Between the ages of 11 and 14, children in England study 14 compulsory subjects as part of the National Curriculum as part of their secondary education. These are
• Design and technology
• Religious education
• A modern foreign language
• Information and communication technology
• Art and design
• Physical education
• Sex education
At the age of 14, children can choose some of the subjects they go on to study at key stage 4, although 9 are still compulsory.
Schools assess your child’s progress in each subject throughout Key stage 3, but it can be confusing for parents to understand what the grades mean. Levels are given to each child on entry to secondary school, and are upgraded regularly. They range from the lowest level 1 to the highest level 8. Levels are split again, so a level 5a would indicate a standard almost at level 6, and a level 5c would denote a standard just above a level 4. At the end of key stage 3, at age 14, most children will be between level 5 and 6, but it is important to realise that this is just a measure to help teachers plan, and that children learn at different rates. Getting a below-average level does not mean they have failed.
Many parents may ask how these levels relate to potential GCSE results. There is no accurate answer, because children’s rates of learning can change, and all sorts of factors can affect how well they do in future. But, as a very general guide, at the end of key stage 3 a level 6a or 7 might indicate the potential to get an A* grade at GCSE, a level 6b or c the potential for an A grade, and a 5a might point to a B or C grade. Many schools also give levels for effort. Again, it is important to emphasise that these levels are just an indication of potential, and whilst some children like to know how they are performing and are motivated to increase their levels, others find the pressure of continually trying to improve a level unhelpful to real learning.