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The differences between the UK and Australian curriculum

What are the differences between the UK and Australian curriculum? This is a very common question we are asked here at Teach In. We’ve prepared this handy guide to the main differences (and similarities) in the UK and Australian curriculum for anyone starting their overseas teaching adventure. Read on to find out more!

One of the key reasons we recruit from the Commonwealth Counties (Canada, New Zealand, Australia etc) to the UK, are the similarities in the curriculum. This reason, plus the fact that we are all English speaking countries, means that the UK Curriculum is easy for an Australian to follow!

Schools in the UK follow the National Curriculum. This means there is a “National” standardised approach to teaching. The UK doesn’t have “states” as we do in Australia (plus Australia is a huge continent by comparison).

Once Teach In have found you your teaching interview, a good place to start your research on the UK National Curriculum is here. If you are starting out on a Teach In GPS (Guaranteed Teaching Scheme) or a long term contract, you will find the National Curriculum taught in every school.

As a new Aussie Teacher, you will have a mentor and ongoing support to help guide you through the National Curriculum. Many Australian teachers get to grips with the UK curriculum easily and quickly. The jargon can be different but help is never far away!

When do children start school in the UK?

uk vs Australian curriculum In the UK, the first year of Primary School is Reception. However, it is not mandatory that children attend this year. They are mandated to attend school the year after their fifth birthday. So legally, the answer is age 5.

A big difference between Australia & the UK is that there is a “trend” in the UK for parents to send their child to school before this, at 4 years old. If you are teaching a “Reception” class in the UK, you could expect to be teaching children aged 4 & 5.

Reception class (Early Years Key Stage) children will be taught the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. You can find more information on this here. This is very similar to the Australian Early Years Learning Framework EYLF (introduced 2009). However, there are slight differences in Australian state terminology. If you are an Aussie Teacher teaching Kindergarten/Reception/Transition/Pre Primary (Western Australia) Class, this would be the equivalent of a UK Reception class.

The feedback we recieve from Aussies teaching in the UK is that UK children are a little ahead in their subject knowledge, as often they have started at age 4.

Primary Education (Key Stage 1 and 2)

Year 1 (Key Stage 1) = Prep here in Australia

There is a big focus on Literacy & Numeracy in the mornings in UK Primary Schools, exactly the same as here in Australia – the children are taught English & Maths when they are awake and alert first thing! Year 1 students are aged 5 & 6 years old.

In the afternoons, other subjects such as; Art, Drama, History, Geography Science, RE, Design and Technology, Music, Computing, Languages, PE (including swimming) etc are also taught. Cross-curricular subjects can be taught too. Most schools will also teach PSHE (Personal, Social, Health Education) and Citizenship.

Due to the multicultural make up of the UK, Religious Education can be very diverse, covering multi faiths. This is quite different compared to here in Australia and you will learn lots about other cultures.

In Year 1 all children are required to sit the National Phonics Screening Test.

Year 2 (Key Stage 1) = Grade 1 here in Australia

Year 2 signals the end of “Infant” School (Year 1 & Year 2). Year 2 children are 6 or 7 years old.

The same subjects Australian schools teach are covered; English, Maths, Science, Design & Technology, Art, PE, RE, Languages, Computing, Music, History & Geography.

Children will sit standardised tests in English and Maths.

Year 3 (Key Stage 2) = Grade 2 here in Australia

Children move from the Infant to Junior Phase. Pupils are aged 7-8 years old. Subjects taught are the same as in Key Stage 1.

Year 4 (Key Stage 2) = Grade 3 in Australia

Year 4 are “Juniors”. Pupils are 8-9 years old. Subjects taught are the same as in Key Stage 1.

Year 5 (Key Stage 2) = Grade 4 in Australia

Year 5 are “Juniors”. Pupils are 9-10 years old. Subjects taught are the same as in Key Stage 1.

Year 6 (Key Stage 2) = Grade 5 in Australia

Year 6 is the final year or Juniors in Primary School. Pupils are 10-11 years old.

In Year 6, students sit a standardised test in English and Maths.

Children complete nationwide testing in Year 1, at the end of Infants (Year 2, Key Stage 1) and Junior (Year 6, Key Stage 2). In Year 1 children sit the Phonics Screening and in Year 2 & Year 6, children sit their SATS. English and Maths are tested against the National Curriculum.

At the end of Year 6, children leave Primary School and start Secondary School (High School) In Year 7. Pupils are 11 years old.

Secondary Education (Key Stage 3 and 4)

Key Stage 3uk vs Australian curriculum

Year 7, 8 & 9 form Key Stage 3. Children are 11-14 years old.

Classes are taught in mixed ability form groups. You will need to differentiate and cater for children with Special Needs (Autism, Dyslexia etc), gifted and talented children, plus the middle range in your class.

The subjects taught are English, Maths, Science, Geography, History, MFL (normally French, Spanish or German). This is quite different to the LOTE languages learnt here in Australia. Computing, Music, Art, PE, Citizenship & Design + Technology are also taught. These are the compulsory National Curriculum subjects.

Sports are “winter” or “summer” themed. There is no AFL and cross country running, football, cricket, athletics, gymnastics, tennis, rounders & netball are all popular.

Schools must provide Sex Education and RE lessons, parents can opt their children out of these two subjects.

Key Stage 4

Children move onto Key Stage 4 in Year 10. KS4 is Year 10 & 11, the final years of Secondary School. Children are 14 & 15 years old.

During Key Stage 4 most pupils work towards national qualifications – usually GCSEs (General Certificates Secondary Education). These exams are a very important & influence pupils options to go onto further study, apprenticeships or join the world of work. The results are very important to Principals, parents, teachers and students alike.

The compulsory National Curriculum subjects are the ‘core’ and ‘foundation’ subjects.

Core subjects are:

  • English
  • Maths
  •  Science

Foundation subjects are:

  •  Computing
  • Physical Education
  • Citizenship (Citizenship is similar to SOSE)

Schools must also offer at least one subject from each of these areas:

  • Arts
  • Design and Technology
  • Humanities
  • Modern Foreign Languages

Schools must also provide Sex Education and RE (optional).

To help you understand the GCSE framework, click here for a great “simple” tool.

Children can legally leave Secondary School at 16 years old. Students have the option to go to Key Stage 5 (6th Form or College) to study vocational courses, A Level or AS Levels.


Truly, UK schooling is very similar to life inside Aussie schools. Yes, there are differences, but you are bound to find common ground in your new country.

Teach In help many Aussie teachers transition into a new country and curriculum. Don’t be bamboozled, support is there from your school and your Teach In representative. Keep calm and carry on teaching!

uk vs Australian curriculum