Curriculum FAQ’s

1. What is KS3/KS4?

Key Stage 3 (commonly abbreviated as KS3) is the legal term for the three years of schooling in maintained schools in England and Wales normally known as Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9, when pupils are aged between 11 and 14.
Key Stage 4 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 16. (In some schools, KS4 work is started in Year 9.)
You can view the school curriculum for KS3 and KS4 here

2. What is Progress 8?

Progress 8 is a new measure of school performance. It replaces the previous measure of 5A*-C including English and maths, and shows how well pupils of all abilities have progressed, compared to pupils with similar academic starting points in other schools.
Click here to view a short educational video on Progress 8.

3. How is my child assessed?

Please visit our STARS page to see how we assess your child in school, you will also find a useful link there regarding GCSE grades

4. What is the EBacc and do I need it?

The EBacc refers to a combination of subjects that the government thinks is important for young people to study at GCSE. It includes:

  • English language and literature
  • maths
  • the sciences
  • geography or history
  • a language

The DfE says that the English Baccalaureate – though not a qualification in itself – is a measure of success in core academic subjects; specifically English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a language.

These are subjects most likely to be required or preferred for entry to degree courses and ones that will keep the most doors open. The English Bac aims to reverse the long-term drift away from students taking the likes of history, geography, French, Spanish and other modern languages.

Universities will be most likely to look for specific GCSE grades in English, maths and possibly science – but these subjects are compulsory for you to take anyway.

It’s up to you to decide whether to take one or more of the optional subjects. On the plus side, taking a mix of these will ensure you can be more flexible in your university course choices later down the line – especially if you’re not sure what you want to do yet.

But if you feel you’re weaker in these subjects, don’t feel that you must take them in order to go to university.

For more information visit these links:

5. What do I do after finishing school/who will help me?

Education after 16 doesn’t just mean staying at school full-time: you can stay at school, go to college, or take up an apprenticeship or a part-time training course. You can earn money and learn new skills at the same time if you want to.

The main qualifications available are:

  • Diplomas: providing the background for a range of careers
  • Vocational qualifications: for young people who already know what career they want to follow and need training for specific jobs
  • A levels: offered as specific mainly academic subjects
  • International Baccalaureate: offering a wider range of subjects than A levels
  • Functional Skills: This qualification can continue to form part of the Diploma, Foundation Learning and included in some Apprenticeship frameworks
  • Foundation Learning: has been developed for low attaining 14-19 year olds to help raise participation, attainment and progress

In England you may be eligible to apply for a 16 to 19 Bursary Fund to help with studying cost for example equipment you may need for your course and travel expenses. The bursary is paid directly by the school, college or training provider. They will decide how much and when it is paid.

Things to investigate:

Find out more about vocational qualifications, diplomas, A levels and the International Baccalaureate.

Contact your local Connexions, or see Mr Stoakes in school. School can tell them where the nearest Connexions team is. National Careers Service also provides information and advice to help your child get on to learning courses and job opportunities. The National Careers Service helpline is 0800 100 900.

To find out more about help that you can get in school see our ‘Moving on from High school’ page;

6. How do I apply for college and apprenticeship?

A teenager’s sixth form (or Key Stage five) education is a very important time. These final two years of secondary schooling are optional, and are an opportunity for students aged 16 to 18 to make serious and important decisions about their future plans.

Normally sixth formers work on their preparation for qualifications such as A Level exams, although increasing numbers of schools and sixth form colleges are opting for alternative qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate and vocational subjects such as GNVQs. Teaching quality and facilities have a significant impact on the nature of qualifications that students receive, and these obviously will really play a part in students’ future plans. So it’s really important that parents and students think carefully about selecting a sixth form learning institution.

The Options

Most UK students either stay on at school to study for in a school’s sixth form, which may be split up into ‘Lower Sixth’ and ‘Upper Sixth’ at some schools, or attend ‘sixth form colleges’ also known as ‘further education colleges’. As we no longer have a sixth form provision, you will need to apply to sixth form colleges in the area.

How to Decide

The first question to consider is what you want to study. Obviously the factors include a look at the subjects you are best at, and enjoy most, but also what subjects are required for the more long-term life plans. Doctors, for example, will have to do science A Levels.

Consider what kind of teaching structure works best – colleges, for example, will usually teach in larger scales than small sixth form classes at private schools. Look at whether your school or college options provide the academic qualifications that you need, be they AS or A levels, or BTECs, City and Guilds or OCR Nationals. Some colleges also offer the new Diploma qualification for 14 to 19 year olds, so look into what is available.

Further Education Colleges – More Information

At a further education college, the whole curriculum is geared around older students. Your classmates may include older adults as well as young people, and the college may specialise in a specific sector – such as art and design, or sport. There may be more social activities organised for people of your age, but equally some further education colleges might only focus on providing an education and ignore the extra-curricular activities that are routinely provided as a matter of course at many sixth forms within secondary schools. As these colleges are usually larger scale, they may be further from your house. Consider whether a longer daily commute is worth the benefits.

When to Apply

Most colleges and sixth forms within schools will start to open their application process in the autumn term of Year 11. This is the time when you should be visiting colleges and schools, going to open days, talking to former and current students and finding out more about the studying options available.

Colleges in our local area

Burnley College:

Rochdale Sixth Form College:

Calder High Sixth Form:

Bolton Sixth Form College:

Ashton Sixth Form College:

Oldham Sixth Form College:

For more information on applying for apprenticeships visit the UCAS website at

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