* school uniform: year level

School Uniform: Year Level

Figure 1.--American elementary (primary) schools have not traditionally worn uniforms. Many schools are now introducing voluntary uniforms, with varying results. Secondary schools have not tried to intrduce uniforms, because many of the students would object.

HBC readers have suggested that it might be helpful to have a page comparing school year designations in various countries and how they relate to ages. As the schools often made a variety of uniform destinctions contingent on yea-level, understanding school year destinctiins is helpful in understanding these destinctins. In talking to people from other countries, I've found that some translations are easy, such as Canadian "Grade 6" is American "6th Grade", but how do these compare to British "6th Form"? This information is currently sprinkled about various pages, but is summarized here for the readers information. Compulsory education is normally divided into three or four basic levels: pre-school, primary and secondary or preschool, primary, intermediate or middle, and secondary schooling. The grade levels within these levels are referred to differently in various countries. In some countries like the United States it is very simple, just a consecutive year of schooling. Other countries like England have more complicated systems, often referred to as forms. These grade level conventions can vary among schools making it very difficult to easily determine comparable grade levels. To further muddy the waters, some countries like New Zealand have changed the names they use for the different grade levels. Of course the matter is further complicated because students in different types of schools are often at differny academic levels even you understand the chronological age of the students. Assessing this is far beyond the capability of HBC and of less utiity in understanding school uniform trends. HBC seeks on this page to simply provide chronolgical age guidelines and some basic uniform information.

Pre-school and Kindergarden

Pre-schools and Kindergartens appeared in the 19th century as inovative educators began to assess the learming process as it realted to younger children. There was a first considerable opposition to the new theories, especisally the idea that children learned through play. Free Government pre-schools are now available to children in virtually all developed countries, except the United States. Some U.S. states offer free kindergardens, a concept imported from Germany, but many states do not. American parents must pay for private day care--a very expensive under-taking for low-income parents. Low income parents have access to Head Start. Pre-school through kindergarden care for children through about age 5. Some countries include the kindergarden or 5-year olds in the primary schools. Usually uniforms are not required for these children, even in countries where school uniforms are no widely worn. Some countries like Italy, France, and Japan might have these younger children wear smocks.

Primary/Elementary Schools

Primary schools are the first level of compulsory schooling. They generally cater for children from the age of 5-6 years to the end of their 6th year of schooling when the children would be about 11-12 yearscold. Some school systems move the 6th graders into middle schools while others might retain children in priary schools during their 7th and 8th years. Americand also refer to these schools as grammar schools, but this is confusing as grammar schools in England mean academically selective secondary schools. At primary level children work in a wide variety of learning situations. They are usually based in one classroom (which may be open-plan space housing two or more classes) but may join with other classes for some activities. In the classroom, group activities help children learn to share and work co-operatively. At other times they will work alone on projects. Class sizes vary but are generally smaller in the early years where individual attentin on basic reading and numeric skills are most important.

Many countries require primary school children to wear uniforms. Interestingly, New Zealand where school uniforms are very common, does not commonly require primary school children to wear uniforms, at least in state schools. Many American schools have begun to adopt voluntary uniforms for elementary children. British private elementary schools called prep schools almost all required uniforms. Many state elenentary schools also began requiring uniforms in the 1970s. Uniforms are rare in Europe. French and Italian children used to wear uniform-like smocks, but smocks are no longer worn in France and are increasingly less common in Italy.


American children generally begin Kindergarden at age 5, but many states do not have kindergarden and attendance is not compulsory in thise that do. New Zealand primary schools begin at 5. The class used to be called Junior 1, but is now called Year 1. Most New Zealand primary chools did not require uniforms, although private and Catholic schools generally did.

Grade 1

American children begin compulsory education in First Grade at age 6 in most states. The schools are called elementary schools, but are also referred to as primary, grade, and grammar schools. I believe the Canadians have a similar system. Comparable British state schools are called primary schools, but I am sure about the grade levels. Private schools are referred to as pre-preps. New Zealand schools used to refer to this grade as Junior 2, but now call it Year 2. One complication is that American schools generally require children to be 6 years old by a certain date to begin First Grade. If they miss that cut-off, even by a few days, they have to wait an entire year before beginning school. In some other countries, such as New Zealand, new entants arrive throughout the school year as they reach the prescribed age.

Grade 2

American children begin the Second Grade at age 7. Some British boys begin prep school at age 7, but 8 is more common. New Zealand schools used to call this Standard 1, but now refer to it as Year 3.

Grade 3

American childen begin Third Grade at age 8. This is normally the age British children atteding private schools begin preparatory schools, entering form 1. hese prep chools often required elanorate uniforms, until the 1980s mostly short pants. New Zealand schools used to call this Standard 2, but now refer to it as Year 4.

Grade 4

American childen begin Fourth Grade at age 9. British preparatory school children would be in form 2. New Zealand schools used to call this Standard 3, but now refer to it as Year 5.

Grade 5

American childen begin Fifth Grade at age 10. British preparatory school children would be in form 3. British preparatory school children would be in form 3. British primary children used to take a placement test at the end of this year, called the 11 plus exam to decide who would go to the academiclly selective grammar schools for their secondary education. Currently most British children go to comprehensive schools and no lnger take the 11-plus. New Zealand schools used to call this Standard 4, but now refer to it as Year 6.

