Most primary schools have to teach specific subject areas in lessons, chosen by the government. This is called the National Curriculum.
What is the National Curriculum?
The National Curriculum was first introduced in 1988 to all state schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It gives schools a list of subjects and topics they should teach for different age groups. The government also makes schools measure the standards their pupils achieve, using national tests and teachers’ assessment.
Why do we have a National Curriculum?
A national curriculum means that all children (of the same age) in England are learning the same things, no matter which school they go to. This keeps education consistent across the country. It also makes it easier to keep track of children’s progress and achievement levels if they are all following the same standards.
This is useful if your child moves schools. Covering the same topics and learning the same things in every school, a child should be able to move without it affecting their progress, or leaving gaps in their education.
Do all schools follow the National Curriculum?
The National Curriculum is not compulsory for all schools – only state primaries and secondaries. Schools that don’t have to follow the curriculum are academies, free schools and private schools. And home-schoolers do not have to conform to it, either.
What are key stages?
Year groups are separated into ‘key stages’ and the National Curriculum outlines what each level should be taught at that stage. Pupils take various tests and teachers make assessments at the end of each key stage to see how they are performing.
Which subjects are taught in primary schools?
The National Curriculum requires children to be taught the following subjects: English, maths, science, history, geography, art & design, music, design & technology, physical education (including swimming) and computing.
Religious education should be taught in all schools – covering a range of religions, but parents have the option to exclude their children from these lessons, if they do not wish their child to be taught about religious beliefs different to their own.
Optionally, modern foreign languages (e.g. French) are often taught in Key Stage 1, and ancient (e.g. Latin) and modern foreign languages in Key Stage 2.
Other popular subjects that are frequently taught in schools at both Key Stages are PSHE (which stands for ‘personal, social and health education’) and citizenship.
PSHE teaches children about staying safe, how to look after themselves, and healthy lifestyles. The subject is intended to teach children positive social skills and how to understand other people’s feelings.
How are primary school children tested?
Children are tested nationally at the end of each key stage, either by class tests or teacher assessments to monitor their educational progress against the national average. These National Curriculum tests are also known as SATs (standard attainment tests).
At the end of Year 2 (when KS1 finishes) and Year 6 (end of KS2) all children are required to take national tests or be assessed by teachers in English, maths and science.
See your child's class page for more detailed information about what is being taught this term.