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The DfE is conducting a review of the primary and secondary National Curriculum.
This site contains the statutory programmes of study for National Curriculum subjects which maintained schools must follow until a new curriculum is in place.

Frequently asked questions


General FAQs

Why have materials been removed from the National Curriculum website?

In the Schools white paper ‘The Importance of Teaching’ published on 22 November 2010 Ministers set out their plans to reduce the amount of guidance and materials offered to schools. They believe that schools should be free to use their own professional judgement about how they teach, without unnecessary prescription.

We have therefore removed non-statutory materials and guidance from the National Curriculum website and restructured the site accordingly.

All material previously available is preserved on the UK government web archive

What about RE and PSHE education where the programmes of study are non-statutory?

The non-statutory programmes of study for RE and PSHE education will remain on the national curriculum website.

What will happen to information about assessment including those materials that cover exemplification of national standards?

The removal of non-statutory information relates only to guidance around the curriculum. Information about assessment has not been removed.

What does this mean for schools/head teachers/classroom teachers?

Teachers can make their own judgement about the resources they use to prepare and teach the curriculum or other related topics. Where schools do want guidance, online copies of QCDA materials are still available for schools and others to access if they wish.

Is there any guidance on adjusting the curriculum in terms of inclusion?

Statutory information on inclusion can be found under both the Key stages 1 & 2 section and the Key stages 3 & 4 section of this site.

Where can I find information about the early years foundation stage?

Information about the early years foundation stage can be found on the QCDA website.

Is there a statutory requirement for how much time schools should allocate to teaching each curriculum subject?

QCDA does not set time allocations for subjects. There are however, national targets for literacy, numeracy, PE and sport, and culture. Schools should determine the time allocation that most appropriately meets the needs of their learners, guided by these targets.

Is religious education statutory or non-statutory?

RE is a statutory subject in the basic school curriculum and should be taught in all schools. The legal requirement for RE in maintained community schools and voluntary controlled schools is the locally agreed syllabus. The programme of study is included for illustrative purposes so that SACREs can develop their locally agreed syllabus to fit with the rest of the curriculum and schools can plan a whole curriculum.  

Voluntary aided schools and academies with a religious designation must follow the syllabus approved by their governing body.

Primary curriculum

What will the revised primary curriculum look like?

The new government has made it clear that it intends to restore the National Curriculum to its original purpose – a minimum national entitlement for all our young people organised around subject disciplines.

An announcement outlining next steps is expected shortly.

What happens in the meantime?

The existing subject-based National Curriculum requirement will remain in force for primary schools. Details are available from the Key stages 1 & 2 section of this site.

Will primary schools still be getting an additional training day in 2010/11?

Yes. Primary schools teaching Key Stages 1 and 2 will still receive an extra non-contact day in 2010/11 to help them prepare adequately for the next school year and consider new approaches.

Why have you sent out handbooks?

That decision was taken by the previous Government. They proposed to introduce a new primary curriculum from September 2011 and put in place a programme of support and guidance for schools from January this year. The new Government has decided not to go ahead with this policy for the reasons set out in the Minister’s statement to Parliament.

Will schools get a refund for primary curriculum materials that they have purchased?

Yes. A full refund will be made automatically to those who placed orders on account. (The account will be credited rather than a refund made.) Those who purchased by credit card will need to call our orderline on 0300 303 3015. All customers have been contacted directly by QCDA with information about the refund policy.

What has happened to the schemes of work?

The current schemes of work are not redundant. Many schools have selected parts of the schemes of work they feel are most appropriate for their learners.

The Department for Education has decommissioned the Standards Site, which hosted the QCA schemes of work. They can now be found at the National Archives website.

Secondary curriculum

What will schools be expected to report at the end of key stage 3 for each subject?

