English Education System


In general terms a child enters the English education system on the term when they reach their fifth birthday (or in some cases earlier) and they have to attend school thereafter until they reach the age of 16. If they wish they can then go on to higher education although this is not compulsory. Children can either go through the state system or go to private schools or other specialist schools such as faith schools and grammar schools.

Schooling for 5-11 year olds

Children between these ages will either attend a primary school which contains both infant and junior classes or separate infant and junior schools. If they attend separate schools then the schools will often be linked together in some way. The first class they join will be Reception, followed by Years 1-6. The infant Reception class and Years 1 and 2 are known as KS1 (Key Stage One) whilst the junior classes from Years 3-6 are known as KS2 (Key Stage Two). Children are assessed on the standards of the national curriculum at the end of Year 2 and the end of Year 6.

Schooling for 11-16 year olds

At the age of 11 children will generally move up to secondary school education. They must attend school here until they reach 16. Here they will go through KS3 (Key Stage 3) between the ages of 11-14 and KS4 (Key Stage 4) between the ages of 14-16. Children are assessed here at the end of KS3 and at the end of KS4 when they will take their GCSEs.

Schooling for 16-18/19 year olds

If a child wishes to remain in education after the age of 16 then they will enter the sixth form system either at their existing school or at a specific sixth form college or higher education college. Here they can study for A Levels and/or for vocational courses such as BTECs and City and Guilds.

Schooling post 18/19

At this stage students can opt to leave the school system or to study further. They may, for example go to university or to another kind of further education institution to study for a degree or other higher level qualification.

In some cases schools in certain areas may not follow this system and may adopt a system of middle schooling. Here the child will move out of primary school at the age of 8 or 9 to a middle school where they will stay until they reach 12 or 13.