Main entrance of Camberwell High School, VIC, Australia

A secondary school or high school is an institution that provides secondary education. Some secondary schools provide both lower secondary education (ages 11 to 14) and upper secondary education (ages 14 to 18), i.e., both levels 2 and 3 of the ISCED scale, but these can also be provided in separate schools.

In the United States, most local secondary education systems have separate middle schools and high schools. In the United Kingdom, most state schools and privately funded schools accommodate pupils between the ages of 11 and 16 or between 11 and 18; some UK private schools, i.e. public schools, admit pupils between the ages of 13 and 18.[1][2][3]

Secondary schools follow on from primary schools and prepare for vocational or tertiary education. In high and middle income countries, attendance is usually compulsory for students at least until age 16. The organisations, buildings, and terminology are more or less unique in each country.[4][5]

Levels of education

In the ISCED 2014 education scale,[6] levels 2 and 3 correspond to secondary education which are as follows:

Lower secondary education
First stage of secondary education building on primary education, typically with a more subject-oriented curriculum. Students are generally around 11–16 years old.[6]
Upper secondary education
Second stage of secondary education and final stage of formal education for students typically aged 16–18, preparing for tertiary/adult education or providing skills relevant to employment, usually with an increased range of subject options and streams.[6]

Terminology: descriptions of cohorts

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Within the English-speaking world, there are three widely used systems to describe the age of the child. The first is the 'equivalent ages'; then countries that base their education systems on the 'English model' use one of two methods to identify the year group, while countries that base their systems on the 'American K–12 model' refer to their year groups as 'grades'. The Irish model is structured similarly to the English model, but differs significantly in terms of labels. This terminology extends into the research literature. Below is a comparison of some countries:[7][unreliable source]

Secondary cohorts
Location Terminology Equivalent age
11–12 12–13 13–14 14–15 15–16 16–17 17–18
Australia Year [a] 7 8 9 10 11 12
Grouping Junior high school Senior high school
Hong Kong Secondary/form 1 2 3 4 5 6
Grouping Junior secondary Senior secondary
Indonesia Grade 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Nickname SD Kelas 6 SMP Kelas 7 SMP Kelas 8 SMP Kelas 9 SMA Kelas 10 SMA Kelas 11 SMA Kelas 12
Ireland Other name Junior Cycle Transition Year Senior Cycle
Class & year 6th Class 1st Year 2nd Year 3rd Year 4th Year 5th Year 6th Year
Jamaica Form First Second Third Fourth Fifth Lower Sixth (6B) Upper Sixth (6A)
Year 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Grouping Lower School Upper School Sixth Form Programme
United Kingdom England / Wales Form First Second Third Fourth Fifth Lower Sixth Upper Sixth
Year 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Scotland S1 S2 S3 S4 S5 S6
Northern Ireland 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
United States Grade 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Nickname Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Grouping Middle School High School
Spain Grade [a] 1 2 3 4 1 2
Grouping ESO (Mandatory Secondary Education) Bachillerato
ISCED level[7][unreliable source] 2 3

Legal framework

Students at First High School in Argos, Peloponnese, Greece

Schools exist within a strict legal framework where they may be answerable to their government through local authorities and their stakeholders. In England (but necessarily in other parts of the United Kingdom) there are six general types of state-funded schools running in parallel to the private sector. The state takes an interest in safeguarding issues in all schools. All state-funded schools in England are legally required to have a website where they must publish details of their governance, finance, curriculum intent and staff and pupil protection policies to comply with The School Information (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 and 2016. Ofsted monitors these.[8][9]

Theoretical framework

Pozsonyi Királyi Katolikus Gimnázium, a high school in Bratislava, Slovakia

School building design does not happen in isolation. The building or school campus needs to accommodate:

Each country will have a different education system and priorities.[10] Schools need to accommodate students, staff, storage, mechanical and electrical systems, support staff, ancillary staff and administration. The number of rooms required can be determined from the predicted roll of the school and the area needed.

