1. The Government has set out, in the Coalition Agreement, its intention to give schools greater freedom over the curriculum. As part of that commitment the Government has announced proposals for a systematic and comprehensive review of the National Curriculum for 5- to 16-year-olds in England.

2. The new National Curriculum will be developed in line with the Coalition Government’s stated principles of freedom, responsibility and fairness – to raise standards for all children and to narrow achievement gaps. The National Curriculum should embody rigour and high standards and create coherence in what is taught in schools, ensuring that all children have the opportunity to acquire a core of knowledge in the key subject disciplines.

3. The remit for this review - which can be viewed online  - sets out that the work of the review will be managed by the Department for Education, and also that the Secretary of State has appointed an Advisory Committee to guide the review and help to frame recommendations. The Secretary of State has also decided that the work of the review will be supported through the creation of an Expert Panel that will provide an evidence base for the review and will ensure that the construction and content of the new National Curriculum is based upon international best practice.

4. This paper sets out the terms of reference for the Expert Panel referred to in paragraph 3.

Membership of the panel

5. The Secretary of State has decided that the panel will be led and directed by Mr Tim Oates1. Mr Oates will be joined by a team of senior educationalists and academics.

6. The full membership of the panel and pen pictures of its members are available to download.

Responsibilities of the panel

7. The Expert Panel will support the Department in the conduct of the review by providing detailed advice on the construction and content of the new National Curriculum. The panel will draw on a robust evidence base to inform the drafting of new Programmes of Study and build a detailed framework for the National Curriculum, taking account of the requirements set by successful education jurisdictions across the world. It will also seek and reflect the views of teachers, subject communities, academics, employers, higher education institutions and other interested parties.

8. Specifically the Expert Panel will advise and make recommendations to the Department on the following:

  • the essential knowledge (e.g. facts, concepts, principles and fundamental operations) that children need to be taught in order to progress and develop their understanding in English, mathematics, science, physical education and any other subjects which it is decided should be part of the National Curriculum, or alternatively have non-statutory programmes of study, in future (see below):
  • for the subjects listed below, whether or not they should be part of the National Curriculum, with statutory Programmes of Study, at each key stage:
    • art and design
    • citizenship
    • design and technology
    • geography
    • history
    • information and communication technology (ICT)
    • modern foreign languages (MFL)
    • music.
  • for any subjects which are not recommended to be part of the National Curriculum in future, whether there should be non-statutory programmes of study available for guidance at particular key stages and/or whether those subjects, or any aspects of them, should nevertheless be compulsory;
  • the extent to which the content of the National Curriculum should be set out on a year by year basis in order to ensure that essential knowledge is built systematically and consistently;
  • what, if anything, should replace existing attainment targets and level descriptors to define better the standards of attainment children should reach, and be assessed against, at various points through their education;
  • what is needed to provide expectations for progression to support the least able and stretch the most able;
  • how the National Curriculum can support the provision of more helpful advice and information to parents on their child’s progress; and
  • how the content of the curriculum can support the embedding of equality and inclusion.

9. The Expert Panel will also provide advice on the new National Curriculum as it relates to assessment and GCSE criteria, and will also provide advice on its implementation.

10. The Expert Panel may also be asked to provide advice on other matters related to the National Curriculum from time to time during the course of this review at the request of the Secretary of State.

11. The Expert Panel will complete its work and submit final recommendations to the Department for Education as described above in accordance with the timetable agreed with the Department.


12. The Expert Panel’s work will be fully facilitated and supported by the Department for Education.


1 Mr Oates will undertake this work on secondment from his current employer, Cambridge Assessment, where he holds the post of Director of Assessment Research and Development