The National Curriculum is used by primary and secondary schools. It is the agenda for teaching and learning in schools, and sets out the subjects and standards that children should achieve at each Key Stage (see below). It ensures that children nationwide learn the same things. The National Curriculum does not apply to Independent Schools, Academies or Free Schools which are free to set their own, although many Academies and Free Schools do choose to follow the National Curriculum.
The National Curriculum is organised in to blocks of years called Key Stages (see below). At the end of each Key Stage, performance for each child is formally assessed.
|3 to 4||Nursery||Early years|
|4 to 5||Reception||Early years|
|5 to 6||Year 1||KS1|
|6 to 7||Year 2||KS1|
|7 to 8||Year 3||KS2|
|8 to 9||Year 4||KS2|
|9 to 10||Year 5||KS2|
|10 to 11||Year 6||KS2|
|11 to 12||Year 7||KS3|
|12 to 13||Year 8||KS3|
|13 to 14||Year 9||KS3|
|14 to 15||Year 10||KS4|
|15 to 16||Year 11||KS4|
Assessment lets teachers see what progress your child is making and provides teachers with information which assists them to plan how to help pupils make further progress.
Children in Year 2 (aged 6-7) and Year 6 (aged 10 and 11) take national curriculum assessment tests (commonly referred to as SATS). These tests take place at the end of KS1 and the end of KS2.
These tests assess reading, maths and spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Up until 2016, SATS were graded on levels - for example Level 4 was the expected level for children finishing primary school.
From 2016 parents are now given their child's raw score (the actual number of marks they get) and whether they have reached the national average.
Year 6 SATS are largely marked externally, while Year 2 SATS are marked by teachers at the school.
The data from the Year 2 and 6 Sats tests is used to publish school "league tables", which rank primary schools on performance.
The removal of National Curriculum Levels as mandatory assessment measures in the UK means that schools have developed their own systems for assessing and monitoring their pupils, and for reporting this progress to parents.
If your child is in primary or secondary school, you can look for the school’s Assessment Policy document which will be published on their website. This will explain how your child’s school monitors, assesses and reports your child’s progress to you. You should speak to your child's school if you want more information on how they track your child's progress.
Assessing pupils with SEND
For pupils aged 5 – 16 with special educational needs who are working below the national curriculum, schools use performance attainment targets (P scales)
These apply to key stages 1, 2 and 3.
In key stage 4, the P scales and performance descriptors can be used as non-statutory guidelines describing some of the types and range of performance that pupils with SEN who cannot access the national curriculum might characteristically demonstrate.
The use of P scales is statutory for reporting teacher assessment in English, mathematics and science to the Department for Education at the end of key stages 1 and 2. P scales can also be used for reporting teacher assessment to parents in other national curriculum subjects and at other times.
P scales 1 – 4 are still in use by schools but P scales 5-8 have been replaced by the pre-key stage standards for KS1 and KS2. For more information on these, please refer to