Learn the Lingo: Your A-Z guide to teaching terms and acronyms

Do you know your EHCP from your EYFS? What about SENCO, SLC and TA? Let’s be honest, the education sector can be a minefield for abbreviations and acronyms. School life has a language and vocabulary all of its own and some things can get lost in translation.

We’ve put together a handy guide of the most widely used teaching jargon to help parents and carers navigate school life more easily.


An academy is a type of school in England which receives funding directly from the government and is run by an academy trust, not the local authority. Academies don’t have to follow the national curriculum (but still need to teach the core subjects of maths, English and science) and have greater control to determine how they spend their money, how much they pay teachers and more.

Academies are still inspected by Ofsted and have to follow the same rules on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions as other state schools. Students also sit the same exams. Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) are charities which have responsibility for running a number of academies.

AS and A-levels

An advanced level (A-level) is a qualification for school leavers aged 16-18, graded A*-E. A-levels are studied across two years – the AS year is in Year 12 and the A2 year in Year 13. AS Level simply refers to the first year of a full A-level. You might hear the word ‘linear’ to describe A-levels. This means all exams are taken at the end of the two years and these alone will determine a student’s final grade.

Blended learning

At the start of 2020, ‘blending learning’ might have been an unknown term to most parents and carers. But along with ‘lockdown’, ‘self-isolation’ and ‘bubbles’, blended learning has become part of our everyday lives. Simply put, blended learning (sometimes known as hybrid learning) is a term used to describe when a school or college uses more than one approach to the learning process. This could include using faceto- face instruction (classroom teaching) alongside online learning and different digital and non-digital tools.


BTEC stands for the Business and Technology Education Council. BTECs are specialist work-related qualifications, taught in schools and colleges after GCSE level. Offered as an alternative to A-levels, BTECs combine practical learning with theory and are aimed at young people interested in a particular sector or industry such as childcare, engineering, health and social care, hospitality and more. A BTEC Extended Diploma is the equivalent of three A-levels.


CPD stands for Continuing Professional Development. In an education setting, CPD is usually implemented through training courses, In Service Training (INSET) days or staff meetings. CPD training allows teaching staff to hone and develop their skills, bring new ideas to the classroom and keep up to date with current standards.


DfE is the Department of Education. They are responsible for children’s services and education, including early years, schools, higher and further education policy (such as colleges and universities), apprenticeships and wider skills in England. Nadhim Zahawi was appointed as Education Secretary in September 2021.


The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is not a qualification but put simply, a way for the government (and parents) to compare how many pupils in a school are getting grade C or above in a list of ‘academically-focused’ GCSEs. The EBacc is made up of English, maths, the sciences, geography or history and a language. Secondary schools are measured on the number of students that take GCSEs in these core subjects and how well their students do in these subjects.


EHCP stands for Education and Health Care Plan. You might also see it written as an EHC plan. This is a document for children and young people aged up to 25 who need more support than is available through special educational needs support. The plan identifies the education, health care and social care needs of a young person and sets out what additional support is needed. Parents and carers can contact their local authority to carry out an assessment if they think their child needs an EHCP. An EHCP can also be requested by young people (aged 16-25) themselves, or by anyone else who thinks an assessment may be necessary, including doctors, teachers and health visitors.


EYFS is the acronym for Early Years Foundation Stage. It is a statutory framework which sets the standards for promoting the learning, development and safety of children from birth to five years in Ofsted registered settings (such as childminders, day nurseries, school reception classes, playgroups and after school clubs). There are seven main learning areas of the EYFS:

• Communication and language

• Physical development

• Personal, social and emotional development

• Literacy

• Mathematics

• Understanding the world

• Expressive arts and design


FE stands for Further Education and is used when talking about any institution or organisation (other than schools or universities) which offer education and training to people over the age of 16. This term is most commonly used for FE colleges and sixth form colleges, which offer academic, vocational and often higher education courses for school leavers and adults, including apprenticeships.


The spotlight has been firmly fixed on the Free School Meals (FSM) system during the pandemic, with Marcus Rashford’s campaign resulting in a government U-turn to expand free school meals during the school holidays in England. FSMs are available to young children in primary and secondary state schools whose families are on low incomes or receive benefits. Students in further education may also be entitled to receive a free meal, depending on their circumstances.

Guided reading

Guided reading is a popular practice at primary school level in which teachers develop pupils’ reading skills by working in small groups differentiated by ability. It supports children in developing reading proficiency and can accelerate their progress thanks to the smaller group dynamic.


GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education and are the exams children take at the end of Key Stage 4. GCSEs are part of the national curriculum taught to students aged 14 to 16 in years 10 and 11. From 2019, all GCSEs have been graded using a new 9-1 system. The highest grade is 9, while 1 is the lowest. A 5 is considered a ‘strong pass’ while 4 is a ‘standard pass’. Three core subjects: English, maths and science are compulsory at GCSE level, alongside three foundation subjects: computing, physical education and citizenship. Schools must also offer at least one subject from: arts; design and technology; humanities and modern foreign languages.


Higher order thinking skills (HOTS) are defined as skills that enable students to think critically and go beyond observation and the memorization of facts. HOTS gives students the confidence and ability to analyse, reason, comprehend and evaluate the facts independently. Research has shown that developing these skills at primary and secondary age leads to better student engagement, academic progress and future success in the workplace.


To teach in a state school in England, you must have a degree and gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) by following a programme of Initial Teacher Training (ITT). Independent schools, academies and free schools are not required by law to hire qualified teachers, but many still ask for teaching staff to have a QTS. ITT programmes include PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education), a postgraduate teaching apprenticeship, School Direct and Teach First.

