This section contains an explanation that I feel will be necessary to the story. The actually story starts in the next chapter. Please take the time to read this before you go on, as any confused reviews will be laughed at.
A brief explanation of the English school system. This is mostly for the benefit of those of you who haven't been part of the UK education system.
For the purpose of this story, I will treat Hogwarts as an English school, as opposed to a British school. This is relevant, because the regulations are slightly different for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I went to school in England, and my mother was a teacher in England, so this is the system I know and understand. In Wales, the Welsh language is a compulsory part of the curriculum. In Scotland there are different regulations and names for things than there are in England, and I believe that this is also the case in Northern Ireland.
I know that Hogwarts is almost certainly in Scotland, but I don't know enough about the Scottish education system to be able to write this properly, which why I'm assuming that Hogwarts is English. If you're Scottish, Welsh or from Northern Ireland, and I've got something wrong, feel free to correct me.
In England, school life goes as follows…
At the age of four or five you start school, and go into Reception class. This is the official name for this class, although in many schools it's actually known by a different name. This is the academic year (September - August) in which you turn 5. Through most of England, the next years are in the same school, which is often divided into two section, infants and juniors. These are the Years numbered 1 - 6. The National Curriculum divides these into Key Stages 1 and 2, which are: Key Stage 1 - Reception to Year 3, Key Stage 2 - Year 4 to Year 6.
Secondary School begins with Year 7. This is equivalent to the First Year at Hogwarts. Key Stage 3 covers Years 7, 8 and 9, and Key Stage 4 covers Years 10 and 11, finishing with the GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) Depending on the school, an average student will take between nine and eleven GCSEs. English, Maths and Science are compulsory. In some years a modern language is also compulsory, although not always. Some form of Design and Technology is usually compulsory too.
Each Key Stage is a set of guidelines covering what a student should learn during this period.
At the end of Year 11, a student will be 16 years old and education will no longer be compulsory. Any students wishing to continue studying then go on to sixth form. (The name remains from a time when Years 7 -11 were known as the first - fifth years of secondary school, as they are at Hogwarts.) Many sixth forms are independent, but some are attached to secondary schools, particularly at private schools (such as Hogwarts…)
The two years at Sixth form ("College") lead up to the GCE 'A' levels. (General Certificate of Education, Advanced Level. The GCSEs were originally known as GCE Ordinary levels, which is why my parents still refer to them as 'O' levels.) Under current, relatively new guidelines, students study for 'AS' (Advanced Supplementary) levels in their first year (and AS is worth half an A level), and then continue with three of these subjects to full A level in the second year. When I was at sixth form (1997 -1999) I took three A levels for two years, as students have done for years, and apparently the new system isn't as good…
The Hogwarts equivalents of the GCSEs are the OWLs, and the equivalent of the A levels are the N.E.W.T. s. But you probably worked that out on your own…
All schools and sixth forms are subject to inspection, by a body known as OFSTED. (Office For STandards in EDucation.) A school will have at least a term's notice, and is inspected every four years. OFSTED inspect teaching standards, the paperwork behind the teaching, and the facilities. A school not up to standard can be put on "special measures", given a certain amount of time to sort itself out, then re-inspected and either given a better grade or closed down… A school approaching an OFSTED inspection will therefore be full of new paint and panicking teachers.