NC26: Memorandum submitted by Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF)






The Children, Schools and Families Committee is conducting an inquiry on the subject of the National Curriculum, its fitness for purpose and its articulation with other policies and strategies with which schools must work.

Specific issues which this Department has been asked to consider include:

a) on the principle and content of the National Curriculum and its fitness-for-purpose:

- arguments for and against having a National Curriculum;

- what the purpose of a National Curriculum should be (for example, whether it

should set out broad principles or detailed aims and objectives); and

- how best to balance central prescription and flexibility at school/classroom level.


b) on the management of the National Curriculum:

- the extent to which the National Strategies are effective in supporting the

National Curriculum; 

- the impact of the current testing and assessment regime on the delivery and

scope of the National Curriculum;

- the likely impact of the single level tests currently being piloted;

- the likely impact of the current 'root and branch' review of the primary

curriculum by Sir Jim Rose;

- the implications of personalised learning, including the flexibility introduced by

the new secondary curriculum (from September 2008);

- how well the National Curriculum supports transition to and delivery of the 14-

19 Diplomas;

- the role of the development agency for curriculum, assessment and

qualifications in relation to the National Curriculum; and

- the role of teachers in the future development of the National Curriculum.


We have addressed each of these issues in our response, and provided some additional material on the evolution of the curriculum in a supporting Annex.



1. Our world has changed significantly since the introduction of the National Curriculum 20 years ago. Globalisation, the rise of the Internet and the expansion of the service economy have brought new challenges and opportunities for this country. By 2020, estimates suggest the number of unskilled jobs available will drop to 600,000 while skilled positions will soar to 4.6 million. Societal change adds further pressure. One in nine pupils now has English as an additional language, while public concerns around issues like national identity, obesity, sustainable development and anti-social behaviour mean that some look to schools to fulfil more than just the task of educating our children.


2. These changes translate into a myriad of competing demands. Employers want young people with excellent literacy and numeracy skills, and the capacity to apply them across a broad range of tasks. They are looking for young people who are good team workers, resilient, creative and enterprising; and they also want high uptake in strategically important subjects - notably mathematics, science, languages and technology. Universities and colleges want academic rigour, depth of understanding, critical reasoning and intellectual curiosity. Different subject associations rightly lobby hard for the importance of their specific area of expertise. At the same time, society increasingly demands that we teach awareness, discipline, common sense and respect, so that young people leave school with the insight and wherewithal to make a positive contribution within their communities. Finally, young people themselves demand to be engaged and inspired by what they are taught and given the choice to tailor their own educational development to meet their individual aspirations.


3. Balancing these needs is delicate and it is against this background that we need to design and maintain a National Curriculum that is both broad and balanced, engaging and relevant; a curriculum which meets the needs of children and young people, employers, further and higher education and society at large.


Statutory basis of the school and National Curriculum


4. The school curriculum comprises all learning and other experiences that each school provides for its pupils.  This includes the National Curriculum, religious education, collective worship, sex education and careers education and work-related learning. The aims of the wider school curriculum are reflected in Section 78 of the Education Act 2002, which requires all maintained schools to provide a balanced and broadly-based curriculum which:


provides opportunities for all pupils to learn and achieve; and         

promotes pupils' spiritual, moral social and cultural development and prepare all pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life.

5. Within the wider school curriculum, the National Curriculum secures for all pupils - irrespective of social background, culture, race, gender or ability - an entitlement to a number of areas of learning. It applies to pupils aged 5-16 years of age in all maintained schools in England and sets out to develop the knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes necessary for each pupil's self-fulfilment and development as active and responsible citizens.


6. The statutory content of the National Curriculum is organised by curriculum subjects. For each National Curriculum subject there is a statutory programme of study which sets out what must be taught in each subject during each Key Stage. The subjects of the National Curriculum are set out in the table below:













Key Stages 1-4


Key Stages 1-4


Key Stages 1-4


Key Stages 1-4

Design and Technology

Key Stages1-3 (entitlement at KS4)


Key Stages 1-3 (may be offered as part of humanities entitlement at KS4)


Key Stages 1-3 (may be offered as part of humanities entitlement at KS4)

Modern foreign languages

Key Stage 3 (entitlement at KS4)

Art and design

Key Stages 1-3 (may be offered as part of arts entitlement at KS4)


Key Stages 1-3 (may be offered as part of arts entitlement at KS4)

Physical Education

Key Stages 1-4


Key Stages 3-4


7. At Key Stage 4 there are four entitlement areas - arts, design and technology, humanities (geography and history) and modern foreign languages. Schools must ensure that students within Key Stage 4 are able to follow a course of study in a subject within each of the entitlement areas if they wish to do so.


8. Other subjects that are not part of the National Curriculum but are none the less statutory, include: religious education (statutory at all Key Stages); sex education (statutory at Key Stages 3-4); careers education (statutory at Key Stages 3-4); and work-related learning (statutory at Key Stage 4).


9. The National Curriculum requires schools to meet the individual learning needs of all children and young people. It includes a statutory inclusion statement which sets out the principles teachers must follow to ensure that every child, irrespective of ability, sex, social and cultural background, ethnicity or disability, has the opportunity to achieve to the best of their ability. These are: setting suitable learning challenges; responding to pupils' diverse learning needs; and overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups of pupils. In practice this means addressing the particular needs and finding the right challenges for all pupils, including those with special educational needs and those who are gifted and talented, and ensuring that the National Curriculum is taught in ways which enable pupils from minority ethnic communities to have an equal opportunity to succeed.


10. The National Curriculum allows schools to match learning to pupils' needs so that every child has the chance to experience success in learning and to achieve as high a standard as possible. At each Key Stage, the full programme of study will be appropriate for the majority of pupils. Some pupils' learning needs, however, will be better matched by concentrating on particular aspects of the programme of study or by the programme of study from earlier or later Key Stages. The statutory inclusion statement outlines how teachers can modify programmes of study to provide all pupils with relevant learning experiences and appropriate and challenging work.

11. In cases where the full National Curriculum is not the most appropriate route to maximising pupils' learning and achievement, a formal disapplication of all or part of the National Curriculum may be considered under Sections 90 to 93 of the Education Act 2002. Disapplication is permitted, for individual pupils:

through a statement of special educational needs, under section 92 of the Act;

for a temporary period, through regulations under section 93 of the Act;

and, for groups of pupils or the school community: 

to enable curriculum development or experimentation, under section 90 of the Act.

12. All or part of the curriculum may be disapplied, but schools should must ensure pupils' access to a broad and balanced curriculum or learning programme, including as much of the National Curriculum as possible.  Only National Curriculum programmes of study and assessment arrangements may be disapplied. Disapplication may not be extended to other statutory requirements, such as sex education, careers education and collective worship. Parents have the right to withdraw their children from all or any part of religious education. They do not have to give a reason for withdrawal and the school is expected to comply with the request. The right of withdrawal applies to all schools, including those with a religious character (sometimes known as faith schools).

13. Schools also have the opportunity to vary their curriculum under the Power to Innovate legislation. Any school or Local Authority which finds that education legislation prevents it from implementing an innovative idea for raising standards can apply to the Secretary of State to vary that legislation for a pilot period. Applications cannot be made until consultation has taken place with relevant bodies and pilots may last for up to three years in the first instance, with the possibility of an extension for up to a further three years.

National Curriculum aims and purposes


14. The National Curriculum safeguards every child's entitlement to a number of areas of learning, regardless of background, ability, gender or ethnicity. It helps to provide an education that is challenging and motivating and sets high standards for all. The statutory curriculum contains the key knowledge, skills and understanding of the principal subject disciplines that have stood the test of time.


