Skip to main content
article icon

Primary Curriculum changes

Article | Published 7 February, 2013

The existing primary curriculum for England in mathematics and science, say the authors of the new curriculum, focuses insufficiently on key elements of knowledge and is not as demanding as in other countries.

In mathematics there is an emphasis on greater rigour, in particular arithmetic, and promoting efficient written methods of long multiplication and division. There is to be more demanding content in fractions, decimals and percentages. As widely reported, the removal of calculator and other ICT devices is encouraged as strong written and mental strategies should be developed.

The proposed programmes of study for science are also more ambitious, with a stronger focus on the importance of scientific knowledge and a greater emphasis on the core scientific concepts underpinning pupils’ understanding. The mathematical aspects of science are to be strengthened and for the first time primary pupils will be taught about evolution and inheritance. In Year 6 Pupils might study Charles Darwin’s work on evolution and species.

The proposed English programmes of study require higher standards of literacy. Pupils are expected to develop a stronger command of the written and spoken word. Through the strengthening of the teaching of phonics more pupils should read fluently. Word lists are included for Key Stage 2, with the expected focus on Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation.

The retention of the current subject composition of the National Curriculum is accompanied by the addition of foreign languages at Key Stage 2. The languages mentioned are: French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish, Latin or Ancient Greek! There is an intention to make the study of a foreign language compulsory at Key Stage 2. This is to enable schools to be more ambitious about teaching language in secondary school.

The replacement of the current ICT curriculum encompasses a new computing curriculum with a much greater emphasis on practical programming skills. Pupils in Key Stage 1 are to be taught what algorithms are, how they are used in digital devices, and that programmes execute by following a sequence of instructions. Pupils in Key Stage 2 are encouraged to design and write programs that accomplish specific goals, as well as use logical reasoning to explain how a simple algorithm work. There is also a responsible emphasis on online safety and responsibility.

History – At Key Stage 1, pupils are to learn about the lives of significant individuals in Britain’s past – scientists such as Isaac Newton or Michael Faraday, reformers such as Elizabeth Fry or William Wilberforce, medical pioneers such as William Harvey or Florence Nightingale, or creative geniuses such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel or Christina Rossetti.

The Key Stage 2 history curriculum is expanded to include: early Britons and settlers; relations between England, Wales, Scotland and France; the Renaissance in England; and the Glorious Revolution, constitutional monarchy and the Union of the Parliaments. World War 1 and 2 are only specified at Key Stage 3 while Remembrance Day is not mentioned at all.

All state schools are also required to make provision for a daily act of collective worship and must teach religious education to pupils at every key stage and sex education to pupils in secondary education.

All schools should make provision for personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE), drawing on good practice. Schools are also free to include other subjects or topics of their choice in planning and designing their own programme of education.

National curriculum: Primary reform

Questions unanswered on the evening have now been responded to, and can be found here

Subscribe to the magazine

4 average rating

Comment (31)

  • Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    7 February, 2013


  • Thank you for this. Just one small, but important, point. The new doc says they might study Darwin not should. I believe this is a deliberate distinction. Same applies to other notes and guidance. The notes and guidance are non-statutory, so they are there to support not instruct teachers.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    7 February, 2013

    Home time

  • The saber-tooth curriculum / J. Abner Peddiwell still worth a read.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    7 February, 2013


  • Just read some of those words back for KS1 - Algorithms, William Wilberforce, etc and compare with what we already know about the motivations and interests of SIX year old children. God help them. Even if the content of this curriculum was valid I wonder whether any consideration has been given to the total cost of resources and teacher training to actually deliver it? Consider also rural schools Mr G and explain how in mixed age classes, it is possible to teach those units of history sequentially....please think it through...

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    8 February, 2013


  • There is an awful lot I could say about this but the one thing that jumps out at me first and foremost is that I will not, nor will I or could I ever, condone an act if daily collective worship. The very idea sends horrific shivers up my spine; children do not deserve to have that thrust upon them - more, they deserve the right to make a decision whether to worship or not to worship when they reach the age and maturity to make an educated decision for themselves. Reflection, thought for the day, yes - the use of the word worship is horrifyingly on the road to indoctrination.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    8 February, 2013


  • Mr Gove is horribly out of touch with the youth of today and perhaps more importantly the educationalists who perform heroics in the classroom. Never mind distinguishing between should and might learn about Darwin. Any baffoon who thinks that children aged 7 should have access to Darwin's diaries has never set foot in a primary school classroom. My school is high achieving through a skills based curriculum and we will resist this change to a knowledge based curriculum. We are turning the clock back thirty years in terms of delivery.

