New Curriculum? What new curriculum?

If you read some of the initial drafts of the new Primary Curriculum, and some of the media coverage, blogging and tweets that accompanied it, then you’d be forgiven for burying your head in the sand when it came to the new curriculum. However, as so often is the case, you needn’t panic quite yet. The re-drafts brought a lot more sense to the process, and even in those subjects which seem radically altered, there’s still plenty of scope for retaining some of the excellent units of work which are already in place. In this blog I’m going to attempt to reassure you that you don’t need to start from scratch – indeed, you may not need to change much at all!

I’ve attempted to break it down by subject, with only very brief mentions of the two key subjects of English and Maths. Partly this is because the amount of change and non-change is immense in both, but also because the changes are covered far better in detail by the comparison documents available at

This at-a-glance table gives an indication of the amount of change required for each subject, with red indicating substantial change, and green negligible.

Change Table

I have included a second blog on the key areas which will need addressing entitled: Headline changes for the Primary Curriculum.

Art & Design

The content is of the new Programmes of Study is so sparse (120 words across both key stages) that pretty much anything goes from September 2014. The specific requirements are so broad that the chances are that most units of work you currently have will still meet the new requirements.

A more detailed comparison of the new and old programmes of study can be found at


This is probably the subject which has had the most shouted-about change, but even it isn’t quite as drastic as it first seems. The wording of the new programmes of study is rather technical in places, but the reality is different.

Some teachers worrying that the new curriculum doesn’t include the traditional experience of spreadsheets, word processing, research online and creating presentations need not worry. They’re all still there (although called things like “work with variables”; “use and combine a variety of software”, “be discerning in evaluating digital content” and “presenting data and information”).

Equally, although there has been much focus on the need for programming at both key stages, and mention of technical sounding words & phrases such as algorithms, debugging & decomposing, the actual teaching is not necessarily wholly different from what is already in place. For example, schools using Beebots or Roamers in KS1 will easily cover several of the statements. Equally, KS2 classes who have used Logo, Flowol or Scratch will soon find themselves able to meet the criteria.

Naturally there will be a move towards increasing the focus on programming elements, but that is something schools can include in their CPD programmes and curriculum development programmes over the coming years. It doesn’t all need to be in place by September.

Design & Technology

After a dreadful initial draft, the final result for the D&T curriculum could be argued to be something of a rearranging of the deckchairs! The changes in expectations are limited to additional detail on presentation & design methods in KS2. The chances are that existing units will still work, with minor tweaks to meet the new criteria.

A more detailed comparison of the new and old programmes of study can be found at


The changes in English are substantial, but perhaps not as significant as first appears. There is definitely a noticeable shift towards an increased knowledge of grammatical terms and structures, as well as a renewed focus on Spelling. However, these are mostly changes of detail of prescription rather than of requirements themselves, since much of the content was already required in old curriculum (if a little under-noticed).

The core strands of Reading and Writing have a reduced specificity in some respects, but maintain their broad direction, with an increased focus on reading for pleasure.

Documents to compare the new curriculum with the old Literacy units from the 2006 framework are available at


There is a definite change of emphasis in the Geography programmes of study that schools will need to bear in mind when updating their planning. However, that’s not to say that existing units of work and resources need be discarded

For example, in Key Stage 1 schools will still need to complete a local study, and a comparison study with another area of the United Kingdom. The main changes are in the increased knowledge requirements such as knowing the names of continents and oceans which can often be covered in existing topics such as studies of far-away places, or of the sea/water in general. Equally, the introduction of compass skills can easily be covered in existing schemes of work.

In KS2 the focus is further on detailed recall of countries, cities, etc. but again there is lots of scope for maintaining existing units. For example, schools will need to study a region of Europe, which matches with the existing requirement to study an EU country. Similarly, schools currently studying Brazil, Tocuaro or St Lucia will be able to maintain these units under the new ‘region of the Americas’ requirement. The old units on Bangladesh or Chembakolli won’t match requirements as well, but still have scope for covering aspects of the human and physical geography requirements.

A more detailed comparison of the new and old programmes of study can be found at:


The changes to the History curriculum got some of the greatest press coverage, the greatest claims of disappointment, and eventually the greatest overhaul. The final result was statutory content of a fairly limited volume  (just 68 words at KS1, fewer than 200 words at KS2) accompanied by lengthier, but non-statutory, examples.