15. For children and young people, the National Curriculum provides a preparation for the world of employment and further and higher education and makes them more aware of, and engaged with, their local, national and international communities. It enables them to take responsibility for their own health and safety, and to appreciate the benefits and risks of the choices they make. For society, it contributes to community cohesion and acknowledges, promotes and passes on the core knowledge and skills which we value to the next generation.


16. The National Curriculum makes expectations for learning and attainment explicit to pupils, parents, teachers, governors, employers and the public. It sets out the knowledge, skills and understanding that pupils will develop in each subject and at each Key Stage, providing parents with a clear understanding of what will be covered, regardless of which schools their children attend. It establishes national standards for pupil performance in the subjects it includes, against which parents can measure their own children's progress. Finally, it promotes continuity and coherence between Key Stages and across schools and Local Authorities. This continuity and coherence is particularly important for children and teachers who need to transfer to another area during their school or professional careers, allowing them to make a smooth transfer from one school to another.


17. Traditional academic disciplines and subject knowledge remain of utmost importance in the National Curriculum. Possessing high level skills in literacy, numeracy and scientific understanding will always be required to flourish in education and later life. However, they are not the only component of a good school curriculum or education. The curriculum has always been more than the sum of its individual subject parts. It represents a pupil's entire learning experience. It must therefore reflect the changing nature of society and the increasingly global dimension in which young people live and learn.


18. As a society, we want young people to grow into responsible citizens. To do so, young people do not only need knowledge and understanding. They also need to develop personal qualities, such as respect for others, empathy and understanding, resilience, and the ability to work with others. They need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities as citizens and to understand and respect cultural and community diversity.


19. We also want young people to develop the qualities and skills they need in order succeed in a changing economy. We want the curriculum to develop young people who are enterprising, flexible, independent, problem solvers and willing to take risks. The need to develop these qualities alongside subject knowledge and understanding should not threaten the position or importance of traditional subjects. Instead it offers exciting opportunities to increase engagement and motivation in education by designing relevant learning experiences for young people which reflect the world they live in.


20. As part of our recent secondary review, we have for the first time introduced a set of statutory aims for the National Curriculum, focusing on the qualities and skills that learners need in order to succeed in school and beyond. These National Curriculum aims will inform all aspects of future curriculum planning, teaching and learning - at whole-school and subject levels. The aims state that the National Curriculum should enable all young people to become:


Successful learners who:


have the essential learning skills of literacy, numeracy and information and communication technology,

are creative, resourceful and able to solve problems,

have enquiring minds and think for themselves to process information, reason, question and evaluate,

communicate well in a range of ways,

understand how they learn and learn from their mistakes,

are able to learn independently and with others,

know about big ideas and events that shape our world, and

enjoy learning and are motivated to achieve the best they can now and in the future.


Confident individuals who:


have a sense of self-worth and personal identity,

relate well to others and form good relationships,

are self-aware and deal well with their emotions,

have secure values and beliefs, and have principles to distinguish right from wrong,

become increasingly independent, are able to take the initiative and organise themselves,

make healthy lifestyle choices,

are physically competent and confident,

take managed risks and stay safe,

recognise their talents and have ambitions,

are willing to try new things and make the most of opportunities, and

are open to the excitement and inspiration offered by the natural world and human achievements.


Responsible citizens who:


are well prepared for life and work,

are enterprising,

are able to work cooperatively with others,

respect others and act with integrity,

understand their own and others' cultures and traditions, within the context of British heritage, and have a strong sense of their own place in the world,

appreciate the benefits of diversity,

challenge injustice, are committed to human rights and strive to live peaceably with others,

sustain and improve the environment, locally and globally, and

take account of the needs of present future generations in the choices they make, and can change things for the better.


21. While the aims are separately identifiable they are also complementary and mutually reinforcing. For example, to be a successful learner who communicates well in a range of ways, a young person would also have to develop as a confident individual who relates well to others and forms good relationships.




22. The Education Act (2002) requires that all maintained schools provide a balanced and broadly based curriculum that:

promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of learners at the school and within society, and

prepares learners at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life.

23. To address this requirement therefore, we see the main (non-statutory) purposes of the National Curriculum as being to:

raise attainment, particularly in English, mathematics, science and ICT,

ensure entitlement for all learners to a broad, balanced and relevant curriculum that offers continuity and coherence and secures high standards,

induct learners into the essential knowledge, skills and discourse of subject disciplines and to develop specialisms appropriate to aptitude,

prepare young people for the world of employment and further and higher education,

make learners more aware of, and engaged with, their local, national and international communities,

encourage learners to take responsibility for their own health and safety, and appreciate the benefits and risks of the choices they make,

contribute to community cohesion, and

acknowledge, promote and pass on the core knowledge and skills valued by society to the next generation.

Rationale for curriculum content




24. The National Curriculum is organised into core and foundation subjects, each with an associated programme of study and set of level descriptions. The subjects of the curriculum, taken as a whole, support children's cognitive and broader intellectual development. Subject knowledge introduces pupils to knowledge, skills and understanding in key areas of learning and experience - the scientific, technological, the aesthetic, the humanities - and provide a vehicle through which they can develop the skills and understanding they need for future study and the world of work. Not least, subjects help cultivate intellectual curiosity and a love of learning.

25. When considered as separate areas of learning, each of the subjects of our current National Curriculum has a unique and valuable contribution to make in its right:

The core curriculum subjects of English, mathematics and science and ICT are essential for pupils preparing to be literate, numerate and at ease with new technologies and developments in a modern economy. The central place of these subjects in the curriculum was underlined in the 14-19 Education and Skills White Paper (February 2005).

Among the foundation subjects, geography and history give pupils a sense of their place in time and the world. Study of the humanities fosters social and cultural development and enables us to better understand other experiences and viewpoints essential in the global economy in which we now operate. Key figures, events and developments in history and the essential facts of physical geography provide children with a sense of historical perspective and an awareness of themselves and the world in which they live.

Citizenship at Key Stages 3 and 4 provides pupils with knowledge and understanding of what it means to be a member of our society, and encourages them to think widely about moral and social issues in order to prepare them for the roles and responsibilities of adult life. To reflect the diverse nature of society in the UK and to help young people develop skills to address issues of tension and misunderstanding between different cultural and religious groups, a new area of "Identities and diversity: Living together in the UK" has been added to the citizenship curriculum. Young people will now have the opportunity to explore the issue of individual, group and national identities in the UK and the different forces that bring about change in communities over time. Pupils will also learn about the key features of parliamentary democracy and government in the four nations of the UK and how individuals, groups and organisations can influence decision-making (locally, nationally and globally) through action.

Design and technology teaches essential skills such as planning, resource allocation, problem solving and team work. It also gives pupils the opportunity for creative and innovative activity, and enables them to understand and manage technology and materials, thus preparing them for their future lives and work. The subject is an excellent medium for the development of ICT skills.

Art and design and music allow pupils to explore a range of cultures. Pupils learn about creativity, take risks and explore and develop their own imaginations and talents. Mastering of the skills of music making, painting and drawing requires self-discipline and perseverance and through performance activity, essential skills of team, communication and self-confidence are developed.

Physical education develops pupils' physical competence and confidence and their ability to use these to perform in a range of activities, both as individuals and as team members. Physical education promotes active and healthy lifestyles, and encourages children to discover aptitudes, abilities and preferences which will involve them in lifelong physical activity.

Through the study of a modern foreign language, pupils understand and appreciate different countries, cultures, peoples and communities. Listening, reading and memory skills improve, and speaking and writing become more accurate. The development of these skills lays the foundation for future study of other languages.

