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Cole Parker

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I am reading a pretty decent story at the moment -- Scholarship by I.J. Copeland -- http://iomfats.org/storyshelf/hosted/ian-john-copeland/ -- and have a question. The story is about young kids at an English public school. The oldest group of kids there is 12. Yet they are in the 6th form. My understanding of the Brit system was that in 6th form, the kids were usually 16-18 years-old. So does this mean there are two age levels of public schools, and the form names in both are the same? Why wouldn't these boys, 8-12, be in lower form numbers?

C

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In normal Brit parlance those kids are at a prep school (to age 13). They would then go on to a public school (13-18). Prep schools tend to be organised much like public schools, with the same or similar names for forms. So chances are you'd go through two sixth forms in your career, at 12/13 and 17/18. Though there are variations on the theme.

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Well, that's sort of like in the U.S. where you're a freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior in both high school and college/university.

Colin :icon_geek:

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Cole, I think the confusion arises from the difference between Form and Year. Normally ones year in the independent sector school equates to one's form, e.g. when you are in your first year at a school you will be in the first form, but this is not a hard and fast rule. Someone who is particularly bright might be pushed up a form, overall or for specific subjects. A friend has been very keen on telling me that his nephew, who is in his third year at a nearby public school is in the fifth form for mathematics.

One reason the forms reset in public schools (remember in England that means the elite private schools) at the start of each school is that pupils may be coming in from a number of different educational backgrounds, not all will be arriving via the prep school route. Some will be coming from overseas institutions which will have their own system, some from state education system (which has a different system based on years not forms) and others from home education.

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Everything I've read says that in public schools, forms don't mix, meaning kids in the fifth form don't associate with kids in the fourth form. That sounds very elitist to me and not very ecumenical; I've never quite understood that, as in this country there's no such taboo and kids from all the different classes are friends.

But here you're saying that a third-form student could be in fifth-form classes. Would such a kid still be ostracized by the fifth formers also in those classes?

C

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Everything I've read says that in public schools, forms don't mix, meaning kids in the fifth form don't associate with kids in the fourth form. That sounds very elitist to me and not very ecumenical; I've never quite understood that, as in this country there's no such taboo and kids from all the different classes are friends.

But here you're saying that a third-form student could be in fifth-form classes. Would such a kid still be ostracized by the fifth formers also in those classes?

C

Having not been to a Public School, I can't say how much socialization there is between forms. I do have some friends who met at Eton where one was in the fifth form and the other third form, so I think some mixing does take place. Actually from what I know about such schools there is quite a bit of cross form activity, such as music and sports. Also I did not say the boy was in the third form, what I said was he was in the third year but doing fifth form mathematics. To be honest I don't know what form he is in.

Also, if you read Mihangel's writing about public school you will see that there is mixing between the forms. More important than your form is your house, there will be boys from all the forms in the house.

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This is the sequence of years in Australian education (At least it was 50 years ago:)

Kindergarten: age 5 years or so.

Primary school:

Grade 1: for 5- 6 years old

Grade 2: 7 years old

Grade 3: 8 years old

Grade 4: 9 years old

Grade 5: 10 years old

Grade 6: 11 years old

Grade 7: 12 years old

At the end of grade 7 all students were given a certificate of education to show that they had attended primary school.

Next stop was the High School or a technical school.

The basic difference was that the technical school was oriented around craft and skills needed to do more manual work, but included were courses for fitters and turners, and electricians, etc.

The High Schools did offer many of the same courses, but with more theory based more or less on classical education.

First year for high school was called... you guessed it, First year. 13 years old

Second year was what that was called for the 14 year olds, although I believe the teachers though of it as a year with the demons from Hormone Hell.

Third year was known as the Intermediate year, as it was between the first two years of high school and the fourth year. Interestingly, this was also the year that some students left to get a job.

Fourth year was called fourth year, but it was also customary to call it "Leaving" as when completed, you were said to have matriculated and could then go on to a University of your choice.

There was also a Fifth year, called Leaving Honours, which meant a more intense education in preparation for University.

