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Everything you need to know about secondary education in England

England has a high-quality and diverse school education system

England has a high-quality and diverse school education system as well as one of the most widely taught curriculums in the world (nearly half of all international schools that teach the English language offer a British-based curriculum).

The education system in the UK includes state schools that receive funding through local authorities or directly from the government, independent schools where parents pay fees (these schools have more flexibility when it comes to what and how they teach), and online international schools with ESL (English as a Second Language) support and the educational setting that allows children that speak little English or no English at all to catch up with the British curriculum and British teaching styles.

The system is divided into primary education, secondary education, further education and higher education and split into the so-called "key stages" of learning:

Key Stage 1: 5 to 7 years old

Key Stage 2: 7 to 11 years old

Key Stage 3: 11 to 14 years old

Key Stage 4: 14 to 16 years old

Scroll down to find out more interesting facts about secondary education in England:

Secondary education encompasses Key Stage 3 (Years 7 to 9) and Key Stage 4 (Year 10 and Year 11). These stages are focused on developing numeracy and other mathematical skills, language and literacy, and scientific knowledge and understanding.

In the National Curriculum in general, there is a strong focus on ‘core’ subjects of English, Maths and Science (biology, chemistry and physics). Typically, at Key Stage 3, pupils also study the so-called 'foundation subjects' - citizenship, design and technology, computing, history, geography, art and design, music, physical education, and languages (at least one).

The core subjects of English, maths and science as well as citizenship, computing, and physical education remain compulsory at Key Stage 4. Citizenship is aimed at preparing pupils to play a full, active and responsible part in society, teaching them about democracy, government, how laws are made and upheld as well as skills like critical thinking and logical reasoning, with a strong emphasis on political, legal and economic knowledge and on volunteer work.

The typical school curriculum also includes sex and relationship education, and religious education (however, parents can withdraw their children from religious education classes).

At secondary school, relationships and sex education covers the facts and the law about sex, sexuality, sexual health and gender identity, including topics such as consent, sexual exploitation, grooming, rape, and domestic abuse. All these sensitive topics are taught in an age-appropriate and inclusive way, and the curriculum includes mental health.

Between the ages of 14 and 16, students prepare for GCSE exams (the General Certificate of Secondary Education), sitting them at the end of the two year period - usually the summer term of year 11. All students take GCSEs in the core subjects as well as other subjects of their choice. Most pupils choose between nine and ten different subjects. GCSEs play an important role in students' progression to the next stages of education and employment.

LEO International Online School offers a wide range of distance learning programs based on the British Curriculum depending on the level of English and background of the student, including Secondary Key Stage 3 and IGCSE programmes. Learn more about these programmes and our other courses here, and don't hesitate to contact us at

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