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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

The National Curriculum for five to 11 year olds

Your child will study a wide range of subjects during their time at primary school. Knowing about the National Curriculum at Key Stages 1 and 2, and the subjects that are taught, can help you to support your child's learning.

National Curriculum subjects

The National Curriculum, taught to all pupils in state or maintained schools, is made up of blocks of years, known as key stages:

  • Year 1 and Year 2 of primary school are known as Key Stage 1
  • Years 3 to 6 of primary school are known as Key Stage 2

Compulsory National Curriculum subjects are the same for Key Stages 1 and 2:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Science
  • Design and technology
  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
  • History
  • Geography
  • Art and design
  • Music
  • Physical education

Schools also have to teach religious education, though parents have the right to withdraw children for all or part of the religious education curriculum. In addition, schools are advised to teach personal, social and health education (PSHE) and citizenship, together with at least one modern foreign language.

Your child’s school may cover these subjects under different names, and may teach more than one subject together under the same name. This is left up to individual schools, as long as they are covering the National Curriculum.

National Curriculum levels

At Key Stages 1, 2, and 3, the National Curriculum is accompanied by a series of eight levels. These are used to measure your child's progress compared to pupils of the same age across the country.

All schools assess pupils’ progress during the school year, though some make more frequent use of the National Curriculum levels than others. You'll receive information about the level your child has reached at parent-teacher evenings and in their school reports.

Your child will be formally assessed at the end of Key Stages 1 and 2. At the end of Key Stage 1, the teacher’s assessment of your child’s progress will take account of their performance in several tasks and tests in English and maths.

At the end of Key Stage 2, your child will take national tests in English, maths and science. You will be sent their test results and their teacher’s assessment of their progress.

By the end of Key Stage 1, most children will have reached level 2, and by the end of Key Stage 2 most will be at level 4.

The Primary Framework for literacy and mathematics

The Primary National Strategy is a set of tools for primary schools, aimed at helping them to raise standards – and to deliver the National Curriculum more effectively.

The Primary Framework for literacy and mathematics is a central part of the strategy. While the focus is on literacy and numeracy, schools can use the approaches it recommends to support teaching, learning and assessment across the whole curriculum.

Developing literacy skills

As well as reading and writing, literacy involves the development speaking and listening skills. The framework encourages teachers to use a variety of approaches to teaching literacy. It recommends regular, dedicated literacy lessons, but recognises that pupils can also develop literacy skills while they learn about other subjects in the curriculum.

The framework encourages teachers to put a greater emphasis on using ‘phonics’ (teaching your child to recognise the sounds of parts of words). It also stresses the part you play as a parent in helping your child to develop their literacy skills.

Developing maths skills

The framework recommends a daily maths lesson, providing guidance for schools on how to develop pupils’ mathematical thinking and number skills.

As with literacy, schools are encouraged to use a variety of approaches. Published in October 2006, the latest version of the framework puts more emphasis on mental maths. It recommends that children should develop their recall of multiplication tables earlier, with a focus on understanding and application.

The strategy also sets out a suite of catch-up programmes designed to help pupils in Years 3, 4, 5 and 6 who have fallen behind. Parents are encouraged to get involved in developing their child’s numeracy skills as much as possible.

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