Schools will be expected to report against attainment targets for each subject at the end of key stage 3. In 2009/10 these will be the current attainment targets, changing in 2011 to new attainment targets based around the new programmes of study. As the changes are rolling out year-on-year, the first end of key stage tests based on the new programmes of study will be in 2011.

Will schools be expected to assess and report on the personal, learning and thinking skills for each individual subject or across all subjects?

There is no statutory requirement to report in relation to personal, learning and thinking skills (PLTS) and there are no attainment targets for this framework of skills. PLTs have been integrated into all programmes of study for the curriculum at key stages 3 and 4.

When is the food technology entitlement due to be implemented?

The National Curriculum requirements relating to food technology at Key stage 3 are detailed in the programme of study for design and technology. Range and content (3a) states that the curriculum should include resistant materials, systems and control and at least one of food or textiles product areas.  Every secondary school pupil, however, has an entitlement to cook. Further details of this can be found on the Licence to Cook website.

What has happened to the schemes of work?

We are not revising the schemes of work to match the new programmes of study. The current schemes of work are not redundant. Many schools have selected parts of the schemes of work they feel are most appropriate for their learners.

The Department for Education has decommissioned the Standards Site, which hosted the QCA schemes of work. They can now be found at the National Archives website.

Secondary National Strategies frameworks and the national curriculum

The Secondary National Strategies (SNS) help schools to target their planning to meet the needs of their pupils using the framework of learning objectives. Frameworks for English, mathematics, science and ICT are now available from the National Strategies website to help teachers plan their schemes of work for the new programme of study.

The programmes of study set out the statutory requirements for what must be taught within a key stage. The framework provides guidance about how this can be achieved, broken down by year.


What does key stage 1 national curriculum assessment consist of?

Statutory teacher assessment happens at the end of year 2 when judgements must be reported in speaking and listening, reading, writing, mathematics and in each science attainment target. Schools must report outcomes to the local authority and to parents/carers. Teachers are still required to use nationally provided tests and tasks which are designed to test children’s knowledge and understanding of the key stage 1 programmes of study in English and mathematics. They provide a snapshot of children’s attainment.

Teachers must administer national curriculum tasks and tests to help them arrive at a secure judgement for their final teacher assessment at the end of key stage 1. As a minimum, this will mean a task or test in reading, writing and mathematics for each child, except those judged to be working below level 1. The teacher should decide which tasks or tests should be used for each child, taking into account their knowledge of the level at which the child is working.

Teachers can use the tasks and tests to inform their assessment judgements at any time during the year, but children are not to be tested more than once during the year in each subject or attainment target.

Full information about key stage 1 arrangements can be found in the Key stage 1 Assessment and reporting arrangements document.

What does key stage 2 national curriculum assessment consist of?

At the end of year 6, schools must report outcomes of both teacher assessment and tests. Teacher assessment covers all aspects of English, mathematics and science. The tests cover reading, writing (including spelling) and mathematics. Outcomes of both must be reported to parents/carers and teacher assessment judgements are sent to QCDA for national collection.
The key stage 2 tests are designed to test pupils’ knowledge and understanding of specific elements of the key stage 2 programmes of study. They provide a snapshot of a pupil’s attainment at the end of the key stage. There are three English tests:

  • a reading test

  • a writing test (made up of a longer task and a shorter task)

  • a spelling test.

There are three mathematics tests:  

  • Test A (a non-calculator paper)

  • Test B (a calculator paper)

  • mental mathematics test.

Full details of the key stage 2 assessment arrangements can be found in the Key stage 2 Assessment and reporting arrangements document. 

What are the key stage 2 science sampling tests?

Instead of requiring all pupils at the end of the key stage 2 programme of study to take a national curriculum test in science, the Department for Education (DfE) monitors the proportion of pupils attaining level 4 and above using a sample of schools.

Participating schools administer the science sampling tests to pupils who are working at level 3 or above. The proportion of pupils nationally attaining level 4 and above in the sample will be published by DfE.

The sample is selected to represent schools nationally.

