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National Curriculum

The new primary curriculum

What's in the new curriculum?

The primary curriculum has been redesigned. The new curriculum includes: curriculum aims; essentials for learning and life; six areas of learning; religious education. The curriculum introduces a statutory requirement for languages at key stage 2 and meets statutory requirements for inclusion (Including all learners) and health and safety. The new curriculum becomes statutory in 2011.

The new curriculum promotes:

  • high standards and good progress for all children, with no child left behind
  • a strengthened focus on securing essential literacy and numeracy skills, with opportunities to develop, use and apply these skills embedded throughout the curriculum
  • increased expectations of children's information and communication technology (ICT) capability and the use of technology to enhance learning across the curriculum
  • a continued entitlement to a broad, balanced and coherent curriculum through the creation of broad areas of learning
  • recognition that children need a well-rounded school experience to succeed, and that personal development is essential to wellbeing and achievement
  • better transition from the early years to primary and from primary to secondary education. 


 Further guidance is available in 'Introducing the new primary curriculum'.

Features of the new primary curriculum

Curriculum aims

The National Curriculum has three broad aims. It 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 should inform all aspects of teaching and learning and be the starting point for curriculum design.

Find out more about the curriculum aims

Essentials for learning and life

The essentials for learning and life describe the skills, attitudes and dispositions that children need to become well-rounded individuals and lifelong learners. They include literacy, numeracy and ICT capability, learning and thinking skills, and personal, social and emotional skills.

Find out more about the essentials for learning and life

Six areas of learning and RE

The areas of learning capture the essential knowledge, key skills and understanding that children need to develop as they progress through their primary years.

There are six areas of learning:

Understanding the arts
Developing creativity and imagination

Understanding English, communication and languages
Developing communication and language skills 

Historical, geographical and social understanding
Understanding how the past shapes the present and the future and how people, places and environments are interconnected

Mathematical understanding
Understanding mathematics and its use in everyday life

Understanding physical development, health and wellbeing
Understanding what makes a healthy, active and fulfilling life 

Scientific and technological understanding
Understanding the natural and made worlds and the relationship between science and technology.

Religious education is a statutory subject with a non-statutory programme of learning in the new primary curriculum. The Education Act 1996 requires schools to offer religious education to all children, unless their parents withdraw them from the provision.  All schools, other than voluntary-aided schools and those of a religious character, must teach RE according to the locally agreed syllabus.

Find out more about the six areas of learning and re

Languages and other new requirements

The new curriculum introduces a statutory requirement for all children to learn a modern foreign language from the age of seven. Dance, drama and citizenship also become part of the statutory curriculum through the new areas of learning.


The curriculum should provide relevant and challenging learning to all children. It should follow the three principles set out in Including all learners.

Find out more about the inclusion

Health and safety

If children are working with tools, equipment and materials on practical activities, sometimes in unfamiliar places, they will need to be taught about hazards and risks. They should know how to spot hazards, assess risks and be able to manage them. They should also know what to do to protect the health and safety of themselves and others when they are working in particular environments.

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