Personal and Life Skills


26. The development of knowledge, skills and understanding in subjects is an important part of what the curriculum offers but it is not the whole of the planned learning experience, nor is it everything that we want our young people to learn. To prepare young people fully for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life, we also need a curriculum that help students develop a range of personal, social, life and learning skills - such as good oral communication; reliability; perseverance; the ability to work as part of a team; knowing how to evaluate information critically; being able to manage and be responsible for ones own learning; the confidence to investigate problems and find solutions; and being creative, inventive, enterprising and entrepreneurial. These skills are not only valuable in the world of work: they are also essential to personal wellbeing and to life as a citizen in the 21st century.


27. The wider statutory curriculum includes planned provision for religious education and for personal, social, health and economic wellbeing. These areas of learning encourage pupils to develop their sense of identity and respect for themselves and others. They enable pupils to combat prejudice, making an important contribution to community cohesion, and prepare them for adult life, employment and lifelong learning.


28. One of the innovations of the new secondary curriculum is the approach to pupils' personal and economic wellbeing, which is intended to bring new coherence to requirements such as:


sex and relationships education

drugs and alcohol


work related learning


financial capability

social and emotional aspects of learning.


29. It is very important that schools take a whole-school approach to these areas, building on the five outcomes of Every Child Matters. To support cross-curricular planning for personal and economic wellbeing, we have developed two new, non-statutory, programmes of study, entitled Personal wellbeing (PWB) and Economic wellbeing and financial capability (EWB). These programmes of study bring together the various strands of the personal development curriculum which are currently covered by personal, social and health education, sex and careers education, enterprise, financial capability and work-related learning. Together the programmes of study make up the new overarching curriculum subject of Personal, Social, Health and Economic education. By bringing together the programmes of study for EWB and PWB, we will achieve parity of status for both areas of learning and secure a higher profile and better delivery in schools.


30. As part of its 14-19 remit, the Secretary of State asked the QCA to provide advice on a framework of personal, learning and thinking skills (PLTS) for all young people aged 11-19 that could be embedded throughout secondary education. In response, QCA developed a PLTS framework comprising six interrelated sets of essential skills and personal qualities that characterise a successful learner. Through the PLTS framework, the new secondary curriculum aims to help pupils become independent enquirers; creative thinkers; reflective learners; team workers; self-managers and effective participators. Schools are encouraged by the new curriculum to identify opportunities to develop PLTS both within and across curriculum subjects.  The

PLTS framework has also been made available as a whole curriculum 'dimension'. Every secondary curriculum subject has been considered in the light of the contribution it makes to personal, learning and thinking skills and detailed exemplars are provided online on QCA's website at Personal, learning and thinking skills are also an integral part of Diploma qualifications.


The implications of personalised learning, including the flexibility introduced by the new secondary curriculum


31. In her introduction to "2020 Vision: Report of the teaching and learning in 2020 Review", Christine Gilbert said, "Personalising learning and teaching means taking a highly structured and responsive approach to each child's and young person's learning, in order that all area able to progress, achieve and participate.  It means strengthening the link between learning and teaching by engaging pupils - and their parents - as partners in learning."  Personalised learning is a cross-cutting approach to education, and not a just collection of policies; the underlying principles need to be built into every aspect of education provision.


32. A key component of personalised learning is Assessment for Learning (AfL) and means using evidence and feedback to identify where pupils are in their learning and what they need to do next to progress. In practice, this means obtaining clear evidence about how to drive up individual attainment; a clear understanding between teachers and pupils on what they need to improve; and agreement on the steps needed to promote sound learning and progress.

33. The role of "personal tutor", initially described as a "learning guide" in the 2020 Review, is currently being scoped and will ensure that every secondary school child has access to a single member of staff who can co-ordinate a package of support to meet their needs. This will make it easier to assess a child's academic progress and personal development in the round, and help pupils to achieve the best possible outcomes. By ensuring a single point of contact with the school, personal tutors should also promote stronger parental engagement with the school, and stronger parental support for their children's development.

34. A cadre of leading teachers for intervention is being trained to provide specialist support for pupils who have fallen behind in English or maths, or for gifted and talented pupils. 

35. With regard to the National Curriculum, Christine Gilbert's report was clear that greater personalisation is needed, and that this is particularly important for narrowing achievement gaps. The more personalised curriculum proposed by Gilbert would continue to prescribe a core of knowledge, understanding and skills which all children should learn, but would have greater flexibility for tailoring to the needs, interests and aptitudes of individuals and groups. Priority would be given to ensuring all pupils master functional skills in literacy, numeracy and ICT; to using the whole curriculum, including traditional subjects, to develop skills and attributes for life; and to offering content and experiences - both inside and outside the classroom - that children and young people will find relevant, engaging and motivating.


36. Personalised learning is rooted in the expectation that it will improve standards and allow all pupils to reach or exceed national expectations. It is not a wholly new concept. Many schools and teachers have tailored curriculum and teaching methods to meet the needs of children and young people with great success for many years. Personalisation of the curriculum in the Gilbert sense goes further however, in the emphasis it places on skills for life, learning and work alongside traditional subject knowledge; on the importance of study support, engaging pupils as partners in their own learning; and on practical out of classroom learning alongside formal classroom learning. The challenge is both to make current best practice universal across all schools, and to get acceptance of the new paradigm of a personalised curriculum. This is particularly important if we are to narrow the attainment gap for children whose needs can be most challenging to meet.


37. These are the principles which underlie the new secondary curriculum, to be introduced from September 2008. There is less detailed prescribed content in the new programmes of study and more emphasis on developing in-depth understanding of the key ideas and practice of particular subjects. This will provide schools with greater flexibility to personalise learning experiences and meet their learners' needs. There will be more time to allow those who may have fallen behind at Key Stage 2 to catch-up, particularly in the key areas of English and mathematics. There will also be more time to offer more stretching opportunities for pupils with particular gifts and talents. This approach moves us away from a one size fits all curriculum to one that offers more flexibility to tailor teaching to pupils' needs and aspirations.


38. The new programmes of study also encourage schools to make connections across events and activities, as well as subjects. The approach is designed to get away from a curriculum seen as a set of compartmentalised subject content to be covered in formal lesson time and to move schools to seeing the curriculum as a whole and as the entire planned learning experience, including lessons, events, routines of the school, the extended school day and activities that take place out of school. This, coupled with the introduction of 14-19 Diplomas will require more flexible, innovative approaches to curriculum organisation and timetabling. As a result, learners should experience a curriculum that is more relevant, provides the support and challenge they need and better meets their interests and aspirations. This in turn should lead to greater engagement with learning and higher standards.


39. The new secondary curriculum also places a strong emphasis, reflecting Gilbert, on the development of skills for life and work. A framework for personal, learning and thinking skills - under the six headings of independent enquirers; creative thinkers; team workers; self-managers; effective participators; and reflective learners - has been built into the new curriculum. The skills are embedded in the programmes of study for the National Curriculum subjects and will also be assessed as part of the new Diploma programmes that will be available from September 2008.


40. Functional skills of English, mathematics and ICT - using and applying what has been learnt in these subjects in real life contexts and problems - have also been built into the secondary curriculum, relevant GCSEs, the foundation learning tier, apprenticeships and other qualifications, and are an integral part of the new Diplomas. Achievement in functional skills will be an integral part of gaining the new Diplomas from this summer and grades A*-C in relevant GCSEs from 2012. The programmes of study for all subjects now highlight the essential skills that learners need in order to make progress and achieve in each subject. 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 new non-statutory programmes of study for personal wellbeing and economic wellbeing and financial capability, which draw together personal, social and health education, sex education, careers, enterprise, financial capability and work-related learning.


41. The changes to the secondary curriculum, with their strong focus on personalising learning, should help to ensure that young people leave school equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to cope with life and work in the 21st Century. I n particular, they will be more able to meet the demands of employers, who are looking for young people who have good functional skills, are flexible and are able to work well in teams, solve problems and make decisions.


