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Anticipating the new curriculum

Posted on Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

The draft 2014 National Curriculum and the changes involved is a topic of debate for school leaders, policy makers, and the wider education community. We at National Schools Partnership have been asked lots of questions about the changes and what they will mean both for schools and learners, and for external organisations working with young people.

Freud Communications asked us what new subjects or topics we can expect to see as a result of the curriculum changes, so our experts have explained what we can look ahead to.

At first glance, the DfE’s new draft National Curriculum for England seems fairly familiar. Language, literacy, numeracy, inclusion, and PHSE all have their place, and descriptions like “flexible”, “broad and balanced”, and “ambitious” have been used before.

So what’s different?

According to Mr Gove, schools should have the freedom and flexibility, as well as the time and the space, to introduce new themes, topics and subjects which go beyond the new slimline National Curriculum.

A streamlined curriculum potentially offers a number of opportunities for outside organisations who wish to become involved with education. In theory, schools will feel less pressured and more able and willing to become involved with wider-ranging projects that can bring schools, businesses and other organisations together. This approach might well offer the space to be creative and introduce new topics. However, for many schools and teachers, a combination of demanding content, rigorous detail and the high expectations attached to the new curriculum, mean opportunities to explore other subjects and themes might well be few and far between.

Additions to the 2014 curriculum will include the reintroduction of languages at Key Stage 2, the incorporation of financial literacy to maths teaching, and the introduction of art appreciation alongside painting and drawing for Key Stage 3. At secondary level, vocational courses, apprenticeships and work experience will offer opportunities for new learning. Again, the possibilities of outside, non-academic organisations adding depth to learning and helping to deliver these interesting new dimensions to the curriculum, are increased.

Finding the time to incorporate these additions, as well non-compulsory subjects and themes, into the delivery of the curriculum will be a challenge but for those who achieve it, has the potential to be very rewarding – to all parties, both within and beyond the school gates.

Judith Futers, Education Consultant


The new draft National Curriculum totals just 173 pages but nevertheless contains significant changes in content and approach.

Most teachers, for example, will welcome the retention of Citizenship as a subject because of its vital role in helping young people make sense of a turbulent, unpredictable world. This more pragmatic approach is broadly characteristic of the new curriculum as a whole. Replacing ICT with computing and making foreign languages a compulsory primary school subject are both indicative of a desire to put the acquisition of basic skills at the top of the education agenda.

Following the precept that pupils are taught ‘the best that has been thought and said’ the history curriculum now focuses on key figures from the past and traces British history chronologically from the Stone Age to the present day, highlighting kings and queens, major battles and key turning-points. Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar now have a raised profile within English teaching and PHSE’s remit has been broadened to include economic education so that pupils gain the confidence to manage their finances.

Generally speaking, imparting ‘the essential knowledge in the key subject disciplines’ is now seen as teachers’ primary role, especially in the core subjects of English, Maths and Science.

The publication of the new curriculum can broadly be read as a return to more traditional educational values. This along with new, tougher GCSEs and restructured A Levels, will be certain to keep education in the headlines for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, areas such as computing and economic education within PHSE, now hold the greatest promise for those outside the educational world who believe they can add value to curriculum delivery and at the same time bring valuable rewards to their businesses or organisations.

Geoff Carr, Education Planner


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