    The man has mentioned personalised learning so children reach their full potential but then insists they use mathematical methods that he stipulates. Brilliantly juxta!! The man is a moron and the sooner he is redirected to another post in the shambolic Tory government the better!! Let him destroy the economy rather than the lives of our children.

    What next on the primary curriculum? Conjugating Latin verbs? Fagging?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    8 February, 2013


  • Has Geography ceased to be a subject? PE & Games? Why the need to keep vastly changing the curriculum? Change for change sake? Why not just tweak what is already established so schools can just update their programmes of study rather than start again? So pleased that I'm retired from full time and only do supply work now.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    8 February, 2013


  • History. JUST British History. Marvellously narrow.

    And he really does need to start talk to some people who actually know about children and how they learn. We're talking about 5-11 year old CHILDREN. They are expected to know cause and effect? How about let us teach it to them then first.
    As for the spellings - getting them to spell your common first 100 words is relentless let alone add in a load of waffle that they won't even know the meaning of. Gove is a complete Cretin.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    8 February, 2013


  • I retired early as I couldn't bear to go through yet another lot of changes. I don't know about talking to people, I wish he'd spend a term in a Primary school trying to teach children!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    8 February, 2013


  • A knowledge based curriculum?! That alone will not be sufficient. This is the 21st Century and without skills children will not know how to apply their knowledge. Young people deserve a modern education enriched with innovation to enable them to fulfil their dreams and ambitions.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    8 February, 2013


  • Constantly changing a curriculum does not have any impact on learners. Teachers need the backbone of a curriculum to work with, internalise and make learning and teaching creative, therefore relevant and meaningful. In reading all the information on the new curriculum and from experiences of current ofsteds, there is no mention of the words fun, creativity or enjoyment. In fact the word creative, to the Tory, seems to mean 'nonsense or rubbish'. Where would we be without creativity? Creativity means independent thought.... Mmm.... I wonder why the government is squeezing creativity out of the curriculum as if it were a dirty word? Whoever is behind all these new curriculum fancy boring ideas obviously has no idea how children learn or how to inspire or empower young Britains. Education has already took a turn for the worse... Gove should currently walk past the 2013 classroom, peek in and observe that seventy percent of the children have been sent to sleep or are entering a zombie like trance...

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    9 February, 2013


  • Pupils should be taught the following chronology of British history sequentially:
    ? early Britons and settlers, including:
    ? the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages
    ? Celtic culture and patterns of settlement
    ? Roman conquest and rule, including:
    ? Caesar, Augustus, and Claudius
    ? Britain as part of the Roman Empire
    ? the decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire
    ? Anglo-Saxon and Viking settlement, including:
    ? the Heptarchy
    ? the spread of Christianity
    ? key developments in the reigns of Alfred, Athelstan, Cnut and Edward the Confessor
    ? the Norman Conquest and Norman rule, including:
    ? the Domesday Book
    ? feudalism
    ? Norman culture
    ? the Crusades
    ? Plantagenet rule in the 12th and 13th centuries, including:
    ? key developments in the reign of Henry II, including the murder of Thomas Becket
    ? Magna Carta
    ? de Montfort's Parliament
    ? relations between England, Wales, Scotland and France, including:
    ? William Wallace
    ? Robert the Bruce
    ? Llywelyn and Dafydd ap Gruffydd
    ? the Hundred Years War
    ? life in 14th-century England, including:
    ? chivalry
    ? the Black Death
    ? the Peasants’ Revolt
    ? the later Middle Ages and the early modern period, including:
    ? Chaucer and the revival of learning
    ? Wycliffe’s Bible
    ? Caxton and the introduction of the printing press
    ? the Wars of the Roses
    ? Warwick the Kingmaker
    ? the Tudor period, including religious strife and Reformation in the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary
    ? Elizabeth I's reign and English expansion, including:
    ? colonisation of the New World
    ? plantation of Ireland
    ? conflict with Spain
    ? the Renaissance in England, including the lives and works of individuals such as Shakespeare and Marlowe
    ? the Stuart period, including:
    ? the Union of the Crowns
    ? King versus Parliament
    ? Cromwell's commonwealth, the Levellers and the Diggers
    ? the restoration of the monarchy
    ? the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London
    ? Samuel Pepys and the establishment of the Royal Navy
    ? the Glorious Revolution, constitutional monarchy and the Union of the Parliaments.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    9 February, 2013


  • The above is the proposal for KS2 History. I don't think it needs any other comment.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    9 February, 2013


  • The curriculum consultation form has crashed but here is the link. In the last draft less that 100 responses were filed. Gove will say no one has responded unless you use this DFE consultation form.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    9 February, 2013


  • As a Headteacher of a successful Primary School with motivated and hard working staff and pupils I have no problem with changing the curriculum. Times change and we need to change with them. What I object to is that the changes we have to respond to are the product of an individual politician's unjustified dogma. It becomes a political football that is kicked in different directions every 5 years or so. Any leader in business or education who led their organisation in an autocratic, arrogant, dogmatic way without taking their staff with them in a shared vision would be unsuccessful and rightly criticised.

