National Curriculum

The Education Reform Act of 1988 established, amongst other things, the idea of a National Curriculum (NC) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The National Curriculum set out to “promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society”; and “prepare such pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life”. It introduced Key Stages (periods of school education) with corresponding Attainment Targets (“the knowledge, skills and understanding which pupils of different abilities and maturities are expected to have by the end of each Key Stage”) and Programmes of Study (“the matters, skills and processes which are required to be taught to pupils of different abilities and maturities during each Key Stage”). Whilst there have been changes since 1988, these general structures have largely been maintained.

Ten subjects (plus Religion Education) were set out; and the Act defined a set of ‘core’ curriculum subjects (including mathematics and science) and as well as other ‘foundation’ subjects (including technology).

The Act set out assessment arrangements “for assessing pupils at or near the end of each key stage for the purpose of ascertaining what they have achieved in relation to the attainment targets for that stage”. It emerged that there would be summative assessments alongside teachers’ own assessments; and these took the form of standard assessment tasks (which became known as SATs), or external qualifications such as GCSEs, approved by the Secretary of State or other designated body.

In order to write the content of curriculum itself, the Act established National Curriculum Councils for England and Wales.



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Prior to 1989 subjects such as CDT (Craft, Design and Technology - still then often called woodwork, metalwork and technical drawing in schools), Home Economics, Textiles (or Needlework) and Electronics were all separate subjects in secondary schools.

Since the introduction of the first National Curriculum...

The National Curriculum for Mathematics was introduced into England, Wales and Northern Ireland as a nationwide curriculum for primary and secondary state schools following the Education Reform Act 1988. The basis of the curriculum and its associated testing was to standardise the content taught across schools in...

Outlined in March 1985 (Science 5-16: A statement of policy DES), one intention of the National Curriculum was that all students aged 5 to 16 learn science – so there should be ‘Science for All’ in primary and secondary level education. The science taught should include both the ‘methods of science’ and the...

Key Stages One and Two of the National Curriculum 1995

This version of the National Curriculum for primary schools was published in January 1995 for implementation later that year. Programmes of study and attainment targets are set out for each of the subjects taught at Key Stages One and Two - English, mathematics, science, design and technology, information...