On entering High School each student was tested with a quite good assessment paper, and this would serve to show the appropriate classification for each student.

Each year was divided into five levels so that year one had classes labelled from one to five. e.g.

class 1A would have three languages (including English) and a more intense curriculum of other subjects.

Class 1B would have two languages, etc.

And class 1C would just have the more intense curriculum.

The above three levels were known as the academic classes.

The other classes 1D, 1E and !F were called the commercial classes.

There wasn't a lot of difference between the Cs and the Ds, but the E and Fs were more hands on skills and crafts.

It is credit to the teachers of those days that across the spectrum of the students there was built an esprit de corps which remained with them for the rest of their lives.

As you might notice we didn't have any of that Freshman, Sophomore, etc. pretensions. Except for the year we were in, we were all treated equally. I, especially went out of my way to give treats to all my peers.

I have no idea if any of the above is relevant today.

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There was nothing pretentious about the labels freshman, sophomore, etc. They simply designated which class, or year, you were in. I guess there was some minor and early pejorative nuance with the word freshman. There even was some minor hazing at some colleges back the middle of last century when I attended college.

For instance, I remember a 'Frosh Night' when all freshmen men who wanted to establish themselves in the college social whirl gathered with upperclassmen who were into that sort of thing for a night of fun and initiations that could result in the freshmen who attended being 'recognized'. They were usually asked to do embarrassing or humiliating things. I remember one freshmen, a kid named Brian Bates, who was made to wear a sign around his neck for a week that read, Master Bates.

Well, he wasn't made to. He was instructed to. And he went along with it. Such is the penalty for wanting to fit in.

Having not been to a Public School, I can't say how much socialization there is between forms. I do have some friends who met at Eton where one was in the fifth form and the other third form, so I think some mixing does take place. Actually from what I know about such schools there is quite a bit of cross form activity, such as music and sports. Also I did not say the boy was in the third form, what I said was he was in the third year but doing fifth form mathematics. To be honest I don't know what form he is in.

Also, if you read Mihangel's writing about public school you will see that there is mixing between the forms. More important than your form is your house, there will be boys from all the forms in the house.

I've read in many a story about a tacit prohibition regarding socialization between forms. Yes, between houses as well, but certainly between forms. It seems to be implied that such fraternization could only be because the older boy was bedazzled by the charms of the younger boy and wanted to do illicit things with him. Which, if this is true, perhaps resulted from having an all-male society of young men with raging hormones. It's another area of British life that's so different from here.

C

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Aha! yes Cole the aforementioned pretentiousness on the names for the student years, merely applies to the differences in our cultures. In the days of my youth we would certainly have doubled up with laughter at Freshman, and looked quizzically at the word, Sophomore, but that's just the way things were back in those days. (Sophomore? Is that a lesbian thing?)

If I get the opportunity I will check to see if we have adopted those names or even if we have invented new ones.

Rather than Frosh, we call it Prosh which refers to both a calendar fundraising event and the satirical Annual newspaper written by students at the University, sometimes attracting the law.

Interchanging classes within the system was indeed possible.

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For what it's worth, as a survivor of the British public school system, this is how it worked for me.

Prep schools, at least of the boarding variety, generally take boys from the age of 7 or whatever age their parents see fit to banish them, to 13. The names of the forms seems to vary quite a lot school to school - remember these are private institutions and can set their own rules. At age 13 the boys sit a Common Entrance exam and on the basis of the results they achieve they can apply to the Public School of their parents' choice. Public school is private, the school system that's public is called State school. Don't expect 21st century logic from a system that began five hundred years ago. In those days public schools were created for those who couldn't afford a private tutor. Public schools generally all use the same form names. At 13 you enter in 4th form, then you progress through lower 5th, upper 5th, and then lower 6th and finally upper 6th from which you graduate at 18. In the British system, both private and state, you study a wide range of subjects up to the age of 16 and then are examined on those subjects - the GCSE exams now, although in my day it was called 'O' level for the bright kids and a lesser standard CSE exam for the rest. In 6th form you study a limited range of subjects to a much higher standard. In my day it was usually 3 subjects and if you were doing 4 you were a genius. Then at the end of your upper 6th year you take 'A' level exams - they're still called that although the 'O' level is now superseded. And on the basis of your 'A' level results you can apply to the university of your choice and it all begins again.

