National Curriculum review update


More details of the new National Curriculum for England have been made public. The draft Programmes of Study* for English, maths and science for Key Stages 1 and 2 were made available.

Children reading in classEducation secretary Michael Gove has accepted much of what the Expert Panel recommended back in December. The proposed changes to the primary curriculum in England call for a more challenging approach to English, maths and science. 


The emphasis is on three main features: reading, including comprehension and reading for pleasure, writing including spelling, grammar and handwriting and spoken language which should be encouraged through discussion and debate. The Programmes of Study specify what needs to be taught on a year by year basis, with Key Stage 2 grouped into a Lower and Higher Stage. 


What is likely to be most controversial?

• Detailed requirements regarding grammar • Learning 12 times table by the end of Year 4 • Learning and reciting poetry in Year 1
• Only reading decodable books in Year 1
• Compulsory languages from the age of 7
• Scrapping National Curriculum levels

In maths, the curriculum review has put the emphasis on building strong foundations in addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. It seeks to prepare children for more stretching maths topics in secondary school.

The Programmes of Study are set out in a year by year format and are built around two themes – 'number' (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) and 'geometry and measures' (shapes and measures). Fractions run through each year, while decimals and the 12 times table are introduced for year 4, percentages at year 5 and algebra, data, ratio and probability at year 6. 


There is a greater focus on the acquisition of scientific knowledge with new content added about the solar system, speed and evolution. There is an increased focus on practical scientific experiments and demonstrations. The lives of famous scientists, such as Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton, will also be studied. 


It has been proposed that learning a foreign language will be compulsory from the age of seven (start of Key Stage 2). 

Other subjects

The other subjects of the primary curriculum will be kept, with a continuing requirement for art and design, design and technology, geography, history, ICT, music and physical education. Teachers will have greater freedom in how they are taught. The Programmes of Study for these subjects will be published later this year.

Assessment and levels

There is a major change proposed for how pupils' achievement is measured, with plans to remove the current system of levels. 

These levels are used by schools to measure pupils' progress - and the percentage of pupils reaching Level 4 at the end of primary school is the key measure used in primary school league tables.

If the levels are removed, according to the proposed timetable it will mean a different system of grading and league tables for tests taken in the spring of 2015. Education Secretary Michael Gove says that the current system is "confusing for parents". There has been no decision about what will replace the levels, but, in a letter to the chair of the curriculum review expert panel, Tim Oates, Mr Gove says there would need to be another way of measuring achievement. 

What happens next?

The aim of publishing the drafts at this stage is to start a debate about the content of the primary curriculum with key stakeholders, including subject associations and teacher unions. There then may be further changes to the content before the full public consultation towards the end of this year. 

*Programmes of Study describe the subject, and knowledge, skills and understanding that children are expected to develop during each Key Stage.  

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Last updated: about 3 years ago