05: The National Curriculum

The National Curriculum was introduced in England and Wales in 1988. It ensures that all schools under Local Authority control follow the same curriculum. Independent schools may set their own whilst Academy schools have some freedom in deviating from it.

The National Curriculum sets out:

  • The subjects taught
  • Attainment targets, detailing the knowledge, skills and understanding required in each subject
  • Level descriptions in each subject that can be used to ascertain a pupil’s progress

Subjects taught will vary according to a child’s age but the core subjects (Maths, English and Science) are taught throughout a pupil’s time in school.

National Curriculum levels indicate a child’s performance in relation to what would be the typical attainment for their age. The expected range of attainment is:

  • at the end of Key Stage 1 from Levels 1 -3 with most reaching level 2
  • at the end of Key Stage 2 from Levels 2 -5 with most reaching level 4
  • at the end of Key Stage 3 from 3 -7 which most reaching level 5.

Changes were made to the primary school curriculum in September 2014 and for Key Stage 4 in September 2015. Additionally the National Curriculum levels have been dismantled and schools are now able to measure attainment and progress using any system they prefer – though many schools are currently using the old levels. There is guidance for these new descriptors but schools may have adjusted these to suit, i.e. if the school is a high achieving school the work needed to achieve “on target” may be higher than another school with an average intake.

Pupils currently undergo national tests and teacher assessments at ages 7 and 11. The end of KS3 tests at age 14 are no longer administered. The school then sends a report to parents/carers telling them the progress their child has reached in both tests and assessments. The school may discuss your child’s level of progress and, crucially, whether they’re on target.

Educational Stages

These are the different periods in each pupil’s education:

  • Early Years Foundation Stage from birth to age 5
  • Key Stage 1 is from the start of school to age 7 (Reception, Year 1, Year 2),
  • Key Stage 2 is from age 7 to age 11 (Year 3, Year 4, Year 5, Year 6),
  • Key Stage 3 is from age 11 to age 14 (Year 7, Year 8, Year 9) and
  • Key Stage 4 is from age 14 to age 16 (Years 10 and 11)
  • Key Stage 5 is from age 16 to 18 (post 16)
Back to news