At the beginning of the novel, Josephine is in Amman, Jordan. Amman s the capital and most populous city of Jordan, and the country’s economic, political and cultural centre.
The main action takes place in a boarding school. Josephine and Freya are in Upper Sixth in 1996. In the education systems of England, Northern Ireland, Wales and some other Commonwealth countries, sixth form (sometimes referred to as Key Stage 5) represents the final 1-3 years of secondary education , where students (typically between 16 and 18 years of age) prepare for their A-level examinations.The term sixth form describes the school years numbered 12 and 13, which are called the Lower Sixth (L6) and Upper Sixth (U6) by many schools. Pupils started their first year of secondary school in the first form or first year, and this was the academic year in which pupils would normally become 12 years of age. Pupils would move up a form each year before entering the fifth form in the academic year in which they would have their sixteenth birthday. Those who stayed on at school to study for A-levels moved up into the sixth form, which was divided into the Lower Sixth and the Upper Sixth.
Josephine and Freya are appointed prefects that year. In some British schools (especially but not exclusively Independent schools), prefects, usually students in fifth to seventh years (depending on how many years the school in question has), have considerable power; in some cases they effectively run the school outside the classroom. They were once even allowed to administer school corporal punishment in some schools (now abolished in the UK and several other countries). They usually answer to a senior prefect known as the Head of School or Head Prefect or Head Boy or Head Girl or Senior Prefect. Larger schools may have a hierarchical structure with a team of prefects, a team of senior prefects, and a Head Boy and Girl.
Josephine becomes the head girl and Verity deputy head. Head boy and head girl are roles of prominent pupillary responsibility.In some British schools, the pupil body (or the headteacher) may elect a head boy and/or a head girl from the pupils/students. Head boys and head girls are usually responsible for representing the school at events, and therefore must be able to make public speeches also being a good role-model for students, and sharing pupils ideas with the schools leadership. He or she may also be expected to lead fellow prefects in their duties. Deputy head boys and girls may also be appointed, taking on the day-to-day management of the prefects in some institutions, as well as looking after the school and creating a link between teachers and pupils.
Josephine mentions her UCLAS application several times throughout the novel. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK-based organisation whose main role is to operate the application process for British universities. It operates as an independent charity, funded by fees charged to applicants and to universities, plus advertising income.
Josephine and the other girls in her school want to gain admission in Oxford, and it is a complex procedure:
- For most courses, you need to register to take a test as part of your application.
- UCAS application. Submit by 15 October in the year before your course begins at http://www.ucas.com.
- Written work: For many courses, you need to send in written work as part of your application.