Assessment and exams in schools

Key stages 1, 2, 3

What are Key Stages?

Key Stages are national statutory tests called Standard Assessment Tasks (SATs) and are taken at the ages of 7, 11 and 14.

Further information about the Key Stage tests (SATs) is available on the Department for Education website.

What do Key Stage levels mean?

  • Key Stage 1. Applies to pupils aged between 5 and 7 and covers the Reception Class and Years 1 and 2
  • Key Stage 2. Applies to pupils between 8 and 11 and covers Years 3 to 6
  • Key Stage 3. Applies to pupils between 12 and 14 and covers Years 7 to 9

When are the Key Stage tests?

SATs test dates for Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 are both in May.

Will I be penalised for my child missing an end of Key Stage test?

No, there should be no penalty for missing tests.

GCSE - General Certificate in Secondary Education

Read information about GCSEs and other Key Stage 4 qualifications on the Department for Education Website.

What is included in the GCSE curriculum?

The curriculum for pupils in Years 10 and 11 includes:

  • A small core of compulsory subjects: English, mathematics, science, and information & communications technology
  • Compulsory areas of learning: religious education, citizenship, physical education, sex education and careers and work related education
  • Entitlement areas: modern foreign language, design & technology, the arts and the humanities. Schools are required to make these subjects available to any pupils who wish to study them

Do all pupils take GCSEs?

Most pupils will be following courses leading to GCSE exams although some may take other qualifications, such as GNVQ or NVQ units or certificates of achievement.

In addition pupils usually follow a range of other subjects, some of which may be chosen from a number of options offered by the school.

Some pupils may follow courses leading to GCSE in a vocational subject and may study this at a college.

Are GCSE qualifications available for vocational subjects?

GCSEs in vocational subjects were introduced in September 2002 so pupils can take vocational qualifications, which are of the same standard as other GCSEs.

These subjects give a more practical approach to learning and give students an opportunity to find out about the world of work. The new GCSE courses are called ‘Double Awards’ and are equivalent to 2 other GCSEs.

What are GCSE (short course) qualifications?

Examining groups offer GCSE (short course) qualifications designed to take only half the study time of a full GCSE. These count as half a full GCSE.

A and AS levels

See the latest news about A/AS levels on the Department for Education website.

What is included in the sixth form curriculum?

Students are expected to follow key skills courses in communication, use of numbers and information and communications technology alongside their academic courses.

Students usually study the following at sixth form:

  • GCE Advanced level (A2)
  • Advanced Subsidiary (AS)
  • Vocational A level (VCE)

What are AS qualifications?

AS examinations are a qualification in their own right but also comprise the first year of A level (A2) courses or three units of a Vocational A level.

Most students study three, four or five AS levels subjects in Year 12 and extend some of these (usually three) to A level (A2) during Year 13.

Vocational A levels may be studied as 3 (AS), 6 or 12 (Double Award) units.

The points awarded to specific grades for GCE/VCE A level are the same. Those studying VCE A level double awards gain twice the number of points.

Most sixth forms and colleges offer vocational courses for students who opt for one year of further study after GCSE.

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