42. Alongside but also reflected in the new secondary curriculum, DCSF has been working with others, especially the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, to provide a range of additional opportunities for creativity and curriculum enrichment. The aim is to encourage the development of fully-rounded individuals who are able to pursue their own particular interests - both during and out of school hours. Elements of this agenda include:


more opportunities for pupils to be involved in activities outside the classroom, awards schemes, mentoring, art, music and drama - including an opportunity for every primary school child to learn a musical instrument;

the development of new links between schools and creative professionals through the Creative Partnerships programme;

by 2011 offering all 5-16 year olds opportunities not only to participate in two hours of PE and sport in school time, but also an additional three hours of sporting activity either within or outside school; 

working towards an equivalent offer of five hours top quality cultural opportunities in and out of school, allowing young people to develop as critical spectators, participants and creators.


43. The promotion of creativity in the curriculum, and of creative teaching, goes hand in hand with the Gilbert emphasis on flexibility, relevance and more responsive, innovative forms of curriculum organisation. The evidence from existing work, for example in specialist schools, is that such an approach can have a direct impact on the motivation, self-esteem and confidence of pupils. These are vital for re-engaging those disaffected or at risk.


44. Personalised learning demands that school leaders and teachers think creatively about school organisation so as to best maintain high quality teaching and learning, and to ensure that pupil performance and pupil welfare are mutually supportive. Creating these conditions for learning involves:


using the benefits of workforce remodelling to build a whole-school team to better support the learning of each pupil and increasing the planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time for teachers;

using ICT effectively.


It can also be enhanced by:


using pupil voice - ensuring all pupils have regular individual, data-informed discussions with teachers, focusing on their achievement and often involving parents; 

learning from students' views on teaching and learning - pupils' views sought on effectiveness of classroom experience through, for example, surveys and conferences;

pupil involvement - pupils contributing to whole-school life and to the work of the school;

pupil focused - schools focused around the needs of pupils rather than teachers; students receive consistently good experience of school, pupil inclusion is seen as a guiding principle;

positive school environment - pupils feel secure and can flourish as individuals; and there are clear sanctions combined with praise where earned for all pupils;

physical environment - building schools for the future; quality displays to showcase achievement;

service standards - guaranteed minimum standards: basic level of consistency in the experience of school for every pupil;

effective pupil grouping - We have been encouraging schools to use effective setting and other forms of pupil grouping by ability since 1997.  Sophisticated approaches to setting and grouping can reflect the varying characteristics of the student population in each class or school and differences across subjects.


45. To help schools develop this kind of environment and more personalised environment, we are putting a range of strategies in place that we know will help personalise the learning experience and improve pupil progress for all children and young people. Our strategy includes:


investing in better assessment and tracking of pupil progress;

ensuring schools have the resources to use more small-group and one-to-one teaching; and

ensuring every child has a 'personal tutor' to help settle them in to secondary school and ensure they make good academic and personal progress.


How best to balance central prescription and flexibility at school/classroom level


46. If we are going to have a National Curriculum it follows that there must be some central prescription over what it should contain. Similarly if we want the curriculum to influence our future society it is the role of government to decide its overall aims, values, principles and subject requirements.


47. It is then for schools and teachers to decide how best to organise their learning, taking account of local circumstances, resources, interests, aptitudes and backgrounds of their pupils. Recent curriculum developments have been aimed at reducing the statutory core allowing schools more autonomy to organise their curriculum.


48. The National Curriculum sets out what must be taught, not how it is to be taught. It offers considerable flexibility, giving schools and head teachers the scope to develop a curriculum that responds to the personal learning needs of their children and to introduce new approaches to teaching and learning.


49. The National Curriculum provides statutory programmes of study for each subject, covering the essential knowledge, skills and understanding that must be taught for each subject during the course of each Key Stage. Schools need to ensure that sufficient time is allowed to teach the whole of the programmes of study, but they are free to decide when and how they are delivered. There is no need for pupils to study all National Curriculum subjects each week, term or year, for example, so a school may decide to concentrate on particular subjects during particular terms or particular years. Teachers have the freedom to decide which aspects of the curriculum to cover in depth, and how long to spend on each subject, opening the way for immersion blocks of learning and giving opportunities for teachers to use their creativity and professional judgement in how they teach.


50. Whilst the National Curriculum is specified in terms of separate subjects, schools are not required to teach the subjects discretely and it is perfectly acceptable for head teachers to introduce other experiences and subjects to meet the needs and interests of their pupils once they are satisfied that they are meeting their statutory duties. Schools will often take advantage of this flexibility by incorporating a second language and business studies into their curricula, but there are no restrictions on which additional areas of learning they may choose.


51. Schemes of Work and other similar guidance documents about the curriculum have been provided for schools in the past and are intended as helpful teaching aids. However, these are not statutorily required and it is up to teachers whether they choose to use them or not. When a Key Stage programme of study has been taught in full, pupils can progress beyond its requirements or take up other subjects. For example, a pupil who achieves a GCSE in a National Curriculum subject during Year 10 has the option to begin an advanced course of study in the subject, or to take up a new subject altogether.


The likely impact of the current 'root and branch' review of the primary curriculum by Sir Jim Rose


52. We also want the review of the primary curriculum to address primary teachers' concerns about overcrowding by reducing unnecessary prescription, duplication and overlap - just as we have with the new secondary curriculum


53. In the remit letter Sir Jim Rose has been asked to enable schools to have greater flexibility to meet individual pupils' needs and strengths and to reduce prescription where possible. The remit letter stresses the importance of ensuring that the introduction to a broad range of subjects, including languages, should be manageable for schools. We have asked Jim Rose to provide advice on whether pupils' interests might be better served by studying fewer subjects during primary education, particularly at Key Stage 1.


The role of the development agency for curriculum, assessment and qualifications in relation to the National Curriculum


54. QCA's responsibility for the curriculum is set out in the 1997 Education Act, as follows:


to keep all aspects under review;

to advise the Secretary of State on matters he refers to them, or as the QCA sees fit;

to publish and disseminate information or to assist in doing so; and

to carry out research and development if requested by him.


55. A child's entitlement to a broad, rich and relevant curriculum is precious and a matter of public concern. It is therefore right that Ministers are ultimately accountable to Parliament for the content of the National Curriculum. Taking into account advice from QCA, it is the responsibility of the Department to take strategic decisions about the wider context of the curriculum; the length of Key Stages; which subjects should be studied at each Key Stage and whether these subjects are statutory or non-statutory. It is also the role of the Department to make decisions in consultation with QCA when it wishes to change the emphasis or introduce or remove elements of the curriculum at any point.


56. In September 2007 we announced the creation of a separate regulatory body, reporting to Parliament, with responsibility for regulating qualifications and tests. Our consultation paper, Confidence in Standards, was published in December 2007. This sets out our plans for both the new regulator, to be known as the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator ('Ofqual'); and the body to take forward the remainder of QCA's functions, including its National Curriculum work. This body will be a development agency for curriculum, assessment and qualifications. The consultation ends on 10 March and we will announce our response in the spring.


57. It is proposed that the objectives of the agency will be:


to be the key source of expertise supporting Ministers in the monitoring and development of curriculum and related qualifications, and of learning and development in the early years, to meet the Government's objectives for education and skills; and


to develop and deliver National Curriculum tests, and other forms of assessment decided by Ministers, and ensure delivery of public qualifications, to measure and recognise the achievements of learners and the performance of schools and colleges.


