During the primary school years of your child's development, you may hear the term 'Key Stage 1 and 2' used regularly. While this is primarily a term used by teachers, school management and OFSTED inspectors to ensure every child receives a rounded education, it is important to understand its basic principles.
Key Stage 1 (KS1) encompasses the first two years of your child's school life - usually between the ages of five and seven. The guidelines for KS1 are set out by central government, and they must be adhered to by state-operated educational establishments. Key Stage 2 (KS2) is similar in scope, but it builds on a child's development during the second two years of primary school - between the ages of seven and nine. Both stages include a number of compulsory subjects that must be part of every child's primary education.
- Design and technology
- Information and communication technology
- Physical education
Schools do have some flexibility when it comes to the provision of ICT programmes. And although schools must also offer some religious education (RE), parents are entitled to request that their children are left out of certain teaching sessions if they conflict with their faith. An increasing number of primary schools are going beyond the guidelines of Key Stages 1 and 2 by providing classes on foreign languages, citizenship and social and health education.
The subject of assessments has been a controversial one in recent years, as many parents and teachers have complained that it puts too much strain on children and detracts from learning time. Nevertheless, assessments are inevitable components of KS1 and KS2.
Key Stage 1
The first part of the assessment at KS1 will be a phonics check, whereby your child will be asked to read out load 40 words in the presence of a teacher. You will be informed of your child's performance in this assessment, and whether or not your child requires further help with reading. If your child fails the assessment, it will be performed again the following year.
Key Stage 1 assessments also include tests on reading, writing, communication, science and maths. Exactly when these tests are taken depends on the school, but they are usually scheduled towards the end of the school year. You should receive confirmation of the dates well in advance, so you can prepare your child accordingly. Your child will be assessed with a scoring system, which allows teachers to gauge the actual progress made in school compared with the curriculum's target.
Key Stage 2
Key Stage 2 assessments concentrate on reading, writing and arithmetic - the basic principles of primary education. These assessments are test-based, and they usually take place at some point in May. They are more structured than the Key Stage 1 tests, and they may be used to ascertain where your child's educational requirements lie. You will be given the results of these tests by the end of the school year, as well as a more general report on your child's progress in science, maths and English.
This all may sound daunting and a little complex, but it is important to remember that these systems are in place to give teachers an understanding of your child's educational progress and development needs. By all means, prepare your child for the tests by helping with homework and talking through the process, but don't let it become the overriding issue at school.