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English education system: the national curriculum

The national curriculum of the English education system is divided into five stages (‘Key stages’):

  •   ‘Key Stage’ 1 – Infant and Years 1 & 2: for students between 5 and 7 years old.
  •   ‘Key Stage’ 2 – Years 3 – 6: for students between 8 and 11 years old.
  •   ‘Key Stage’ 3 – Years 7 – 9: for students between 12 and 14 years old.
  •    ‘Key Stage’ 4 – Years 10 – 11: for students between 15 and 16 years old.
  •    ‘Key Stage’ 5 – Years 12 – 13: for students between 17 and 18 years old.

In the English educational system, the years a student studies receive a number. Primary education begins at age 5 in Year 1. Most students begin their secondary education at the age of 11 (Year 7). At age 16 (at the end of Key Stage 4 and year 11) students sit an exam: the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). The number of subjects that the candidates take ranges from 8 to 10 including in most cases English and Mathematics.

Overseas students in England

However, not all students do these amount of subjects. For instance, Spanish students who do the GCSEs of the English education system must pass at least 4 of the subjects they have taken to validate their studies in the Spanish educational system. In the previous Key Stages it is not necessary to pass any number of subjects, since students automatically continue to do the next course in the educational system of both countries. Key Stage 5 (‘A´Levels’) is for students aged 16-18 (sometimes 19) who take an advanced level final exam after a two-year course. The usual number of subjects taken at this stage is 4.

Before university

Students who wish to continue their university studies in the United Kingdom apply for a place in one or several universities of their choice and it is the universities which ask for results in the A´Levels (Advanced Level). If these results are obtained, the student is offered a place and joins the university. Students in the English education system typically take a ‘gap year’ before starting their degrees.

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