February, May and October). Christmas holidays usually only consist of a week or so, the same with the Easter vacation, compared to Englands two weeks. The major difference however is that Northern Irish summer holidays are considerably longer with the entirety of July and August off giving a nine week summer holiday.

Although religious integration is increasing, Northern Ireland has a highly segregated education system, with 95% of pupils attending either a maintained (Catholic) school or a controlled school (mostly Protestant). Teaching a balanced view of some subjects (especially history) is difficult in these conditions.

School years

  • Primary Education
    • Primary School
      • Primary 1, age 4 to 5
      • Primary 2, age 5 to 6
      • Primary 3, age 6 to 7
      • Primary 4, age 7 to 8
      • Primary 5, age 8 to 9
      • Primary 6, age 9 to 10
      • Primary 7, age 10 to 11 (Eleven plus exams to determine secondary school placement.)
  • Secondary Education
    • High School or Grammar School
      • First Form, age 11 to 12
      • Second Form, age 12 to 13
      • Third Form, age 13 to 14
      • Fourth Form, age 14 to 15
      • Fifth Form, age 15 to 16 (old O Level examinations, modern GCSE examinations)
    • High School, Grammar School, or Sixth Form College
      • Lower Sixth, age 16 to 17 (AS-level examinations, where applicable)
      • Upper Sixth, age 17 to 18 (A-levels)

See also

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