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What are Key Stages and Attainment Levels? E-mail

Key Stages explained

The National Curriculum states which subjects children must study at school. It also divides them into age groups called Key Stages. At each Key Stage, all children in state schools will study certain subjects, following the requirements of the National Curriculum.

The Key Stages are as follows:

Key Stage Year groups Ages
Foundation Stage Preschool - end of Reception Year 3-5
Key Stage 1 Years 1-2 5-7
Key Stage 2 Years 3-6 7-11
Key Stage 3 Years 7-9 11-14
Key Stage 4 Years 10-11 14-16

What are Attainment Levels?

Attainment Levels describe exactly what a child working at that level will be achieving. Your child's teachers will assess the level your child is working at in each subject on a regular basis. At the end of each Key Stage, children are assessed formally in Standard Attainment Tests (SATs). The results for each school are reported nationally.

Attainment Levels for all subjects range between 1 and 7, with 1 being the lowest. High-performing children may be awarded a Level 8 or Exceptional Performance.

The levels are also subdivided, so sometimes you may hear teachers talk about Level 6c, 2b or 4a. In this case, 'c' means the lowest achievement at any one level, 'b' the middle and 'a' the top. So a child working at Level 2b is in the middle of that level, just above Level 2c, but working up to Level 2a.

This may seem confusing, but subdividing levels helps teachers to monitor how children are progressing from term to term. For example, a child who moves from Level 3c to 3a over a year is clearly making progress, even though s/he has stayed at the same level. One who moves from Level 3a to 4c will not have progressed as much, despite moving from one level to the next.

What level should my child be working at?

At the end of each Key Stage, children are expected to reach certain levels of knowledge, skills and understanding in each subject. The expected Attainment Level for children at the end of each Key Stage is as follows:

Key Stage Most children expected to work between levels Expected attainment at end of Key Stage
Foundation Stage n/a n/a
Key Stage 1 1-3 2 (at age 7)
Key Stage 2 2-5 4 (at age 11)
Key Stage 3 3-7 5 or 6 (at age 14)

If children are working a long way above or below the expected level, the school must provide extra support. Your child's teachers will be able to tell you how your child is progressing and will be able to offer advice about any concerns.

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