Welcome to the national curriculum in UK

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27 Oct 2021


The pillar, and the pride, of the British education system, is the national curriculum. It is the most popular educational curriculum around the world. Let me tell you why. And how. And who.

The National Curriculum is a framework, a guide that schools use to assure that teaching and learning are balanced and consistent. Kenneth Baker, Education Secretary, was the first minister to apply national guidance for education encounters.

 To know a bit more about it we need to go back to the 1980s.

Before the 80s, the population was still suffering from wars, unfair contracts, and hunger. Children were taught at home, schools were only for rich families, and kids used to work since they were nine years old. To improve the social and cultural situation, the Government established an educative system where all schools would follow national guidance to offer the same quality of education to each child, whether attended one school or another.

If you are thinking that the curriculum looks like the IKEA instructions to build tables, you are – my dear friend- very much wrong. In fact, it took 20 years to implement it in all schools, making sure that everything was taken into account, and that every school had the resources to achieve the expectations. It wasn’t until 2014, that the National Curriculum -NC from now on- defined:

a.      - The subjects to teach,

b.      - The knowledge, skills, and understanding required in each subject,

c.      - The level of ability pupils are expected to achieve in each subject, and

d.     - The way pupil’s progress is assessed and reported.

But, not all schools are required to follow the NC statements.

Let me explain the types of schools in UK:







Sponsored academies

Many different ones

Foundation and trusts

Academy converters

Voluntary aided

Free schools

Voluntary controlled


That is the big picture. Let’s dig a bit deeper.

Maintained schools in England are legally required to follow the statutory NC which sets out:

-        - Study’s programmes

-       -  Key stages

-        - Subject content

But, they are free to include other subjects or topics of their choice (governors, teachers, and parents decide), planning and designing their own programme of education. Always promoting the pupils’ development at school and of society, and prepares pupils at the school for opportunities, responsibilities, and experiences later in life.

The study’s programmes are:

Core subjects




Physical Education

Foundation subjects

Art and design


Design and technology



Information and communication technology

Modern languages


Other subjects could be

Religious Education (RE)


Personal, social, and health education (PSHE)

 Key Stages are divided as follows:

Academies and independent schools have significant freedom in what they teach and do not have to follow the national curriculum.

The last changes on the National curriculum have been done in 2014 affecting certain subjects:

-        - Maths: children will be expected to learn more at an earlier age;

-        - History will take a more chronological approach than under the old curriculum, adding the Black History month;

-        - English, pupils will learn more Shakespeare and there will be more importance placed on spelling;

-        - The new computing curriculum will require pupils to learn how to write code;

-       -  Science, there will be a shift towards hard facts and “scientific knowledge”.

Still, academies and independent schools do not have to follow any of these adjustments. There are completely free regarding subjects, policies, etc.

But that is not all. The national curriculum establish as well policies for children with special education needs, and for those whom English is not their first mother tongue.

Would you like to know more about that? Then, tune-in for the next article.








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