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Study USA Blog
Study UK Blog
UK Education System
The education system in the UK is divided into four main parts, primary education, secondary education, further
education and higher education. Children in the UK have to legally attend primary and secondary education which runs
from about 5 years old until the student is 16 years old.
The education system in the UK is also split into "key stages" which breaks down as follows:
- Key Stage 1: 5 to 7 years old
- Key Stage 2: 7 to 11 years old
- Key Stage 3: 11 to 14 years old
- Key Stage 4: 14 to 16 years old
Generally key stages 1 and 2 will be undertaken at primary school and at 11 years old a student will move
onto secondary school and finish key stages 3 and 4.
Students are assessed at the end of each stage. The most important assessment occurs at age 16 when students
pursue their GCSE’s or General Certificate of Secondary Education. Once students complete their GCSE’s they
have the choice to go onto further education and then potential higher education, or finish school and go
into the working world.
Our overview of the education system in the UK is divided into five main sections:
Primary education begins in the UK at age 5 and continues until age 11, comprising key stages one and two
under the UK educational system. Please visit the British Council page for more
information on primary education.
From age 11 to 16, students will enter secondary school for key stages three and four and to start their
move towards taking the GCSE’s – learn more about secondary education in the UK and what it will involve.
Primary and secondary education is mandatory in the UK; after age 16, education is optional.
Once a student finishes secondary education they have the option to extend into further education to take
their A-Levels, GNVQ’s, BTEC’s or other such qualifications. UK students planning to go to college or
university must complete further education.
Probably the most important subject area on this site, this explains more about the higher education system
in the UK and how it works for international students. Most international students will enter directly into
the UK higher education system, after completing their home country’s equivalent to the UK’s “further
Each level of education in the UK has varying requirements which must be satisfied in order to gain entry at that level – learn more about the education entry requirements for the UK.
UK Degree Online
With online programs growing in popularity, this means the availability of top-notch online programs is also on the rise. If you want to obtain a UK accredited degree without having to relocate to the United Kingdom, choosing to study online is a good option for you. Getting a UK accredited degree online allows you to fit your studies into your schedule and save money on travel costs while having access to a variety of top programs.
Please note that Scotland has a separate education system and does not conform to the above structure. Please learn
more about the Scottish Education System .
Study in the UK Guide
- Study in the UK Overview
- About the UK
- Why Study in the UK
- UK Education System
- Primary Education
- Secondary Education
- Further Education
- Higher Education
- Entry Requirements
- Financial Aid for the UK
- Tuition/ Fees
- Living Expenses
- Sources of Funding
- Studying/Living in the UK
- Map and Climate
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- Getting Around
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- After Graduation
- Graduate School
- Job Search
- Returning Home
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Odds & Ends
Age 6-7: First Grade KS1
Age 7-8: 2nd Grade KS2
Age 8-9: 3rd Grade KS2
Age 9-10: 4th Grade KS2
Age 10-11: 5th Grade KS2
IMPORTANT CORRECTION: We have been advised that each part of the UK has a different school structure
(e.g. Scotland does not use ‘Key Stages’) so when using this page please read “UK” as “England only”.
We will leave UK in some of the text for the time being as we know from visitor stats that many
people use this as a search criteria.
USA school grades compared to English (UK) years and Key Stages have similarities
but distinct differences too. Our table (below) provides a quick and simple
guide to American school years compared to English (UK) stages and throws some light
on that big question often asked here in England after watching an American
school-based TV show …. “What on earth is a Sophomore?”.
(Turns out a Sophomore is equivalent to a Year 11 pupil in England).
As it can be confusing for UK and American parents or teachers when a website says
“Suitable for Key Stage 3” or “Suitable for 8th Graders” the table should
also help them match internet resources to age and ability.
|ROUGH GUIDE to US School Grades Compared to English (UK) School Years|
|Age||UK Year (England Only)||Key Stage (England Only)||U.S. Level|
|3 to 4 years||—-||Early Years|| Pre-Kindergarten|
|4 to 5 years||Reception||Early Years|| Pre-Kindergarten|
|5 to 6 years|| Year 1 – Infants School|
(aka Primary School)
|Key Stage 1|| Kindergarten|
|6 to 7 years||Year 2||Key Stage 1|| 1st Grade|
|7 to 8 years|| Year 3 – Junior School|
(aka Primary School)
|Key Stage 2||2nd Grade|
|8 to 9 years||Year 4||Key Stage 2||3rd Grade|
|9 to 10 years||Year 5||Key Stage 2||4th Grade|
|10 to 11 years||Year 6||Key Stage 2||5th Grade|
|11 to 12 years||Year 7 – Secondary School||Key Stage 3||6th Grade – Middle School|
|12 to 13 years||Year 8||Key Stage 3||7th Grade|
|13 to 14 years||Year 9|| KS3 (or KS4 for |
3 year GCSE programmes)
|14 to 15 years||Year 10||Key Stage 4|| 9th Grade (Freshman) |
– High School
|15 to 16 years||Year 11||Key Stage 4||10th Grade (Sophomore)|
|16 to 17 years||Year 12 (6th Form)||—-||11th Grade (Junior Year)|
|17 to 18 years|| Year 13 (6th Form)|
often used as a
route to University
|—-||12th Grade (Senior Year)|
In England – from September 2013 – the education leaving age increased to 17 years
and then from 2015 it will increase once again to 18 years. This does NOT
mean that young people have to stay in school until they are 17 or 18 but it does mean
that they must stay in ‘education or training’ which could also include an
apprenticeship, part-time education or training, home education, or even some types of
The table above is for guidance only and shows USA school years compared to years and grades in England.
Please DOUBLE CHECK the above data on an official education website before
you rely upon it for any purpose. It may be inaccurate or may have been superseded
since we last checked it.
For further information and facts on the US school grades and education system, visit the most
excellent and knowledgeable Wikipedia for a detailed description of the
United States’ Education System .
For further details of
National Curriculum Key Stages
take a look on www.gov.uk.