    In Primary schools we need to ensure we teach the basics well. Our pupils have a right to enter secondary school with the skills and knowledge necessary to take advantage of what is on offer and to succeed. We need to nurture the emotional growth of young people and their moral values. We need a curriculum that provides direction but also allows us flexibility to respond to the needs of our vastly differing communities.

    It is time that educationists made it their mission to take the curriculum out of the hands of individual politicians of whichever party and instead created a curriculum governing body which would be in charge of regular reviews. The body needs to be constituted by a range of educational professionals, researchers, parents and, yes, politicians. The key would be in the relative composition of this body and the mechanism for selecting its members.

    Does anyone else agree?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    9 February, 2013


  • I am concerned about the new maths curriculum and how this will affect SATs at the end of year 6. From the draft it looks like much of the current level 5 curriculum is going to be the expectation for y6. It also doesn't look like they have taken much content out apart from mode and median. If next years SATs are going to reflect this new curriculum I feel very sorry for the current y5s.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    9 February, 2013


  • I agree with some of the comments from Sean Smith. The constant curriculum changes over the years do not seem to have made considerable improvements. And Gove's curriculum is going back in time - what...a twenty or even forty, more years or so back in time? All the research into learners, learning styles and intelligence models over the years has been ignored. As I said earlier, 'creativity' is a dirty word, or under the current ofsted, a term meaning 'time wasting'. 'Rigour' is now the fascinating buzz word for 3 - 11 year olds!

    The idea of an independent committee of educationalists developing a curriculum separate to the government, whoever is in power, is a fine solution. If that was the case, the curriculum could be developed, changed and improved rather than torn up, scrapped and started again. We have already experienced that the latter option never works, is detrimental to learning and does not have any impact. If a committee was set up to improve the curriculum, changes would be manageable, welcomed and accepted as improvement in primary education. It has to be said,in all politeness, that Gove's autocratic leadership is as old fashioned as his 1940s curriculum.

    Finally I have read elsewhere on the forum, that secondary schools are listened to! Why are primary school specialists not listened to? Is it because we just accept these changes? Every teacher I speak to disagrees with Gove's decisions are these voices heard? Is it through our unions or is it through our head teachers? How can teachers take positive action?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    9 February, 2013


  • I shall continue to teach my class to listen to another's point of view and comment on that view. I shall continue to tell them that educated people listen and comment but do not resort to name calling such as "baffoon" (sic), Cretin (sic), or moron.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    9 February, 2013


  • As a key stage 2 teacher, There 's a few things that concern me:

    1) collective worship. I'm a strong Catholic and work in a Catholic school. In that context, collective worship is great!
    Imposing it on secular schools, however, is just wrong! Hindus can't worship in the same way as Christians, understanding both religions just says it's incompatible. It's two completely different forms of worship.

    Also, what about the atheists?

    2) Roman numerals at year 5. Why?

    3) History... Now we teach about good people (seacole, for example), and interesting topics (Lennon, for example). We now need to teach about tyrants and boring legislation that has no bearing on today's society (Magna Carta).

    4) Shakespeare... Mentioned in the history curriculum but for schools to fit it in it will have to form part of English. Let kids read Jaqueline Wilson or other authors they like!

    5) we'd need 6 10 hour days a week to fit everything in!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    9 February, 2013


  • Oh, and Evolution should be taught, even in Catholic schools, as it does not in any way go against doctrine...

