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Our Favourite Tips on Understanding the New Curriculum

The primary school curriculum has just had a big shake-up. What are the main changes and how will they affect your child? Here are all the important details you need to know


The new national curriculum will be statutory in your child's primary school this autumn. The national curriculum contains all of the content and attainment targets for the main subjects taught in English primary schools (Scotland and Wales have their own curriculums).

We asked the experts at Pearson to share their tips on understanding the changes.

Changes to the national curriculum

In 2013 the government announced plans to revise the national curriculum. Their aim was to raise attainment to ensure that England competed with the world's best education systems.

After a period of consultation, the final version was published in Autumn 2013. All state schools must teach the new national curriculum; however, children in this year's Year 2 and Year 6 will be taught and assessed on the outgoing National Curriculum for English, Maths, and Science. In 2015, the new curriculum will be statutory for Years 2 and 6.

Focus on 'essential knowledge'

The new curriculum is more challenging than before and at the same time is actually less content-heavy than the previous one. The current government is keen that schools focus on what they see as essential knowledge - the nuts and bolts of education.

State schools teach the new curriculum

The current system of reporting a child's progress through the use of National Curriculum levels has been removed; schools will implement and be accountable for their own assessment systems which they will use to inform parents about their child's progress.

Many schools have been gradually working to the new national curriculum over the last year so that they're well prepared for when the changes become mandatory at the start of term.

Key things you need to know about the new national curriculum:

  • Schools are required to publish their curriculum online on a year-by-year basis
  • There will be a strong emphasis on vocabulary development, grammar, punctuation, and spelling
  • Spoken English will have a greater role to play with children being taught debating and presentation skills
  • Handwriting - which is not currently assessed under the current curriculum - is now expected to be fluent, legible and speedy
  • The new Maths curriculum contains more content that needs to be taught. It's harder too, especially in some areas of mathematics, particularly calculation
  • As you've probably heard, calculators will be banned in the KS2 SAT from 2014
  • ICT is replaced by a new subject - computing. Children in KS1 will start to learn the basics of coding and de-bugging
  • Years 2 and 6 will follow the previous curriculum; the SATS they sit in May 2015 will test them on the content of the previous national curriculum
  • Evolution will be taught for the first time as part of the science curriculum.

What should you know about the new English curriculum?


Since 2010 schools have been teaching their children to read using synthetic phonics and this hasn't changed. With the new curriculum, synthetic phonics passes into the programme of study for each year.


Reading carries on at homeThere is a very strong focus on explicit grammar teaching with a long list of often complex grammatical concepts, punctuation and spelling rules that children will have to identify and label as well as use.

How good is your grammar? Are you proficient enough to help your child? Take the Pearson grammar quiz and see how your knowledge shapes up against the requirements of the new curriculum.

Reading for pleasure

The new curriculum highlights the important role schools play in ensuring that children read widely and for pleasure, and that this reading continues beyond the school gate at home.

What should know about the new Maths curriculum?

Written methods

The new programme of study for maths is more specific about using standard written methods for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and using these earlier. Schools teach written calculations in different ways, and you can find out more by looking at your child's school calculation policy.

Emphasis on problem solving and calculation

The new curriculum places a greater emphasis on understanding, application, and problem solving. There is also an emphasis on calculation involving fractions and decimals and less on data handling (now called statistics).

Increased difficulty

Some content has moved 'down' by one or two years, meaning children will be expected to master some things earlier than they do now; for example, some of what has been taught previously in Years 5 and 6 is now covered in Year 4.

Will you be able to keep up with your child's learning? Try the Pearson maths quiz. It's just 10 questions and will show you how you shape up against the requirements of the new curriculum. The questions are based on the end of year expectations for Year 6 in the new maths programme of study.

Children will be expected to solve these questions without using a calculator, since they are no longer allowed one in their SATs tests - so don't be tempted!

More information about the new national curriculum

The new curriculum may be trickier

You can read more about the curriculum changes at

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