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A Key Stage is a stage of the state education system in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the British Territory of Gibraltar setting the educational knowledge expected of students at various ages. The term is also used in some other countries such as Hong Kong and Australia (some states) although the ages at which each Key Stage applies differ from England.
The stages are as follows:
|Key Stage (KS)||Ages||Duration||School years (Y)||Forms||Final exams|
|0||3–5||2 years (1 compulsory)||Nursery, Reception||Nursery, Infant Reception Class|
|1||6–7||2 years||1-2||1st–2nd form infants||KS1 SATS, Phonics and Reading Check (taken in Year 1 but may be retaken if failed in Year 2)|
|2||8–11||4 years||3-6||1st–4th form juniors||SATS Tests, eleven plus exam (generally only for Grammar school entry)|
|3||12–14||3 years||7-9||1st–3rd form secondary|
|4||15–16||2 years||10-11||4th–5th form secondary||GCSEs|
|5||17–18||2 years||12-13||6th form, secondary, also FE college||A-Levels, AS-Levels, NVQs, National Diplomas|
The National Curriculum sets out targets to be achieved in various subject areas at each of the Key Stages.
The Key Stages were first defined in the 1988 Education Reform Act to accompany the first introduction of the National Curriculum. The precise definition of each of the main 4 Key Stages is age-related, incorporating all pupils of a particular age at the beginning of each academic year. The Key Stages were designed to fit with the most prevalent structures which had already grown up in the education system over the previous 100 years of development.
Prior to the four main key stages, pupils attend a Foundation Stage, the latter part of which is compulsory.
KS1 fits broadly with the first stage of primary education, often known as infant schools. This break had existed for some time, being acknowledged in the 1931 Hadow report as 'axiomatic' by as early as 1870.
Secondary education was split between KS3 & 4 at age 14, to align with long-existing two-year examination courses at GCSE level.
Key Stages 0 and 5 have no legal definition, and are merely used as indicators to complement the defined Key Stages.