The English Education System

The English Education System

Children in the UK must attend school from the term after their fifth birthday until the last Friday in June of the school year in which they are 18; they usually transfer from primary to secondary school at age 11 years. Most secondary schools in England are comprehensive; these do not operate a selective entrance system. Parents may choose to home educate their children. If they wish to do this they are asked to contact the Local Authority so that the provision they are making can be approved


For advice about admission to any school in Nottinghamshire please go to:


Pupils in all schools follow the National Curriculum.  In some primary schools the curriculum may be taught through topics covering all the National Curriculum subjects.  In secondary schools pupils study Art and Design, Citizenship, Design and Technology, English, Geography, History, ICT, Maths, Modern Foreign Language, Music, Physical Education, Science, Religious Education and Careers Education until the end of Year 9 when they have some choice as to which subjects they want to take for GCSE.   When choosing which GCSEs your child should take, you may want to consider a qualification in your home language as this will enable them to demonstrate their linguistic ability.

The National Curriculum is divided into five Key Stages:


Foundation stage

Age 3 - 5

Nursery and Reception

Key Stage 1

Age 5 – 7

Year groups 1 – 2

Key Stage 2

Age 7 - 11

Year groups 3 - 6

Key Stage 3

Age 11 - 14

Year groups 7- 9

Key Stage 4

Age 14 - 16

Year groups 9 - 11



Each key stage lasts several years. Schools are free to organise teaching within this time as they think best. Schools create their own plans, term by term and year by year. Pupils are assessed by National Curriculum  tests (known as SATs) at the end of each Key Stage in the month of May:

  • Key Stage 1 assessments in English and Maths are taken at age 7. Teachers will inform parents of their results.
  • Key Stage 2 assessments in English and Maths  are taken at age 11.
  • Key Stage 4 is assessed by levels of achievement in National Qualifications such as GCSE. Most pupils aim to achieve five grades between A* and C.


Although pupils will often take national tests or school examinations at the end of each school year, it is important to note pupils who do badly in these will not usually be kept down and told to repeat that school year.


Ability Groups / Sets

Pupils in primary schools may be placed in ability groups for Literacy and Numeracy work.  In secondary schools pupils may be placed in ability groups called sets for some subjects from year 7.  It is always best to ask which set your child has been placed in for each subject as this will affect the level at which they are taught.


How is my child doing in school?

All schools must provide parents/carers with an annual report on how their child is progressing in each National curriculum subject and the result of any tests they may have taken.  Please ask the school if you would like this to be translated.

Schools often have parents’ evenings at least once a year and will invite you to attend.  These meetings are important as they give you the opportunity to discuss your child’s progress.  You may need to consider whether you will need to take a friend along to help you ask questions or whether you would like the school to arrange for an interpreter to be present.

If your child is making slow progress it is possible that he or she may have special educational needs.  Children with special educational needs (SEN) all have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children of the same age. These children may need extra or different help from that given to other children of the same age.

The law says that children do not have learning difficulties just because they are learning English as an additional language; however, it is possible that some of these children may have learning difficulties as well. 


Bullying / Racist Incidents

The majority of bilingual pupils enjoy their time in  school but some pupils may encounter difficulties.  It is important that you contact the school immediately if your child experiences any difficulties such as bullying, racism or name calling.  Each  school has an agreed policy and procedures for dealing with such matters.  If you need further support or advice on any cases of bullying or racism please contact the school.



A student may stay on at a school that has post-16 provision and enter what is traditionally known as the 'Sixth Form' or students may go to a 'Further Education College'.