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Nigel's right that in (most) public schools the real social unit was the house, simply because you had maybe 50-60 boys of all ages living and eating together without any written or unwritten rules about fraternising. OK, if an 18-year-old were seen to be spending unusual amount of time with a 13-year-old, eyebrows might rise. And if there wasn't much out-of-school socialising between houses, it wasn't because there was anything against it but because there was plenty enough to do without it. But in in-school contexts like sport, drama and music you could be rubbing shoulders with any age, just like in the house.

As for forms, in the nature of things the kids ordinarily tended to be much the same age, but far from always. Without in least intending to brag, I was in forms that included boys up to three years older than me, and I don't recall any ostracising at all. Older ones might regard this whippersnapper with some amusement, but not with disdain. In our (limited) spare time I would sometimes go out on, say, bike rides with boys two years my senior. No eyebrows raised about that.

At least that's how it was at at my school, which was a good one; I'm sure there were places that were more restrictive. And that's how it was in my day; maybe things are different now, for better or worse. And, anyway, many (most?) such schools are now co-ed.

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Everything I've read says that in public schools, forms don't mix, meaning kids in the fifth form don't associate with kids in the fourth form. That sounds very elitist to me and not very ecumenical; I've never quite understood that, as in this country there's no such taboo and kids from all the different classes are friends.

I would disagree with that. I think there are certain grades where kids don't associate with younger kids and stick with people of their own age. It was that way for me in junior high and high school, with rare exceptions. There wasn't open hostility; it's just that we didn't generally share classes with (say) seniors when we were sophomores or juniors. The possible exception might be extracurricular activities (ahem), like music or sports, where different age groups do mix. At phys ed, though, I can remember seniors knocking us silly in rough and tumble games.

I can say that some of my best friends in high school and college were people from different age groups, generally because we were brought together through school clubs or similar organizations. But not in regular classes.

As for the Brits, I'd point to the Harry Potter novels and movies as examples where the kids of a certain age generally flocked together. The exception would be the Quidditch sports matches, where you would have a 12-year-old in the same sport as a 17-year-old, and every age inbetween. Same with the Triwizard Tournament and a few other activities. But not in regular classes, and not as much in the houses.

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It's an interesting situation that when I repeated 2nd year High School, which was a nice way of saying I failed 2nd year, I suddenly found myself in a class of kids who were basically a year younger than me. The bullying I had suffered everyday of my school years stopped overnight. I guess there was a benefit to being the tallest student in the class.

Indeed, within a few weeks I formed friendships which lasted into our early twenties; until they married their girlfriends. Yes they were all straight, and when I told them of my sexuality they hardly battered an eyelid, not because they knew, but because they didn't have a problem with it.

Friendships, instead of being subjected to bullies, had a significant effect on my school work for the better.

We went weekend surfing together, or rather they did. Not being a swimmer, I stayed on shore and made tea and coffee for when they returned from their oceanic activities.

I'll admit to experiencing wave upon wave of lust for their skimpy attired Aussie surfing bodies, but I was resolute in never expressing my desire.

My desires had to be returned in order for me to risk seeking a liaison with someone else. If they weren't gay, I had no inclination to force myself on them.

Strangely, I was the second oldest. Two were younger than me, and finally the Bohemian amongst us was the oldest, and came from the year above the three of us.

We lost touch with each other when we were in our mid-twenties. Their marriages took precedence over any of friendships, as did my own relationship, now in its 43rd year. Don't get excited, we turned out to be lazy lovers. We were in fact, all that we needed to each other...except when, on occasion, I was promiscuously, propositioned.

We have often been asked if we stayed together because of the threat of AIDS. Himself quickly corrected the questioner by telling them, "Oh no, we stayed together because of the cats."

