The New National Curriculum – a quick guide

13 September 2013

What has been published this week?

The final version of the National Curriculum has been published and the consultation rounds are now over.

The curriculum contains the programmes of study and attainment targets for all subjects, at all key stages, except key stage 4 English, Maths and science, which will follow after a public consultation on the draft programmes of study.

The DfE published drafts in February and July, asking for feedback. The July document contained substantial changes, particularly to arts and cultural subjects. We outlined them in this post – the highlights included significant improvements to the History and Music specifications.

You can read a DfE summary of the consultation feedback to the July version here.

What are the headlines of this version?

1. Drama is now represented on the National Curriculum

We are extremely heartened to see that our suggested paragraph on Drama has been included within the Aims section of the English Curriculum. Up to this point Drama was not included in the statutory section of the document.

The Spoken Language section now reads as follows:

‘All pupils should be enabled to participate in and gain knowledge, skills and understanding associated with the artistic practice of drama. Pupils should be able to adopt, create and sustain a range of roles, responding appropriately to others in role. They should have opportunities to improvise, devise and script drama for one another and a range of audiences, as well as to rehearse, refine, share and respond thoughtfully to drama and theatre performances.’

There is still not enough Drama within the curriculum and the document lacks the structured drama learning framework we would like to see, but this paragraph represents a real step forward. It makes a clear statement that all children should learn through and about drama; describes drama as an artistic practice; and makes it clear that young people should be enabled to respond to theatre and performance. It is a first building block for teachers, drama and theatre professionals to base great teaching and learning on. CLA colleagues were involved in delegations to the DfE, Roundtables and submission drafting throughout the consultation process; and all our partners, particularly National Drama, should feel proud that their tenacity has led to tangible change – even though there are further battles to be joined in order to give drama the parity and status it deserves.

2. Key omissions

No other substantial changes to the arts and cultural subjects have been made to this document since the July version and, as such, some significant omissions and concerns remain,. In n particular:

  • Film and technology are missing

There is no mention of film, digital media or text. This is a real blow, and one that will make it extremely difficult to ensure that young people have the literacy skills to succeed in a world dominated by these forms of communication and expression.

  • Dance is not adequately included

Dance is only sketched in the briefest terms within the P.E. specification– with no recognition that it is a rigorous and complex art-form not simply a physical activity.

3. We must make this work for children and young people

As expected this Curriculum is a very mixed bag, but it is also the final version , and as such, the teachers, specialists, cultural professionals and organisations within the Alliance will need to work with it to make young people’s learning experience as rich, creative and cultural as we possibly can. We will need to find ways and means to inspire and support all schools in bringing the statutory requirements to life, giving every child the opportunity to actively engage with the creation of the arts and heritage.

To help with this, the CLA is proposing to work with its partners and create a slim companion document which helps schools to interpret the National Curriculum creatively. It would highlight, clarify and offer guidance on cutting-edge cultural learning ideas and concepts which embody and support great learning in each of our disciplines. This should complement and support the more detailed resources and training currently being developed and offered by Specialist Subject Associations and others like Arts Council and the Bridge Organisations.

When does this curriculum come in to force and who has to follow it?

This curriculum will come into play in September 2014, giving us a year to plan and adapt to it. (N.B. The DfE asks teachers to note that in the 2014 to 2015 academic year, pupils in years 2 and 6 should be taught the current programmes of study in English, mathematics and science as children will be sitting existing SATs tests in these subjects. New SATs will come on stream in 2016)

The National Curriculum must be followed by all maintained primary and secondary schools in England. Academies and Free Schools (approximately half of all schools) are exempt from following it.