58. The key functions of the agency in relation to the National Curriculum will include:


to be an expert adviser to the Government on the curriculum, in particular on how the curriculum can remain relevant and keep pace with developments in the economy, society and technology;

to monitor delivery of the curriculum, and the impact of curriculum developments on attainment and progression;

to carry out work as requested by Ministers, including conducting or supporting formal reviews of the curriculum;

to provide specialist support and advice about curriculum content and subject teaching, including publishing guidance and support on subject-specific matters and on crosscutting dimensions;

to communicate and consult about the curriculum - making sense of it to parents, pupils and the general public, as well as to school and subject leaders; and

to engage with international developments in curriculum innovation.


59. The document proposes for consultation two changes to the agency's responsibilities relating to the National Curriculum:


First, we propose to simplify the process by which the agency is required to consult formally on changes to the curriculum (including the EYFS). The agency will still have to 'give notice' of curriculum consultations to associations of local education authorities, bodies representing the interests of governing bodies, and organisations representing school teachers. But we propose to replace the current requirement to give notice of proposed changes to the curriculum to "any other persons with whom consultation be desirable" with a requirement to take steps to bring proposed changes to their attention. This would enable consultation to take place by means of the internet, thus bringing consultation into the 21st Century.


Secondly, we propose to give the agency responsibility for assessing bids for disapplication of the National Curriculum and exemption from the EYFS learning and development requirements, advising the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (whose responsibility it is to decide on requests) and monitoring successful applications. This will allow the agency to develop evidence of where schools and early years settings believe that the flexibilities within the National Curriculum and the EYFS do not allow them to innovate in the way that they wish.


60. In order to fulfil these functions on curriculum and assessment, the agency will:


a) work strategically to influence thinking and practice in curriculum and assessment content and design, by:


building a solid evidence base on curriculum and assessment effectiveness and identify evidence of 'impact',

sharing the impact of curriculum change,

identifying 'gaps' in curriculum materials or support available to schools and publishing guidance and support,

keeping abreast of and sharing international developments in curriculum innovation,

engaging with all concerned with curriculum and assessment, including system leaders in education and other government departments, school staff, parents and carers, governors, higher and further education, learned societies and subject communities, employers, and pupils,

'giving notice' of curriculum consultations to nominated parties and take appropriate steps to bring proposed changes 'to the attention of others with whom a particular consultation would appear desirable'


b) support, through development and implementation, arrangements for effective curriculum and assessment design, by:


building capacity in schools and settings for curriculum and assessment effectiveness to improve pupil outcomes and performance,

providing whole curriculum design advice and support for schools and colleges,

developing appropriate revised curriculum and assessment arrangements to meet the demands of a modern and changing world,

publishing and disseminating such documentation, websites, texts, booklets as necessary to enable full understanding of expectations for and implications of curriculum and assessment requirements

communicating about the curriculum - making sense of it to parents, pupils and the general public, as well as to school and subject leaders,

ensuring that curriculum and assessment advice complies with and promotes government policy within and beyond education, and

providing specialist support and advice about curriculum content and subject teaching as necessary and in the light of specific concerns.


c) ensure that assessment arrangements maintain standards and improve performance, by developing approaches to valid and reliable assessment which improve learner performance in response to an evolving curriculum provision.


Extent to which the National Strategies are effective in supporting the National Curriculum 


61. The National Strategies are designed to support teaching and learning to raise attainment and improve progression in the core subjects of English, mathematics and science. They also provide support for some aspects of ICT and foreign languages teaching. The National Strategies provide support for the teaching of:


English and mathematics in Key Stages 1-4

science and ICT in Key stages 3 and 4

foreign languages in Key Stages 2 and 3, in partnership with CILT.


62. They do this by providing a range of resources, guidance and hands-on support from expert consultants in those subjects.


Support from the National Strategies


63. At the heart of the Strategies' support are the Frameworks for teaching, which offer guidance for all schools, with an emphasis on planning and assessment. They set out a sequence of learning objectives in each of the subjects and key stages listed above, and offer guidance on how to deliver them. The frameworks are non-statutory, but are widely used because they help determine progression in these subjects.


64. The primary literacy and mathematics frameworks were first introduced in 1998 and 1999 respectively, at the inception of the National Strategies. These frameworks were revised in 2006, to raise expectations for pupils' progress, to update the frameworks in light of Jim Rose's Independent Review of early reading, and to make them more readily available online. The Key Stage 3 frameworks were phased in from 2001-2003. They are now being rewritten in order to raise expectations of pupils' progress (showing how a child should progress by two levels per Key Stage); to align with the revised secondary curriculum; to extend them to Key Stage 4; and to make them easier to use online. The revised secondary frameworks will be published in phases, starting in the summer term.


65. A wide range of teaching resources and guidance is available, linked to the frameworks. These provide support to tackle common problems in teaching, aspects of subjects that are difficult to teach or where progress tends to be slower. Recent notable examples include:


materials to progression from Level 3 to 4 in primary mathematics;

"Letter and Sounds," a phonics teaching programme; and

podcasts of performances of Shakespeare at the Globe theatre, supported by interviews with the cast and teaching materials.


66. Consultancy support in the classroom is provided by local authority-employed strategy consultants. These consultants are subject experts, trained by the regional staff of the National Strategies. Consultants will:


brief subject leads from every school on newly-identified teaching issues, priorities and the resources available to tackle them,

offer free training to all schools, for which the schools are provided with funding for supply cover,

provide targeted consultancy support for schools where it is most needed.


67. At present, a key activity for the National Strategies is to provide support to schools in preparing for the new secondary curriculum. During February and March this year, Local Authorities provided training and guidance to all subject leaders and one member of the Senior Leadership Team in all secondary schools. Support for subject planning in English, mathematics, science and ICT has modelled the use of the revised Frameworks and supporting guidance and, from April 2008, Local Authority consultants will provide further targeted consultancy support to schools.




Impact of the National Strategies


68. Since the introduction of the Key Stage 3 Strategy in 2001, there has been a 9 percentage point improvement in the number of pupils achieving the target level for their age in the Key Stage 3 English tests (level 5 or above). There has been a 10 percentage point increase in mathematics and a 7 per cent increase in science. OFSTED has reported that, "The introduction of the Primary National Strategy has been a positive development and has helped schools and local authorities to refocus on the key priorities of raising standards through improving teaching and learning and strengthening leadership and management." The Primary National Strategy: An Evaluation of its impact 2004/2005, December 2005. It also said that, "The Secondary National Strategy, formerly known as the Key Stage 3 Strategy, continues to have a positive influence on pupils' attainment. Since its inception in 2001, the Strategy has made a significant contribution to the steady improvement in the proportion of pupils reaching Level 5 or above in English, mathematics and science tests." The Secondary National Strategy: An Evaluation of the fifth year, December 2005.


Management of the National Curriculum - Curriculum support provided by Department for Children, Schools and Families and other organisations


69. Further support for individual curriculum subjects comes from within the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and elsewhere, in response to identified needs. Support covers both the core and foundation subjects of the National Curriculum and comes in a variety of forms: from classroom materials to online communities; and from conferences and events to national and regional centres of excellence.


70. Within the Department, for example, we have recently:


set up a national network of Science Learning Centres to provide professional development for science educators,

funded a network of schools to embed enterprise into teaching and learning pedagogy and provide high quality continuing professional development (CPD) for all secondary school teachers and leaders in England,

published a handbook for citizenship education entitled "Making Sense of Citizenship" and issued two free copies to all secondary schools,

established a national continuing professional development (CPD) programme for Personal Social and Health Education, available to all those with Qualified Teacher Status, and

developed a dissemination and development programme with the Secondary National Strategies and CILT (the National Centre for Languages), to support language teaching and learning at Key Stage 3. The programme takes into account the impact of changes of the secondary curriculum on teaching and learning and offers a range of web-based and interactive curriculum material along with languages networks, made up of clusters of up to ten schools. 355 of these networks have been established since 2007.

