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What are the Key Stages?

Key stages are the different stages or ‘blocks’ of the national curriculum. You’ll often see key stages written as ‘KS’ followed by a number.

The national curriculum is a set of subjects and standards used by most primary and secondary schools funded and run by the government and councils.

The national curriculum allows most children to learn the same things. Key stages break the curriculum down into manageable chunks. Key stages can be shorter or longer and usually take between 2 to 4 years to cover.

Other types of school like academies and private schools might set their own curriculums.

Early Years 0 to 5s

From birth to 5 years old the early years foundation stage (EYFS) sets standards for the learning, development and care of your child.

All Ofsted-registered early years providers follow the EYFS including:

  • childminders
  • preschools
  • nurseries
  • school reception classes

Between 0 to 5 your child will start to learn these mostly through games and play. Find out more about early education and how you can support it.

Primary School

These are the key stages taught at primary schools to children 5 to 11 years old.

Key Stage (KS) Taught at ages Taught in
KS1 5 to 7 year 1 and year 2
KS2 7 to 11 year 3, year 4, year 5, year 6

Assessment at this stage

  • Teacher assessments in Reception
  • Phonics screening check in Year 1
  • National tests and teacher assessments in English, maths and science in Year 2
  • National tests and teacher assessments in English and maths, and teacher assessments in science in Year 6

By the end of each summer term the school will write a report on your child’s progress and talk it through with you.

Secondary School

Key Stage (KS) Taught at ages Taught in
KS3 11 to 14 year 7, year 8, year 9
KS4 14 to 16 year 10 and year 11

Assessment at this stage

  • Some children take GCSEs in year 10
  • Most children take GCSEs or other national qualification in year 11

By the end of each summer term the school will write a report on your child’s progress and talk it through with you.

Key stage 5

Key stage 5 is then taught between 16 to 18 a secondary school sixth forms, sixths forms and colleges.

Qualifications and levels

Every qualification has a ‘level’, for example:

  • GCSEs
  • A Levels
  • National diplomas
  • Degrees
  • NVQs

There are 9 levels of education ranging from entry level to level 8. Levels might be referred to in job adverts and applications for other educational courses.

Find out more about what qualification levels mean.