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Is the solution to bullying that simple? Should every kid who is victimized be held back until his height exceeds his classmates?

I doubt that high heels would achieve the desired result.

What happened in my case was, I think, more indicative of me being a stranger to the class, an unknown.

As time went by, It was obvious I was a bit of a loner. I still hid in the library during lunch periods, and then two things happened. This particular class had its own bullies and they wanted to know if would like to join their gang.

I told them that I had my own gang. One of the group said, "See I told you he'd have his own gang." And that was the last confrontation.

The real answer is to provide the bullied kids with support, and many teachers didn't do that then. and not often now.

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Since I entered as the youngest boy in the whole damned school (!) I was particularly shy and the house system allowed me to make friends in the upper age groups that I would never have gotten otherwise and that's even though we had a weak house system because we were not a boarding school and the houses were just artificial groupings.

When I was ten I had a crush on a 16 year old in my house. He tried using the common link to take advantage of me. No, not that way. He was very straight and we were a coed school, so he was very satisfied romantically. What I mean is that he tried to get me to do errands and stuff for him, like carry his books to his classroom so he could stay and chat with his friends etc. The first time, I told him, 'no'.

His instant reply was, "Come on. you're in my house. Do it for your housemate.' Then he pointed at the little colored badge we wore to show which house we were in. That's when I realized he didn't actually know my name. He just knew I was in his house and was using that to make me his servant. Thing is, I went along with it anyway, because I DID feel like I had a duty to help people in my house.

He left school soon after that, but I have to say most of the older kids in the house were good to us younger kids. The older girls especially took on a kind of big sister role with us and house activities were a time of great camaraderie.

I suspect one of the reasons my school never saw much bullying was because the older boys had a sense of responsibility to protect the younger boys in their house so that the would-be bullies from another house didn't have a free shot at any younger kid since every kid had protectors floating around.

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Since I entered as the youngest boy in the whole damned school (!) I was particularly shy and the house system allowed me to make friends in the upper age groups that I would never have gotten otherwise and that's even though we had a weak house system because we were not a boarding school and the houses were just artificial groupings.

I had a similar issue, Steven, since I started school when I was 5, plus had the double-whammy of being the shortest kid in school and (surprisingly enough) very obnoxious and mischievous. All of my friends were at least a little older, but I got away with it by being smarter than they were. Most of the time.

As it was, I was lucky they didn't advance me another grade or two. They almost bumped me to 3rd grade when I started school, and while I was pissed-off about it at the time, on reflection I'm glad I stayed where I was. If everybody had been three years older than me instead of just 1 year, it would've been a nightmare by the time I hit middle school.

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Yeah, being bumped ahead is tough socially. That's what happened to me. I WAS bumped ahead 2 years. So I started high school at 10 when everyone else was mostly 12.

I had 2 big breaks: One was that I was big for my age so I fit in physically and was only the fourth shortest kid in class and was reasonably athletic. The second was that maybe 1/4 of the other kids in my school were also 'gifted' students and were a class ahead of their age to begin with, so there were some eleven year olds seeded about my class level and even a handful of other 10-year-olds.

But I was always socially delayed. When the other boys were discovering alcohol and making out with girls I was REALLY into Nintendo and cartoons.

Of course, it's not as simple as blaming my age-gap since I suspect my natural nerdiness would have been a barrier even in my own age group...and of course that's not even getting into my lack of interest in girls which tended to make me feel like most social activities were pointless (dancing/drinking/going steady/feeling each other up in the dark corners etc...)

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Girls? The teacher wanted us to touch a girl, and dance with them, but then told us to not touch the girls in ways that both the boys and girls might find exciting. Who knew? Who cares?

Is it any wonder I became confused? Besides which, the girls were icky and soft. They felt like they could break.

Boys on the other hand, had bits I understood and their bodies were strong with powerful musculature. Boys didn't need make-up to look good, or pretty clothes to arrest attention. Boys just looked great, even those with a few zits, or hairy legs, or smooth muscular hairless chests and bulging calves.

Please Miss, can I dance with Tommy, or Apollo?

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