A form is a grouping of students in an educational stage, class, or school. The term is mainly used in the UK, although some schools, mostly private, also use the title in other countries. Students are usually grouped into forms by age and will stay with the same group for several years, or sometimes their entire school career.
In Victorian times there was a “farm” bench on which pupils sat for lessons. In some small schools the whole school will be taught in one room, with different ages sitting on different benches.
Form numbers. Forms are traditionally identified by a number such as “first form” or “sixth form”, although it is now more common to use the academic year: for example, “ten”. This word is usually used in senior schools (ages 11-18), although it can be used for younger children in private schools. As a result, children in their first year of senior school (aged 11-12 years) may be in their first year, third year or seventh year. Where the same form number is used for two year groups, they are distinguished by the terms “above” and “below”. The most senior forms are traditionally lower and upper sixth or first and second year sixths.
Form names. If there is more than one form for each year group, they will usually be separated by letters (eg, “3S”, “Upper 4A”, “Lower 2B”, “10J”, which are Roman or can be written using Arabic numerals (eg, “IIIS/3S”, “UIVA/U4A”, “LIIB/L2B”). The letter A is used to distinguish between different forms within the same year. It can be as simple as B,C, which may or may not be related to a range of abilities. A common practice is the year number followed by the initials of the teacher who takes the form class (eg, year A form of 7 whose teacher is John Smith would be “7S”. Alternatively, some schools use “vertical” form classes where students from several years from the same school house are grouped together. In this case, the numeral is replaced by the first letter of the house name (for example, “RJS” for the Red House Farm class taught by John Smith). In the past, British schools sometimes had a used a letter to denote a specialty, especially in 6th forms (eg, “S” (Science 6th), “M” (Military 6th), “N” (Nursing 6th) or “T” (Teaching 6th). Some British public schools also had a “remove” form.
Pupils may be referred to by their formative stage such as “former third”, “lower fourth”.
Pupils live in a “form room” (equivalent to the American “homeroom”).
The teacher responsible for the form is the “form master”, “form mistress” or “form teacher”.
Traditional terms are still used in some fee-paying schools in the United Kingdom and are commonly used in secondary schools in Hong Kong. Publicly funded schools in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Secondary schools have their own standard terms for the different educational stages, eg Year 1 to Year 13 in England, but still refer to the “form”. However, “Sixth Form” and related terms (“Sixth Formers”, “Sixth Form Colleges”) are still widely used for the most senior students (ages 16–18).
In the 19th and 20th centuries, “form” and related terms were widely used in school stories found in books, children’s comics, and other media. Examples include:
Angela Brazil works like the luckiest girl in the fifth
Works by Evelyn Smith such as Banky of IIIB
Billy Bunter – Known as “The Owl of the Remo” and his sister Bessie, created by Frank Richards. Bunters appeared in comics, books, radio and television.
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