top of page

The National Curriculum

The National Curriculum is followed by all state schools. Find out more about it and key assessment dates.

Learning with Tablets

The National Curriculum and key assessment information

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

The early years foundation stage (EYFS) sets standards for the learning, development and care of a child from birth to 5 years old. There are seven areas of learning and development. These are split into three prime areas:

• Communication and language

• Physical development

• Personal, social and emotional development,

And four specific areas:

• literacy

• mathematics

• understanding the world

• expressive arts and design.

In the final term of the year in which the child reaches age five (Reception year), the EYFS Profile must be completed for each child. Practitioners must indicate whether children are meeting ‘expected’, ‘exceeding’ or ‘emerging’ (not yet reaching) expected levels.

Primary School

When the children finish their Reception Year, they enter Key Stage 1 - this is for Years 1 and 2.

When they finish Year 2, they move into Key Stage 2 - this is for Years 3,4,5 and 6.

In Key stage 1 they study English, Mathematics, Science - the core subjects - and  Art and design,   Computing,  Design and technology, Geography, History, Music  and Physical education - the foundation subjects. In Key Stage 2 they will also learn a language. Schools must also teach Religious Education and Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education.


Year 1 phonics screening check

The phonics screening check is a short, light-touch assessment to confirm whether a child has learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard. It will identify the children who need extra help, so they are given support by their school to improve their reading skills further. This takes place in June when the child will read 40 words out loud to a teacher. If the child doesn’t do well enough in the check (normally 80% pass mark) they’ll have to do it again in Year 2.


Key Stage 1 SATS

The Key Stage 1 SATs officially assess children’s maths and English abilities. Although these are formal tests, they are done in a relaxed way in the Summer Term of Year 2. There are a number of elements to the KS1 SATS tests, including maths, reading and English grammar, punctuation and spelling. Children need to achieve a scaled score of 100 to meet the expected standard. Above 100 means they are exceeding the expected standard; below 100 means they are still working towards the expected standard.

Year 4 Multiplication Check

The KS2 Multiplication Test Check (MTC) is a statutory test for Year 4 children in England. It's crucial that children in Year 4 know their multiplication tables facts early so that when they are working on more complex or applied calculations, they're not having to spend time working out multiplication facts too. The check is carried on in the Summer Term.


Key Stage 2 (SATS)

National tests in May when they reach the end of key stage 2 in Year 6. These test skills in:

• English reading

• English grammar, punctuation and spelling

• Maths (arithmetic and reasoning)

• Writing is teacher assessed.

The tests are set and marked externally and the results are available in July. As with Key Stage 1, the results are used to determine if the child is working below, at or above the expected standard.

Secondary school

The secondary phase comprises Key Stage 3 Years 7,8,9) and Key Stage 4 (Years 10,11)

In Key Stage 3 compulsory national curriculum subjects are English, maths, science, history, geography, modern foreign languages, design and technology, art and design, music, physical education, citizenship and computing Schools must provide religious education (RE) and sex education from Key Stage 3.

During Key Stage 4 most pupils work towards national qualifications - usually GCSEs. The compulsory national curriculum subjects are the ‘core’ (English, maths and science) and ‘foundation’ subjects (computing, physical education and citizenship). Schools must also offer at least one subject from each of these areas:

• Arts

• Design and Technology

• Humanities

• Modern Foreign Languages

They must also provide religious education (RE) and sex education at key stage 4.

Some schools may enter young people for the English Baccalaureate (EBacc). The EBacc is a set of subjects at GCSE that keeps young people’s options open for further study and future careers.

The EBacc is:

  • English language and literature

  • Maths

  • the sciences

  • geography or history

  • a language

At the end of Year 11, most pupils will take GCSEs. GCSEs are graded numerically.  A grade 4 and above counts as a pass.

  • Grade 9 – The top mark is even higher than the old A*! This is very sought after and achieved by a small percentage of students.

  • Grade 8 – Below an A* but above an A, still considered ‘top grades’.

  • Grade 7 – Slightly below an A but only just...

  • Grade 6 – Slightly better than a B, these are sometimes called ‘middle grades’. 

  • Grade 5 – Below a B but above a C. Also called a ‘strong pass’ and still worthy of taking the subject further.

  • Grade 4 – Equivalent of a C. Also called a ‘standard pass’. Every 4 counts!

  • Grade 3 – Anything below a 4 is not a pass

Key Abbreviations and Acronyms

Schools use a lot of acronyms. Here you will find a useful list of what they mean.

The National Curriculum

The National Curriculum sets out the programmes of study and attainment targets for all subjects at all 4 key stages.

All local-authority-maintained schools in England must teach these programmes of study. You can find more information here

Interventions to support learning

There are lots of evidence based interventions to support children with a social worker in school. The website  What works for children in social care is a good starting point. The EEF also has useful information - find the link to their Teaching and Learning toolkit here.

bottom of page