From the ages of 11 to 16 years old, children are legally required to attend secondary school. Secondary school is split up into five different year groups:
Year seven: ages 11 and 12
Year eight: ages 12 and 13
Year nine: ages 13 and 14
Year ten: ages 14 and 15
Year eleven: ages 15 and 16.
These year groups cover two different key stages, key stage 3 and 4. Key stage 3 covers from ages 11 to 14, or year seven to the end of year nine. Key stage 4 covers ages 14 to 16, or year ten and eleven.
The aim of key stages 3 and 4 is to work children towards taking their GCSEs – General Certificate of Secondary Education, to mark their completion of their secondary education. GCSEs are taken at the end of year eleven, and a heavy focus on them begins in year ten, when mock and practice exams are taken.
While subjects are mandatory in the first three years of secondary school, by year ten and eleven, students have some freedom when it comes to choosing some of their focus for GCSE exams, although the basics of English, Maths, and Sciences still need to be taken.