National Curriculum 2014

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A new National Curriculum is upon us, a change which brings both challenges and opportunities for schools. Below is a summary of the major changes.






  • The new curriculum covers primary schools pupils aged 5 -11 (key stages 1 and 2) and secondary school pupils up to age 14 (key stage 3). Key stage 4 (14-16) has been excluded from the changes for the time being and will be phased in over a three-year period beginning in September 2015.
  • It is compulsory for local authority maintained schools, but academies, free schools and independents do not have to follow the national curriculum.
  • Pupils in Year 2 and Year 6 will continue to be taught the previous programmes of study in English, maths and science and will sit end-of-year tests in May 2015 on these programmes. New tests will come into force in 2016 for the current Year 1 and Year 5 pupils.
  • The aim is to slim down curriculum content in most subject areas, with the exception of primary English, maths and science.
  • There will be a higher level of demand in mathematics and science at all key stages. In maths, children will be expected to learn more from an earlier age. In science there will be a shift towards “scientific knowledge” and hard facts.
  • The teaching of languages will be compulsory in primary schools, from key stage 2.
  • Information and communication technology (ICT) is to be replaced by a much more demanding computing curriculum at all key stages. The new computing curriculum will require pupils to learn how to code.
  • There will be a greater emphasis upon spelling, punctuation and grammar at all key stages.
  • There will be a new, chronological, approach to the teaching of history.
  • In terms of assessment, National Curriculum assessment level descriptors are being removed. Although it will no longer be compulsory for schools to undertake detailed tracking of pupil progress by sub-levels, schools must assess pupils’ “readiness to progress”, although schools are free to decide how to do this. New assessment systems must be aligned to the new end of key stage expectations and must not be used to limit progression. The Department for Education (DfE) has recently awarded 9 schools £10,000 each so that they can turn their in-house assessment systems into free packages for wider use by other schools.

Key Stage 1:

  • Computing: One of the most significant changes is the requirement that key stage 1 pupils will be taught computer programming. Computing replaces Information and Communication technology (ICT) with a greater focus on programming rather than operating programs e.g. by Year 1 pupils will have to know what an algorithm is. Internet safety will also be taught to primary pupils.
  • English: Greater emphasis will be placed on vocabulary development, grammar, punctuation, spelling and handwriting. From Year 1, pupils will also have to learn and recite poems by heart and recognise and discuss different poetic forms.
  • Maths: pupils will be taught basic numeracy, including simple fractions (e.g. ½, ¼).
  • Science: Greater emphasis will be placed on identifying and naming living things in key stage 1 and there will be a greater range of investigative activities. The new science curriculum sees the introduction of ‘Working Scientifically’, which is integrated with all science topics rather than being taught as a separate unit. It promotes a range of skills such as asking scientific questions and using simple measuring equipment. Pupils in Year 1 will also be taught about seasonal changes.
  • History: pupils will be taught about’ the lives of significant individuals in the past who have contributed to national and international achievements’. At Key stage 1 this includes: Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria, Christopher Columbus and Neil Armstrong, William Caxton and Tim Berners-Lee, Pieter Bruegel the Elder and LS Lowry, Rosa Parks and Emily Davison, Mary Seacole and Edith Cavell.
  • Testing: Phonics test in Year 1 and teacher assessments in English, maths and science in Year 2.

Key Stage 2:

  • Computing: From age seven, pupils will be taught to understand computer networks.
  • English: By age eight (Year 3) children should be able to use a dictionary to look up meanings of words. By age 11 pupils (Year 6) should be able to spell 200 complex words – including mischievous, privilege and yacht – and use a thesaurus to develop vocabulary.
  • Maths: By the age nine (Year 4) children are expected to know times tables up to 12 x 12 (currently 10 x 10 by end of primary school). Calculators will not be introduced until near the end of key stage 2 and algebra, previously postponed until secondary school, will now be introduced in Year 6. By the end of primary school children should be able to convert decimal fractions to simple fractions.
  • Science: There will be a strong focus on scientific knowledge and language, rather than understanding the nature and methods of science in abstract terms. Year 4 pupils will be introduced to the basic digestive system and in Year 6 pupils will learn about the human circulatory system. Evolution and inheritance is also being introduced in Year 6.
  • Design and Technology: pupils will learn how key events and individuals in design and technology have shaped the world. By age 11, children should have knowledge of mechanical systems such as gears, pulleys, cams and levers and be able to build circuits incorporating switches, bulbs, buzzers and motors.
  • History: pupils will be taught about the achievements of the earliest civilisations and where they first appeared e.g. Ancient Sumer, the Indus Valley, Ancient Egypt, the Shang Dynasty of China, the Ancient Greeks, the western world and a non-European society that contrasts with British history e.g. an early Islamic civilization c. AD 900, Mayan civilization c. AD 900 or Benin (West Africa) c. AD 900-1300. They will also learn about changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, which could include late Neolithic hunter-gatherers or farmers e.g. Skara Brae, Bronze Age e.g. Stonehenge or Iron Age hill forts.
  • Languages: A modern foreign language (French, Spanish, German, Italian, Mandarin or Japanese) or ancient language (Latin or Greek) will be mandatory in key stage 2.
  • Testing: National tests and teachers assessments in English, maths and science in Year 6.

Key Stage 3:

  • Computing: By key stage 3 children will have the ability to code and solve practical computer problems.
  • English: Spoken English is being given greater prominence and children will be taught debating and presentation skills. Pupils will study two Shakespeare plays, as well as pre-1914 literature and two authors each year. By the end of key stage 3 pupils should be able to write accurately, fluently and effectively for the purpose of planning, drafting, editing and proof-reading their work.
  • Maths: By the end of key stage 3 pupils should be able to use probability, reasoning with algebra and geometry.
  • Science: In Year 7 children should learn about the importance of diet and exercise and the effect of drugs. By age 14 (Year 9) they should be familiar with human reproduction, the periodic table and climate change.
  • Design and Technology: Pupils should have a more sophisticated use of design equipment, such as 3D printers, laser cutters, electronics and robotics.
  • History: Pupils will learn about: the development of Church, state and society in Medieval Britain 1066-1509; the development of Church, state and society in Britain 1509-1745; ideas, political power, industry and empire: Britain, 1745-1901; challenges for Britain, Europe and the wider world 1901 to the present day (including the Holocaust).
  • Languages: children will be expected to master basic grammar and accurate pronunciation and to converse, present, read and write in the foreign language.
  • Testing: teacher assessments in Years 7, 8 and 9.