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Understanding the National Curriculum

School education - key stages

This section provide parents and students with a brief explanation of the National Curriculum used in state schools across England, what it is and how it works. The complete National Curriculum for each subject and education level can be found on the government website: http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/curriculum/

What is the National Curriculum?

The National Curriculum was established in 1989 to ensure consistent standards of teaching and learning across the country. State schools in England must teach a range of subjects according to targets set by the National Curriculum.  The National Curriculum covers learning for all children aged 5–16 in state schools, and provides guidance on:

  • which subjects should be taught
  • the knowledge, skills and understanding a child should achieve in each subject (according to age)
  • targets – so teachers can measure how well each child is doing in each subject
  • how information on each child’s progress should be passed on to the parents.
In other words, the National Curriculum tells teachers what children need to learn and when.
 

A new National Curriculum for secondary schools

A new National Curriculum has been introduced for secondary school pupils (pupils in Key Stages 3 and 4, aged 11–16), which started in September 2010. The new curriculum aims to provide schools and teachers more flexibility about what they teach. Although programmes of study still apply, teachers will have more freedom to plan their lessons. At EducateFirst, tutors working in our educational classes are already planning lessons and teaching according to the new curriculum. This provides teachers with more opportunities to assess students and provide support for those struggling or more challenges for those who find the work in our classes easy.

Another ambition of the new curriculum is to make sure that pupils interested in new National Diplomas are given support and guidance near the end of Key Stage 4 (at age 16), to help them find a path that interests and motivates them. EducateFirst can provide students and parents with professional advice on options for further education as well as future career opportunities. More information on further education and careers can be found here.
The new curriculum also includes two new non-compulsory, programmes of study – personal wellbeing and financial wellbeing.

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The National Curriculum: subjects of study

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Mathematics

Mathematics equips pupils with a uniquely powerful set of tools to understand and change the world. These tools include logical reasoning, problem-solving skills, and the ability to think in abstract ways. Mathematics is important in everyday life, many form of employment, science and technology, medicine, the economy, the environment and development, and in public decision-making. Different cultures have contributed to the development and application of mathematics. Today, the subject transcends cultural boundaries and its importance is universally recognised. Mathematics is a creative discipline.  It can stimulate moments of pleasure and wonder when a pupil solves a problem for the first time, discovers a more elegant solution to that problem, or suddenly see hidden connections.

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English

English is vital way of communicating in school, in public life and internationally. Literature in English is rich and influential, reflecting the experience of people from many countries and times. In studying English pupils develop skills in speaking, listening reading and writing. It enables them to express themselves creatively and imaginatively and to communicate with others effectively. Pupils learn to become enthusiastic and critical readers of stories, poetry and drama and as well non-fiction and media texts. The study of English helps pupils understand how language works by looking at its patterns, structures and origins. Using this knowledge pupils can choose and adapt what they say and write in different situations. 

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Science

Science stimulates and excites pupils’ curiosity about phenomena and events in the world around them. It also satisfies this curiosity with knowledge. Because science links direct practical experience with ideas, it can engage learners at many levels. Scientific method is about developing and evaluating explanations through experimental evidence and modelling.  This is a spur to critical and creative thought. Through science, pupils understand how major scientific ideas contribute to technological change – impacting on industry, business and medicine and improving the quality of life. Pupils recognise the cultural significant of science and trace its worldwide development. They learn to question and discuss science-based issues that may affect their own lives, the direction of society and the future of the world. 

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Design and Technology

Design and technology prepares pupils to participate in tomorrow’s rapidly changing technologies. They learn to think and intervene creatively to improve the quality of life. The subject calls for pupils to become autonomous and creative problem solvers, as individuals and members of a team. They must look for needs, wants and opportunities and respond to them by developing a range of ideas and making products and systems. They combine practical skills with an understanding of aesthetics, social and environmental issues, function and industrial practices. As they do, they reflect on and evaluate present and past design and technology, its uses and effects. Through design and technology, all pupils can become discriminating and informed users of products and become innovators.

