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The English National Curriculum

What is the National Curriculum?

Prior to 1988, when the National Curriculum was first introduced, schools had the freedom to decide what would be taught, guided mainly by the requirements of examinations and employers. Religious education (RE) was the only compulsory subject in schools.

The National Curriculum was designed to fulfil four main purposes:

  1. to ensure that every child, irrespective of social background, culture, race, gender, differences in ability and disabilities received the same education entitlement
  2. to set down standards against which every child’s progress could be measured
  3. to ensure continuity between one school and the next
  4. to establish an education system that could be clearly understood by all

Every state school is now required by law to deliver the National Curriculum, but whilst advice and guidance in the form of strategies, frameworks, programmes of study and schemes of work is provided, schools remain free to plan and organise teaching and learning in the way that best meets the needs of their pupils.

How does the National Curriculum work?

The National Curriculum sets out:

  • What subjects will be taught at each Key Stage in the education system
  • The knowledge, skills and understanding required in each subject
  • The levels of attainment in each subject – these can be used to measure children’s progress and plan the next steps in their learning
  • How schools will assess children’s progress and report to central government and to parents

What are Key Stages?

The term Key Stages refers to the different stages of education.
Schools commonly identify four Key Stages as well as an Early Years Foundation Stage (children before they reach the compulsory school age).

Current Used to be
Early Years Foundation Stage Nursery and Reception Nursery school and reception class in Infant school
Key Stage 1 Year one and two Infants
Key Stage 2 Years three to six Juniors
Key Stage 3 Years seven to nine Secondary school (first 3 years)
Key Stage 4 Years ten and eleven Secondary school (to GCSE)

How does the Exemplar programme support the National Curriculum?

Our Exemplar programmes are based on the requirements of the Foundation Stage and National Curriculum for maths and English. They provide short, clear lessons written and presented by highly qualified professionals. The Exemplar programmes are specifically designed to support and consolidate learning for children from Foundation stage to Key Stage 4.
The programmes provide home-based tuition and support for children aged between 4 and 18 and are a more cost effective alternative to private maths tutors for learning maths and English tutors for learning English.