Research: For Birmingham I've read the wiki page, but soon realised most of my questions were the kind which were more personal experiences than facts.
For the English schooling system I've browsed the previous questions and answers in this community but I have had a hard time piecing some things together and there are some specific questions which I could not find answers to.
Okay, I'll start with my questions on Birmingham.
1. What does it look, smell, feel and sound like to one who has just moved to it from Ireland? From a quiet, semi rural property on the outskirts of a bigger city if such a place exists (I'm planning to research it next, perhaps I'm doing this in the wrong order, but it doesn't feature in the story except for memories). If this relies on a specific location in Birmingham, she is upper-middle class and staying with her successful business man of an older brother in an area I would think to be upper to middle class, does such an area exist? Where? and what is it like?
2. What are British people's general opinions of Birmingham and the people in it? EG in Australia Adelaide is joked of as a bit of a hole and the crime capitol of Australia, Melbourne is rainy and artsy/geeky, with big local music, art, and comedy scenes. (That's how I see them anyway.)
3. My character is passionate about and wants to study English Literature and might have a thing for Tolkien. I read that he was brought up in Birmingham. Would there be a University with anything special to do with him about it? If not which is a more likely university for an English Literature/Creative writing student who also fools around with Photography to study at?
4. What is Birmingham like in regards to homophobia? Especially in their schools (public school, English meaning of the word).
5. How would an Irish person be viewed/treated in Birmingham?
6. Where would a Uni student go out with their friends for a night out? Where would they go on a date? And what would be some places that a high school or uni student interested in photography and literature be interested in visiting?
And on English schools. I'm talking public schools in the English sense of the word. A comfortable but not rich kind of bracket. In the Birmingham area.
1. Why is the term public schools? I just can't figure that one, because in Australia public schools are open to everyone and I see how the word fits in that sense, not in the private/restricted kind of school sense.
2. Is the term different in Ireland where my character just moved from?
3. Which subjects are compulsory in the GCSEs? Which additional subjects would a character interested in English Literature take? Do those subjects change name and what additional subjects would be available in the A levels?
4. Would fifth form (age 15-16) be a highly disruptive time to change schools and move countries compared to fourth form? That is would it be better/less jarring for her if she moved at the start of fourth form, or the start of fifth form?
6. What are the base requirements for admittance to Uni in a Creative Arts kind of degree majoring in English Literature? Come to think of it, is that how Uni's work in England?
7. Would an after school photography club be likely? Run by a teacher? Would it count towards something for school or just be for fun? Would it be taught as a subject in forms four, five or six?
8. How unusual would it be for a student and teacher to develop a kind of friendship? Chatting in the hall or library at breaks and after photography club and also private tutoring/help with maths work sometimes. Not in a regular, official way just helping her out as a friend because he teaches maths and she can't get it but he's not her maths teacher and she doesn't like her maths teacher. If she lived a fair distance from the school and she missed her bus staying back to get maths help or chat how inappropriate/unusual would it be for him to give her a lift home?
9. How strict is the uniform policy? Specifically, if a girl wore a guys uniform would they let her or bug her about it? Is there an official rule barring her from doing so? If her name was unisex would a class teacher know her gender from any other information? Or would he just have the roll and no more info? How much would he have to dig to find something which specified her gender, and would he bother if there wasn't much suspicious about her? Is it plausible that everyone would assume she was a guy, or would there be something like sport which would give her away? Is phys ed/gym or any kind of sport compulsory in forms four or five or six?
10. How big a factor does religion play in English public schools?
11. Can anyone describe the basics of a typical English public school boys uniform and a girls uniform please.
I'll probably have more questions later, after I do some more thinking and reading. Thankyou in advance for all your answers.
ETA: I was away for a few days, but now I'm back and everyone's answers have been so helpful. Thankyou all so much. I'm going to work on replying now. :D