Once your child has started school, it is time to think about how your child or young person is doing at school. Are they working hard? Are they behaving? Will they leave school with the necessary qualifications and experiences to equip them for their next steps in education or in employment? Below we set out what their experience will look like, as well as tips to ensure their ongoing success.


The years we spend in education  can richly rewarding and engaging. Although this may not be true for everyone, what is true is that the years we spend in school are the most important years of our lives for establishing the skills required for stable and successful future.

What sub-section are available on this page?

      • Stages of Education
      • Types of Schools
      • Primary & Secondary Assessment Levels
      • Ensuring Success

Stages of Education (Including Key Stages)

Early Years (Nursery)

  • Children can typically start nursery school between the ages of 2-3 years
  • Nursery provides a great place for children to learn social and mobility skills
  • Nursery school is not free for all, but you may be entitled to support

Primary School

  • Children attend between the ages of 4-11 years
  • Education from the age of 5 years is mandatory in the UK
  • Primary schools are free, unless they are shown as private

Secondary School

  • Children between the ages of 11-16 years must attend school
  • Secondary education provides a child with a well-round basic/ essential level of education
  • Pupils will often study between 5-11 subjects

Alternative Provision (AP)

  • AP can take the form of on-site inclusion units, AP schools and Pupil Referral Units (PRU’s)
  • Children may need to attend an AP if they are struggling to cope with either primary or secondary education
  • AP schooling bares no reflection on your child and placements should be regularly considered to be in the best interest of the child


  • Students typically move to college once they have turned 16
  • Early college is available for 14–16-year-olds if secondary education is not working
  • Students typically study one to five subjects


  • Students can typically apply from the age of 18, but any adult of any age can apply to study
  • Students typically studying one or two subjects only
  • When students finish university, they are known as ‘graduates’ and can go on to study a Masters or a PhD

Types of Schools

Maintained Schools

Sometimes referred to as ‘community schools’ or ‘local authority schools’. These schools are controlled by the local authority. These schools are not influenced by any business or religious groups. They must follow the National Curriculum.


Sometimes referred to as ‘free schools’. These schools are run by not-for-profit academy trusts and are independent from the local authority. Academies receive their funds directly from the government. These school have more freedom to operate how they see fit (for example, setting their own term dates) and are free to establish their curriculum.

Foundation Schools

Sometimes referred to as ‘voluntary schools’ or ‘religious schools’. These schools are funded by the local authority but have more freedom to change the way the school operates. Usually, these schools have representatives who guide the direction of the school. These representatives are usually religious leaders, such as a Priest, Vicar, Imam or a Rabbi for example.

Grammar Schools

These schools can be run under any of the above formats, the crucial difference is that grammar schools conduct entrance exams and admit children based on their ability at the time of entry. This process is not required for other schools as they use other criteria such as location, previous school, special educational needs and other non-performance related information in their decision to provide a school place.

Private Schools

These schools are also sometimes referred to as ‘independent schools’. Private school do not receive funds from the government or local authority to cover the cost of their operations, instead families pay fees to the school either termly or annually for the education they provide. Pupils do not have to learn the National Curriculum in private schools. Most private schools will offer some form of scholarship programme to cover the cost of all or some of the fees. These places are always limited and highly sought.

Primary & Secondary Assessment Levels

Assessment lets teachers see what progress your child is making and provides teachers with information which assists them in helping pupils make further progress. Assessment also enables schools to report information to you as a parent, as well as information to help older children make choices about the examination courses they will follow and the qualifications and careers they will seek. Assessment also helps schools to set targets for the future and to measure their performance. This information also lets government monitor the performance of the school system generally.

Children in England must follow the national curriculum. The national curriculum is intended to make sure a broad and balanced education split into 8 levels, with the most able children expected to attain level 8 by the end of KS3.The National curriculum subjects are: art and design, citizenship, design technology, English, Geography, history, ICT, mathematics, modern foreign languages, music, PE, science, RE, careers education, work-related learning, PSHE.

There are four key stages, the children are tested at the end of each key stage but only in the core subjects. In England children take Standard Attainment Tests (SATs) when they are 7, 11 and 14, and national examinations, often, though not exclusively, GCSE`s, at the age of 16 (end of key stage 4).

Key Stage One (Year 1 – Year 2)

This key stage covers children aged between 5-7. Schools will test reading, writing (including spelling and handwriting) and maths. The average 7-year-old is generally expected to achieve a level 2. At this stage there is no pass or fail criteria as the tests are designed to indicate whether a child is working at, above or below the target level.

Key Stage Two (Year 3 – Year 6)

This key stage covers children aged between 7 to 11. Children will be tested in English, maths, and science at age 11 in Year 6, before to moving to secondary school. The average 11-year-old is generally expected to achieve a level 4.