71. Looking beyond the Department, we are working with a range of agencies and organisations to provide support for curriculum planning and delivery, to enhance subject expertise, and to identify and disseminate emerging practice in teaching and learning. For example:


the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority continues to provide guidance and support on all aspects of curriculum delivery and design, through its websites and publications, through case studies and research and through a variety of direct engagements with schools and young people - in the future, the development agency for curriculum, assessment and qualifications will take this work forward,

the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) provides expert advice to schools across a range of subject specialisms. Its national and regional lead practitioner networks offer subject support and dissemination of best and innovative curriculum practice is delivered via the Trust's websites and Best Practice publications. SSAT has also established expert subject panels including key external partners and practitioners, head teacher steering groups and lead practitioner networks, to create strong specialism networks nationally and in the regions,

the General Teaching Council (GTC) is the professional body for teaching in England. Curriculum support is provided to schools through the GTC's online news stories and publications and teachers can also subscribe to regular professional network newsletters,

the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) is an executive non-departmental public body of the Department for Children, Schools and Families. It recently identified subject specific professional development as a national priority for CPD and is now working with national Subject Associations to develop high quality subject-specific CPD opportunities which can be accessed at a distance and especially online, and finally,

Subject Associations themselves offer an excellent source of subject CPD and curriculum support to primary and secondary schools. Though they vary in size and capacity, each offers its members curriculum support via publications and materials, networking with other professionals, subject-focussed professional journals, national and regional conferences and access to a dedicated website designed to support subject specialist knowledge and skills.

The impact of the current testing and assessment regime on the delivery and scope of the National Curriculum


72. Assessment follows and reflects the curriculum. The current statutory assessment arrangements use a mixture of teacher assessment and national tests to monitor and report progress in attainment at the end of each Key Stage. Tests and teacher assessments ensure that schools are held accountable for children's achievements; they are used to track progress and plan next steps in a child's education; they can motivate children to achieve more; and they give parents information which they need to exercise real choice for their children.


73. National Curriculum assessment focuses on the core subjects as these contain the basic skills of literacy, numeracy and scientific inquiry that are necessary to access the broader curriculum, and for success in further study and work. Our aim is for assessment to have the positive impact of enabling teachers to help their pupils to access the wider curriculum through a sound grasp of the basics. The majority of Ofsted inspection reports about schools judged to be outstanding, describe schools which have a broad and balanced curriculum and good or outstanding achievement and attainment. Breadth of the curriculum is within the control of the school and the teacher. There is no reason why giving proper weight to the core subjects should lead to a narrow, unbalanced curriculum. Good schools identify, and make use of, opportunities to develop literacy and numeracy in lessons across the whole curriculum.


Assessment and progression during Key Stages 1 to 3


74. There are three sets of national tests during Key Stages 1-3, focused on the core subjects of English and mathematics at key Stage 1, and English, mathematics and science and Key Stages 2 and 3. Attainment is assessed against a range of national 'Levels' which are set out in the National Curriculum programmes of study. The total number of statutory test papers taken during these three Key Stages is around 20.

75. At the end of Key Stage 1, when most pupils are 7 years old, teachers make assessments for reading, writing, speaking and listening, mathematics, and science. They administer tasks and tests in reading, writing and mathematics, which are designed to be administered informally as part of normal classroom activity, so children may not know that they are taking a test. Task and test results are used to inform their overall assessment of a child's progress. Only the teacher assessments are reported. Level 2 is considered the 'expected level' for pupils to have reached by age 7 and most achieve this. Teacher assessments are moderated by Local Authorities to ensure that they are made on a consistent basis and so provide a suitably reliable measure of performance. Schools publish their Key Stage 1 performance data. The Department publishes national summary Key Stage 1 results but does not publish school-level tables.


76. At the end of Key Stage 2, pupils are assessed by teachers and take tests in English, mathematics and science. Attainment is again measured in Levels, with a maximum of Level 5 being achievable in the tests. There is an expectation that most pupils will achieve Level 4 by age 11 and national targets have been set to increase the proportion that do so in English and mathematics. Pupils who have achieved Level 4 or above in their Key Stage 2 tests can be confident that they have the basic skills needed to do well at secondary school. School-level Key Stage 2 results are published in the Achievement and Attainment Tables.


77. Assessment at the end of Key Stage 3 comprises tests in the core subjects and teacher assessment of the core and other foundation subjects. Maximum levels achievable in the tests are Level 7 in English and science and Level 8 in mathematics. Expected attainment is between Levels 5 and 6 and national targets have been set for the proportion of pupils achieving at least Level 5 in English and mathematics. School-level Key Stage 3 results are published in the Achievement and Attainment Tables. There are no moderation arrangements for teacher assessments at Key Stages 2 and 3 as externally-marked tests provide the basis for assessing all pupils in the country on a consistent basis.


78. From the autumn term 2007, there are also national targets to improve the rates of progress between Key Stages so that more children achieve a basic level of progress of two National Curriculum levels in the core subjects of English and mathematics. These new progression targets will run alongside the threshold targets for pupils achieving Level 4+ at Key Stage 2 and Level 5+ at Key Stage 3. They are aimed at ensuring that children and young people make the progress expected of them through the Key Stages. For pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds who have not kept pace with their peers, the targets are intended to help accelerate their progress. Pupils with Special Educational Needs who are unlikely to reach threshold levels should be supported to make the best possible progress to achieve the outcomes they are capable of. 


Assessment at Key Stage 4


79. Key Stage 4 covers the current final period (Years 10 and 11) of compulsory schooling, during which pupils are working towards a range of academic and vocational qualifications. Most of the assessment is at the end of Year 11 and qualifications are awarded by various independent awarding bodies. Currently, there is a national target for the proportion of young people achieving 5 or more GCSEs at grades C or above (or equivalent). This achievement level or its equivalent is also known as 'Level 2' (Level 1 being the acquisition of basic skills equivalent to 5 or more GCSEs at grades G or above). The national target going forward is for the proportion achieving 5 or more GCSEs or equivalent at grades A* - C, including GCSE English and mathematics, continuing the focus on pupils achieving the expected outcomes in the core subjects. In addition, there is a national target to improve progression rates in English and in mathematics from Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 4.


80. In addition to GCSE, there is a range of additional qualifications which can be taken by this age group. For example, this year sees the start of the introduction of Diplomas - a new set of qualifications for learners at Key Stage 4 (and across the 14-19 phase), which will mix theoretical and applied learning. Diplomas are being designed to be able to include existing general qualifications (such as GCSEs) or specialist qualifications with practical skills, according to a learner's interests and ambitions. Diplomas will be available nationally under a national entitlement from 2013. The Government has set out its intention that over time we would move public funding to key national suites. At Key Stage 4 these would be GCSEs and Diplomas.


81. The qualifications strategy that we are publishing for consultation shortly will set out more detail about how a comprehensive and coherent qualifications offer for this age group.


Likely impact on the National Curriculum of the single level tests currently being piloted


82. The assessment system has constantly evolved to meet changing needs and will continue to do so. Assessment has responded to take account of aspects of attainment specified in the curriculum that we want to improve; for example, since 2003, the tests have had a greater emphasis on the skills of scientific enquiry and using and applying mathematics. We are now considering a substantial change in our approach to assessment; one that builds on the strengths of the current system, but gives increased flexibility in the timing of assessment to match individual progress and one that is instigated by teachers when they judge a pupil is ready.


83. The Making Good Progress pilot is testing new ways to measure, assess, report and stimulate progress in our schools. It involves pupils in Key Stage 2 and 3 and is running between September 2007 and July 2009 in 455 schools. We are providing more than 20m for the pilot in the academic year 2007/8. The cornerstone of the Making Good Progress pilot is developing and improving teachers' assessment skills to focus on moving children on in their learning. Sharper use of assessment, better pupil tracking and better planning by schools to help each child to progress perfectly illustrates assessment for learning, which is central to our drive to raise standards for all children. We are investing a substantial amount in this; 150 million will be spent on improving assessment for learning practice in all schools between 2008-09 and 2010-11.


