The National Curriculum

The ‘basic’ school curriculum includes the ‘national curriculum’, as well as religious education and sex education.  The national curriculum is a set of subjects and standards used by primary and secondary schools so children learn the same things. It covers what subjects are taught and the standards children should reach in each subject.

Other types of school like academies and private schools don’t have to follow the national curriculum. Academies must teach a broad and balanced curriculum including English, maths and science. They must also teach religious education.

The national curriculum is organised into blocks of years called ‘key stages’ (KS). At the end of each key stage, your child’s teacher will formally assess their performance to measure your child’s progress.

Assessment

The most important national tests your child will take in school are the Key Stage 2 SATs which take place in mid-May and the Key Stage 4 examinations which take place between mid-May and the end of June depending on the examination body.  You will receive an official copy of these exam results.

Your child will also be tested in Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 3 when the class teacher will use the child’s work (including spoken work and homework) to work out what level your child is at in each area. 

  • Your child will sit their Key Stage 1 tests when they are in Year 2 (age 6-7). The expected level of attainment is Level 2.
  • Your child will sit their Key Stage 2 tests when they are in Year 6 (age 10-11).The expected level of attainment is Level 4.
  • Your child will sit their Key Stage 3 tests when they are in Year 9 (age 13-14).The expected level of attainment is Level 5 or 6
  • Your child will sit their GCSE and GNVQ's (Key Stage 4) when they are in Year 11 (age 15-16). The expected level of attainment is five GCSEs (at grade A*-C) including English and maths

Schools set targets for children based on past performance and an expected average rate of progress. Children are considered to be underachieving if they have not reached expected levels or do not make the average rate of progress. Therefore a child who is average in maths at Key Stage 2 would be considered to be underachieving if at Key Stage 1 they were above average.

At the end of year 11 when students are aged 16, they take exams in a range of subjects at GCSE level or equivalent. After this students may leave school or stay on at their secondary school if it has a sixth form. They can also continue their education at a vocational or technical college. Most students who stay on at school or go to college will take AS levels after one year and take A2 levels after two years. These are required for University entrance in the UK.

Individual school's Key Stage 1 results are not published but we have a statutory obligation to publish individual school's Key Stage 2,3 and 4 results. These results are published on the DfE website. If you are interested in a particular school's results you can find the school on our A to Z school list.

When is my child statutory school age?

Parents and carers of a child of statutory school age (also known as compulsory school age) have a legal duty to provide them with a full-time education.  A child is of statutory school age on the 1st January, 1st April or 1st September after their fifth birthday.  

  • Children becoming 5 years old between 1 September and 31 December are of statutory school age at the beginning of the term after 1 January.
  • Children becoming 5 years old between 1 January and 31 March are of statutory school age at the beginning of the term after 1 April. 
  • Children becoming 5 years old between 1 April and 31 August are of statutory school age at the beginning of the term after 1 September. 

A young person stops being of statutory school age on the last Friday in June during the year that he/she becomes 16 years old, as long as the child’s birthday is before the beginning of the next school year. If his/her 16th birthday falls after the start of the new school year, he/she is still of statutory school age until the end of the last Friday in June of the following year. 

Legislation now requires all young people to stay in a designated learning environment until the age of 18. This is called “Raising the Participation Age” or RPA.  This does not affect the statutory school age but places young people under the age of 18 under a duty to participate in education or training.

More information

Page last updated: 
12 September 2013
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