basic curriculum

National Curriculum

The National Curriculum was introduced into England, Wales and Northern Ireland as a nationwide curriculum for primary and secondary state schools following the Education Reform Act 1988. Notwithstanding its name, it does not apply to Independent Schools, which by definition are free to set their own curriculum, but it ensures that state schools of all Local Education Authorities have a common curriculum.

The Education Reform Act 1988 requires that all state students be taught a Basic Curriculum of Religious Education and the National Curriculum.

The purpose of the National Curriculum was to ensure that certain basic material was covered by all pupils. In subsequent years the curriculum grew to fill the entire teaching time of most state schools.

Principal Aims & Purposes

There are two principal aims and four main purposes set out in the National Curriculum documentation:

  • Aim 1: The school curriculum should aim to provide opportunities for all pupils to learn and to achieve.
  • Aim 2: The school curriculum should aim to promote pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and prepare all pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life.
  • Purpose 1: To establish an entitlement
  • Purpose 2: To establish standards
  • Purpose 3: To promote continuity and coherence
  • Purpose 4: To promote public understanding

Statutory Subjects

Core and foundation subjects

The table below lists those subjects which form a statutory part of the National Curriculum under the Education Act 2002 (Part 6) as updated.

Subject Key Stage 1
(age 5-7)
Key Stage 2
(age 7-11)
Key Stage 3
(age 11-14)
Key Stage 4
(age 14-16)
English *
Art & Design
Design & Technology
Information & Communication Technology *
Modern Foreign Languages
Physical Education
Work-related Learning
Welsh (Wales only)
*English is not statutory in Key Stage 1 in Welsh-medium schools in Wales *ICT is not statutory at KS4 in Wales.

Additional Entitlements

In all maintained schools, provision is made for the requirement to offer a course in Religious Education under the Education Act 1996. Parents have the right to withdraw pupils from this if they wish. In addition, at all Key Stages, the Department for Children, Schools and Families suggests that pupils are offered provision in Personal, Social and Health Education, although this is not statutory.

In some Key Stages there are additional entitlements which form part of the National Curriculum, but for which prescribed programmes of study are not clearly set out.

Primary Education

Primary schools, while not required to include Sex education in the curriculum are advised by the government to include a programme of education which is rooted in the PSHE curriculum which covers topics such as puberty and adolescence. Schools should maintain a policy outlining what will be covered in their programme, and parents maintain a right to withdraw their pupils from such courses.

Secondary Education

The Education Act 1996 requires that all pupils in secondary education are provided with a programme of Sex education, including education about AIDS, HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases. While a statutory provision, this does not form part of the National Curriculum, and parents have a right to remove their children from this provision.

The Education Act 1997 (as amended) requires that all pupils in Key Stages 3 and 4 be provided with a programme of Careers education. This does not form part of the National Curriculum but is a statutory entitlement for all pupils.

Schools are required, under the amendments to the Education Act of 2002, to provide at least one course for those pupils who wish to study it, in each of the entitlement areas at Key Stage 4. These are: the Arts; Design and Technology; the Humanities; and a Modern Foreign Language.

National Curriculum Assessment

Assessments are carried out at three ages: seven (school year 2, at the end of Key Stage 1), eleven (Year 6, the end of Key Stage 2) and fourteen (Year 9, the end of Key Stage 3). Some aspects of subjects are teacher-assessed, whilst others involve sitting an examination paper. The results are considered when school and LEA performance league tables are being compiled, but they do not lead to any formal qualification for the candidates taking them.

See also


External links

Concerning Assessment

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