AG’s resident education expert has prepared this very helpful post on the stages of schooling here in the UK.
On entering the UK’s education system, one of the first differences you may notice is the way schooling is split up. Whereas in the US, we have Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle School, High School (then college or university as one chooses), the UK has a slightly different system.
First of all, you need to know the lingo: instead of saying grade 1 or 1st grade, the classes here are referred to as year 1, year 2, all the way through year 11 (there is also no freshman, sophomore, junior, senior in later years).
The system in broken down into what are known as “Key Stages”. These stages refer to the national curriculum guidelines which inform schools and teachers what they need to cover with students at given years, and students take tests at the end of some of the key stages.
These stages start with Foundation Stages (Nursery and Reception when you children are aged 3-5). Next you get into Primary School which includes Key Stage 1 (year 1 and year 2) and Key Stage 2 (year 3 through year 6). At the end of year 6, your child would be about 11 years old and ready to start Secondary School.
Secondary School includes Key Stage 3 (usually years 7 through year 9) and Key Stage 4 (year 10 and year 11). There is no separate middle school, and secondary schools can be quite large, with all years in one building or site. Some schools use a split site and may separate the younger years from the older.
As children are quite young when they enter secondary school, the transition from year 6 to year 7 is viewed as incredibly important, and the secondary school your child moves to will have open days and induction days for new students to come and see what the school is like and find out what they will be doing. On the down side, these induction periods sometimes consist of the students taking tests to find out what their abilities are, which can be quite stressful for students and parents.
You are almost correct. Nursery is not school. Some nurseries are on the same site as primary schools and some are not. They vary and are not compulsory.
Reception classes are part of primary schools. People start them at age 4. They are the first year of primary school, before Year 1. Most people start school in Reception, at age 4. People leave primary school at age 11, at the end of year 6.
People start at secondary school at age 11, in year 7. This finishes at age 16, in year 11. The end of year 11 is the end of school. At this point, people do exams to get school qualifications called GCSEs.