New National Curriculum

curriculum-subjectsThere has been much controversy in the press and so forth regarding the new National Curriculum which comes into force in September 2014. This document is also much misunderstood in both its purpose and execution. I would like to dispel some of the mystery.

Firstly there has been a National Curriculum in place for many years. It is only mandatory for State Funded schools for whom it is a legal requirement to follow. They must also publish their own school curriculum online. The National Curriculum does not apply to Free Schools or Academies although these must at least teach English, Mathematics, Science and RE. Private schools do not have any obligation to follow any curriculum set by the government.

The National Curriculum is set by the Secretary of State for Education and covers the subjects that must be taught and what should be included into that teaching. It also says that the school must provide for collective acts of daily worship and also teach Religious Education, sex and relationship education and personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE).

The curriculum is split into key stages by age KS1 (5 to 7), KS2 (8-11), KS3 (11 to 14) and KS4 (14-16). There are 3 core or compulsory subjects namely English, Maths and Science and 9 other foundation subjects which can change depending upon what has been set by the government. In Sept 2014 these will be: Art and Design, Citizenship, Computing, Design and Technology, Languages, Geography, History, Music and PE.

To complicate it further, after the age of 14 students must be able to study one or more of the subjects above in what are called entitlement areas; the arts, design and technology, the humanities and modern foreign languages. The reason that this is important, is that within a GCSE selection the choices of your child may be limited by what subjects fall within these entitlement areas for a particular school.

The National Curriculum itself is meant to provide a framework of what is taught and what students are expected to know in various subjects at various ages. Differences in approach can be seen for example in that what was once called ICT is now referred to as Computing which indicates a bias towards more programming based technology and less broader based skills in IT.

In reality, as a parent you should be more concerned with the published curriculum for your child’s school and what that contains rather than the National Curriculum. A school has quite a lot of leeway in what they teach from the National Curriculum and so can still tailor their teaching in particular ways. You may wonder why the school has changed exam boards or names of subjects that they teach and this is rooted in the changes to the National Curriculum and the school’s response to those changes.

The National Curriculum is more of a concern for the school than the parent but knowing more about it may make your life easier in understanding your child’s school life.

For more information about the National Curriculum, key stages and other aspects of education, pay a visit to our Knowledge Bank. It has dozens of articles which aim to provide answers to parents’ questions on everything to do with schooling. You’ll also find tips and advice on other issues you may find useful, like protecting children from substance abuse or the importance of physical activity. If you have questions, we’ve got answers!

teaching-curriculumGuest Blog by David Evans Bailey

David Evans Bailey is currently studying an MA at the University of Brighton in Digital Media Art. He taught ICT and Photography at Secondary School level for several years as well as being involved in many theatrical and other endeavours. His background is an IT professional.

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