What does key stage 3 national curriculum assessment consist of?

At the end of key stage 3, normally when pupils are in year 9, schools have to report teacher assessment outcomes to parents/carers.

The requirement for all pupils to sit tests in English, mathematics and science at the end of key stage 3 was removed in October 2008. Teacher assessment of pupils remains a statutory requirement. At the end of key stage 3, teachers summarise their judgements for each eligible pupil, taking into account the pupil’s progress and performance throughout the key stage. They need to determine:

  • a level for each attainment target in English, mathematics, science and modern foreign languages 

  • an overall subject level in each of the core and non-core subjects.

Teachers should base their judgements on the level descriptions in the national curriculum.

Further information on the statutory requirements for schools can be found in the Key stage 3 Teacher assessment and reporting arrangements. National sampling at key stage 3 will be introduced in due course.

What is APP?

Assessing pupils’ progress (APP) is a national approach to assessment that equips teachers to make judgements on pupils’ progress. APP helps teachers to fine-tune their understanding of pupils’ needs and tailor their planning and teaching accordingly, by enabling them to:

  • track pupils’ progress

  • use diagnostic information about pupils’ strengths and weaknesses to improve teaching, learning and pupils’ progress

  • make reliable judgments related to national standards in core subjects.

APP was developed between 2004 and 2010 by QCDA in partnership with the National Strategies.

Where can I find Assessing pupils' progress (APP) materials for English, mathematics and science?

You can find the materials on the National Strategies website. The materials have already been successfully rolled out to help teachers get the most out of assessment. They are available for English, mathematics, science and ICT at key stage 3 and for English, mathematics and science at key stages 1 and 2.

Will there be any new APP materials?

There are no plans to publish any new APP materials. All of the current materials are available for schools and local authorities to access via this website, the National Strategies' website and the QCDA website:

Are there any plans to make APP statutory?

APP continues to be a voluntary approach to pupil tracking and schools can decide if they want to use it or not. There are no plans to make APP statutory or to introduce national guidance on it for other subjects. The Department for Education will continue to review APP in line with any changes to the national curriculum.

Who should schools contact if they have any questions about APP?

Schools should contact their local authority first. Each local authority has someone who will have an overview of AfL and APP and this person should be their first point of contact. Enquiries can also be sent to

For more information about APP visit the APP section of this website.

Are there materials to support national assessment in foundation subjects at key stage 3?

Yes, we published national exemplification materials for foundation subjects in July 2010. They provide teachers, as well as parents and pupils, with annotated collections of evidence, gathered from individual pupils, which are judged to represent different levels of attainment in relation to national standards and in the context of the current secondary curriculum, introduced in 2008.

They can be used to support the statutory teacher assessment of pupils at the end of key stage 3 by providing nationally agreed benchmarks and points of reference.

Exemplification materials for levels 1 and 2 are being developed in 2010 – 11.

Are there any other materials available to support assessment?

Yes. QCDA has worked with schools to develop examples of effective ways of collecting evidence and providing feedback through assessment for learning and periodic assessments for subjects. The materials produced show how assessment practice within and between subjects can support learning, embed standards and be part of effective teaching of the revised programmes of study.


  • demonstrate ways to collect evidence of pupils’ knowledge, skills and understanding that can be seen in their talk, actions and outcomes

  • provide examples of manageable ways of collecting evidence

  • include exemplification of subject standards.

These are now available in the assessment section of the website.

Which set of level descriptions for key stage 3 should schools use?

Ministers decided not to proceed with the revised level descriptions which were consulted on in 2009 and were due to come into force for key stage 3 from September 2010.

Following this decision, schools should use the level descriptions in the secondary curriculum handbook for end of key stage 3 statutory assessment from 2011 until further notice. For schools that have a compressed, two-year key stage 3 the level descriptions should be used from 2010.

The level descriptions can also be accessed from this website under each subject page.

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