English, maths and science remain very important and are considered the core subjects to study. The National Curriculum gives details about what must be covered in each of these subjects, but how the knowledge and skills for each year group are taught has been left for the schools to plan and deliver.
The Foundation subjects are art, computing, design & technology, foreign languages (KS2 only), geography, history, music and physical education. There is also a legal requirement to teach religious education.
The content of the Curriculum has become more challenging and focuses on ‘higher expectations’ in all subjects. For example, in mathematics there is now a much greater focus on the fluency of arithmetic, reasoning and problem-solving skills.
In science, a new unit of work on evolution is introduced in Year 6; work which would have previously been studied in secondary school. In English, there are specific spellings and grammatical features that must be taught in each year group.
The National Curriculum also places far greater emphasis on ensuring that children not only learn new skills and acquire knowledge, but they must also be able to apply them within a range of contexts. If your child is achieving well, rather than moving on to the following year group’s work, more in depth and investigative work will be provided to allow for a greater mastery and understanding of concepts and skills.
Science in KS1 In the first years of schooling, much of the science curriculum is based around real-life experiences for children. This includes everyday plants and animals, as well as finding out about different materials and the four seasons. There are likely to be lots of opportunities for exploring scientific ideas both in the classroom and the local surroundings.
Science in KS2 During Key Stage 2 (Years 3 to 6), the strands of science begin to become more recognisable as biology, chemistry and physics, although they will usually be grouped together in primary school. Children will continue to carry out their own experiments to find out about the world around them, and to test their own hypotheses about how things work.
The Foundation Subjects
At primary school, English, Maths and Science are the core subjects which make up the bulk of the timetable. That said, the other foundation subjects play a key part in providing a broad and balanced curriculum. All eight of these subjects are a compulsory part of the National Curriculum. In addition, all schools are required to include some Religious Education in their broader curriculum, although the content of this is agreed locally.
Here is a very brief outline of what will be covered in the foundation subjects during primary school:
Art Schools will be largely free to design their own curriculum in Art, while providing a broad experience for their students. Children will explore a range of different techniques such as drawing, painting and sculpture, and will use a variety of materials, from pencil and paint to charcoal and clay, to create their own art pieces. In addition, during Key Stage 2, children will study the works of some great artists, architects and designers from history.
Computing There are three main strands of the new Computing curriculum: information technology, digital literacy and computer science.
Information technology is about the use of computers for functional purposes, such as collecting and presenting information, or using search technology. Digital literacy is about the safe and responsible use of technology, including recognising its advantages for collaboration or communication. Finally, computer science will introduce children of all ages to understanding how computers and networks work. It will also give all children the opportunity to learn basic computer programming, from simple floor robots in Years 1 and 2, right up to creating on-screen computer games and programmes by Year 6. Many schools will use programming software which is freely available online, such as Scratch or Kodu.
All schools will also include regular teaching of Online safety to ensure that children feel confident when using computers and the Internet and know what to do if they come across something either inappropriate or uncomfortable. Many schools will also invite parents to work with them on this aspect of the curriculum.
Design and Technology This subject includes cooking, which will be taught in all primary schools from 2014, with children finding out about a healthy diet and preparing simple meals. It also includes the more traditional design elements in which children will design, make and evaluate products while learning to use a range of tools and techniques for construction. There may also be some cross-over with science here as children incorporate levers, pulleys or electrical circuits into their designs for finished products.
History In Key Stage 1, the focus of history is very much on locally significant events or events within their own memories, as well as key events of great significance. In addition, children will find out about important historical people and events, such as Alexander Graham Bell and Captain Scott.
In Key Stage 2, there are nine main areas of study that are required, some of which have optional strands. The first four are units relating to British history and are intended to begin the development of a clear chronological understanding. In many schools these will be taught in chronological order.
- Britain in the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages
- Roman Britain
- Anglo-Saxons and Scots in Britain
- Anglo-Saxons and Vikings
- Local history
- A study of a period after 1066 of the school’s choice
- Ancient Greece
- A choice from Ancient Egypt, Ancient Sumer, Ancient Egypt, or the Shang Dynasty of Ancient China
- A choice from 10th-century early Islamic civilisation, Mayan civilisation or Benin in West Africa
Languages For the first time, foreign languages will be compulsory in schools for children in Key Stage 2 (Years 3 to 6). Schools can choose any language to study, although they should bear in mind the languages available in partner secondary schools.
Over the course of their four years in Key Stage 2, children will be expected to make good progress in the main language chosen, learning to ask and answer questions, present ideas to an audience both in speaking and writing, read a range of words, phrases and sentences, and write simple phrases, sentences and descriptions. If the school chooses a modern language, such as French or Spanish, then children will also learn about the appropriate intonation and pronunciation of the language.
Music Over the course of primary school, children will listen to and perform a range of music. In the first years of schooling this will often include singing songs and rhymes and playing untuned instruments such as tambourines or rainmaker sticks.
In Key Stage 2, children will perform pieces both alone and as part of a group using their own voice and a range of musical instruments, including those with tuning such as glockenspiels or keyboards. They will both improvise and compose pieces using their knowledge of the different dimensions of music such as rhythm and pitch. During the later years they will also begin to use musical notation, and to learn about the history of music.
Physical Education Physical Education lessons will continue to include a range of individual disciplines such as dance and athletics, with team sports and games. Through these sports, children should learn the skills of both cooperation and competition.
During Key Stage 2, the range of games and sports taught will be broader, and the children will also take part in outdoor and adventurous activities such as orienteering. They will perform dances, take part in athletics and gymnastics, and attempt to achieve personal bests in various activities.
In addition, all children should learn to swim at some point during their primary school career.
For more information on the National Curriculum please visit
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