According to standards used in the United Kingdom, a general classroom for 30 students needs to be 55 m2, or more generously 62 m2. A general art room for 30 students needs to be 83 m2, but 104 m2 for 3D textile work. A drama studio or a specialist science laboratory for 30 needs to be 90 m2. Examples are given on how this can be configured for a 1,200 place secondary (practical specialism).[11] and 1,850 place secondary school.[12]

Building design specifications

The first taxpayer-funded public school in the United States was in Dedham, Massachusetts.
The red-brick building of the Kallavesi High School in Kuopio, Finland

The building providing the education has to fulfill the needs of: students, teachers, non-teaching support staff, administrators and the community. It has to meet general government building guidelines, health requirements, minimal functional requirements for classrooms, toilets and showers, electricity and services, preparation and storage of textbooks and basic teaching aids.[13] An optimum secondary school will meet the minimum conditions and will have:

Also, a secondary school may have a canteen, serving a set of foods to students, and storage where the equipment of a school is kept.

Government accountants having read the advice then publish minimum guidelines on schools. These enable environmental modelling and establishing building costs. Future design plans are audited to ensure that these standards are met but not exceeded. Government ministries continue to press for the 'minimum' space and cost standards to be reduced.

The UK government published this downwardly revised space formula in 2014. It said the floor area should be 1050 m2 (+ 350 m2 if there is a sixth form) + 6.3 m2/pupil place for 11- to 16-year-olds + 7 m2/pupil place for post-16s. The external finishes were to be downgraded to meet a build cost of £1113/m2.[14]

By country

For a more comprehensive list, see List of secondary education systems by country.

Carl-von-Ossietzky-Gymnasium, located in Görschstraße, Berlin-Pankow
Hugo Treffner Gymnasium in Tartu, Estonia
Rangpur Cadet College is one of the Cadet colleges in Bangladesh, which is quite well known for its quality Secondary and Intermediate education, along with a well-disciplined boarding system.
Stiftsgymnasium Melk, a Roman Catholic Benedictine-run gymnasium located in Melk, Austria. The gymnasium, located within and run by the Melk Abbey monastery, was built around the 12th century and has been a public high school in its present-day format since 1707.
Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut
Chorlton Park Secondary School in Manchester, England

A secondary school locally may be called a high school (abbreviated as HS or H.S.), can also be called senior high school. In some countries there are two phases to secondary education (ISCED 2) and (ISCED 3), here the junior high school, intermediate school, lower secondary school, or middle school occurs between the primary school (ISCED 1) and high school.

Names for secondary schools by country


  1. ^ a b Year 6 / Primary 6 is not a part of secondary school

See also


  1. ^ "The British Education System". The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. Archived from the original on April 25, 2019. Retrieved January 28, 2022. Most pupils begin their secondary education at the age of 11 (Year 7), but in some HMC schools pupils join the school at 13+ (Year 9).
  2. ^ "Entry to Eton". Eton College. Archived from the original on December 14, 2021. Retrieved January 28, 2022. ... Eton College, a boarding school for boys aged between 13 and 18.
  3. ^ "Admissions". Harrow School. Archived from the original on January 28, 2022. Retrieved January 28, 2022. Each year, the School admits about 160 boys into Year 9, in the September following their 13th birthday...
  4. ^ "International Standard Classification of EducationI S C E D 1997". 11 April 2013. Archived from the original on 2017-03-19. Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  5. ^ Iwamoto, Wataru (2005). "Towards a Convergence of Knowledge Acquisition and Skills Development" (PDF). UNESCO. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-05-25. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  6. ^ a b c "International Standard Classification of Education ISCED 2011" (PDF). UNESCO UIS. UNESCO Institute for Statistics. 2012. p. 38. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 26, 2020. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Ward, Ken. "British and American Systems (Grades)". Archived from the original on 31 March 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  8. ^ "What academies, free schools and colleges should publish online". GOV.UK. Archived from the original on 9 October 2020. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  9. ^ "What maintained schools must publish online". GOV.UK. Archived from the original on 9 October 2020. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  10. ^ Liew Kok-Pun, Michael (1981). "Design of secondary schools:Singapore a case study" (PDF). Educational Building reports. Voume 17. UNESCO. p. 37. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-04-04. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  11. ^ "Baseline designs: 1,200 place secondary (practical specialism) - GOV.UK". GOV.UK. Archived from the original on 5 April 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  12. ^ "Baseline design: 1,850 place secondary school - GOV.UK". Archived from the original on 5 April 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  13. ^ a b "Guidelines relating to planning for public school infrastructure". Department of Basic Education, Republic of South Africa. 2012. Archived from the original on 7 September 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  14. ^ "Baseline designs for schools: guidance - GOV.UK". Education Funding Agency. 11 March 2014. Archived from the original on 4 April 2017. Retrieved 3 April 2017.