School life

We’ll cover the key milestones and defining elements of secondary/post-primary school.

Secondary/post-primary school life

Having come through primary school, things like key stages and curriculum will be familiar to you, but you may still have some questions about what the next few years will entail. In this section we’ll give you an overview of the key milestones and other defining elements of secondary/post-primary school. 


Homework at secondary/post-primary school is quite different to that at primary school. Not only is there a greater expectation on the content and presentation, there are also likely to be consequences if it’s not handed in on time. 

Your child will probably be given a homework planner at the start of term. Get into the habit of checking this and discussing together what tasks need to be done. Until they get used to the new workload your child might need your support to help them manage their time or prioritise what they need to do.

You can also leave comments and feedback for the teachers to see.


Make sure you’ve got an email address for your child’s form tutor so you can clarify information when you need to.

Key Stage 3

In KS3 children have to study the following compulsory subjects: 

  • English
  • Maths
  • Science
  • History
  • Georgraphy
  • Modern foreign languages (at least one)
  • Design and technology (DT), including cooking and nutrition
  • Art and design
  • Music
  • Physical Education (PE)
  • Citizenship
  • Computing
  • Religious Education (RE)
  • Relationships and Sex Education (RSE)
  • Health Education
  • Welsh (Wales only)

Parents have the right to withdraw their children from religious education and sex education but not relationships or health education.

There are no compulsory assessments at KS3 level.

Choosing GCSE options

Towards the end of Year 9, sometimes Year 10 in Northern Ireland, your child will have to choose their options’. These are the subjects that they’ll go on to study at GCSE level. You’ll find more information on this in our exams section.

Key Stage 4 

In KS4 your child will study the subjects they chose at the end of KS3, along with RE and RSE (you can still withdraw your child from RE if you prefer). 

When it comes to lessons, they’ll probably spend more time learning their core subjects than their optional ones. This is because these are double weighted’ in league tables to reflect their importance (each GCSE result in English, maths and science is worth two GCSEs in other subjects), so it’s in the schools’ interests to make sure pupils get good results in these subjects.

Your child may start feeling the pressure as KS4 progresses. It’s normal for them to do around two hours of homework a night with the volume increasing as GCSEs get closer and they’re expected to revise as well as complete homework.