UK Education System Explained

Understanding UK Education at Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate

The UK education system is tiered in five Key Stages before reaching university or other post-18 options.

These five Key Stages are tiered by age and year group as seen below:

  • Key Stage 1 – Foundation Year (age 4) and Years 1 to 2 – ages 5 to 7
  • Key Stage 2 – Years 3 to 6 – ages 7 to 11
  • Key Stage 3 – Years 7 to 9 – ages 11 to 14
  • Key Stage 4 – Years 10 to 11 – ages 15 to 16
  • Key Stage 5 – Years 12 to 13 – ages 17 to 18

At Queen Ethelburga’s, the Key Stages and year groups are split as follows:

  • Chapter House – Foundation Year to Year 5 – Key Stage 1 and 2
  • King’s Magna – Year 6 to Year 9 – Key Stage 2 and 3
  • Faculty and College – Year 10 to Year 13 – Key Stage 4 and 5

Queen Ethelburga's students in class

GCSE, BTEC and A Levels are available at Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate.
UK Qualifications

Queen Ethelburga’s students complete their UK qualifications in Key Stage 4 or Key Stage 5 as either a Faculty or College student.

These qualifications are:

GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) - Key Stage 4

GCSEs are the standard qualifications completed by Year 10 and 11 students across England. Students must complete English, Maths and Science GCSEs to continue education or to begin employment. GCSEs can vary in the way they are assessed but are predominantly exam-based with a small number of courses needing practical or written assessments.

GCSEs are graded by numbers 9 to 1, with 9 being the highest and 1 the lowest. At Queen Ethelburga’s, any student wanting to take their GCSEs at College must be predicted Level 7 or higher to be accepted to the school.

BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council) - Key Stage 4 and 5

BTEC qualifications are high-quality, career-related qualifications that combine practical learning with theory and subject content related to the world of work. BTECs are perfect for students interested in a particular industry as the qualifications are more practical and subject knowledge is applied to working in a specific sector.

We recommend applying for The Faculty of Queen Ethelburga’s if you are interested in taking BTEC qualifications as the school specialises in BTEC.

A Level (Advanced Level Qualification) - Key Stage 5

A Levels are the next level up from GCSEs and are subject-based with formal examinations. The qualification used to be split into AS Levels and A Levels with half of the examinations taken in the first year and the second half taken in the second year. However, the UK government has recently changed the qualification to have all the examinations taken in the second year. 

Both universities and employers regard A Levels highly. You should consider taking A Levels particularly if you are wanting to apply for Oxbridge or a highly selective university.


Queen Ethelburga's teacher with a class of young students