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The National Curriculum

What is the National Curriculum and why does it matter to parents?

The National Curriculum:

  • sets out the most important knowledge and skills that every child has a right to learn
  • is a framework given to teachers by government, so that all school children are taught in a way that is balanced and manageable, but hard enough to challenge them
  • gives standards that measure how well children are doing in each subject - so teachers can plan to help them do better.

Stages, years, national tests and tasks - How does it all work?

The National Curriculum says when things must be taught by describing broad 'key stages'. The chart below shows the different key stages, and when national tests and tasks are taken:

Age Key Stage Year Group  
3-4 Foundation    
4-5 Foundation   Teacher Assessments using Early Years Foundation Stage Profile
5-6 Key Stage 1 Year 1  
6-7 Key Stage 1 Year 2 Teacher Assessments for reading, writing, mathematics and science reported
7-8 Key Stage 2 Year 3  
8-9 Key Stage 2 Year 4  
9-10 Key Stage 2 Year 5  
10-11 Key Stage 2 Year 6 National tests in English, maths, National sampling of science
11-12 Key Stage 3 Year 7  
12-13 Key Stage 3 Year 8  
13-14 Key Stage 3 Year 9  
14-15 Key Stage 4 Year 10 Some children take GCSEs
15-16 Key Stage 4 Yea 11 Most children take GCSEs, GNVQs or other national qualifications


Schools are free to organise teaching within this time as they think best. They create their own plans, term by term and year by year.

At the end of the National Curriculum key stages 1, 2 and 3 your child will sit national tests and tasks (popularly called 'SATs'). At the end of key stage 4 they will sit national examinations, often GCSEs.






 Source: DFE