84. Within the Making Good Progress pilot, we are looking at how testing might more effectively support a personalised approach to learning and encourage every child to make good progress throughout their school careers. In December 2007, 22,543 pupils took 42,833 single level tests in reading, writing and mathematics. An independent evaluation of the pilot is being undertaken by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

85. Single level tests are shorter than the current end of Key Stage tests and each covers a single Level of the National Curriculum, from Level 3 to Level 8. They are aimed at pupils aged between 7 and 14. They are intended to confirm teachers' judgements and are designed to motivate pupils by focusing on the next step in their learning. Pupils will take a test which is pitched at the level at which they are judged by their teacher to be working, rather than a test which spans a range of levels. If they are unsuccessful, they will be able to take the test again.

86. During the pilot, which runs until summer 2009, single level tests will be available in December and June each year. Pupils will also take the current tests in English, mathematics and science at the end of Key Stages 2 and 3.

87. In the Children's Plan, which we published on 11 December, we signalled our intention to implement single level tests in reading, writing and mathematics on a national basis at the earliest opportunity, subject to positive evidence from the pilot and endorsement of this approach from the regulator. Those tests would replace the National Curriculum tests at the end of key stages 2 and 3. We will also explore new options for the assessment of science. This will include the development of Assessing Pupil Progress (APP) materials as part of the support for assessment for learning being provided for all schools over the next three years. In the meantime, the current National Curriculum tests for science will continue


88. Should single level tests roll out nationally, we would expect the impact on pupils to be positive. Because they would be entered only when they are ready and would have a chance to enter again if not successful, the tests should continue to be low stakes for children. Able pupils would expect to reach the next level, and therefore the next test, more frequently than under the current system but most pupils would experience a similar amount of testing as at the moment.


89. Wider roll out of single level tests should help to ensure that all pupils are making the progress that they should do, encouraging sharper use of assessment, better pupil tracking and better planning by schools. At the same time they would provide the accountability, consistency and reliability that the current end of Key Stage tests do. We will also be able to use the tests in the same way as existing National Curriculum tests to hold schools accountable for the performance of children at the end of Key Stages and to ensure that parents can see the performance of their children's schools in the performance tables.


How the new secondary curriculum supports transition to and delivery of the 14-19 Diplomas


90. The new secondary curriculum and the 14-19 Diplomas share the same core aims and care has been taken to ensure that approaches to teaching and learning are directly aligned. In both cases, there is an emphasis on the development of practical skills for life and work and the personal, learning and thinking skills introduced in the secondary curriculum underpin each Diploma, giving young people the opportunity to learn skills such as teamwork and self-management through experiencing them in a contemporary learning context. Both Diplomas and the new secondary curriculum see the importance of developing cross-curricular links and both lock in the basics so that every young person has a secure grounding in functional English, mathematics and ICT. Specifically, Diploma learners will need to gain all functional skills in English, Maths and ICT at the appropriate level. An outward-looking approach is also common to the secondary curriculum and the Diploma, with teaching and learning being grounded in a real-world context and engaging with the big issues of the day.


91. The Diploma has been designed at three levels and is intended for learners of all abilities. It forms part of the whole curriculum and provides specific pathways that learners can choose alongside their entitlement to the national curriculum. The Diploma combines essential skills and knowledge, hands on experience and employer-based learning to prepare a young person for work and further study. This combination of skills and knowledge supports the achievement of the aims for the curriculum. The learning experiences that are integral to the Diploma are part of the planned learning experience of the revised secondary curriculum and ensure learner's experiences of the curriculum are coherent and relevant. The Diploma helps to provide a wider range of choices for learners at key stage 4.


92. QCA, the independent regulator of qualifications, has recommended the following equivalence given to Diplomas, which recognises both the size and challenge involved in completing such a large composite qualification:


Foundation Diploma is equivalent to 5 GCSEs at level 1 (e.g. 5 GCSEs at grades


Higher Diploma is equivalent to 7 GCSEs at level 2 (e.g. 7 GCSEs at grades A*-


Progression Diploma is equivalent to 2.5 A levels

Advanced Diploma is equivalent to 3.5 A levels'.


93. In terms of planning and managing the school timetable at Key Stage 4, we are confident that Diploma students will be able to access their full National Curriculum entitlement. QCA has produced a series of tools to help schools and their partners with the introduction of the Diploma as part of the new secondary curriculum, including 'Design for Success: shaping your curriculum to incorporate the Diploma' which is available for download at The document's purpose is to support partners in re-designing their secondary curriculum, and it includes real life examples showing how the curriculum might look in practice. Further materials are available through the SSAT's e-portal for whole curriculum design.


Impact of the National Curriculum

94. It is difficult to quantify the impact of the National Curriculum since its introduction in 1988; or to unpick the differing effects of the various reviews and strategic interventions that have taken place over the last 20 years. However, as the tables below indicate, tests results over the last 10 years do show a continued and progressive rise in levels of attainment across all four Key Stages.


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95. Similar progress has been made in narrowing the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils. Over the past five years (2002-07) the attainment gap at Key Stage 2 between children on free school meals and those who are not, has narrowed by five percentage points for English, and by three percentage points for mathematics. At Key Stage 4, the gap in attainment has narrowed by 3.4 percentage points over the same period (measured by attainment of five or GCSEs at grades A*-C). While this progress is encouraging, we have more to do to narrow the attainment gap by disadvantage. That is why we are now planning to provide one to one tuition and personalised support to every single child, and to ensure that in future all young people will stay on in education or training to 18 and beyond so they have the skills they need to prosper.


96. Attainment data is only be one measure of the success of a curriculum which also sets out to promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of all learners and in the last two years, Ofsted inspectors have also judged how well schools promote the five broader outcomes for children and young people set out in Every Child Matters. In Ofsted Annual Report for 2006/2007, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector noted that,


"in the overwhelming majority of schools, pupils' personal development and well-being are at least satisfactory and in most they are good or outstanding. Most schools are responding well to the Every Child Matters agenda. Schools ensure that most pupils enjoy their education and are particularly effective in promoting an awareness of healthy lifestyles and personal safety. There are good opportunities to make a positive contribution to the life of the school and the wider community. In secondary schools, skills for the workplace are developed through well organised programmes of work experience",


"most schools are also preparing pupils at least satisfactorily for their future economic well-being".


97. In the same Annual Report, Ofsted noted that the overall effectiveness of 94% of maintained schools is now at least satisfactory. In 60% of schools, it is good or outstanding. The proportion of outstanding schools has risen by 3% in the last year alone to a high of 14%; while the proportion judged inadequate has fallen from 8% to 6% over the same period.


The role of teachers in the future development of the National Curriculum

98. We believe that education can only flourish if it successfully adapts to the demands and needs of our time; responds to the needs of employers, Higher Education, subject experts, pupils and parents; and continues to take account of emerging thinking and best practice from the frontline.


99. There have always been opportunities for teachers to contribute to the development of the National Curriculum and these opportunities will continue to exist as we move forward. Perhaps the main route for teachers to feed in to future developments will be through their ongoing contacts with the QCA (and in future, the development agency which replaces it). As part of its remit to monitor and maintain the curriculum, QCA is in continued dialogue with schools through its advisory groups for 0-14 and 14-19 education, and through annual subject teacher questionnaires designed to identify trends, issues and areas where more work is needed. QCA also has an ongoing relationship with a number of volunteer schools through its growing co-development network for curriculum innovation.