It means that at KS1, very little has changed about the new curriculum. Existing requirements to study famous people, some key events and to use language about passing time remain. Emma Hardy (@emmaannhardy) has written an excellent article about the opportunities presented in the UKED magazine’s January issue.)

The changes at KS2, which were initially vast, are significantly less noticeable than had been proposed. There is a move towards chronological teaching, with KS2 responsible for history up to 1065, and KS3 from 1066 onwards, but there is still scope for maintaining and adapting existing work, rather than starting from scratch.

Some units can remain with relatively little adaptation: Romans/Anglo-Saxons/Vikings remains a mainstay of the KS2 curriculum (although the requirement now is to cover all 3, rather than to select from the periods). Similarly, Local History, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece are all existing topics which are maintained.

Some units of work, such as Tudors, Victorians and post-1930 Britain cease to be part of the statutory curriculum. However, in schools where one of these periods has a local significance, these could be merged with a local history unit. Equally, there remains the requirement to cover one unit which covers “an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066”. This could easily be developed from an existing Victorians or WWII theme.

The main change for all schools will be the new World Study which should cover 10th Century history of either Benin, Mayan civilization, or an Islamic civilization such as Baghdad. Expect resources leaflets through your schools magazines any time soon!

A more detailed comparison of the new and old programmes of study can be found at:


It’s hard to generalise about changes needed for languages programmes of study. In schools where very little language teaching has taken place, or where “taster” sessions have been the main focus, then a more concerted programme will be required. However, where schools have already begun teaching of a modern language across KS2, it is quite likely that they are covering much of the programme of study already.


The changes to mathematics have been widely discussed and are in some ways substantial. That said, much of the material will be familiar to teachers at both key stages. The change in emphasis is from a broader range of skills to an increased focus on the knowledge and application of number, and particularly on recall of number facts. Schools will need to look at what content is expected at an earlier age, with some requirements being dropped or left until later, particularly in terms of data handling.

The most substantial area of change for many schools will be in the expectations in fractions.

Documents to compare the new curriculum with the old Mathematics units from the 2006 framework are available at


As with Art, the changes to the new curriculum seem to have been largely confined to the removal of detail from the programmes of study. As such, any existing plans will probably serve the new curriculum well. The only key area of difference that schools will need to consider is the expectation that students begin to use standard staff notation by the end of KS2.

Physical Education

The new requirements for PE are again very limited. The focus tips slightly from individual health and wellbeing to team sports and games, but much of what is already happening in schools will match the new requirements. Similarly, the requirement to be able to swim 25m unaided by the end of KS2 remains unchanged.


The Science changes were limited in scope and largely involve either the moving of content (e.g. the removal of light, sound, electricity & forces from KS1), or small new introductions (evolution at Year 6).

At KS1 schools will be able to make more use of outdoor space and learning through studies of nature that are now required.

At KS2, the new evolution unit is new content, and some higher demands are made in some areas. However, for schools following schemes of work based on the old QCA units, there is much consistency between the two programmes, and a continued focus on the applications of Science.

A more detailed comparison of the new and old programmes of study can be found at:


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13 thoughts on “New Curriculum? What new curriculum?

  1. misshorsfall 12 January 2014 at 9:14 pm Reply

    Thanks for this great overview! Just the thing to pass along to colleagues who are stressing about all of this 🙂

    • Michael Tidd 12 January 2014 at 9:21 pm Reply

      Glad you found it so. That’s my theory: the first thing we need to do to get folk to engage in curriculum change is reassure them that it doesn’t mean everything must go.

  2. teachingbattleground 12 January 2014 at 9:39 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  3. primaryblogger1 12 January 2014 at 10:14 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Primary Blogging.

  4. John 13 January 2014 at 12:34 pm Reply

    Thank you for these as they will be really useful when we discuss the changes.

  5. nancy 13 January 2014 at 2:56 pm Reply

    Thanks Michael. i feel that you are responsible for quite a lot of bacon saved! IKNWIM

  6. […] on from my previous post about what doesn’t need to change for the new curriculum, I thought it might be equally useful to consider the main areas where considerable change is […]

  7. […] A further blog on what doesn’t need to change for the new curriculum can be found at New Curriculum? What New Curriculum? […]

  8. Weekend Reading… | prawnseyeblog 24 January 2014 at 7:23 am Reply

    […] 1. Curriculum change by @michaelt1979 […]

  9. […] New Curriculum? What new curriculum? […]

  10. […] New curriculum? What new curriculum? […]

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