Key Stages and Grade Sytems in the USA, UK and France

If you're homeschooling then you may use a mixture of textbooks from different countries and perhaps English and French textbooks too and it can take a while to understand all the different levels that are being referred to.  In France, the UK and many other countries there's no requirement to follow the national curriculum, however it helps to have some idea what everyone else is referring to.  This page therefore gives the common grades in France, the USA and the UK, as it's useful to understand the school system in all 3 countries in order to be able to select appropriate books.

We've also put a guide to grades for learning languages and how this correlates with the UK education system.

A couple of points that it took us a while to figure out about the French education system:

  • Collège is the French word for Secondary School (ages 11 - 15), so has a different meaning in French.
  • When the French talk about 11ème, they're referring to a scale that goes backwards, so 11ème is for 6-7 year olds and 1e is for 16 - 17 year olds.

Key Stages in the UK

The key stages in the UK are as follows:

Key Stage Ages School
Years [Y]
KS0 3-5 0 Nursery / Reception (Early Years Foundation Stage)
KS1 5-7 1-2 1st-2nd form infants
KS2 7-11 3-6 1st-4th form juniors
KS3 11-14 7-9 1st-3rd form secondary
KS4 14-16 10-11 4th-5th form secondary
Exams - GCSEs
KS5 16-18 12-13 Sixth form, secondary, also FE college
Exams - A-Levels, AS-Levels, National Diplomas

Grades in France

The following grade system / abbreviations apply in France 

Maternelle (Kindergarten)
Age Grade Abbreviation
3 -> 4 Petite section PS
4 -> 5 Moyenne section MS
5 -> 6 Grande section GS
École élémentaire (Primary school)
Age Grade Abbreviation
6 -> 7 Cours préparatoire CP / 11ème
7 -> 8 Cours élémentaire première année CE1 / 10ème
8 -> 9 Cours élémentaire deuxième année CE2 / 9ème
9 -> 10 Cours moyen première année CM1 / 8ème
10 -> 11 Cours moyen deuxième année CM2 / 7ème
Collège (Secondary School)
Age Grade Abbreviation
11 -> 12 Sixième 6e
12 -> 13 Cinquième 5e
13 -> 14 Quatrième 4e
14 -> 15 Troisième 3e
Lycée (High school or College in English)
Age Grade Abbreviation
15 -> 16 Seconde 2de
16 -> 17 Première 1e
17 -> 18 Terminale Term or Tle

Grades in the USA

Elementary school
Preschool 3-4
Pre-kindergarten 4-5
Kindergarten 5-6
1st Grade 6-7
2nd Grade 7-8
3rd Grade 8-9
4th Grade 9-10
5th Grade 10-11
Middle school
6th Grade 11-12
7th Grade 12-13
8th Grade 13-14
High school
9th Grade (Freshman) 14-15
10th Grade (Sophomore) 15-16
11th Grade (Junior) 16-17
12th Grade (Senior) 17-18

It's perfectly normal for home educated children to be ahead in some subjects (or aspects of the same subject) and behind in other subjects, the above is meant as a guide only to help you understand the American or British English and French grade / key stage systems.

Grades for Learning Languages

The Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR) divides people into three broad divisions, that can then be divided into A and B, as follows:

CEFR Division CEFR Sub-Division Approx. Equivalent English Qualitification
A - Basic User A1 - Beginner Foundation tier GCSE
A - Basic User A2 - Elementary Higher tier GCSE
B - Independent User B1 - Intermediate GCE AS level / lower grade A-level
B - Independent User B2 - Upper Intermediate Higher grade A-level
C - Proficient user C1 - Advanced Cambridge Exam: CPE (45 to 59) / CAE grade B or C / FCE grade A
C - Proficient user C2 - Mastery Cambridge Exam: CPE grade A, B or C / CAE grade A

It takes between about 75 hours and 200 hours of study to move from one grade to the next (A1 to A2, A2 to B1, etc.)