A Guide to the UK Curriculum

Are you new to the UK and recently embarking on your supply teaching career? Here, you will find out more about the UK Curriculum. The national curriculum is a set of subjects and standards used by primary and secondary schools so children learn the same things. It covers what subjects are taught and the standards children should reach in each subject.

Academies and private schools do not have to follow the national curriculum but must teach a broad and balanced curriculum including maths, science, and English.

Key Stage 1 Ages 5 to 7
Key Stage 2 Ages 7 to 11
Key Stage 3 Ages 11 to 14
Key Stage 4 Ages 14 to 16

Key Stages

The national curriculum is organised into blocks of years called key stages (KS) At the end of each key stage children have their performance assessed.

Key Stage 1 and 2

Compulsory national curriculum subjects at primary school are:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Science
  • Design and Technology
  • History
  • Geography
  • Art and Design
  • Music
  • Physical Education (PE), including swimming
  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

Schools can develop their own ICT curricula or follow the programmes of study. They must also provide religious education (RE) however, parents can ask for their children to be taken out of the whole lesson or part of it.

Schools often also teach:

  • Personal, social and health education (PSHE)
  • Citizenship
  • Modern foreign languages

Tests and assessments

Year 1 phonics screening check

The check will take place in June and children will read 40 words out loud to a teacher who will assess whether a child needs extra help with reading. If a child doesn’t do well enough in the check they’ll have to do it again in Year 2.

Key Stage 1

Key stage 1 tasks and tests cover:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking and listening
  • Maths
  • Science

The tasks and tests are taken when the school chooses.

A child’s teacher will use the child’s work (including spoken work and homework) to work out what level the child is at in each area.

Key Stage 2

Key stage 2 tests cover:

  • English reading
  • English grammar, punctuation and spelling
  • Maths (including mental arithmetic)

The tests are taken in mid-May and last under 5.5 hours in total. If a child is demonstrating higher achievement then the head teacher may put them in for extra tests.

When a child reaches the end of key stage 2 the teacher will also give reports on a child’s progress in english, maths and science.

Key Stage 3 and 4

Key Stage 3

Compulsory national curriculum subjects are:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Science
  • History
  • Geography
  • Modern foreign languages
  • Design and Technology
  • Art and Design
  • Music
  • Physical Education
  • Citizenship
  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

Schools can develop their own ICT curricula or follow the programmes of study.

They must also provide religious education (RE) and sex education from key stage 3 but parents can ask for their children to be taken out of the whole lesson or part of it.

Key Stage 4

During key stage 4 most pupils work towards national qualifications - usually GCSEs. The compulsory national curriculum subjects are the ‘core’ and ‘foundation’ subjects.

Core subjects are:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Science

Foundation subjects are:

  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
  • Physical Education
  • Citizenship

Schools must also offer at least 1 subject from each of these areas:

  • Arts
  • Design and Technology
  • Humanities
  • Modern foreign languages

They must also provide religious education (RE) and sex education at key stage 4. Pupils do not have to take exams in religious studies however, schools must provide at least one course where pupils can get a recognised RE qualification at key stage 4 and above.

English Baccalaureate (EBacc)

The English Baccalaureate is a performance measure, not a qualification. The EBacc shows how many students got a GCSE grade C or above in English, maths, two sciences, a language, and history or geography.

Other compulsory subjects

Children must also study:

  • Careers Education (year 9 onwards)
  • Sex and relationships education (year 7 onwards)
  • Religious education (RE)

They may not have to take exams in these subjects.

Sex and relationship education

Sex and relationship education (SRE) is compulsory from age 11 onwards. It involves teaching children about reproduction, sexuality and sexual health. It doesn’t promote early sexual activity or any particular sexual orientation.

Some parts of sex and relationship education are compulsory - these are part of the national curriculum for science. Parents can withdraw their children from all other parts of sex and relationship education if they want.

All schools must have a written policy on sex education, which they must make available to parents for free.

Religious Education

Schools have to teach RE but parents can withdraw their children for all or part of the lessons. Pupils can choose to withdraw themselves once they are 18. Local councils are responsible for deciding the RE syllabus however, faith schools and academies can set their own.

If you would like further information or wish to speak to one of our experts, give Orange Genie Education a call: 01296 468 483 or email education@orangegenie.com.

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