The Northern Ireland Curriculum

Starting School (Year1)

Starting School

The Development Pathway

Select the stage for your child’s age to find out more.


Age 3–4 / Before Year 1

Pre-school education offers children one year of non-compulsory education. Children learn at their own pace through a breadth of learning experiences and challenging play activities in a stimulating environment.

Foundation Stage

Age 4–6

Primary school Years 1 and 2 make up the Foundation Stage. Children build on the learning experiences that they bring to school from home and/or pre-school. They learn through well-planned, challenging play that develops their interests, curiosity and creativity.

Key Stages 1 & 2

Age 6–11

Key Stage 1 (primary school Years 3 and 4) builds on Foundation Stage experiences, and Key Stage 2 (primary school Years 5, 6 and 7) builds on Key Stage 1 experiences. As children progress through these stages, they move from informal to more formal learning.

Key Stage 3

Age 11–14

At Key Stage 3 (post-primary Years 8, 9 and 10), the curriculum builds on the learning experiences that pupils bring from primary school. Pupils now attend classes in different subjects, and teachers typically teach specific subjects to pupils across the different Years.

Key Stage 4

Age 14–16 / Qualifications

At Key Stage 4 (post-primary Years 11 and 12), pupils build on their learning from Key Stage 3. Pupils meet the statutory curriculum requirements through compulsory Areas of Learning and optional courses that lead to general and/or applied qualifications.



At post-16, young people can choose from a number of qualifications that we offer at Level 3 on the Regulated Qualifications Framework, including GCE A levels.