Types of schools

In England and Wales, children are required to attend school between the ages of 5 and 15, though of course they can attend outside these age ranges. The two main types of schools are Primary and Secondary, which can sometime be split into different types. Here is a list with all the different key stages for the British Education system:

Primary: Age 5 – 11 years

Many primary age schools are split up into Infant (Key Stage 1) and Junior (Key Stage 2) schools. Before attending a primary school, many children attend a Nursery school. Nursery schools can take in children between the ages of 3 and 5 years and may or may not be attached to a state infant/primary school. The primary age year groups are as follows:

Reception/Year R (age 4-5) – Foundation

Year 1 (age 5-6), Year 2 (age 6-7) – Key Stage 1

Year 3 (age 7-8), Year 4 (age 8-9), Year 5 (age 9-10), Year 6 (age 10-11) – Key Stage 2

Secondary: Age 11 – 15 years

Most Secondary schools are known as Comprehensives, but in some towns there are Grammar Schools where admission is based on a successful selection test (11+). Some secondary schools do not have a Sixth form, so children leave at the end of their fifth year. Those secondary schools that do have a sixth form have children who stage at school until their eighteenth year. The Secondary age year groups are as follows:-

Year 7 (age 11-12), Year 8 (age 12-13), Year 9 (age 13-14) – Key Stage 3

Year 10 (age 14-15), Year 11 (age 15-16) – Key Stage 4

Schools with a sixth from have two more year groups: Year 12 (ages 16-17), Year 13 (ages 17-18). (These latter two year groups are sometimes called the lower and upper sixth forms).


First and Middle Schools

In some counties of Britain, instead of primary schools, they have First and Middle schools. For example the counties of Suffolk and Dorest have this school system. First schools take in children between the ages of 5 and 9, whilst middle schools take in children between the ages of 9 and 12. After this the children then go on to attend a secondary school.

Welsh Schools

Children in Wales follow more or less the same model as the English system, though there are some notable differences. For example, children first start primary school in the term after their fifth birthday, and Welsh as a subject is compulsory in all Welsh state schools. Testing at Key Stage 1 is no longer compulsory and this is being extended to Key Stage 2 and 3 by the year 2007-8.

Scottish Schools

Children in Scotland usually start school in the year when they reach age five. They spend seven years at primary school before going on to secondary school around the age of 12 years old. The year groups in Scottish primary schools are called P1, P2, etc, whilst those in Scottish secondary schools are called S1, S2, etc. Pupils will follow a wide curriculum for the first two years, before going on to study less subjects in more detail for the next two years. At the end of S4 pupils will sit examinations in either Standard Grade or Intermediate. In their fifth year they study a smaller number of subjects, usually at Higher (although they might still study Standard Grade or Intermediate). In their sixth year they progress to Advanced Higher.

Northern Ireland Schools

Children in Northern Ireland follow a similar system to England and Wales with primary and secondary schools, though until recently all primary children took the 11 Plus exam for possible entrance to grammar schools. This exam is no longer compulsory in Northern Ireland, though the majority of children do still take this exam.

The School Year

Most State schools follow the three-term year, which starts in September with Autumn Term. This goes through to December, when there is usually a two week break for the Christmas holidays. The Spring Term will then start in early January and go through to late March/early April when the Easter Holidays take place. As Easter is a moveable feast the Spring Term can be as short as 10 weeks and as long as 14 weeks. The Summer Term will then start mid to late April and end mid to late July before a break of approximately six weeks for the summer holidays.

Some local education authorities have abandoned the three term year in favour of a four-term year, which has shorter terms, and of course shorter holiday breaks! The argument in favour of this system seems to be that children learn better when there are shorter terms followed by more evenly spaced holiday periods. (For an example of a four term school press here) There have been rumours that a four-term year may one day become compulsory for all schools, but that is yet to be seen. Independent Schools tend to follow the three-term option, though their terms may be up to a week shorter than their state counterparts.

All schools have a half term break mid-way through each term, usually of five school day’s duration. In addition each school will be closed to pupils for five training days a year when the staff have training days to learn about recent educational developments or plan for the future. These days are usually taken from the beginning or end of a term and should be announced to the parents at the beginning of a school year. By law schools should be open for teaching pupils 191 days in a year, which works out at 38 weeks 2 days.


School Parent Contacts

There are a number of ways in which parents can make contact with and so build relationships with their child’s school.

Registering your child at a school The first way is when you register your child for a particualr school. The school will need to know contact details, any health problems and any special needs your child may have.

Before your child actually starts school, the school will probabaly invite you and your child into the school for a “preparation” day or morning. Here your son/daughter will meet his/her new teacher and classmates, whilst you can voice any concerns/questions you may have about school, such as break times, what the school does if your child is unwell, etc.

Illness Once your child has started school/nursery, contact will usually be made if your child is unwell. In the case of your child being unwell at home, it is advisable to telpehone the school as early as possible (usually before 9.30am) on the first day of absence. When your child returns to school a note explaining the reason for his/her illness will also be required.
If your child is unwell at school or has hurt himself in any way the school will try and contact you as soon as possible. This is why it is important that contact numbers are left with the school. If your child has had a monor accident it is the school’s duty to inform you of this. Usually this is the form of a note explaining what has happened and what action they have taken.

The National Curriculum

The National Curriculum was set up in the 1990’s as a way of ensuring each school pupil in Britain received the same educational opportunities wherever they were educated in the country. Although the National Curriuculum was not compulsory in Independent schools, many of these schools chose to implement the National Curriculum.

There are two main aims of the National Curriculum. These are:
Aim 1: The school curriculum should aim to provide opportunities for all pupils to learn and to achieve.
Aim 2: The school curriculum should aim to promote pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and prepare all pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life.

The four main purposes of the National Curriculum are:
1) To establish an entitlement of learning for pupils such as knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes necessary for their self-fulfilment and development as active and responsible citizens.
2) To establish national standards for the performance of all pupils in the subjects it includes. These standards can be used to set targets for improvement, measure progress towards those targets, and monitor and compare performance between individuals, groups and schools.
3) To promote a coherent national framework that promotes curriculum continuity and is sufficiently flexible to ensure progression in pupils’ learning. It facilitates the transition of pupils between schools and phases of education and provides a foundation for lifelong learning.
4) To promote public understanding of, and confidence in, the work of schools and in the learning and achievements resulting from compulsory education. It provides a common basis for discussion of educational issues among lay and professional groups, including pupils, parents, teachers, governors and employers.

School League Tables

School League Tables have been with us for several years now and whether you love them or loathe them, it looks like they will be with us for many more years now. Many parents do tend to go for the schools which come out higher in the league tables.

In October 2005 the BBC published reworked league tables based on forthcoming changes in how the league tables are put together.


Ofsted stands for the Office of Standards in Education and is concerned with the inspection of state schools in England and Wales.

Link to the Ofsted web site: press here