Primary School in England (and for the most part the entire united kingdom) is the first stage of compulsory education that most children will experience. It is (very) roughly the equivalent of American Elementary school and lasts from age four, or five to age eleven (or in my case ten and eleven months).

Primary schools are much smaller than secondary schools usually having between one hundred and four hundred pupils. The pupils are generally split into classes for each year-group, depending on the school they will be also be split by “infants” and “juniors” infants being ages four to seven (from the old system of having separate schools for them and juniors being ages seven to eleven. Sometimes year groups will mix, but on the whole the classes are arranged as follows:


Reception year: Ages four and five
Year One: Ages five and six
Year Two: Ages six and seven


Year Three: Ages seven and eight
Year Four: Ages Eight and Nine
Year Five: Ages Nine and Ten
Year Six: Ages Ten and Eleven

Primary school differs from secondary schools in innumerable ways. The major ones are the fact that teachers are generally nicer, but patronising. It’s less embarrassing to call your teacher mummy. They keep spare underwear on site. Until year four both genders can change together. It’s “playtime” not “break.” There is no detention (in some schools anyway). You are taught basic skills rather than the more complex uses for them, (e.g. primary school teaches you maths, secondary school tells you how to use all those funny symbols in algebra.)

Primary school teachers teach everything, sometimes specialising a little in one subject. There is one teacher (approximately) per year group, or at least per class. There is usually one head teacher and one deputy head. At primary school teachers tend to be more informal and parentlike, they have almost infinite patience, but they can generally shout very, very loudly. Sometimes head teachers will also be regular teachers, but more often than not they are the administrator of the school, dealing with issues such as finance and discipline. They answer to the school governors, a shadowy board of people who decide everything at the school, sometimes there will be a parent-governor, but it is usually a friend of one of the teachers.

Primary schools in England are required to have at least one assembly a day on a religious theme, predominantly Christianity. In these the entire school is gathered in the school’s main hall (often, but not always, seated on the floor. In my school one of the privileges of being in year six was that you got to sit at the back, on benches,) while a teacher, often the head, talks to them and reads them stories. This leads to “the Good Samaritan” being told at least once a month for the entire duration of the school’s existence. It also tends to build a feeling that “if any religion is right, it’s Christianity.” Make up your own minds as to how to react to this. (Since it's introduction, many schools are ignoring this law to a certain extent). Assemblies are also the time for important messages to be given out, messages such as “you are no longer allowed to play 'kiss tag,'” or “please bring in your school fund money, it’s weeks overdue and we’re having to resort to scratching on slates!” Assemblies at my school, and in others I know of, ended with a hymn and or a prayer.

Most primary schools in England require the children to wear a uniform, although the primary school that I attended didn’t. The uniforms can be anything from a coloured sweatshirt with the school’s logo or name on it, to a full suit complete with straw hat.

Primary school can be a daunting experience, the time between its commencement and its end seems to be the longest seven years of your life, by the time you leave you feel grown up and important. This makes starting at secondary school, as the little-ones again a slap in the face for most people, as they realise just how far they still have to go.

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