FAQ: New Primary Curriculum

As lots of schools start to prepare for the introduction of the new curriculum, the re-drafts and rushed implementation have left some questions. This post attempts to answer some of the most frequently-asked. If your question isn’t answered here, then Twitter is always a good place to ask!

When do you have to start teaching the new curriculum?

The curriculum becomes statutory from September 2014 for all primary year groups except for the core subjects in Years 2 and 6. In Years 2 and 6 the old (1999) curriculum remains statutory for one more year to allow for assessment using the current style of KS2 tests in the Summer of 2016.

Does everything need to change?

The whole of the National Curriculum will be replaced from September 2014. However, this doesn’t automatically mean that all plans need changing. PSHE and Citizenship lessons are not statutory, and so are not affected. Similarly, RE falls outside the scope of the National Curriculum, so schools should continue to use plans matched to the locally-agreed syllabus.

Not all subjects will require drastic change. See the following blogs about what does, and does not, need to change:

Is there any scheme like the National Strategies to support schools?

The government has been clear that it does not intend to roll out a national support scheme. However, some curriculum organisations have taken a lead on providing resources for the new curriculum to support schools. The DfE also suggests that schools liaise with a nearby Teaching School Alliance.

The www.primarycurriculum.me.uk website contains a page with links to subject organisations that provide support for the new curriculum.

Do teachers have to follow the year-by-year programmes of study?

Many sections of the new primary curriculum are set out by year group, or paired year groups. However, the statutory basis of the National Curriculum (under the Education Act 2002 and subsequent legislation) does not permit the government to specify curriculum content other than by key stage. Therefore, the new curriculum allows schools to move content around within each key stage. Thus any content set out by year group can be considered ‘advisory’ sequencing.

What about mixed age classes?

No specific guidance has been provided by the DfE or its agencies for covering the curriculum with mixed age classes. Some specific advice has been provided by Leadership organisation The Key and can be accessed from their website at http://www.usethekey.org.uk/curriculum-and-learning/curriculum-post-2014/primary-curriculum-post-2014/draft-primary-curriculum-managing-mixed-age-classes (free no obligation trial available)

How much time should each subject be taught for?

No amount of time is specified in the curriculum or its accompanying guidance. The legislation does not permit the Secretary of State to make such specifications. It is for schools to decide what time should be given to each subject, or how it should be organised. Schools can continue to use cross-curricular teaching, so long as they cover the Programmes of Study specified for each key stage.

What will KS2 National Curriculum tests be like in 2014 and 2015?

There have been some changes to National Curriculum tests at KS2 for 2014. This includes a change to the structure of the Reading Paper, and the change to the combination of papers for Mathematics.  The Reading paper will no longer follow a theme, but will have three separate texts of increasing difficulty to be tackled in order. In mathematics, there will no longer be a calculator paper, although there will continue to be two papers. There is more detail about all the KS2 tests on the DfE website.

Tests in 2015 will be broadly similar to those in 2014, based on the 1999 National Curriculum.

Will children have to sit a calculator paper, just without a calculator?

Despite much confusion around this area, the DfE appeared to confirm earlier this year that the new test papers for 2014 have been written since the decision was made to remove the calculator paper. Therefore, children will not be faced with questions intended for calculator use.

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What’s happening to levels?

As since the National Curriculum was introduced, levels have only been part of statutory assessment at the end of each key stage. This will continue until the summer of 2015, when KS1 and KS2 results will be recorded using levels for the final time. There is no requirement to use National Curriculum levels to assess in any other year group or at any other time.

Under the new rules, schools are free to choose their own approaches to assessment for the curriculum, although a new system of outcomes will be in place for Y2/Y6 from Summer 2016.

What will replace levels at the end of the Key Stage?

The government consulted on assessment and accountability for primary schools in the autumn of 2013. This included proposals for assessment in Early Years, and a system of scaled scores at the end of KS2, with a possibility of ranking students in deciles. The results are of the consultation are expected in the spring of 2014. Until these are known, we cannot be certain of the new assessment processes.

What is an algorithm?

There has been much discussion of the major changes in the Computing (ICT) curriculum. However, many of these changes are less significant than first appears. One teachers are familiar with the language of the Programme of Study they will come to recognise familiar content from the curriculum. For example, an algorithm is simply a sequence of instructions for carrying out a particularly task, such as programming a simple Roamer or Beebot device. There is some excellent advice and support available on understanding the new Computing curriculum from various subject associations.

Must we teach History in chronological order?

The draft proposals for the National Curriculum originally indicated that history must be taught chronologically. This requirement was relaxed in the final version. Primary Schools must now cover history up to 1066, but it is for schools to decide how this is organised. The Programme of Study states that children should “continue to develop a chronologically secure knowledge and understanding of British, local and world history” during Key Stage 2.

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6 thoughts on “FAQ: New Primary Curriculum

  1. primaryblogger1 3 February 2014 at 7:46 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Primary Blogging.

  2. Tim Taylor 3 February 2014 at 7:49 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Primary Blogging.

  3. teachingbattleground 3 February 2014 at 8:07 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  4. Penny_Ten 3 February 2014 at 10:51 pm Reply

    Anyone trying to access this article on The Key that doesn’t already have membership, can sign up to a free trial. No obligation to take membership after it’s over

    • Michael Tidd 3 February 2014 at 11:10 pm Reply

      Thanks Penny – I’ve added a note to that effect in the main text.

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