The National Curriculum

State schools usually follow the National Curriculum which prescribes the subjects that are taught. It sets out the expected ‘levels of attainment’ for pupils at the end of every school year.

Children are placed into school years from Year 1-13 according to their age, not their level of knowledge, skills or achievement. They move up to the next ‘Year’ after the summer break, whether or not they have reached the expected level of attainment. However, those who have special needs or have fallen behind might receive extra support. The years are grouped into 'Key Stages':

  • Foundation stage - (Nursery and Reception)
  • Key Stage 1  (Years 1 and 2)
  • Key stage 2  (Years 3 - 6)
  • Key Stage 3 (Years 7 - 9)
  • Key Stage 4 (Years 10 and 11)
  • Key Stage 5 (Yeas 12 and 13)

Towards the end of Key Stage 1, pupils have reading, writing and mathematics assessments. At the end of Key Stage 2, they are assessed in the same subjects and also in spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPaG). In most schools, children move from primary school to secondary school at the beginning of Key Stage 3.

At the end of Key Stage 4, pupils will sit examinations in order to acquire the ‘General Certificate of Secondary Education’ (GCSE) for each of the subjects studied. Subject to attaining at least five GCSEs at Grade C or above, pupils may then study for up to two further years at ‘Sixth Form’ within a school or a college, in order to acquire the school-leaving qualifications, known as 'A Levels' (General Certificate of Education Advanced Level), in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Alternatively, they may study for a vocational qualification (such as hairdressing, catering, or leisure and tourism) at a college, or participate in an apprenticeship programme with an employer. Further details can be found here.