100. Working within the statutory framework, we will continue to ask teachers to use their creativity and professional judgement in designing local curricula that meet the needs of their students and local community. We will keep abreast of new ways of designing and delivering the curriculum which are being developed and trialled in schools to inform future policy development. We will collect evidence about their effectiveness through our own teacher and head teacher focus groups; through regular presentations to policy teams and through projects sponsored by the Department's Innovation Unit.


101. Teachers will continue to be invited to take part in national consultations regarding future changes to the statutory National Curriculum. We will continue to involve schools in pilots for new ways of organising and delivering the curriculum - such as the condensed Key Stage 3 programme and the ongoing work with functional skills for 14-19 year olds. We will also take account of case studies around curriculum innovation which are submitted to the QCA, or captured and evaluated by Ofsted or research institutions.


102. Finally, we will collect information about curriculum innovation from existing networks of teachers and schools - such as the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust network; subject networks established by the General Teaching Council; members of Subject Association networks and the Advanced Skills Teacher community. All of these networks are designed to support curriculum delivery, to develop new and best practice and to share it with the Department and with the wider school community.


Annex A


How the current National Curriculum evolved


1. Before the National Curriculum was introduced in 1988 there was no statutory curriculum in schools, except for the 1944 Education Act which required schools to teach religious education. Aside from some local curriculum schemes run by local authorities, the curriculum for pupils between the ages of 5 and 14 was largely determined by classroom teachers, often on the basis of commercially available textbooks. The curriculum for 14-19 year-olds tended to be based on the public examination syllabuses chosen by teachers.


2. In 1987, the Department of Education and Science and Welsh Office issued a consultation document that set out the rationale for a national curriculum:


ensuring that all pupils study a broad and balanced range of subjects;

setting clear objectives for what children can achieve so that schools are better placed to challenge each child to develop his/her potential;

ensuring that all pupils, regardless of sex, ethnic origin or geographical location have access to broadly the same curriculum;

allowing children to move from one area of the country to another with a minimum disruption to their education;

encouraging schools to be more accountable for the education they offer and helping to alert teachers to problems experienced by individual children.


3. Following the consultation, the government passed the Education Reform Act in 1988 which established the framework for a National Curriculum. The key principles in developing the first curriculum were that:


the curriculum would be subject-based, covering: English, mathematics, science, technology; history;

geography; languages; art; music; physical education,

all subjects would be studied up to age 16, with modern foreign languages being introduced at age 11;

a scheme of teacher assessment was envisaged with each subject assessed through a 10-level scale.


4. It was acknowledged that the National Curriculum did not represent the whole curriculum - schools would also need to teach religious education (already compulsory under the 1944 Act) and areas such as personal, social and health education.


Issues with the first National Curriculum and the 1993 Curriculum Review


5. In the early stages of implementation, it became clear that some teachers had difficulties in delivering the National Curriculum effectively. In particular, teachers found the curriculum too prescriptive and too full. Assessment arrangements were also considered problematic - the 10-level scale and the statements of attainment for teacher assessment were seen as cumbersome and many teachers objected to the National Curriculum tests.


6. So in 1993 Sir Ron Dearing was asked by the government to review the curriculum and its assessment. His report advocated a stronger focus on literacy and numeracy and recommended that each subject should be reduced to a "core" plus options, freeing up around 20% of curriculum time. He argued for a substantial reduction in the attainment targets and statements of attainment and recommended that teachers should be free to record teacher assessment in ways they found appropriate. As a result, a revised version of the curriculum was produced in 1995. The key changes were:


a reduction in content and increased flexibility,

statutory testing restricted to core subjects only,

the introduction of Information technology - to be taught on its own and through other subjects,

a reduction in the number of compulsory subjects at Key Stage 4, and

the removal of overt statements of attainment - instead, programmes of study were developed for each subject at each Key Stage, along with level descriptions for each of 8 levels (with end of key stage statements for art, music and physical education.


7. Lord Dearing also recommended that the curriculum should remain unchanged for 5 years to allow the changes to bed down.


Suspension of statutory requirements in the foundation subjects


8. From September 1998 for a period of two years, the statutory programmes of study for the foundation subjects were suspended at Key Stages 1 and 2. This was to allow primary schools to devote more time (if needed) to the teaching English and mathematics, and to meeting literacy and numeracy targets that had been set for 2002. Throughout the two year period, primary schools were still required to follow the existing statutory requirements for English, maths, science, ICT, and religious education. They also had to maintain a broad and balanced curriculum and teach the other six non-core subjects of design and technology, history, geography, music, art and physical education, but they were not required to follow all of the detailed statutory requirements of those subjects.


The 2000 review and KS4 entitlements


9. Following four years of evaluation, the National Curriculum underwent further substantial revision in 2000. The key principles of the 2000 review included:


improved coherence and alignment of subjects,

a reduction in duplication across subjects,

less prescription,

the introduction of a common format for subjects,

the introduction of citizenship as a subject at Key Stages 3 and 4,

more flexibility at KS4, and

an overt statement of the aims and purposes of the curriculum.


10. In September 2004 we further amended the Key Stage 4 curriculum to reduce the number of compulsory subjects and free up opportunities for pupils to pursue high quality, high status vocational routes of learning. To protect breadth and choice in the curriculum we also introduced four entitlement areas in languages, design & technology, the arts, and humanities. As a result of these changes, students at Key Stage 4 have the right to follow at once course of study within each of the Key Stage 4 entitlement areas if they wish to do so.


The Education and Inspections Bill 2006 - a new entitlement at Key Stage 4


11. The 2006 Education and Inspections Bill introduced a new statutory entitlement for all Key Stage 4 students to study science programmes leading to at least two GCSEs, and an entitlement to Diplomas for every young person aged 14-19, wherever they are in the country.


The Introduction of the Early Years Foundation Stage


12. The current Foundation Stage of education is for children aged 3 to 5 years old. It is voluntary for children and parents but any provider drawing down local authority funds to provide free early years education must comply with the statutory Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage. This stage is currently "assessed" through the Foundation Stage Profile, when children start full-time education.

13. From September 2008 the Foundation Stage will be replaced by the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) as the new statutory framework for children from birth to the end of the academic year in which they have their fifth birthday. The EYFS will be based around four Themes. These are that:


every child is unique. All children are competent learners from birth and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured;

children learn to be strong and independent from a base of loving and secure relationships with parents and/or a key person;

the environment plays a key role in supporting and extending children's development and learning; and

children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates and all areas of learning and development are


The new secondary curriculum - statutory from September 2008


14. In March 2005, Ministers asked the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) to review the Key Stage 3 curriculum in order to:


reduce prescription over subject content, allowing teachers to better tailor lessons to pupils' individual needs and strengths,

provide additional time and space for catch up lessons in English and mathematics,

provide a stronger focus on the development of functional skills in English, mathematics and ICT, along with personal attributes and learning and life skills,

professionalise methods of teacher assessment during Key Stage 3,

ensure that young people gain the key discipline concepts and content of the curriculum subjects, generating a deeper understanding of what they have studied, and

create an improved coherence between the subjects of citizenship and personal, social and health education.

17. As the review went on it became clear that there was a strong case for simultaneously reviewing the programmes of study and level descriptions for Key Stage 4 and the decision was made to bring this Key Stage into the remit of the review. Following extensive consultation over both Key Stages, the new secondary curriculum was launched in July 2007 and will now be phased in over a three year period. It becomes statutory for Year 7 pupils in September 2008; from September 2009, it will apply to all Year 7 and Year 8 pupils; and from September 2010 it will apply across Years 7, 8 and 9. Changes to the Key Stage 4 curriculum begin rolling out in September 2009, to coincide with changes at GCSE. A new requirement to study cooking, through compulsory food technology, will be introduced in September 2011.



March 2008