The national curriculum

1. Overview

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.

Key stages

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

Age Year Key stage Assessment  
3 to 4   Early years    
4 to 5 Reception Early years Teacher assessments (there’s also an optional assessment at the start of the year)  
5 to 6 Year 1 KS1 Phonics screening check  
6 to 7 Year 2 KS1 National tests and teacher assessments in English, maths and science  
7 to 8 Year 3 KS2    
8 to 9 Year 4 KS2    
9 to 10 Year 5 KS2    
10 to 11 Year 6 KS2 National tests and teacher assessments in English and maths, and teacher assessments in science  
11 to 12 Year 7 KS3    
12 to 13 Year 8 KS3    
13 to 14 Year 9 KS3    
14 to 15 Year 10 KS4 Some children take GCSEs  
15 to 16 Year 11 KS4 Most children take GCSEs or other national qualifications  


By the end of each summer term the school must write a report on your child’s progress and talk it through with you.