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Key Stage

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Title: Key Stage  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Education in England, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 5, Foundation Stage, State-funded schools (England)
Collection: Educational Stages, School Terminology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Key Stage

A Key Stage is a stage of the state education system in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the British Territory of Gibraltar setting the educational knowledge expected of students at various ages. The term is also used in some other countries such as Hong Kong and Australia (some states) although the ages at which each Key Stage applies differ from England.

The stages are as follows:[1]

Key Stage (KS) Ages Duration School years (Y) Forms Final exams
0 3–5 2 years (1 compulsory) Nursery, Reception Nursery, Infant Reception Class
1 5–7 2 years 1–2 1st–2nd form infants KS1 SATS, Phonics and Reading Check (taken in Year 1 but may be retaken if failed in Year 2)
2 7–11 4 years 3–6 1st–4th form juniors SATS Tests, eleven plus exam (generally only for Grammar school entry)
3 11–14 3 years 7–9 1st–3rd form secondary
4 14–16 2 years 10–11 4th–5th form secondary GCSEs
5 16–19 2 years or more 12–13 Sixth form secondary, also FE college A-Levels, AS-Levels, NVQs, National Diplomas

The National Curriculum sets out targets to be achieved in various subject areas at each of the Key Stages.

The Key Stages were first defined in the 1988 Education Reform Act to accompany the first introduction of the National Curriculum. The precise definition of each of the main 4 Key Stages is age-related, incorporating all pupils of a particular age at the beginning of each academic year. The Key Stages were designed to fit with the most prevalent structures which had already grown up in the education system over the previous 100 years of development.

Prior to the four main key stages, pupils attend a Foundation Stage, the latter part of which is compulsory.

Key Stage 1 fits broadly with the first stage of primary education, often known as infant schools. This break had existed for some time, being acknowledged in the 1931 Hadow report as 'axiomatic' by as early as 1870.[1]

Key Stage 2 fits the later stage of primary education, often known as junior schools. Again, described by Sir William Henry Hadow, this took pupils up to the standardised break at age 11.

Secondary education was split between Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 at age 14, to align with long-existing two-year examination courses at GCSE level.

Key Stages 0 and 5 have no legal definition, and are merely used as indicators to complement the defined Key Stages.


  1. ^ BBC Learning Article: "The National Curriculum and Key Stages in England"
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