The primary school National Curriculum in England explained for parents
The current National Curriculum for England has been in place since September 2014. It's a set of subjects and standards for all maintained schools in England to follow, ensuring that children throughout the country learn the same things.
The National Curriculum is designed to be 'balanced and broadly based.' The aim is to promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils, and prepare them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.
How the National Curriculum is organised
In primary schools, there's a set curriculum for Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2) and Key Stage 2 (Years 3-6). Key Stage 2 is often split into lower Key Stage 2 (Years 3 and 4) and upper Key Stage 2 (Years 5 and 6).
The Department for Education (DfE) sets a programme of study for each National Curriculum subject, year by year. It tells schools what they should be teaching during a particular school year, desired outcomes for the end of each key stage, and guidance (not mandatory) for how to teach the programme of study.
There are separate curriculums for Scotland and Wales. Wales will be introducing a new curriculum from September 2022.
What subjects are included in the National Curriculum?
The main focus of the National Curriculum is the three core subjects:
There are also eight foundation subjects:
- Art and design
- Design and technology
- Languages (KS2 and above)
All schools must also provide religious education and, from Sept 2020, relationships education. Sex education is not mandatory in primary schools, but they may decide to teach it.
Do all English primary schools follow the National Curriculum?
No – academies and free schools are exempt. This is partly because these schools need more flexibility in what they teach (for example, in the case of faith schools that have a strong emphasis on religious education in one particular faith).
Academies and free schools do, however, still have to teach a balanced and broadly based curriculum that includes English, maths, science and RE.
What compulsory National Curriculum tests have to be taken?
Primary school children in England have to take the following tests:
- Phonics screening check in Year 1
- KS1 SATs in reading, maths and English grammar, punctuation and spelling (this test is optional) at the end of Year 2
- Multiplication tables check in Year 4 (from 2021)
- KS2 SATs in reading, maths and English grammar, punctuation and spelling at the end of Year 6
You will be given the results of your child's phonics screening check. The results of KS1 SATs are not given out automatically, but you can request them from their teacher.
In Year 6, you will be given the results of your child's KS2 SATs in July, along with an explanation of the grading system.
At the end of each summer term, your child's school must write a report on their progress and give you the opportunity to discuss it with them.