What is the National Curriculum for England?
Values and purposes underpinning the school curriculum
Education influences and reflects the values of society, and the kind of society we want to be. It is important, therefore, to recognise a broad set of common values and purposes and that is why GEMS’ Core Values fit so well within this curriculum. Through the English National Curriculum GEMS sees education as the route to equality of opportunity for all, a healthy and just democracy, and a means to establish a commitment to the virtues of truth, justice, honesty, trust and a sense of duty to each other and our communities
The National Curriculum sets out a clear, full and statutory entitlement to learning for all pupils up to the age of 16. It determines the content of what will be taught and sets attainment targets for learning. It also determines how performance will be assessed and reported. While this is not in any way statutory in other countries other than England, the quality of the curriculum and the learning experiences make this a curriculum that is valued and respected world-wide.
Key Stage 1
Key Stage 2
Key Stage 3
Key Stage 4
An effective curriculum gives teachers, pupils, parents, employers and the wider community a clear and shared understanding of the skills and knowledge that young people will gain at school. The National Curriculum of England is regularly reviewed to ensure that it continues to meet the changing needs of pupils and society and GEMS keeps abreast of these changes, amending and adapting our planning accordingly. This year the revision principally reflects changes made to the Key Stage 4 curriculum. These changes enable schools to offer pupils greater choice, while ensuring they acquire the core of general learning and experience essential to later learning and employment. At Key Stage 4, young people should see how their studies will lead to further education and employment and be helped to develop competence in skills such as analysis, problem solving, reasoning and communication. In GEMS’ schools we are committed, fully, to these principles and ensure extra curricular activities, a growing feature of the curriculum in England, features strongly in our schools.
The structure of The National Curriculum for England
For each subject and for each key stage, programmes of study set out what pupils should be taught, and attainment targets set out the expected standards of pupils’ performance. It is for schools to choose how they organise their school curriculum to include the programmes of study.
Programmes of study
The programmes of study set out what pupils should be taught in each subject at each key stage, and provide the basis for planning schemes of work. The national frameworks for teaching literacy and mathematics published by the DfES, and the exemplar schemes of work jointly published by the DfES and QCA, show how the programmes of study and the attainment targets can be translated into practical, manageable teaching plans
Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
The key skill of information technology includes the ability to use a range of information sources and ICT tools to find, analyse, interpret, evaluate and present information for a range of purposes. Skills include the ability to make critical and informed judgements about when and how to use ICT for maximum benefit in accessing information, in solving problems or for expressive work. The ability to use ICT information sources includes enquiry and decision-making skills, as well as information-processing and creative thinking skills and the ability to review, modify and evaluate work with ICT. Opportunities for developing this key skill are provided explicitly through the subject of ICT and through pupils’ use of ICT across the curriculum. Within the national curriculum for England ICT is at the centre of learning, in both subjects and individual pupil’s skills and competencies as a user.
GEMS’ schools provide the technology to enable this independent learning to happen with state of the art hardware and software including Smartboards and Promethian Boards. Libraries in our schools are also fitted out to enable research skills to be developed and tested.
The National Curriculum offers courses leading to the following qualifications:
- GCSE (short course)
- GCSE (double award)
- GNVQ (or GNVQ units) at foundation and intermediate level (see Note 6)
- NVQ (or NVQ units) at levels 1 and 2 (approved titles only)
- key skills unit in information technology
- entry level qualifications
- GCE AS level/A level
- other approved qualifications.
All schools in England must provide a programme of careers’ education for pupils during years 7-11, and an appropriate range of careers information. Schools are encouraged to provide careers education for those in the sixth form and this is a model that GEMS’ schools follow.
Careers’ education contributes to the school curriculum by helping pupils manage progression in their learning and work as they move through school and beyond. Careers education helps pupils to choose and prepare for opportunities, responsibilities and experiences in education, training and employment that will contribute to their own fulfilment and to the well-being of others, including the wider society and economy. Careers education contributes to pupils’ personal effectiveness through its emphasis on transferable skills such as decision-making, handling information critically, self-awareness, action planning and review, negotiating and self-presentation. Pupils can use these skills to manage their self-development and career exploration as well as their career plans, decisions and routes.
In England there is a statutory requirement that schools include work-related learning within the curriculum for all students at Key Stage 4 and GEMS follows this model. At Key Stage 4 students are given opportunities to :
- learn through work, by providing opportunities to learn from direct experiences of work (for example, through work experience or part-time jobs, enterprise activities in schools and learning through vocational contexts in subjects)
- learn about work, by providing opportunities for students to develop knowledge and understanding of work and enterprise
- learn for work by developing skills for enterprise and employability (for example through problem-solving activities, work simulations, and mock interviews).
This three-strand approach highlights that it is not skills and knowledge that are unique to work-related learning, but the context in which they are developed. Direct experience of the world of work (through a variety of activities) should be at the heart of work-related provision.
Finally, the National Curriculum enables pupils to improving their own learning and performance by critically evaluating their work and what they have learnt, and identifying ways to improve. They are encouraged to identify the purposes of learning, to reflect on the processes of learning, to assess progress in learning, to identify obstacles or problems in learning and to plan ways to improve learning. All subjects provide opportunities for pupils to review their work and discuss ways to improve their learning. Thinking skills are developed to ensure pupils can focus on ‘knowing how’ as well as ‘knowing what’ – to learn.
GEMS Core Values and the National Curriculum, alongside state of the art schools, provide an excellent stepping stone for young people to achieve their highest goals and aspirations.
Article by Ann McPhee
GEMS Director for Education – International Schools