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National Curriculum

Question 1: What are we trying to achieve?



The new secondary curriculum provides an opportunity to create a relevant, coherent and engaging curriculum for all learners. Being clear about what you want to achieve for your learners is an important starting point. It will drive the decisions you make about organising learning and enable you to evaluate the impact of your changes on your learners.

Schools have found these activities useful in helping them to clarify their vision for their learners.

Clarifying your school's vision

What do you hope to see in your learners?

This activity focuses on the skills and qualities you would like to see in your learners. Ask colleagues to think of a few words they might use to describe a well-educated young person – an 11-, 14-, 16- or 19-year-old. Ask them to work in small groups, writing their words around a picture of a young person drawn on a large sheet of paper. They should keep adding descriptions until they feel that their picture is complete.

A shared understanding

Display the pictures and words around the room. As a whole group, discuss whether there is a shared understanding of what is meant by the words written. For example, what do people think are the characteristics of ‘an independent learner’ or ‘a good communicator’? Are these different depending on whether you are thinking about a learner at key stage 3 or one at key stage 4?

Skills, knowledge, attitudes, attributes

Do the words that your colleagues have used to describe a well-educated young person relate to skills, knowledge and understanding or attitudes and attributes? Ask each group to draw a line from each word or phrase on their drawing to the appropriate part of the body:

  • the hand for skills

  • the head for knowledge and understanding

  • the heart for attitudes and attributes.

Which part of the body are most of the words or phrases associated with? Does this area match the focus of your current curriculum thinking?

Identifying strengths

Thinking about your learners in terms of the characteristics you highlighted in the previous activity will help you identify strengths and areas for development. You could ask colleagues to put a red, amber or green sticker beside each word or phrase following the rules below:

A green sticker

A green sticker means this characteristic or outcome is evident in the large majority of our learners. This is an area of strength.

An amber sticker

An amber sticker means this characteristic or outcome is seen in many of our learners and is largely satisfactory but is not consistently strong or as evident as we would like.

A red sticker

A red sticker means this characteristic or outcome is seen only in a minority of our learners. This is an area for development.

This visual analysis will help you set priorities for development.


Working with the national vision

What are the national aims of the curriculum?

Over the past year, school leaders, teachers and other education professionals have been working with QCDA to make the nation’s curriculum aims more accessible and usable. They have agreed that 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 relate closely to the five outcomes identified in Every Child Matters and have been a driving force for the secondary curriculum review and fundamental to every programme of study.

In partnership with schools, QCDA has begun to identify the learning outcomes, in terms of knowledge and understanding, skills, attitudes and attributes, that might sit beneath each of the three overall aims. These are listed in resource sheet A.

To what extent do our learners achieve the curriculum aims?

Some schools have found it helpful to use resource sheet A to reflect on the extent to which their learners demonstrate the outcomes associated with the curriculum aims. You will need to mark each line with an X to show that an outcome is a strength in all, most, some or none of your learners. You could do this in pairs and then share your judgements in groups of four to share again and explain conclusions. What are the reasons for the different perceptions? Would it be helpful to collect any further information to verify conclusions?

Our curriculum and the aims

It might be useful to consider whether you have any specific provision in place in your curriculum that is designed to help your learners to achieve particular outcomes? Do you have any measures in place that will help you to know how well your learners are meeting any outcome? Part 2 of resource sheet A encourages you to answer these questions in relation to each outcome of the aims.

The new secondary curriculum places significant emphasis on skills and personal development to complement the knowledge and understanding elements. You will need to think about the specific learning experiences that your curriculum will need to include to help your learners develop these things.

Adding a local dimension

Another feature of the new secondary curriculum is the emphasis on making the curriculum relevant and meaningful to learners. Adding a local dimension to your curriculum is one way of doing this. With that in mind, do the national aims for the curriculum capture all the outcomes that are important for your learners in your context? Are there elements that you think need to be added that came out of the previous activities? Note down any additions or amendments to the aims that reflect the local context in which you are working and the needs, interests and aspirations of your learners.

Using the importance statements

Every programme of study in the new secondary curriculum has been written with the national aims of the curriculum as a starting point. Each programme of study has an importance statement that outlines how the subject can help young people to develop as successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens.

Looking across the importance statements for all subjects and highlighting where there are similarities or overlaps could be a useful activity. It will help you make connections across subjects and create a more coherent set of learning experiences.

Visualising success

What does success look like?

Whether you have identified skills development, aspects of personal development or knowledge and understanding as your priorities for development, you will need to think about what success in meeting these aims might look like. What is it that your learners will know, what will they be able to do and what characteristics will they have further developed?

Resource sheet B gives an example of how one school visualised success. Bridge High School identified that their learners needed to become higher achievers with higher levels of engagement and motivation. They also wanted their learners to be more skilful at working independently and as part of a team and to be more creative in their approaches to learning.

Could you create a similar mind map to outline your picture of success? You could encourage teams of teachers from different departments to work together on their pictures of success and then display them in the staff room to look at the similarities and differences between them.



Working through these activities should have reinforced the vision that you have for your learners. The learner outcomes that are particular strengths and those that need further development will have been highlighted, both in reference to your local vision and the national aims.

Use resource sheet F to record what your learners are like now and what you would like them to be like as a result of your new secondary curriculum. You will be encouraged to complete the other sections on the sheet as you progress through the activities.

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