Grade 6

American childen begin Sixth Grade at age 11. Most stay in elementary schools, but in some school districts they move to middle schools. British boys in state school began their secondary school at age 11. Most secondary schools required uniforms. Boys in their first or second year were often required to wear short pants, but this required was geerally dropped in th 1970s. British preparatory school children would be in form 4. Many prep schools by the 1980s let boys at age 11 or 12 wear long pants. Many girls in prep chools move on to their secondary schools, cvalled public schools even though they are private schools. The boys, however, generally remain in their prep schools. Most New Zealand school children move to intermediate schools at age 11. They used to call this Form 1, but now refer to it as Year 7. Some children in rural areas stay in schools called full primaries.

Middle Schools/Junior High Schools

The transition from primary to secondary school is handled differently around the world. There are both differences among and between countries. Generally there are middle schools, also referred to as Junior High Schools (America) and Intermediate Schools (New Zealand). American middle school most commonly handle 7th and 8th Grade students (age 12 and 13), but some also have 6th Graders. In New Zealand the Intermediate Schools handle Year 7 and 8 students (age 11 and 12). Some American Middle Schools have attempted to introduce voluntary uniforms, but they have not proved as popular as in the elementary schools. Almos all New Zealand Intermediate Schools require uniforms, mostly short pants uniforms.

Grade 7

American children begin Seventh Grade at age 12, almost all are in Middle or Junior High Schools. A few schoolsmight retain the 7th Grade in elementary schools. British preparatory school children would be in form 5. This is their last year of prep school. In the last term they take the Common Entrance Examination for placement in their private secondary school called public schools. Larger British schools that include all year levels vary somewhat on how they handle the transition, usually moving the prep or junior school children to the senior school at an earlier age. Most New Zealand school children are in intermediate schools at age 12. They used to call this Form 2, but now refer to it as Year 8. A few are still at full primaries.

Grade 8

American children begin Eighth Grade at age 13, almost all are in Middle or Junior High Schools. British private prep school children move on to their secondatry or Public School and would be in Form 1. New Zealand school children move to their secondary schools called variously high schools, grammar schools and colleges, depnding on their foundation rather than the type of school. They used to call this Form 3, but now refer to it as Year 9. A few are still at full primaries.

Secondary School

American children begin secondary or High Schools beginning in the 9th Grade (age 14). In other countries children may begin their secondary education earlier. Secondary education in many countries used to be limited to a fraction of the population, even in many European countries. Today most children in developed counries attend secondary school, although attendnce it is still quite limited in developing cpontries. Secondary schools operate under a different system. Students are usually grouped in classes but go to different teachers for each subject they are studying. During the course of a typical day they may move between a number of classrooms and may not necessarily be with the other students in their class. The school day is usually about half an hour longer than the primary school day. American High Schools do not require uniforms, as is the case in many other European countries. Uniforms are however genberally worn in Britain and former British colonies (Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa), Japan, amd many developing countries.

Grade 9

Most American students begin High School in the 9th Grade (age 14), they are called Freshmen. British private school students at Public Schools enter Form 2. All New Zealand pupils are in secondary schools which they used to call Form 4, but now refer to it as Year 10.

Grade 10

American students begin Tenth Grade at age 15, they are called Sophmores. British private school students at Public Schools enter Form 3. New Zealand schools used to refer to this to call Form 5, but now refer to it as Year 11. New Zealanders have generally defined a basic secondary education as staying at school until Form 5. Many secondary schools do not have a fixed graduation date as do American High School students who graduate at te end of the 12th Grade. New Zealand students can take a School Certifcate exam and leave school in this year.

Grade 11

American students begin Eleventh Grade at age 16, they are called Juniors. British private school students at Public Schools enter Form 4. New Zealand schools used to refer to this to call Form 6, but now refer to it as Year 12.

Grade 12

American students begin Twelth Grade at age 17, they are called Seniors. After successfully completing the academic requirements, American students graduate at the end of this year and rceive a diploma. Most states do not require any exam be taken, but a few do. Nore important is the Schlastic Aptitude Test for university admission. British private school students at Public Schools enter Form 5. New Zealand schools used to refer to this year as Form 7, but now refer to it as Year 13. Form 7 is the final year of secondary education in New Zealand. Most secondary pupils who continue to the 7th Form are pupils planning to go on for university education or other tertiary studies. The New Zealand system is like the British system, students can leave at different times. Their qualifications are based on exams set at the grades achieved on those examinations. There is no formal graduation for all students at the end of a senior year as in the United States.

British 6th form

I am not sure about this, but based on the numbers, British students appear to continue the Sixth Form at age 18.

Country Trends

The different coubntry educational systems and grade levels can be quite consusing. As a result we have compiled separate pages for several different countries to help readers compare the different system.

Additional Information

Careful, clicking on these will exit you from the Boys' Historical Clothing web site, but several are highly recommended


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Created: February 3, 2000
Last updated: 3:13 AM 12/11/2020