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    9 February, 2013


  • I am fine wi thchildren doing Shakespeare, we have a brilliant theatre company for years 4-6 every year. I am all for children being exposed to 'great' art, music and literature . . . Great being that which withstands time and has things to teach any age and culture. We have spent 9 years since our school opened creating such a curriculum. But ours includes the culture and history of the world, modern and old. It teaches that history isn't all white men + Florence Nightingale. The history in particular is unworkable. It will remove the capacity of the subject in the primary years to develop intellect and deep thinking. No objects to handle (too precious), photos (camera not invented at time of William of Orange), written texts (most will be just too hard), So it will be secondary sources and the teaching of other people's reasoned judgements rather than primary sources and children making reasoned judgements. I think the rest can be fudged and schools could develop a decent curriculum with great creativity and inspiration from the teachers Gove thinks so little of. However Michael Gove must think a lot higher of the teaching profession that I do if he thinks they can make that history 'exciting' for children. Notably the making it exciting is the bit he has kept out of in his curriculum, that is up to teachers. I have not felt so utterly defeated, so low, since the league table was announced. I was moved to tears because I love history, our children love it (most go in to take it a GCSE). I love Richard II, the Middle Ages etc etc but not at age 7-11 all crammed together in. Just tell them they will learn it approach.
    I am seriously considering Academy.
    This is a curriculum that is highly personalised. It has been personalised around what a silly little man (who by a massive miscarriage of natural justice, has been thought fit to oversee the education of the next generation) wanted for himself. It assumes all children want to learn the way he does. A NATIONAL curriculum should be for everyone, yes the 'brightest' but not everyone is or can be the 'brightest' and even fewer will be in the narrow small minded way this curriculum perceives intelligence.

    The Cambridge Primary Review gave such insight and considered primary education holistically. How arrogant of a journalist turned MP to think he can better the most regarded people in the field.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    9 February, 2013


  • Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    10 February, 2013


  • 'The primary curriculum changes' are aspects of teaching/learning I have been thining of since long. The suggestion of higher standards of literacy and expectations to develop a stronger command of the written and spoken word is 'key' to opening doors of literacy at an early age. My observation of learners has led me to believe that opportunities for developing oral language skills must be provided to ensure proficiency in written language. The addition of foreign languages at Key Stage 2 is a very thoughtful point as there is 'a wealth' of knowlege and skill hidden in all languages. Inclusion of topics such as 'Renaissance in England' in the Key Stage 2 history curriculum is synonymous to literally going into 'the rebirth' of teaching learning. Kind regards to all, Farida Salahuddin Karachi-Pakistan

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    10 February, 2013


  • I am no longer in the classroom but I have had 4 calls this week from desperate supply teaching agencies. It is very difficult to stay committed to a profession that is not listened to and where children are the guinea pigs experimented on by out of out of touch politicians.
    I fear for my own children and also the future of this society.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    10 February, 2013


  • In order to teach we must first engage and with a innovative curriculum comes creative minds or so I thought! I'm pretty sure that won't be achieved with this curriculum.
    Has Mr G consulted with any primary educationalists on this or is he just regurgitating his secondary curriculum because that's how it appears.
    Watch childrens BBC Mr G they are beginning to understand what motivates and engages children, todays children are exposed to a different world and need a curriculum that will motivate giving them the skills to keep updated and ahead. Children what would you like to learn about today superhoeros or Will Willberforce? Err I think I know what they would choose and what a rich area of study it is!
    What a missed opportunity Mr G?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    10 February, 2013


  • Where is Geography? Surely it should be the most important subject nowadays? The Geographical Association’s manifesto, A Different View (2009), argues that geography ‘seeks explanations about how the world works and helps us think about alternative futures’.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    11 February, 2013


  • I am so fed up with the constant changes to the curriculum and with the direction it has gone, that I have moved my family to an International School. Here we have stability and the ability to choose the best parts of the English Curriculum. Teachers can teach and children learn. There is no collective worship...and an extra hour a week of learning time! The demands on schools, teachers and pupils are ridiculous and unworkable. I won't be returning until I see that the needs of children are put before political posturing.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    11 February, 2013


  • This is all quite scary in Primary History.
    I’ve spent 18 years trying to ensure our History teaching In KS1 , then KS2, is relevant, memorable and fun for the children, while smuggling quality learning – of the skills of enquiry and relevant knowledge etc, without boring the children.
    Bored children can not be motivated to do their best – it’s self-evident.
    How to inspire Primary School kiddies to learn ‘Constituitional Monarchy and the Union of Parliaments’ eh?
    Answers on a postcard please…

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    14 February, 2013


  • Is Ancient Egypt off the curriculum now? Shame if it is.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    19 March, 2013


  • And of course we are going to have to train a generation of teachers who came through school not having to learn these facts so that they can teach them.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    11 April, 2013


  • And what about Primary SEN schools and pupils? What implication will this new curriculum have on these pupils and schools? Any ideas??!.....

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    16 October, 2013


Add your comment

Subscribe to TES magazine
Join TES for free now

Join TES for free now

Four great reasons to join today...

1. Be part of the largest network of teachers in the world – over 2m members
2. Download over 600,000 free teaching resources
3. Get a personalized email of the most relevant resources for you delivered to your inbox.
4. Find out first about the latest jobs in education