Ashton, Manchester

What is Key Stage 4 (KS4)?

Key Stage 4 (KS4) is the legal term for the two years of school education which incorporate GCSEs, and other examinations, in maintained schools in England normally known as Year 10 and Year 11, when pupils are aged between 14 and 15 by August 31st. (In some schools, KS4 work is started in Year 9.)

The term is used to define the group of pupils who must follow the relevant programs of study from the National Curriculum. All pupils in this Key Stage must follow a program of education in the following areas:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Information and Communication
  • Technology (England only)
  • Physical Education
  • Citizenship
  • Careers Education
  • Religious Education
  • Work-related learning
  • Welsh (Wales only)

In addition, there is a statutory duty on schools to provide an optional program of education for pupils in this Key Stage in each of the following areas:

  • The Arts
  • Design and Technology
  • The Humanities and Healthcare
  • Modern Foreign Languages

At the end of this stage, pupils aged 15 or 16 depending on their birthday – in Year 11 – are normally entered for a range of external examinations. Most frequently, these are GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) examinations, although a range of other qualifications is growing in popularity, including NVQ National Vocational Qualifications.

These examinations are set by one of the examination boards. Results of examinations at this age are published as part of the Department for Children, Schools and Families’ Performance Tables.