Primary Curriculum: The Shape Of Things To Come

Primary Curriculum: The Shape Of Things To Come

In June 2012 the Department for Education published draft Programmes of Study for primary English, maths and science. Since then the programmes have been subject to what the Department describes as an “informal consultation” allowing ‘stakeholders’ to say what they think about them. The Department will re-draft the programmes, taking account of what has been said and re-publish them later in the year for formal consultation. The plan is to introduce the new Primary Curriculum in English primary schools from September 2014 (a year later than originally planned).

What we now know

  • We know that the new primary curriculum will be organised around subjects, rather than areas of learning (as recommended by the Rose Review) or ‘domains of knowledge, skill, enquiry and disposition’ (preferred by the Cambridge Primary Review);
  • The distinction built into the original 1988 National Curriculum between ‘core’ subjects (English, maths and science) and ‘other foundation subjects’ will remain in place.
  • The requirement for the teaching of all the present foundation subjects (core and non-core) across the primary years will remain. The introduction of foreign languages from age seven is planned. As this involves a statutory change formal consultation is under way;
  • The Key Stage structure will stay as it is, though it is proposed to split KS2 into “upper” (year 5 and 6) and “lower” (year 3 and 4) stages;
  • Programmes of study for the three core subjects will, like the drafts we have seen, lay down in detail the content that is to be taught to children in maintained schools at each stage of their schooling. Although what they are to teach during each Key Stage is to be closely prescribed, teachers will be able to re-jig the order in which topics are introduced and to decide how best to teach them;
  • Programmes of study for the other subjects (which will follow in draft form later this year) will be ‘much shorter’, giving teachers more freedom to decide what they teach, not just when or how they teach it;
  • So that parents can get a better idea of what their children are doing, from September 2012 all schools (including academies) will be required to publish their full primary curriculum on-line. There are currently no guidelines relating to how much information will have to be provided about the percentage of teaching time allocated to each subject.
  • The current system of levels and level descriptors which give teachers a uniform scale against which to measure each child’s progress through the key stages will be removed and not replaced. Instead the programmes of study for the three core subjects will set out both what is to be taught and what every child is expected to master during each year and key stage. Schools will be required to concentrate on making sure that all children grasp this essential content, rather than using level descriptors to label differential performance;
  • The externally-marked national tests in mathematics, science and English at the end of KS2 will be kept in place so that pupils’ attainment in these key subjects can be checked against government targets and their schools held accountable for their performance. It could be that pupils will be assigned new GCSE-style ‘end of primary’ grades in these tests. Internally-marked tests in English (reading, writing and spelling) and maths at the end of KS1 will also continue;
  • A statutory phonics screening check for all Year 1 pupils was introduced in June of this year. A new statutory English grammar, punctuation and spelling test will be introduced as part of the 2013 Key Stage 2 cycle of tests.

You can find the draft proposals – together with a letter from Michael Gove to Tim Oates, the chair of the Expert Panel appointed to advise him on the National Curriculum review here:



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