Key Stages explained
The National Curriculum states which subjects children must study at school. It also divides them into age groups called Key Stages. At each Key Stage, all children in state schools will study certain subjects, following the requirements of the National Curriculum. The National Curriculum means exactly what it says... that a child anywhere in the country should be taught the syllabus for their age group in school in every subject. This curriculum covers Key Stages 1 to 4 so that means all children from five years old to 16 are taught in the same way. It makes for a much more cohesive form of education and if children have to move school the reports will tell the new school exactly at which stage of the curriculum the child is in every subject.
The Key Stages are explained in more detail below...
Foundation Stage covers the years they spend from the beginning of nursery or pre-school to the end of reception class in primary school. It probably won't feel like learning - most children see it as just fun and play. But as they get to grips with speaking and listening, singing and dancing, stories and counting, they'll be gaining all the basic skills that will get them off to a flying start when they reach Year 1.
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Key Stage 1
Key Stage 1 covers Year 1 and 2 at primary school, from ages five to seven. There are tests when the children reach Year 2 to make sure that each child has reached a certain level in literacy and numeracy and are ready to progress to the next Key Stage. As a parent or carer, you have a very important role to play in helping your child learn, and your child's teacher will be able to guide you on giving further support.
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Key Stage 2
Key Stage 2 covers National Curriculum learning over four years, when your child is aged seven to 11, and he or she will be entering a world of interesting challenges, excitement and discovery, with a wider number of subjects being studied and more opportunity to learn on their own at home and at school. They will also be prepared for the challenge of moving from primary to secondary school.
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Key Stage 3
Between 11 and 14 years old, your child will be in Key Stage 3. In Key Stage 3, the lesson structure will be very similar to what children were used to in primary school, but new subjects, such as languages, will be introduced. At the end of Key Stage 3, each National Curriculum subject has a target - your child should have reached skills, knowledge and understanding at a particular level, and these tests will help your child decide which subjects to study at GCSE.
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Key Stage 4
Around age 14, your child will be able to make choices for study from 14 to 16 (Key Stage 4), and might end up studying a unique mix of subjects. Between the ages of 14 and 16 pupils study subjects in more depth. This means they must choose some and stop studying others. In any one school, very few pupils will study exactly the same set of subjects as they work towards qualifications at 16. In the spring term of year 9 (your child will be around 14 years old at this point), they will need to think about options for the next two years of study. Around this time most schools will also help pupils to think about what they will do after 16 through careers education.
By the end of the term, your child will need to have made their choices. The school will give your child an options booklet, and this will explain the subjects your child can study, and the kinds of qualification they can aim for. There are some compulsory subjects such as English and Maths and then a selection of other courses such as history, geography, art, music, business studies, etc, that your child will be able to pick from. Most of the courses will lead to a qualification. For some subjects, your child will be able to choose between different kinds of qualification.
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