Education Matters Part 1 - The Solihull Observer

The Education Path

Age 3-4: In the UK many children start their education aged 3 or 4 by attending a nursery school, playgroup or the reception or nursery class of a primary school.  This education is not compulsory.

Age 4-6:  Full time education is compulsory for all UK children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 16.  All UK children are entitles to a free place at a state school between these ages.

Primary education is for children ages 4 or 5 up to 11 or 13.  Terms you might hear are primary school, infant school, junior school, pre-preparatory school and preparatory school.  The terms ‘pre-preparatory and preparatory’ are most commonly used in the independent sector.

Secondary education is for pupils ages 11 or 13 to 16.  Terms you might hear are secondary school, high school or senior school.  The term ‘senior school’ is more commonly used in the independent sector.

Age 16 -18: In England, compulsory education or training has been extended to 18 for those born on or after 1 September 1997. This full-time education does not need to be at a school, for example in sixth form, colleges and work based training is another choice they can make.  After the end of the compulsory education, students might enter further education with attending university.

Applying for School

For independent schools, you will need to apply directly to the schools.  there are around 2,500 independent schools in the UK, which educate around 615,000 children, some 7% of all British children and 18% of pupils over the age of 16.  Look on the schools website or contact them to ask about the application process.  Here in the Midlands we have some exceptional Independent boarding and day schools.

For state schools, applications are usually handled by the local government so your local council will be able to help with all applications.  However, do remember demand for places varies and for the most popular schools, (especially in the independent sector) you may have to apply up to three years in advance.  For many you should apply a year in advance if possible but if you have left it later than that it is still worth enquiring.  Just email or phone the admissions offices at the schools you are interested in.

It is best to start in September (start of the academic year in the UK) so that you begin at the same time as other students and it will be easier to settle in.  However, don’t worry if you cant apply that far in advance or start in September, some schools are very flexible.


According to the first recorded use of school uniforms was in England in 1222.  Students at one school were required to wear a robe-like outfit called a ‘cappa clausa’.  However, it wasn’t until the 16th century that a modern school uniforms made an appearance in recorded history.

Nowadays most schools in the UK have some sort of school uniform.  Each school decides its uniform and must not discriminate based on gender, race, disability, sexual orientation or belief.

Remember your child can be disciplined for not wearing the school uniform and even suspended or expelled if they repeatedly  ignore the uniform rules.  If you are a low income family, talk to the head teacher if your child isn’t wearing the uniform or PE kit because you cant afford it.  The school should give you time to buy the right clothes and you may even get financial help from your local council.

It’s not too late to enrol on your dream course!

Whether you’re looking to study part-time or full-time, for fun or for a change of career, Solihull College & University has a course for everyone.

The College is one of the most exciting, innovative learning environments in the region, with state-of-the-art facilities including a virtual reality lab, aircraft hangar and flight simulators, industry standard science labs, an animal care centre housing hundreds of exotic species and much more!

The College has a variety of courses on offer at all levels and for all ages, whether you have just finished school, are looking to undertake a full degree or take up a new hobby.

As well as courses for school leavers, the College offers a variety of degrees in partnership with top universities including Oxford Brookes, Newman, Coventry, Northampton and Warwick. Students receive the degree from the university but study right here in Solihull! Brand new degree courses starting this September include Games Design & Virtual Reality, Creative Film Production, English & History and Veterinary Nursing. The College were recently awarded a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) ‘Gold’ rating for its university level provision – the only college in the West Midlands to achieve this, beating many top Russell Group universities.

The College also offers a number of professional qualifications such as marketing (CIM), accounting (AAT), HR (CIPD) and leadership (ILM) as well as a whole range of Community Education courses available at the college’s campuses and in centres across the borough. Community courses available include sign language, cake decorating, cookery and many more.

For more information about all of the College’s courses, visit or call 0121 678 7000.

Choosing A School

Choosing a school for your child can often be a minefield, whether at 4, 7, 11 or 16 and all ages in between! With so many different schools to choose from, and a decision between independent, state and grammar schools, how do parents choose what is best for their son or daughter?

OFSTED and ISI reports (for the independent sector), can give a good overall view of a school’s performance, but won’t give you an idea of the school’s ethos and values. Every school that you are considering will have a different feel and atmosphere, so visiting is essential. There are many open days coming up over the next few months, and many schools will also arrange individual tours. When you’re visiting the school take note of what the pupils are doing. Do they seem happy and relaxed, interacting with each other and the teachers? It’s important for parents to view the school in action and get a real feel for what it would be like for their daughter to attend. The Saint Martin’s Open Morning on Saturday 16th September, 9:30 – 12:00, provides a great opportunity to find out more about the school.

Excellent exam results are important to the majority of parents, particularly when their children are looking for a senior school place, but the focus shouldn’t only be on headline exam figures. Attention should also be paid to a school’s Value Added Score. Looking at whether pupils are meeting their expected progress and, in fact, exceeding this, is an indication that the school is getting the very best out of their pupils. At Saint Martin’s, 70% of our girls achieved A*, A and B grades at A level in 2017. We also achieved a fantastic Value Added Score of +0.38 for students’ achievements between the end of GCSEs and A Levels in 2016. This placed Saint Martin’s in the top 4% of UK schools and highlights that our students make excellent progress, performing well above the national average.

Parents should also be looking at how their child will develop away from their academic success. What opportunities are the school providing for your child? What extra curricular activities can they get involved in? What skills does the school develop in your child that will help them to progress? Getting involved in activities outside of the classroom builds a successful foundation for life after school. Saint Martin’s offers an extensive programme of extra curricular activities and enrichment trips, ranging from Music, sport and drama, to debating, gardening and bridge!

Finally, there may be the choice between single sex or co-educational learning. As the only independent girls’ school in the Solihull area, Saint Martin’s understands the benefit of being taught in single sex environment. Girls at Saint Martin’s have the opportunity to thrive both academically and personally with an education geared specifically to their needs. Girls can be themselves and fully explore all the opportunities available to them. Their physical and intellectual confidence grows as they take on leadership roles and inspire others with no gender stereotyping.

Ultimately, children flourish in a safe and secure environment, and a school where your child is truly happy can be key to their academic performance and success.

Saint Martin’s School offers an outstanding education for girls aged 3-18. For further information and admissions enquiries, please contact the Admissions Office on [email protected], 0121 703 0910 or visit our website

Part 2 – Coming Soon


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