Here you can find answers to frequently asked questions about the changes to the National Curriculum.
As it has developed, the National Curriculum has come to cover more subjects, prescribe more outcomes and take up more school time than originally intended. It is our intention that the National Curriculum be slimmed down so that it properly reflects the body of essential knowledge in key subjects and does not absorb the overwhelming majority of teaching time in schools. A slimmed-down National Curriculum will also free up teachers to use their professional judgement to design curricula that meet the needs of their pupils.
The review will consider the National Curriculum at both primary and secondary levels. The ultimate aim is to create a National Curriculum which allows children to build their knowledge in key subjects systematically and consistently, starting with Key Stage 1 and moving through to Key Stage 4. We also want to consider how we can slim down the National Curriculum to make it more manageable and free up teachers so that they can create lessons that really inspire and engage their pupils. You can read the full remit for the review in this section
It is important that we consider changes to the secondary National Curriculum alongside the qualifications that students take at the end of Key Stage 4. We will set out our proposals on both these fronts in due course. The decisions set out in the Secretary of State’s letter to Tim Oates about curriculum aims, the ending of levels and spoken language development apply to the secondary as well as the primary phase.
We recognise the importance of making foreign languages compulsory at Key Stage 2. There is clear evidence which suggests that children are better able to learn the sounds of new languages when they are younger and internationally, compulsory language teaching is consistently introduced in the primary phase.
Yes. We do not wish to restrict primary schools in their choice of language, and classical languages can give a good grounding in understanding, and using basic grammar and writing in, other foreign languages.
As set out in the Secretary of State’s letter to Tim Oates, we are removing the current system of levels and level descriptors as recommended by the Expert Panel. Instead, the focus in the new draft curriculum Programmes of Study for English, mathematics and science is on describing content that makes clear both what should be taught and what pupils should know and be able to do as a result. We will not be replacing the system of levels, but will consult further on how attainment should be graded as part of the statutory assessment arrangements.
Recent comparisons with other high-performing jurisdictions show that England has fallen in the rankings of educational performance in reading, mathematics and science. Whilst high-performing jurisdictions have in place coherent and ambitious curricula that allow for the steady accumulation of knowledge, our National Curriculum has lost much of its initial focus.
We therefore want a National Curriculum that focuses on the essential knowledge that all children need to progress. Our draft new Programmes of Study for primary English, mathematics and science are deliberately more ambitious than ever before about what our children can achieve.
We have discussed the contents of the drafts with a range of experts including subject specialists, teachers, representatives from Ofsted and learned societies and others. We have also taken into account the responses to the Call for Evidence which attracted 5,763 replies, and the feedback from a large number of stakeholder events which the Department has either organised or attended over the past year.
We are now publishing the drafts so that we can discuss them with a wider range of stakeholders. This will inform further changes and we will then carry out a full public consultation before the documents are finalised.
As set out in the review remit, it is still the Government’s intention that the National Curriculum be slimmed down so that it properly reflects the body of essential knowledge which all children should learn.
The review has the following aims at its heart:
The core subjects of primary English, mathematics and science are the essential building blocks of education and the foundation of our system of school accountability. It is therefore important that Government sets out in detail what children should be taught and when in the Programmes of Study for these subjects.
We are however going to slim down the National Curriculum as a whole, as demonstrated by our decision to have much shorter Programmes of Study for primary subjects beyond English, mathematics and science. This will give primary schools greater flexibility to set high expectations for these subjects and tailor their school curriculum to best meet the needs of their pupils.
We are also removing the current system of levels and level descriptors in the Attainment Targets. We will not be replacing the system of levels, but will consult further on how attainment should be graded as part of the statutory assessment arrangements.
Schools will have flexibility over when National Curriculum content is taught. Maintained primary schools are required to teach a Programme of Study by the end of each key stage. Schools will however continue to have the flexibility to move content between years, so long as they cover all the content by the end of the key stage. They will also be able to move on to the content covered in the next key stage early if they believe it is appropriate to do so.
To support schools, the new draft National Curriculum for primary mathematics and science is set out by academic year for both Key Stages 1 and 2 while English is set out by academic year for Key Stage 1 and by two-year blocks for Key Stage 2, though with requirements for grammar set out for each school year. This approach has been taken in order to give sufficient clarity in the progress pupils are expected to make from Year 1 to Year 6.
Teachers should set high expectations for all pupils and they will need to make clear how these expectations will be set in their school curriculum. A minority of pupils will have particular requirements that arise as a consequence of Special Educational Needs. Teachers must take account of these requirements and make provision, where necessary, to support this diverse group of pupils.
We expect to publish drafts of the remaining Programmes of Study that will form the new National Curriculum later this year. There will be a full public consultation before decisions are made.
We will be discussing the draft Programmes of Study for English, mathematics and science with stakeholders over the coming weeks. This will inform any further changes that need to be made, ahead of formal public consultation towards the end of the year.
We will make a separate announcement in due course about our plans for the secondary curriculum, and will also publish drafts of Programmes of Study for other subjects.
The review has made good progress over the last year. However, the possible reforms suggested by the evidence documents we have published, and especially the international curriculum evidence report and the report of the review Expert Panel, go far beyond matters of curriculum content. Having listened to all the views expressed during the review so far we have decided that, in the best interests of pupils, their parents and teachers that these matters should be subject to further consideration and consultation.
To allow more time and space for that consideration and consultation we have decided that the new programmes of study for English, mathematics, science and physical education will now be introduced in September 2014 rather than September 2013 as had been originally envisaged.
The work of the review to date has thrown up a number of important challenges, which are highlighted in the reports we have published. These include, for example:
We will say more about this in the new year.
The review is organised and managed by the Department for Education. From January 2011 to December 2011 the review was advised by an Expert Panel and the panel published a report including their conclusions and recommendations on 19 December 2011. The review is also supported by an Advisory Committee consisting mainly of successful headteachers and also including representation from higher education and employers. The terms of reference for the Advisory Committee and its members are also in this section.
The review is considering which subjects beyond English, mathematics, science and physical education, if any, should be part of the new National Curriculum from September 2014. We look forward to further discussion on this matter, but our intention is that the new programmes of study for all other subjects that are to form part of the new National Curriculum or to have non-statutory programmes of study will be available to schools by September 2013, with teaching in maintained schools from September 2014. Beyond this, the review will advise on whether the new curriculum should be phased in, and if so, how.
We will ensure that the new National Curriculum is rigorous – by looking at curriculum design in the most successful education jurisdictions across the globe and benchmarking what our children are expected to learn at different stages in their schooling to ensure that they are able to fulfil their potential. Slimming down the National Curriculum will also help raise standards as teachers will have more freedom to innovate in how they teach and develop new approaches that will engage children in their education more effectively.
Academies and Free Schools will retain their existing freedom to depart from the National Curriculum where they consider it appropriate, but they are required by law, like all schools, to teach a broad and balanced curriculum. And all state schools will be held accountable for their performance in tests and exams which reflect the National Curriculum.
As is the case now, although academies are not required to follow the National Curriculum, we envisage that many will choose to offer it.
If you would like to send us your views then please write to us at NationalCurriculumReview.email@example.com
Until the new National Curriculum is introduced, state schools are legally required to continue to follow the current National Curriculum for primary and secondary schools.