Free to be creative at last

30th June 2006 at 01:00
Changes to the 11-14 curriculum aim to help pupils engage more with the world and cut down on the level of prescription

The proposed new key stage 3 national curriculum is designed to give teachers more freedom to innovate and bring greater consistency across the subjects.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is also trying to inject a new emphasis on creativity and the need for pupils to relate to the world outside the classroom into the 11-14 curriculum.

It hopes that reducing the amount of detailed prescription will give teachers the scope to provide catch-up classes for pupils still lacking basic skills and to allow more gifted pupils to progress at a faster rate.

Each subject has a programme of study, which sets out what is required to be taught. At the moment this varies widely according to the subject. The QCA has proposed a new standardised format.

Each begins with a statement on the importance of the subject, followed by lists of key concepts, key processes and a section on the subject's range and content.

Development is still at an early draft stage. Formal consultation will not begin until February 2007 and the new curriculum is not due to be implemented until September 2008.



There is far less detail on what pupils should do and more on general principles of mathematical understanding.

For the first time, there is a stipulation that pupils should not simply be doing maths, but learning about its history and uses. There are no prescribed methods of how to teach addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

The new programme says that pupils should be taught the "key concepts and processes through... working with mental, written, calculator and ICT methods of calculation".

This contrasts with the primary proposals, which suggest more emphasis on standard methods.

Physical Education

Detailed requirements for games, athletics, gymnastics, dance and outdoor activities are dropped from the programme of study and swimming disappears altogether.

Greater emphasis is placed on pupils experiencing a range of different activities and on identifying the activities to which they are best suited and finding ways to improve their own performance.


Nine pages of requirements are reduced to two. Pupils will no longer need to learn the properties of light and sound, for instance the fact that light travels in a straight line and at a constant speed through a constant medium. Six points on electricity and magnetism are reduced to the requirement that pupils understand "electricity in circuits can produce a variety of effects". But greater emphasis is placed on the real-world application of science and on exploring contemporary and historical scientific developments.


Virtually unchanged but with slightly more emphasis on safety. The new framework says pupils should "use ICT to communicate and share information effectively, safely and responsibly".

Modern foreign languages

A draft programme of study contains a new paragraph about the importance of languages covering areas such as global citizenship, creativity and the structure of language.

There is more emphasis on the way that different areas of language learning are linked.


Increased emphasis on issues of local relevance is the only change to the programme of study.

Pupils will be required to build on their own experiences "to investigate at all scales, from the personal to the global". They will be expected to appreciate both local and global concerns, and to study geographical issues currently in the news. But the curriculum continues to focus on essential geographical knowledge, such as use of maps, regional and problem-based study, and familiarity with geographical vocabulary.

Design and technology

There is a greater emphasis on pupils being taught to be discriminating, informed consumers. It highlights the fact that "the made world has been designed in response to needs, wants and opportunities". Pupils are expected to have a knowledge of the cultural, economic and personal factors underlying these designs.

Both new and old guidelines require pupils to judge the quality of other people's products. But the new curriculum suggests that they should use this skill to inform their own designs. It also gives explicit goals for the different elements of DT: food, resistant materials and textiles, and systems and controls.

Art and design

Increased emphasis is put on the significance of art as a tool for communication.

Pupils are told to extend their interest beyond the confines of the school art-room, engaging "in cross-curricular and multi-disciplinary practice, where clear learning objectives are identified for art, craft and design."

The new curriculum also emphasises the role of art as a method of communication across different cultures.

Previously, students were asked to study the function of art within different cultures and historical periods.

This stipulation remains, but pupils are also expected to focus on the role of the artist, as creator of art. The importance of the artist is also highlighted in a new emphasis on art both as something of public value, but also of personal significance to the artist.


A detailed list saying pupils should study a range of literature including a Shakespeare play, eight major poets and four major fiction writers - half pre-1914 and half afterwards - and "drama by major playwrights" is gone.

The new draft only specifies "at least one Shakespeare play". On other literature it says it should include "stories, poetry and drama written before, during and after the 20th century" and allow pupils to understand English literary heritage and other cultures and traditions.


The British empire is mentioned for the first time. Studies on six compulsory periods of time - three on Britain, two on world history and one on European -are replaced with an emphasis on themes running throughout history.

But it also stresses the need for pupils to understand chronology and understand how individual events fit into the bigger picture.


Pupils will be required to study performance styles reflecting a variety of cultural and international traditions and teachers should bring a global dimension to the subject. Pupils should also be taught to understand musical notation in a range of genres and traditions. The curriculum remains otherwise unchanged.


Pupils to understand citizenship in school, local, regional, national, European, international and global contexts. A new emphasis is placed on understanding inclusion and diversity in UK society.

Also given more prominence is the role of the legal system and how it relates to young people, the importance of freedom of speech and where public money comes from and who decides how it is spent.

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