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Information and Communications Technology

Information and communication technology (ICT) prepares pupils to participate in a rapidly changing world in which work and other activities are increasingly transformed by access to varied and developing technology. Pupils use ICT tools to find, explore, analyse, exchange and present information responsibly, creatively and with discrimination. They learn how to employ ICT to enable rapid access to ideas and experiences from a wide range of people, communities and cultures. Increased capability in the use of ICT promotes initiative and independent learning, with pupils being able to make informed judgements about when and where to use ICT to best effect, and to consider its implications for home and work both now and in the future.

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History

History fires pupils’ curiosity about the past in Britain and the wider world. Pupils consider how the past influences the present, what past societies were life, how these societies organised their politics, and what beliefs and cultures influence people’s actions. As they do this, pupils develop a chronological framework for their knowledge of significant events and people. They see the diversity of human experience, and understand more about themselves and individuals and members of society. What they learn can influence their decisions about personal choices, attitudes and values. In history, pupils find evidence, weigh up and reach their own conclusions. To do this they need to be able to research, sift through evidence, and argue for their point of view – skills that are prized in adult life.

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Geography

Geography provokes and answers questions about the natural and human worlds, using different scales of enquiry to view them from different perspectives. It develops knowledge of places and environment throughout the world, an understanding of maps, and arrange of investigative and problem-solving skills both inside and outside the classroom. As such, it prepares pupils for adult life and employment. Geography is a focus within the curriculum for understanding and resolving issues about the environment and sustainable development. It is also an important link between the natural and social sciences. As pupils study geography, they encounter different societies and cultures. This helps them to realise how nations rely on each other. It can inspire them to think about their own place in the world, their values and their right and responsibilities to other people and the environment.

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Art and Design

Art and design stimulates creativity and imagination. It provides visual, tactile and sensory experience and a unique way of understanding and responding to the world. Pupils use colour, form, texture, pattern and different materials and processes to communicate what they see, feel and think. Through art and design activities, they learn to make informed value judgements and aesthetic and practical decisions, becoming actively involved in shaping environments. They explore ideas and meanings in the work of artists, craftspeople and designers. They learn about the diverse roles and functions of arts, craft and design in contemporary life, and in different times and cultures. Understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the visual arts have the power to enrich our personal and public lives.

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Music

Music is a powerful, unique form of communication that can change the way pupils feel, think and act. It brings together intellect and feeling and enables personal expression, reflection and emotional development. As an integral part of culture, past and present, it helps pupils understand themselves and relate to others, forging important links between home, school and the wider world. The teaching of music develops pupils’ ability to listen and appreciate a wide variety of music and to make judgements about musical quality. It encourages active involvement in different forms of amateur music making, both individual and communal, developing a sense of group identity and togetherness. It also increases self-discipline and creativity, aesthetic sensitivity and fulfilment.

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Physical Education

Physical education develops pupils’ physical competence and confidence, and their ability to use these to perform in a range of activities. It promotes physical skilfulness, physical development and a knowledge of the body in action. Physical education provides opportunities for pupils to be creative, competitive and to face up to different challenges as individuals and in groups and teams. It promotes positive attitudes towards active and healthy lifestyles. Pupils learn how to think in different ways to suit a wide variety of creative, competitive and challenging activities. They learn how to plan, perform and evaluate actions, ideas and performances to improve their quality and effectiveness. Through this process pupils discover their aptitudes, abilities and preferences, and make choices about how to get involved lifelong physical activity.

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Modern Foreign Languages

Languages are part of the cultural richness of our society and the world in which we live and work. Learning languages contributes to mutual understanding, a sense of global citizenship and personal fulfilment. Pupils learn to appreciate different countries, cultures, communities and people. By making comparisons, they gain insight into their own culture and society. The ability to understand and communicate in another language is a lifelong skill for education, employment and leisure in this country and throughout the world.

Learning languages gives pupils opportunities to develop their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills and to express themselves with increasing confidence, independence and creativity. They explore the similarities and differences between other languages and English and learn how language can be manipulated and applied in different ways. The development of communication skills, together with understanding of the structure of language, lay the foundations for future study of other languages and support the development of literacy skills in a pupil’s own language. 

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