Education: Key terms

Key terms used in the section of the website providing education advice to family and friends carers

Family and Friends Care (also known as kinship care) describes raising a child within your family or friendship network, who is unable to live, either temporarily or permanently, with their parents. The child may or may not be looked after by Children's Services. It is important to find out whether or not the child is looked after, as this will affect the financial help you can get from Children's Services/the benefit system.

Key stages:

Pupils following the national curriculum are assessed at certain Key Stages as they progress through school:

  • Key Stage 1 is for children aged 5-7 (years 1 and 2);
  • Key Stage 2 is for children aged 7-11 (years 3, 4, 5 and 6);
  • Key Stage 3 is for children aged 11-14 (years 7, 8 and 9);
  • Key Stage 4 is for those aged 14-16 (years 10 and 11); and
  • Key Stage 5 is for those aged 16-18 (years 12 and 13)

Assessments are carried out during and at the end of each of the first three Key Stages. The assessments may include the pupils being given tasks and tests, the teacher assessing the pupil's capabilities, or a combination of both. The tests are sometimes called SATs - Standard Assessment Tasks. If you are in doubt about what the marks or assessments of the key stages mean, it is best to speak to the child's school.

'Looked after' means that the child is in the care system. There are three main ways that children and young people under 18 years old become looked after:

  • under a court order from a family court (in which case they are 'in care'); or
  • with the agreement of a parent or carer with parental responsibility (in which case they are 'accommodated'. This is sometimes called section 20); or
  • if a youth court orders a young person involved in offending to be remanded to local authority accommodation or custody(i).

Maintained schools:

These are funded by the state. They are also known as state schools.

National Curriculum:

This is a nationwide curriculum (i.e. a programme of courses) that primary and secondary state schools have to teach. It ensures that state schools have a common curriculum. However, Academies and free schools do not have to follow the National Curriculum (even though they are publicly funded), but they do have to provide a balanced and broadly based curriculum which includes the core subjects of English, maths and science. Independent schools also do not have to follow the National Curriculum.


In education law the term parent includes anyone caring for the child whether or not you are a parent or have parental responsibility for the child.

Parental responsibility:

Parental resposibility means the legal right to make decisions about how a child is raised. Those who have parental responsibility include: mothers; fathers who have been married to the mother at any time since the birth of the child or are jointly registered on the birth certificate as the father (after 1.12.03) or have acquired parental responsibility by formal agreement with the mother or by court order; anyone who has a child arrangements order (setting out who the child should live with), special guardianship or adoption order in their favour of the child; guardians appointed to raise a child after the death of the parents; step-parents who have acquired parent responsibility by formal agreement or court order. For more information about parental responsibility.

School governors:

All state schools must have a governing body made up of school governors. They can be parents/carers of children at the school, staff (normally including the head teacher), local authority nominees and sometimes community governors (appointed by the governing body to represent community interests), foundation governors (appointed by the school's founding body) and sponsor governors (people who assist the school financially or in other ways, and are appointed by the governing body). Governors are not involved in the day-to-day running of the school, but they

  • take strategic decisions which should promote high standards at the school
  • appoint the head teacher and hold them to account. They may be involved in other appointments too; and
  • must review school exclusions in certain circumstances. They have the power to reinstate an excluded pupil or reduce the term of the exclusion (although not to increase it).

Special educational needs (and disability) (SEN or SEND):

This describes the needs of children who require additional support in order to make progress. It includes children with moderate or severe learning difficulties and physical, neurological or sensory disabilities (such as hearing, motor and visual disabilities) as well as conditions such as dyslexia, developmental co-ordination disorder, autism, Aspergers syndrome and Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder (ADHD/ADD).

(i) S. 104 Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012