10 Dec 2019

What are Key Stages in Primary School?

Key stages are blocks of years in the UK National Curriculum that all students must go through. At the end of each key stage an assessment is done to establish what level of learning every child is working at. Primary school includes key stages 1 and 2. 

What are key stages?

A ‘key stage’ is a group of years in school, at the end of which a formal assessment is carried out to judge how well a child has learnt through that key stage. There are four official key stages (numbered 1 to 4), as well as Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) before Key Stage 1 (KS1), and Sixth Form (the unofficial Key Stage 5) after Key Stage 4.

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How are key stages grouped?

The table below shows you how which years are in each key stage (as well as EYFS and Sixth Form), how old your child will be through each key stage, and the major assessments that will happen at the end of each key stage.

matr key stages table ks1 ks2 ks3 ks4

As you can see, primary school children go through key stages 1 and 2, and take the KS2 SATs in Year 6 to measure their learning.

How is learning assessed at each key stage? 

For every ‘end of key stage’ assessment (e.g. the SATS), children are expected to be able to meet certain levels:

  • At the end of KS1 (Year 2) children are expected to be at Level 2.
  • At the end of KS2 (Year 6) children are expected to be at Level 4.
  • At the end of KS3 (Year 9) children are expected to be at Level 6.

There are no longer SATs at Year 9, but secondary schools may still assess students to the same standards.

These levels are calculated to be what an average child for their age could achieve. At Key Stage 4 students take their GCSEs or equivalent exams, for which the passing grade is 4 or 5 (out of 9).

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