Key Stages

The national curriculum is organized in to blocks of years called key stages. At the end of each key stage, teachers will formally assess a child’s performance. A school must write a report about a child’s progress and discuss this with parents and carers.

Early Years Children aged 3 to 4, and 4 to 5 (Reception)

KS1 Key Stage 1 Years 1-2 (5 – 7 year olds)

KS2 Key Stage 2 Years 3-6 (8 – 11 year olds)

KS3 Key Stage 3 Years 7-9 (12-14 year olds)

KS4 Key Stage 4 Years 10-11 (15 – 16 year olds)


A child who has been in the care of their local authority for more than 24 hours is known as a looked after child (LAC). Looked after children are also referred to children in care. A child stops being looked after when they are adopted, return home or turn 18. All local authorities in the UK are required to support children leaving care at 18 until they are at least 21.


LA is the acronym for Local Authority. A Local Authority is the local government responsibly for non-academy schools in its area. There are 152 local authorities responsible for education in England.

Mastery-based grading

Sometimes referred to as ‘standardsbased grading’, mastery-based grading is a way for teachers to track students’ progress and achievements. Mastery learning approaches aim to ensure that all students have mastered key concepts before moving on to the next topic. It is based on students showing signs of ‘mastery’ or understanding numerous lessons and skills, rather than just achieving the minimum grade to pass a subject.

Multiplication Tables

Check Assessment (MTC) The Multiplication Tables Check Assessment (MTC), which is being rolled out this year after it was delayed due to Covid-19, is a statutory check for Year 4 pupils to determine whether they can fluently recall their multiplication tables (or times tables to you and me!). It is an on-screen check consisting of 25 times tables questions, used to help identify pupils who need additional support.

National Curriculum

The national curriculum is a set of subjects and standards used by primary and secondary schools to ensure children learn the same things. It covers what subjects are taught and the standards children should reach in each subject. Academies and private schools do not have to follow the national curriculum.


The definition of NEET is a young person (aged 16-24) not in education, employment or training. Many councils have teams in place to support young people who are NEET and help them access targeted services such as careers advice, voluntary organisations and other local agencies.


An NQT is a teacher who has just attained Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). However, in September 2021, the Department of Education introduced new changes and with it a new acronym to learn! NQTs are now officially known as ECTs – Early Career Teacher. Alongside the new name change, trainee teachers now have a two-year induction period instead of one, which includes high quality professional development to better prepare them for teaching.


Parents and carers might have overheard many teachers referring to ‘the call’! Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. Ofsted inspect services providing education and skills for learners of all ages. Its role is to ensure that organisations in England are providing services to a high standard. A report of the inspector’s findings is published publicly and used to improve the overall quality of education and training.


The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) regulates qualifications, examinations and assessments in England. Ofqual regulates GCSEs, A-levels, AS Levels, vocational and technical qualifications. Progress 8 and Attainment 8 scores Progress 8 was introduced in 2016 to capture the progress a pupil makes from the end of primary school to the end of secondary school. It is a type of ‘value-added measure’ which means that pupils’ results are compared to the actual achievements of other pupils with similar prior attainment.

Attainment 8 measures the achievement of pupils at GCSE level across 8 qualifications. The 8 qualifications used are maths and English (which are double weighted), three English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) subjects (for example science, history and geography) and three other qualifications from an approved list (art, music and PE for example). Each individual grade a pupil achieves is assigned a point score, which is then used to calculate their Attainment 8 score.

Reception baseline assessment framework

Introduced in September 2021, the reception baseline assessment framework is new way of measuring progress for primary schools. Schools must complete a reception baseline assessment for each child in reception during their first 6 weeks. It is an assessment of what the child’s maths, language, communication and literacy skills are at the point they start school. It’s not a test and pupils do not need to prepare for it in anyway.


SLC is the Student Loans Company. The SLC is a government-owned organisation that administers loans and grants to students in colleges and universities in the UK. Students at college or university can apply for student finance to help support their studies, this includes tuition fee loans and maintenance loans to help with living costs.


The National Curriculum assessment are statutory assessments carried out in primary schools in England. Colloquially known as SATs (Standard Attainment Tests), children take them in Year 2 and Year 6. The Year 2 tests were due to become non-statutory from 2023 following the introduction of the reception baseline assessment. However, the Department of Education website has published ‘rough dates’ for the tests in both 2023 and 2024.


A SENCo, or Special Education Needs Co-ordinator, is a teacher who is responsible for assessing, planning and monitoring the progress of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Before 2009, some SENCos were trained on the job, but now all new SENCOs in a mainstream school have to gain the Master’s level National Award for SEN Coordination.


A TA is a teaching assistant, also known as a classroom assistant or student support assistant. Teaching assistants play an important role in supporting schools and nurseries.Duties can differ from school to school but can include offering students extra support and helping teachers prepare for lessons.

T Levels

T Levels (Technical Levels) are new qualifications which launched in September 2020 for students aged 16 to 19 who have finished GCSEs. They are a 2-year qualification and the equivalent of studying 3 A-levels. T Levels have been developed in collaboration with employers and businesses so that the content meets the needs of industry and prepares students for work, further training or study.


If your child wants to apply for university, then UCAS is a word you will regularly hear. All UK based admissions are made through the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). In 2019, it handled 2.79 million applications from over 700,000 students! Students submit an online application through UCAS and can select up to five courses in any one year.

Voluntary aided schools

A voluntary aided (VA) school is a state-funded school in England and Wales in which a foundation or trust (usually a religious organisation) contributes towards the building costs and forms a majority on the school’s governing body. Voluntary controlled schools Voluntary controlled (VC) schools are similar to VA schools, but are run by the local authority. The local authority will employ the staff and set the admissions policy, but the foundation or trust owns the land and buildings and have some form of formal influence in the running of the school.

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