The National Curriculum was introduced into England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as a nationwide curriculum for primary and secondary state schools following the Education Reform Act 1988. Notwithstanding its name, it does not apply to Independent Schools, who by definition are free to set their own curriculum, but it ensures that state schools of all Local Education Authorities have a common curriculum.
The Education Reform Act 1988 requires that all state students be taught a Basic Curriculum of Religious Education and the National Curriculum.
The purpose of the National Curriculum was to ensure that certain basic material was covered by all pupils. In subsequent years the curriculum grew to fill the entire teaching time of most state schools.
Principal Aims of the National Curriculum
There are two principal aims to the National Curriculum:
- The school curriculum should aim to provide opportunities for all pupils to learn and to achieve
- The school curriculum should aim to promote pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and prepare all pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life
Key Stages 1 and 2
At Key Stage 1 (ages 5-7) and Key Stage 2 (Ages 7-11) all pupils in state education are required to study:
English (often taught as Literacy)
Mathematics (often taught as Numeracy)
Art and Design
Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE)
The government proposes that by 2010, all pupils in Key Stage 2 will have 'an entitlement' to learn a modern foreign language.
Although schools are required to offer some form of Religious Education, which varies depending on the status of the school, it does not form a part of the National Curriculum.