The schools system in England

When working with schools, it is useful to understand how the school system in England works.

Learning – Developmental Matters (ages 0-5)

The British Association for Early Childhood Education have released ‘Developmental Matters’ which is non-statutory guidance to support practitioners to implement the statutory requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (Ages 0-5). Read more in Developmental Matters.

The Early Years Foundation Stages is the beginning of a child’s learning. This encompasses Nursery and Reception. During this stage children are often involved with free flow play where they explore their environment and short teaching sessions where they are introduced with phonics.

Learning - National Curriculum

The government’s department of education released the National Curriculum in 2014 which is a set of subjects and standards used by primary and secondary schools to ensure consistency in teaching and learning. The National Curriculum organises school years into ‘key stages’ and at the end of each stage, children are formally assessed. See below to see how the year groups and stages are organised. Read more in the National Curriculum.

Academies and private schools do not have to follow the national curriculum but must teach a broad and balanced curriculum including English, maths, science and religious education.

Key Stage 1 encompasses Year 1 (ages 5-6) and Year 2 (ages 6-7). In year 1, children take their Phonics Screening Test and in Year 2 they take KS1 SATs which are formal tests in Maths and English that are marked by the school.

Key Stage 2 encompasses Year 3 (ages 7-8), Year 4 (ages 8-9), Year 5 (ages 9-10) and Year 6 (ages 10-11). In Year 6, children sit KS2 SATs which are formal Maths and English exams moderated externally. Additionally, pupils in Year 6 may take secondary school selection tests such as the 11 plus.

Key Stage 3 encompasses Year 7 (ages 11-12), Year 8 (ages 12-13) and Year 9 (ages 13-14).

Key Stage 4 encompasses Year 10 (ages 14-15) and Year 11 (ages 15-16). In Year 10, some children take GCSEs and in Year 11 most children take their GCSEs or other national qualifications.

Learning – Further Education

Children are required to remain in education or training until the age of 18. During this time there are many educational options that include, Sixthform (A levels, International Baccalaureate or BTECs in Year 12 and 13), College (Technical and Applied Qualifications) or apprenticeships. Read more about further education.

Types of Schools

State schools are schools that receive funding through their local authority or government and are free to attend for all children in England between the ages of 5 and 16.

State schools include community schools, foundation and voluntary schools, academies and free schools and grammar schools.

Read more about types of schools.

Private schools (independent schools) are not funded by the government and instead charge fees to attend. All private schools must be registered with the government and are inspected regularly but pupils do not have to follow the national curriculum.