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English National Curriculum 2022

The English national curriculum is a set of primary and secondary school subjects and standards. They split into key stages with written tests and assessments.

Most subjects (excluding science) were introduced in September 2014 for this national curriculum. English and mathematics have been in full force for all year groups since September 2016.

SCHOOL SUBJECTS: The national curriculum determines what subjects are taught in schools.

As such, it denotes the standards that schools expect children to reach in each given subject.

By doing so, children study the same subjects. They learn the same things according to national standards and similar education levels.

Religious education and sex education are also included. They form part of the ‘basic’ school curriculum for most schools in the United Kingdom.

There are several different types of schools, such as private schools and academies.

These particular education institutions are not required to follow the national curriculum. Even so, all academies must teach religious education.

Academies must set out a broad and balanced curriculum. It must include English, science, and mathematics.

School Key Stages Explained

The national curriculum levels are organised into blocks of years. As a result, the school system in the United Kingdom names the actual blocks ‘key stages‘ (KS). Teachers will make a formal assessment of each child’s performance at the end of each key stage.

Age Year Key Stage Assessment
3 to 4 EYFS
4 to 5 Reception EYFS Teacher assessments (optional assessment at the start of the year)
5 to 6 Year 1 KS1 Phonics screening check
6 to 7 Year 2 KS1 National tests and teacher assessments in English, maths, and science
7 to 8 Year 3 KS2
8 to 9 Year 4 KS2
9 to 10 Year 5 KS2
10 to 11 Year 6 KS2 National tests and teacher assessments in English and maths science
11 to 12 Year 7 KS3
12 to 13 Year 8 KS3
13 to 14 Year 9 KS3
14 to 15 Year 10 KS4 Some children take GCSEs
15 to 16 Year 11 KS4 Most children take GCSEs or other national qualifications

School Key Stage Assessment

The school must make a written report of the progress of each child by the end of each summer term. Teachers will then discuss the school reports with the parents.

Primary School Key Stage 1 and 2

Primary school compulsory national curriculum subjects are:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Design and technology
  • History
  • Geography
  • art and design
  • Music
  • Computing
  • Physical education (PE) and must include swimming
  • Ancient and modern foreign languages (KS2)
  • *Schools often teach citizenship, personal, social and health education (PSHE), and modern foreign languages (KS1)

Note: The schools must provide religious education (RE) as a compulsory subject. But, parents may request their children to get taken out of certain parts or the whole lesson.

Key Stage 1 and 2 Assessment and Tests

Year 1 Phonics Screening Check

The phonics screening check takes place in June. Your child reads 40 words out loud to a teacher and they will inform you how well your child performed.

The teacher also assesses whether your child needs extra help with reading. The check gets repeated in Year 2 if your child does not perform well enough in the first year assessment.

Key Stage 1 Tests
  • English reading
  • Mathematics
  • English grammar, punctuation, and spelling

Your child will take the Key Stage 1 test in May and you can get the results from the school. Results of your child’s teacher assessments get sent out automatically.

Key Stage 2 Tests

Your child will take national Key Stage 2 tests in May when they reach the end of KS2 term. Your child will get tested in their skill levels of:

  • English reading
  • Mathematics
  • English grammar, punctuation, and spelling
  • As a rule, Key Stage 2 tests last no longer than 4 hours. You should get the results in July. The school also sends you the results of your child’s teacher assessments and tests.

Key Stage 3 and 4

Key Stage 3 and 4 compulsory national curriculum subjects are:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • History
  • Geography
  • Modern foreign languages
  • Design and technology
  • Art and design
  • Music
  • Physical education
  • Citizenship
  • Computing

Note: Religious education (RE) and sex education become compulsory subjects in the national curriculum from key stage 3. But, parents may request their children get taken out of parts or the whole lesson.

Secondary School Key Stage 4

As a rule most pupils work towards national qualifications (usually GCSEs) during key stage 4 (KS4). The ‘core’ and ‘foundation’ subjects get included in the compulsory national curriculum at this point.

  • Core Subjects: English, mathematics, science.
  • Foundation Subjects: Computing, physical education, citizenship.
  • Schools must also offer at least one subject chosen from arts, design and technology, humanities, modern foreign languages. They must also provide religious education (RE) and sex education at key stage 4.

English Baccalaureate (EBacc)

In performance tables, the English Baccalaureate shows how many students got a GCSE grade C or above in:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • 2 sciences
  • A language
  • History or geography.

UK Other School Compulsory Subjects

Children do not have to take exams in the 2 other compulsory subjects. But, they must study religious education (RE) and sex and relationships education (year 7 onwards).

Religious Education

Schools have to teach Religious Education as one of the other compulsory subjects. But, parents can choose to withdraw their children from all, or sections, of the lessons. Once pupils reach 18 they can choose to withdraw themselves from RE as a compulsory subject.

Note: Local councils decide the Religious Education syllabus. But, faith schools and academies can choose to set their own.

Sex and Relationship Education

Sex and relationship education (SRE) is a compulsory subject of the national curriculum. Children study it when they reach age 11 and onward.

The subject teaches children about sexuality, sexual reproduction, and sexual health. It does not promote early sexual activity or any particular sexual orientation.

There are some compulsory sections of sex and relationship education as part of the national curriculum for science. But, parents may withdraw their children from all other parts of this topic if they wish to do so.

Note: All schools must have a written policy on sex education. The policy must be available to all parents and free of charge.

National Curriculum for Schools in the United Kingdom