State schools in England must teach a range of subjects as laid out in the National Curriculum. The National Curriculum was launched in 1989, and its aim is to maintain the same levels of learning and teaching across the country.

Understanding the National Curriculum

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The National Curriculum’s remit involves learning for state-school-educated children aged between five and sixteen, and it covers a number of aspects of education. These include which subjects should be covered, the level of achievement (understanding, skills and knowledge) each child should aim to get according to their age, the implementation of targets to measure these achievements and how parents should be kept informed about their children’s progress. More information about the National Curriculum can be found at


The National Curriculum is organised into four stages that children follow progressively throughout their time in education. As an example, children in Year 1 and Year 2 will follow the curriculum as set out in Key Stage One. At the end of each Key Stage, children are assessed to see if they have met their targets.

In summary, Key Stage 1 is followed by children in years 1 and 2; Key Stage 2 by children in years 3,4,5 and 6; Key Stage 3 by children in years 7,8 and 9; and Key Stage 4 by children in years 10 and 11.

In addition, four general requirements need to be adhered to by teachers. These are: using language in an effective way; using ICT in an effective way; following health and safety policy; and teaching in a way that takes into account the viewpoints of different ethnic minorities.

Secondary Curriculum

In 2010, a new National Curriculum started to roll out across stages 3 and 4. It was designed to offer both teachers and schools a greater degree of flexibility about what they cover in class, offering teachers increased freedom with their teaching plans, better opportunities to assess their pupils and provide targeted support both to those who may be falling behind (e.g. help children who struggle to read) using similar strategies such as those at and also those who may require additional challenges.

Teachers are also encouraged to help students nearing the end of Key Stage 4 to find either an academic or vocational path to follow. The curriculum also incorporates two (non-compulsory) study programmes covering financial and personal well-being.