Key Stage Three (Year 7 – Year 9)

These tests are taken in Year 9 at secondary school, when a child is typically aged 14. Children will be tested in English, maths, and science. Teachers will also assess pupils in art, citizenship, design technology, geography, history, ICT, MFL, music, PE. The target level at key stage three is level 5, with most children achieving a level 8.

Key Stage Four/ GCSE (Year 10 – Year 11)

Most children take a two-year GCSE course (although in some school’s pupils sit some GCSEs at the end of Year 10).

Children are typically encouraged to take a broad range of subjects including:

  • English (usually language and literature)
  • maths
  • science (biology, chemistry, physics – as combination of one, two or all three subject, in either a single or double award)
  • a modern foreign language (no longer compulsory)
  • a design technology subject (graphics, art)
  • humanities (history, geography, RE)
  • and the Arts (visual and performing).

Schools are increasingly offering business and vocationally orientated subjects such as business studies, economics, media studies, and ICT.. Social sciences like psychology and sociology are also popular in some schools.

Children usually make their GCSE choices in Year 9 following discussions with the school, their parents, and teachers. At this stage the level of study will be discussed, with most subjects offering two levels, foundation and higher.


The International GCSE (IGCSE) is becoming an increasingly popular option in independent schools and for parent’s home educating their children.

However, the IGCSE is more in depth than standard GCSEs which allows more able pupils the opportunity to develop further. Exams are graded in the same way as GCSEs and offer both foundation and higher awards.


Scotland has its own curriculum, examinations and examining body. For more information, please visit the Good Schools Guide.

Ensuring Success

Generally, the more parents and families engage with their child or young person’s education, the better the educational outcomes for that child or young person will be. There are many ways and opportunities for schools to support parents to take an interest and reflect on their child’s progress.

School Reports

School reports are an excellent way of understanding how a child or young person is doing in school and will often identify areas they need to expand or focus on to achieve their targets. Although reports are a great indicator, attending parents’ evenings, other forms of communications and regular check-ins are also important to have up-to-date information and to establish more detail about how your child or young person is getting on in their work.

We are aware that due to language barriers or literacy barriers that some Gypsy, Roma and Traveller parents may find it difficult to understand a school report. In these cases, we encourage Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families to speak to the school to make them aware of this barrier so that they can offer help, such as a member of staff talking you through the report or arranging a translated copy to be produced. Schools have a duty to ensure accessibility to their school for both pupils and parents, especially if access is restricted due to disability or race.

 Parents’ Evenings

Parents’ evenings are held regularly for parents to hear feedback from teachers about how their child is progressing in school. These events are not mandatory; however, Traveller Movement strongly recommend that parents   attend so that they can understand the challenges their child may be facing and work in cooperation with the school to assist their child in overcoming any barriers they may face. It is also a great opportunity for parents to celebrate success.

We are aware that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller parents and families can often feel overwhelmed or unwelcome when visiting a school. This may be due to negative past experiences of school, or because they may have limited education themselves, meaning they feel out of place.

We encourage all Gypsy, Roma and Traveller parents and families to overcome these feelings and to establish a sense of pride in themselves and their children for engaging in education. Schools have a duty to ensure you and your children are treated equally and fairly, this includes making you feel welcome and safe in an environment that is free of judgement, prejudice, and discrimination.


Emails, apps or other communication platforms used by schools are great ways of keeping in touch with teachers and keeping track of your child or young person’s progress. Whilst school reports and parents’ evenings are good at providing an overview of a child’s progress, regular communication serves as a great tool to address more immediate concerns  and to give or receive  more up-to-date feedback.

Emails are also great for communicating children’s needs with their teachers. For example, if the family have experienced a death, it is a good way to let the school know so that they can prepare and offer any support your child may need as they come to terms with a loss. Additionally, if your child is feeling unwell but well enough to go to school, you can also let their teachers know so they again can offer any necessary support.


Helping your child with their homework can be challenging for several reasons. Most parents know the feeling that they may not know the answers or the best way to help, or it could be that your child is learning new techniques that have not always been taught in the same way. Add on top of this the struggle parents face trying to get their children to complete their homework and the whole process can be easy to give up on. However, completing homework is not just important to your child’s progress and underrating of the subjects they are studying, it enforces a valuable skill of self-motivation to work and revise independently, which will be important as they progress into the GCSE exams and further studies.

To support parents and families who may not be able to help as much with homework, especially as a child move up the year groups, there are often homework clubs and other support schools offer to encourage children to complete their homework and assist parents who may find it difficult to help as they would like.

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