The UK Curriculum and Key Stages Guide


If you’d like to teach abroad, the UK education system provides an abundance of opportunities for international teachers at all levels.

From early years education through to A Levels, the broad nature of the curriculum and the wide range of subjects offered means there is something to suit nearly every skill set.

So if you are going to teach in the UK, what do you need to know about the system and how it’s set up? Here’s our guide to the country’s curriculum and its various Key Stages.

Getting to grips with the national curriculum

The good news for international teachers is that many chunks of the national curriculum in England are widely used in other parts of the world, which helps to make the transition to teaching in the UK slightly easier.

Essentially, the national curriculum is a broad set of subjects and required standards that are taught in primary and secondary schools to ensure that pupils are taught the same things.

All local-authority maintained schools in England must follow the national curriculum and it was last updated in 2014, with additional reform in certain subjects in the years after, notably in English, maths and the sciences.

Other types of schools, such as private schools and academies, do not have to follow it, although regulations stipulate that the latter must have a ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum that includes English, maths, science and religious education.

Understanding the Key Stages

To ensure that all aspects of the national curriculum are taught, it is divided into blocks called Key Stages and teachers will assess pupil performance at the end of each stage to ensure they are on track.

For those wanting to teach abroad, it’s common to teach at either primary level (Key Stages 1 and 2) or secondary level (Key Stages 3 and 4), with the latter requiring more specialist subject knowledge.

First introduced in the 1988 Education Reform Act to accompany the formation of the initial national curriculum, the Key Stages are broken down as follows:

Key Stage 0

Nursery/early years education for youngsters aged 3-5

Key Stage 1

Primary education for pupils aged 5-7, including Year 1 and Year 2

Key Stage 2

Continued primary education for pupils aged 7-11, including Year 3 through Year 6. Entry to grammar schools and others using academic selection requires pupils to take tests known as the 11+

Key Stage 3

The start of secondary education for pupils aged 11-14, including Year 7 through Year 9

Key Stage 4

Secondary level GCSE education for pupils aged 14-16, including Year 10 and Year 11

Key Stage 5

Additional education at AS and A Level for pupils aged 16-18. Also includes further education at college, diplomas and national vocational qualifications (NVQs)


If you think you may want to teach in the UK and want to find out more, the official UK government website has details of the primary level national curriculum for Key Stages 1 and 2, as well as for the secondary level national curriculum for Key Stages 3 and 4.


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Please take a look at teaching jobs in England with Tradewind Recruitment.