Secondary school

The aim of secondary schools is to provide the best possible individual support for each pupil and ensure equality of opportunity. Through sound educational and vocational training, pupils receive targeted advice designed to help them make better educational and training decisions at the end of secondary school.

In principle, all pupils are taught together in class across all the subjects on the middle school curriculum. In German, Mathematics and Modern Languages (usually English), as well as in the compulsory subjects for specific specialist areas (as chosen by the school), teachers can make use of a variety of teaching techniques to support pupils as well as possible. These include teachers teaching in teams ("team teaching"), flexible grouping or providing support for remedial and advanced courses.

Also pupils with special educational needs are free to attend mainstream secondary schools along with their peers. Secondary schools suitable for pupils with special needs are identified as part of a process in which the relevant education directorates and the child's parents are involved. The responsible diversity managers of the relevant education directorate will support parents and the child's new school to help them create the best possible conditions for educating their new pupil in an inclusive environment appropriate to the pupil’s disability and individual needs. Specialist teaching staff are available to provide support. Teaching and assessment are carried out according to the curriculum specified in the SPF decision. Teaching pupils with disabilities alongside their non-disabled peers provides opportunities for disabled and non-disabled children and young people to experience learning together.

The secondary school curriculum is identical to that of the Realgymnasium in terms of the content taught. It covers four possible areas of focus, specifically:

  • Languages and humanities
  • Science and mathematics
  • Economics and lifeskills
  • Music and creative arts

There are also special secondary schools focusing on sport or the arts (sports secondary schools, music secondary schools).

Performance assessment from school year 2020/21 onwards

In Year 5 (the first year of secondary school), the same grading system is used as in primary schools, with each subject graded on the 5-grade scale.

From Year 6 onwards, pupils in German, Mathematics and Modern Foreign Languages are split into two different performance levels, called "Standard" and "Standard AHS", respectively. Work at both levels is graded from 1-5. Grading at "Standard AHS" level can be mapped across to the

  • to the junior years of the AHS system. For example,
  • a grade of "Satisfactory" at "Standard AHS" level is equivalent to a grade of "Good" at the "Standard" level,
  • while a grade of "Not Satisfactory" at the "Standard AHS" level is at best equivalent to "Satisfactory" at "Standard" level.
  • A grade of "Very good" at the "Standard" level will be at least equivalent to a grade of "Satisfactory" at "Standard AHS" level.

Supplementary feedback

In order to highlight their individual strengths, all pupils will continue to receive a Supplementary Differentiated Description of Performance (known by its German acronym EDL) in addition to their report cards. The EDL describes the areas in which they excel and the progress they are making in their learning. In addition, regular Child-Parent-Teacher Meetings (known as KEL meetings) are held, during which pupils discuss their achievements, progress and learning processes with their parents and teachers.

Transfer criteria from school year 2020/21 onwards

Transferring to a secondary academic or vocational higher school

(Matura; for example AHS, HTL, HAK, BORG, HLW)

A pupil who has successfully completed the first year of secondary school may transfer to the second year of the junior AHS, provided that their grades in German, their Modern Foreign Language and Mathematics are no lower than "Good."

If they have successfully completed the second, third or fourth year of the lower secondary school, pupils can transfer to the next grade of an upper secondary school provided they have been assessed no worse than "Good" in all their performance-differentiated compulsory subjects according either to the higher performance level (Standard AHS) or the lower performance level (Standard).

If these requirements are not met in any of the compulsory subjects, the pupil will have to sit an entrance examination. For pupils transferring to a general secondary school, this also applies to compulsory subjects which the pupil has not studied before, but which will be taught in the school year they are attempting to transfer into.

Different rules apply for admitting pupils with special educational needs to the 2nd, 3rd or 4th years of a secondary academic school. Pupils with special educational needs must have completed the previous year at secondary school or a special school.

Transfer to a secondary school for a course of study of at least 3 years

(no Matura; for example Fachschule, Handelsschule)

To be admitted into a vocational secondary school, pupils must successfully complete the eighth year of school. In addition, to be admitted to a vocational secondary school for studies lasting at least three years, pupils must not have been graded lower than "Satisfactory" in German, Modern Foreign Languages or Mathematics, either at "Standard AHS" or "Standard" level. If these requirements are not met in any of the performance-differentiated compulsory subjects, the pupil will have to sit an entrance examination.

Transferring to a polytechnic school

Anyone can transfer to a polytechnic school.

Transferring from an AHS Junior School to secondary school

Pupils who have successfully completed an AHS junior school are entitled to transfer to the next level of a secondary school.

Advancing to Year 6

Pupils whose performance is assessed as "Insufficient" in one or two compulsory subjects during Year 5 are entitled to repeat their examinations. If their performance is deemed unsatisfactory in three or more subjects, they must repeat Year 5 of secondary school.

Advancing to Years 7 and 8

Pupils whose performance in subjects that are performance-differentiated in secondary schools has been assessed as "Insufficient" in Year 6 or 7 of an AHS can move up to the next year, where they will be assessed according to the "Standard" level.

Pupils' whose performance is assessed to be "Insufficient" in one or two non-differentiated compulsory subjects can repeat examinations. If their performance in three or more non-differentiated compulsory subjects is assessed as unsatisfactory, they will have to repeat the school year at secondary school.


Secondary school


5th to 8th year (9 to 13 years old)


Successful completion of Year 4 (primary school)

Proof of having attended primary school or a special school for pupils with special educational needs


Four years

  • All pupils are encouraged according to their interests, inclination, aptitude and ability
  • Provides a general education
  • Prepares pupils for professional life through practically-focused lessons
  • Supports pupils in choosing their careers or further education
  • Prepares pupils to attend higher-level schools or sandwich courses (apprenticeships)
  • Provides digital education
Special features
  • Lessons are adapted to suit the strengths of individual pupils using contemporary pedagogical methods of individualisation and differentiation
  • All pupils are usually taught together, although individual schools have the freedom to set up long-term groups.
  • Four possible areas of focus
  • New forms of feedback on performance
School types Some secondary school set additional areas of focus (e.g. music or physical education). Pupils may need to take an aptitude test to assess their skills in these specialist areas.
After graduation

Once a pupil has completed middle school, they can move on to the following types of school:

Further links

Certified Translation
Last update: 29 July 2022

Responsible for the content: Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research