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National Curriculum

What has changed and why?

What has changed and why?

Coherence and flexibility

Greater coherence and more flexibility

To give schools greater flexibility to tailor learning to their learners’ needs, there is less prescribed subject content in the new programmes of study. Pupils will still be taught essential subject knowledge. The new curriculum introduces the learner to the key concepts and processes that underpin the discipline of each subject and enables learners to deepen their knowledge, skills and understanding.

The revised programmes of study share a common format:

  • Importance statement – why the subject matters and how it can contribute to the aims

  • Key concepts – identifies the big ideas that underpin the subject

  • Key processes – identifies the essential skills of the subject

  • Range and content – outlines the breadth of subject matter from which teachers should draw to develop knowledge, skills and understanding

  • Curriculum opportunities – identifies opportunities to enhance and enrich learning, including making links to the wider curriculum.

This common format contributes to greater coherence, making it easier to see links between subjects. Several subjects share key concepts and processes; curriculum opportunities highlight the potential for links between subjects; and dimensions such as enterprise, creativity, and cultural understanding and diversity can be used to create a more coherent curriculum.

Focus on aims

A clear focus on aims

The aims for the curriculum are statutory and schools can use them as the basis for building a more coherent 11–19 curriculum. They also provide a clear link with the primary curriculum and should enable more effective transition from key stage 2 and on through the 11–19 curriculum.

The curriculum should enable all young people to become:

  • successful learners who enjoy learning, make progress and achieve

  • confident individuals who are able to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives

  • responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society.

These aims, which incorporate the five outcomes of Every Child Matters, have been the starting point for all the changes to the secondary curriculum.

The new curriculum continues to recognise the importance of subjects while at the same time it places emphasis on the development of skills for life and work.

The framework for personal, learning and thinking skills (PLTS) was developed in consultation with employers, parents, schools, students and the wider public – captures these skills and competencies. It provides a national framework which schools can build on in order to meet the needs of their young people and broader communities. They are embedded in the new subject programmes of study and are an essential part of the Diploma qualifications

Functional skills of English, mathematics and ICT have been built into the curriculum, and the key processes sections in the programmes of study highlight the essential skills that learners need in order to make progress and achieve in each subject.

The new framework presents the curriculum as much more than a set of content to cover. It maintains the best of the past while offering increased opportunity to design learning that develops the wider skills for life and learning as well as making links to the major ideas and challenges that face society and have significance for individuals.

It is a framework that recognises the school curriculum as the entire planned learning experience. This includes lessons, but also the events, routines, visits and activities that take place out of the classroom and beyond the school.

Focus on personal development

A stronger focus on personal development

New guidance materials have been written to show how the whole curriculum contributes to learners' personal development and the achievement of the Every Child Matters agenda.  There are also two non-statutory programmes of study for personal wellbeing, and economic wellbeing and financial capability. These draw together personal, social, health and economic education, sex education, careers education, enterprise, financial capability and work-related learning.

Greater personalisation

Greater personalisation through assessment and qualifications

To ensure that assessment supports teaching and learning, the new curriculum encourages a range of approaches to assessing learners’ knowledge, skills and understanding. The increased flexibility will give teachers more opportunities to focus on assessment for learning and to provide greater support and increased challenge for those who need it.

The level descriptions for national curriculum subjects have been modified so that they complement the revised programmes of study and maintain standards. New level descriptions for citizenship have been developed; the non-statutory level descriptions for RE are unchanged.

Greater personalisation of assessment will increase learners’ engagement, enabling them to show what they can do, and open doors to higher achievement.

With more ways to demonstrate progress and more pathways to choose from at key stage 4, including the new diplomas, learners are likely to find something that motivates them, continue learning for longer, and gain the qualifications they need to progress into further and higher education and secure employment.

Developing more effective assessment

Assessing pupils’ progress (APP) is a new national approach to assessment that puts the learner at the heart of the assessment process.

Curriculum reform and renewal depends on quality evidence of learner progress and achievement built on a foundation of sound principles. Effective assessment:

  • is integral to teaching and learning

  • puts the learner at the heart of assessment

  • provides a view of the whole learner

  • involves reliable judgements about how learners are doing, related, where appropriate,

  • to national standards.

Effective assessment needs to be timely, focused and use appropriate techniques, so your assessment and information system is clear about:

  • who is collecting evidence

  • who is acting on it so additional support is provided when needed

  • how learners are involved.

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