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National Curriculum

Please be aware that this section contains information prepared in 2009 and may now be out of date. Some links may no longer work. We are reviewing this section.

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What is the National Curriculum?

The National Curriculum is the set of guidelines drawn up by the government which maps out the subjects that need to be covered and the way that children are assessed at school. All schools which are funded by the government (‘Maintained Schools’) use the National Curriculum and it is designed to ensure that teaching and learning is balanced and consistent.

The National Curriculum sets out:

•    The subjects taught at school
•    The knowledge, skills and understanding that pupils are required to gain in each subject
•    General standards or ‘attainment targets’ required for each subject which can be used to measure pupil progress and plan the next steps in a child’s learning
•    How pupil progress is assessed and reported


The National Curriculum is organised into blocks of learning called ‘key stages’. There are four ‘key stages’ as well as an ‘Early Years Foundation Stage’ for children before they reach the age of five.

The National Curriculum for five – 11 year olds


Year 1 and Year 2 of primary school are known as ‘Key Stage 1’
Year 3 to Year 6 of primary school are known as ‘Key Stage 2’

Schools have to teach certain subjects at key stages 1 and 2 as follows:

•    English
•    Maths
•    Science
•    Design and technology
•    Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
•    History
•    Geography
•    Art and design
•    Music
•    Physical education


Pupils may also be taught religious education but as a parents you can decide to withdraw your child from this subject. Pupils may also be taught personal, social and health education (PSHE) and citizenship as well as a foreign language such as French or Spanish.

The National Curriculum for 11 – 16 year olds


Year 7 to Year 9 of secondary school are known as ‘Key Stage 3’
Year 10 to Year 11 of secondary school are known as ‘Key Stage 4’

During Key Stage 3, pupils must be taught the following subjects:

•    English
•    Maths
•    Science
•    Design and technology
•    Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
•    History
•    Geography
•    Modern foreign languages
•    Art and design
•    Music
•    Citizenship
•    Physical education


Schools also have to provide:

•    Careers education and guidance (during Year 9)
•    Sex and Relationship Education (SRE)
•    Religious education (but again as a parent you can decide you don’t want your child to take this subject)


During Year 9 pupils make choices about the subjects they want to study at Key Stage 4. Hopefully their studies in many of these subjects will lead on to nationally recognised qualifications such as GCSEs. It is therefore particularly important that you help your child think through their choices and bear in mind which subjects they may need to choose depending on the courses they may want to choose once they have left school, or on the job they want to do in the future.

During Key Stage 4 pupils study a mix of compulsory and optional subjects – depending on the choices they make during Year 9. The compulsory subjects are:

•    English
•    Maths
•    Science
•    Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
•    Physical education
•    Citizenship


In addition, pupils have to take careers education and work-related learning. Schools must also offer religious education, SRE and at least one subject from each of the four 'entitlement' areas.

The entitlement areas are:

•    Arts subjects
•    Design and technology
•    Humanities
•    Modern foreign languages


 

The National Curriculum and Inclusion


The national curriculum has an overarching statutory inclusion statement. This sets out how teachers can change and adapt the curriculum so that they can provide all pupils with work which meets their learning needs. This kind of adaptation is often referred to as differentiation.

National Curriculum differentiation


Because not all children make progress at the same rate and not all children learn in the same way teachers need to take account of this and where necessary teach different children in different ways. For instance some children understand and remember well if they read something. Others need to be more actively involved to make good progress.  Where teachers do this it is known as differentiation. If a child is making slow progress when they are taught in the same way as the rest of the class the school should try other ways through differentiation to help them succeed. This can mean:

•    Giving work at a more basic and simple level
•    Giving different lessons or different activities
•    Using ways of teaching that match the child’s way of learning
•    Using books that fit in better with the child’s own experiences
•    Moving the child into a different set or into a small group
•    Giving different support through a classroom assistant
•    Giving complicated information in small steps


If your child has had help through differentiation but has still not made good enough progress - the school should do more. Generally they will then give your child special educational help through School Action or School Action Plus.

In exceptional circumstances, where differentiating the curriculum is not enough to help pupils progress headteachers may consider disapplying some parts of the curriculum. There is Guidance which explains when and how this can be done. Generally your child would have to have a statement of special educational needs for the curriculum to be disapplied.

If parents are teaching their children at home there is no requirement for them to follow the national curriculum.  There is DCSF guidance on home education

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Get help from...   


Parents Centre: Learning Journeys Information from The Parents Centre about the National Curriculum with detailed information for each Key Stage.

Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) - ACE is a national charity that provides independent advice for parents and carers of children aged 5-16 in state-funded education.

National Autistic Society (NAS) - For general help and information please contact the (NAS) Autism Helpline. The helpline provides impartial, confidential information, advice and support for people on the autism spectrum, their families, professionals, researchers and students. Telephone 0845 070 4004 or email autismhelpline@nas.org.uk. Open Monday - Friday, 10am - 4pm.

Teachernet whilst aimed at teaching professionals lists some questions which you might find it helpful to look at in terms of thinking about whether or not your school is doing enough to differentiate the curriculum to meet the needs of your child.

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Links


The National Curriculum Detailed information from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) about the current National Curriculum and the way it affects how children are taught in school. Includes latest news and updates.

DirectGov: information for parents Information for parents from the government about all aspects of the National Curriculum.

BBC Schools - information for parents Information for parents about the National Curriculum and how to help your child at school

Disapplication of the National Curriculum Information from Teachernet about when the National Curriculum might be disapplied. 

DCSF guidance on the disapplication of the national curriculum

DCSF guidance on home education

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Case studies

Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities Read or listen to the views of some young people talking about their aspirations and making choices after leaving school.

Curriculum in Action: Key Stage 3 and 4  Examples of how schools have implemented the curriculum across the full range of subjects to enthuse and encourage a wide range of pupils in Key Stages 3 and 4.

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