The National Curriculum: A Parent’s Guide to upcoming changes






Any mention to changes within the National Curricular and parents are rightly concerned, particularly those parents who may have already experienced the National Curriculum, first hand through the eldest of their children. However, such concerns tend to swirl around one central point: a lack of understanding and information. To this end, here we present a complete guide to demystifying the changes, explaining what will be happening and why the changes have been implemented. And if you have any questions that remain, then our friendly team of 11 Plus Tutors will help.


The National Curriculum: How is it changing?

Let us begin with a quick explanation of why the National Curriculum has been identified as needing change. In short, it’s been believed for some time now that the curriculum is too bloated and too cumbersome.

A focus for the shakeup is a belief that the new curriculum should not tell teachers “how to teach”, but should instead provide for “the essential knowledge and skills every child should have” for teachers to “have the freedom to shape the curriculum to their pupils’ needs”. And as we all know, a lack of freedom within the curriculum has long since been a teacher contention.

However, it’s important to note that the changes will not be affecting the core subjects of English, Maths or Science at the Primary School level (but will be affecting practically all other subjects, as well as English, Maths and Science at secondary school level).

The new curriculum will affect primary school pupils from five to eleven and Secondary school pupils aged up to fourteen.


Which subjects will be affected, and what changes will take place?

There will be changes that span across all subjects within the national curriculum, and you can read about these in full directly upon the Department of Education website. We summarise the main points below:

  • Maths: Children will be expected to grapple numbers earlier; as a single example, this would include the learning of the 12 times table by the time pupils are 9;
  • History: This subject will adopt an arguably long overdue chronological approach;
  • English: Pupils will focus upon more Shakespeare’s works, with more importance placed upon proper spelling;
  • Computing: Pupils will be required to learn and write code;
  • Science: A shift in focus will move over to hard facts and ‘scientific knowledge’;


Putting the National Curriculum Changes under the spotlight

Whilst reaction to the changes mentioned above has been largely positive, some experts have picked up upon many issues. And as with any change within the national schooling system, there is always an expected level of controversy.

Namely, those who argue against the changes state that core subjects will have to be learned two years earlier than the top-performing nations. They say this highlights a disagreement in what’s really behind the nation’s dwindling results and attainment in certain areas.

Take, for example, fractions. In England, these will now be taught from the age of five or six, however, in Finland, they only begin learning this at around nine years of age.

Another area for disagreement is the changes that are due to take place for history. Whilst many welcome the new format, others have argued that it is too restrictive and has adopted a list-like structure.


Will all schools have to follow the new national curriculum?

You may have heard that some institutions have a choice about whether or not they follow the curriculum, in which case you’ve heard correctly.

Academies will have significant freedom over what they choose to implement and change how subjects are taught. The national curriculum changes will come into full, un-negotiating force for everyone else, free schools included.


How is the National Curriculum organised?

The shakeup of the content of the national curriculum will not affect how children are assessed and the Key stages that they fall into at certain ages. These will remain as follow:

  • Key Stage 1: Ages five to seven (Years 1-2)
  • Key Stage 2: Ages seven to 11 (Years 3-6)
  • Key Stage 3: Ages 11-14 (Years 7-9)
  • Key Stage 4: Ages 14-16 (Years 10-11)
  • Key Stage 5: Ages 16-19 (Years 12-13)


How will ‘cross over’ years be handled?

There’s been some (understandable) concern from parents who wish to confirm how to cross over the years will be handled and, most specifically, whether this introduction will impact students already approaching their exams. Thankfully the Government have opted for a tiered introduction, with pupils in Year 2 and Year 6 continuing to be taught the old programmes for the key subjects of English, maths and science, setting the end-of-year exams as such in May 2015.

The new tests will come into use in 2016, specifically for Year 1 and Year 5 pupils.

Finally, the students in Years 10 and 11 will continue with the old program, take their exams as usual, and experience no changes from the new curriculum.


The new curriculum: Regional differences

As outlined below, one crucial point about the changes is that they only affect certain religions.

Scotland: Scotland is already implementing their new curriculum, known as the Curriculum for Excellence. This major reform has focused on providing a far more flexible teaching approach, with subjects that affect everyone from pupils aged three to eighteen. The Scottish Government wished to move away from spoon-feeding learning to pupils over to something that inspired children to think for themselves.

Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland will also see no changes due to this implementation, introducing their curriculum makeover between 2007 and 2008.

Wales: Having recently been provided with additional powers, Wales is currently reviewing its education system based upon the findings of a report chaired by Prof Graham Donaldson and published in October 2014.


11 Plus Tutors Essex know all there is to know about the National Curriculum and the upcoming changes. They also endeavour to be fully informed as to the smallest of changes for the 11 Plus Exams from year to year, which enables them to deliver the consistently high standards of tailored tutored that they’ve become known for.