Curriculum to be pruned at KS3

25th March 2005 at 00:00
England's key stage 3 curriculum is to be cut back over the next three years under a review to be launched by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority after Easter.

Ministers are concerned that the 11-14 timetable is overloaded and are sensitive to claims that schools are being asked to cover too much ground.

They want to scale back KS3 demands, in part by reducing duplication of material covered in different courses, although they say that all subjects will remain in the curriculum.

The National Union of Teachers said the review did not go far enough and that it was not clear how ministers would reduce the demands on teaching time. Under the review, science, history, geography and design are to receive extra attention. Ministers want to enliven science teaching in particular, with real-life issues given more prominence.

The move follows a detailed critique of KS3 in last month's 14-19 white paper. Despite significant improvements in early secondary teaching recently "the design of the curriculum has some significant problems," said the paper.

It added: "Some programmes of study are less coherent than they could be and some material is repeated in different subjects.

"The amount of prescription leaves schools with little space to timetable catch-up provision for those who are struggling, and to offer really stretching opportunities for those who have particular gifts."

Ministers want all of the existing subjects to remain in the curriculum, but more time spent on catch-up provision and classes for gifted and talented pupils.

They also want more emphasis in science on issues relevant to pupils' daily lives, along the lines of changes to KS4 science, being introduced next September.

The white paper said of the subject: "At present, the curriculum sets out a long shopping list of facts to be learned. "Not only the key conceptual underpinnings of the subject, but also its excitement, relevance and crucial importance are too easily lost."

The white paper's authors believe history and geography are in a similar position. In design and technology, one perceived problem was that pupils were required to complete a large number of tightly-specified tasks.

Changes following the review will be in place by 2008.

John Bangs, NUT head of education, said: "We welcome the fact that there is a review of KS3, but it doesn't go far enough in terms of reducing content."

The KS3 strategy is also being renamed the secondary national strategy, as some of its work is extended to KS4. A new online test in information and communications technology is scheduled for introduction in 2008 - four years after it was first trialled - and included in league tables alongside pupils' maths, English and science results.

Parents are also to be given more information about their children's achievements at 14. A new "pupil profile", setting out youngsters' results in every subject through tests or teacher assessment, will be launched.

Professor Edgar Jenkins, of the Royal Society, welcomed the move to review KS3 science but said any change had to backed by sound evidence, proper funding and support for teachers.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today