What are the Key Stages in the National Curriculum?

What are the Key Stages in the National Curriculum?

Let’s take a look at what each Key Stage involves:

Key Stage 1

Key Stage 1 covers ages 5-7 and years 1 and 2 at school. During this time, your child will have a number of subjects and skills to focus on, before taking part in their first national curriculum tests at the end of Key Stage 1 called SATs. These are not pass/fail tests but simply provide an indication of your child’s progress, allowing teachers to plan future learning. Social and cognitive skills such as improving attention space and sharing with peers will play a part in education at this stage as well as academic subjects.

Key Stage 2

Key Stage 2 covers ages 7-11 and school years 3 to 6. You may hear teachers or other parents split this stage into ‘lower Key Stage 2’ and ‘upper Key Stage 2’. This is simply a way of segmenting years 3 and 4 (lower Key Stage 2) and years 5 and 6 (upper Key Stage 2) so that progress can be monitored within context. Children will take part in the second set of national curriculum tests (SATs) at the end of Key Stage 2, with the results helping to focus their learning going into Key Stage 3.

Key Stage 3

Key Stage 3 refers to the first 3 years of secondary school, covering ages 11-14 and school years 7-9. Key Stage 3 is a vital period in your child’s education, equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to tackle GCSEs in Key Stage 4. During Key Stage 3, your child will take a more specified approach to subject areas, continuing with core subjects from Key Stage 2 while also starting to explore topics such as sex, relationships and careers. End of year tests usually take place throughout Key Stage 3 for each subject and you should receive report cards to help keep track of your child’s progress.

Key Stage 4

Key Stage 4 is the last compulsory stage in your child’s education, covering ages 14-16 and years 10 and 11, the final two years of secondary education. During this time, your child will study a range of core subjects along with a number of optional subjects they would have selected at the end of Key Stage 3. At the end of Key Stage 4 teens will sit their end of secondary school exams. These will most likely be GCSEs (General Certificates of Secondary Education), though a range of other qualifications are gaining popularity, such as NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications). The final exams will bring together everything your child has learned in secondary school and will help to determine their next steps, be it further education, employment or an alternative.


Visit our Educational Books page for further support for you and your child through the Key Stages of the National Curriculum.

Is your child moving up to a new key stage next year? Tell us how you’re preparing in the comments box below.