Headline changes for the Primary Curriculum

Following 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 needed. After all, it is often these big areas of change which will require most work in schools when it comes to planning, resourcing and professional development. Some of this information may be a useful starting point for subject leaders.

Inevitably a short blog post cannot cover everything, so I recommend looking at other resources for more detail, such as the core subject breakdowns at www.primarycurriculum.me.uk/support and foundation subject comparisons at curriculum2014.wordpress.com amongst others.

Not all foundation subjects are included here, as they require relatively little change (see previous blog)


There are a couple of substantial changes of focus in the programmes of study which affect the two key stages in turn. Firstly, there is very clear and unequivocal expectation, particularly in KS1, that children will be taught to read using phonic approaches. The teaching order of some elements is set out quite clearly, and the focus of the reading strands is very much on decoding. This will not be that new to many schools, but certainly bears noting.

Similarly, in KS2, the focus on grammatical language and structures is substantially more notable than the 1999 curriculum, with far higher expectations of metalanguage. We can reasonably expect a greater emphasis on SPAG testing from 2016 onwards. I suspect the teacher assessment of Writing may become incidental.

Spelling patterns to be taught in each phase are clearly set out, and the expectations are high in this area.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • Does the current programme for teaching spelling fit the new requirements?
  • How does staff subject knowledge support the teaching of new grammar specification?


Although much has been made of changes in maths, much of it is a rearrangement of content, with data largely slimmed down, and some objectives moved down through the year groups to fill that gap. Most schools will already be aware of the expectation that tables (to 12×12) are learned by the end of Year 4.

Some of the most notable increases in expectations are in the area of fractions and decimals, with expectations by the end of KS1 including finding fractions of quantities, and those for the end of KS2 covering skills previously taught at Y7+ such as carrying out all 4 operations with fractions, and the ability to convert a fraction to a decimal. Some of this may require further mathematics development for staff, as may the introduction of formal algebra in Y6.

Calculation policies will also come under scrutiny as the balance changes. Again, most schools are now aware that calculators will not be required for the main KS2 tests. However, some of the more significant changes are in terms of expectations for methods. There is a clear expectation that formal written methods (column addition/subtraction, short & long multiplication/division) will be taught during KS2, and again we should expect assessments to reflect that.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • Is there a need to review calculation policies to reflect the new curriculum?
  • How well-equipped is the school for teaching the new expectations in fractions? (including teacher subject knowledge)


The changes in Science are by far the least notable among the core subjects. Some new content is required, including the teaching of evolution in Year 6. Other than this, most content remains broadly similar, with minor changes of content between year groups and key stages. For more detail, see the core curriculum changes document at www.primarycurriculum.me.uk/support


This has been one of the most widely publicised and talked about changes, and so many schools are already beginning to prepare for the changes. As mentioned in the previous blog, the changes are not as overwhelming as they might first appear, but there is clearly a renewed emphasis on areas which we might previously have considered to be “control technology”, with an expectation that all students will be introduced to some form of programming in KS1 and KS2.

Expect a boom in sales of roamers, and for Scratch to become a staple unit of work in KS2.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • How does the balance of control and applied ICT work need to be altered?
  • What investment is needed in resources to support the new control requirements?

Design & Technology

After a radical first draft back in February, the final version of the D&T curriculum is actually not that different from what was previously in place. The main change for primary schools is the new statutory requirement for cooking to be included. Where schools don’t have full kitchen facilities that could present some real challenges.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • What food-related units of work do we already have, and do they meet any of the new NC criteria?
  • What cooking techniques can we tackle given the facilities in place?


Arguably, Geography is the subject where the programme of study is least recognisable in comparison to its previous form. There is a substantial re-balancing in favour of acquiring knowledge about places with clear guidance on the expected locations to be taught. For many schools they will already be covering many of these areas. However, some teams may need to consider a new unit covering an area of the Americas in KS2. There are also some more specific expectations about aspects of human and physical geography to be taught, which may need to be addressed in existing or new units of work, including elements such as trade links and land use.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • Do existing units of work meet the requirements to study the UK and a non-European country (KS1) and the UK, Europe and the Americas (KS2)?
  • How can existing units of work be adapted to incorporate new areas of knowledge, especially relating to physical and human geography?


Another of the widely discussed subjects, where change is perhaps not as daunting as it might first appear, particularly at KS1 where very little change is needed. The two main areas of the subject which schools have not likely to have covered in the past are the pre-Roman study (stone age, iron age, etc.), and the world study which must focus on one of three 10th Century societies (Benin, Mayan, or early Islamic). Schools which had previously taught the Aztecs as their world study will also need to address a change there.

Consideration will also need to be given to the extended chronology and local studies. Many schools will want to combine these with existing units of work on Tudors, Victorians or Britain since 1930 (which are no longer required at KS2), but others may need new units of work to cover these expectations.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • Will units on Tudors/Victorians/WW2 be scrapped, or modified to match new local/extended study requirements?
  • Where and how will pre-Roman and World civilizations be taught in KS2?


In lots of schools, MFL is already in place and will meet the new requirements. However, in schools where existing programmes rely on taster sessions, or a combination of languages, discussions will need to take place about how schools meet the requirement to “focus on enabling pupils to make substantial progress in one language.”

Key things for schools to consider:

  • Do existing MFL plans allow for students to make substantial progress in one language?

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9 thoughts on “Headline changes for the Primary Curriculum

  1. primaryblogger1 18 January 2014 at 6:17 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Primary Blogging.

  2. […] A further blog on what doesn’t need to change for the new curriculum can be found at Headline changes for the Primary Curriculum. […]

  3. teachingbattleground 18 January 2014 at 8:01 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

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

  5. […] Headline changes for the Primary Curriculum […]

  6. […] Headline changes for the new curriculum […]

  7. boxofsmiles79 29 April 2014 at 5:01 pm Reply

    So does KS2 have to teach ALL of the following??:
    – changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the Iron Age
    – the Roman Empire and its impact on Britain
    – Britain’s settlement by Anglo-Saxons and Scots
    – the Viking and Anglo-Saxon struggle for the Kingdom of England to the time of Edward the Confessor
    – a local history study
    – a study of an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066
    – the achievements of the earliest civilizations – an overview of where and when the first civilizations appeared and a depth study of one of the following: Ancient Sumer, The Indus Valley, Ancient Egypt, The Shang Dynasty of Ancient China
    – Ancient Greece – a study of Greek life and achievements and their influence on the western world
    – a non-European society that provides contrasts with British history – one study chosen from: early Islamic civilization, including a study of Baghdad c. AD 900; Mayan civilization c. AD 900; Benin (West Africa) c. AD 900-1300

    I’ve just been given Humanities as a subject to lead and just getting my head around it.

    Many thanks

    • Michael Tidd 29 April 2014 at 7:42 pm Reply

      Hello Sarah,
      Yes – those are the units for the KS2 curriculum which must be covered. Some could be combined into a single unit (we’re doing that with the two Anglo-Saxon linked units) and obviously your local study might also be your Roman study or similar if it’s relevant.
      You can see more detail about suggestions for organising the content at http://www.primarycurriculum.me.uk/support

  8. […] in January) with plenty of turmoil to deal with. Teachers were trying to get to grips with the new National Curriculum in preparation for September, leaders were battling with the proposed introduction of Free School […]

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