According to Directgov (2012), “the National Curriculum is a framework used by all the maintained schools to ensure that teaching and learning is balanced and consistent.”
The National Curriculum is thought by many to be complex and unclear. However, it is at the heart of the education system in England. This is noted by Baumann et al (1997) and Kyriacou (2009) who document that the basis for the National Curriculum was established in the Education Reform Act 1988; creating the idea that education must begin with the needs and interests of the child. The following model acknowledges how the National Curriculum is central to a school and a pupils learning.
It can suggest that the National Curriculum is a central organising feature to school learning and allows a core curriculum to be delivered in a standardised way. By identifying the skills required for learning, the National Curriculum provides a range of contexts and opportunities that presents a chance for all pupils to succeed as well as allowing for some flexibility in teaching.
There are a range of key features within the National Curriculum and these have been outlined by the Department for Education (2011). They are;
* to create a national benchmark through coherence across schools, * to set out essential knowledge that best meets the needs of the children, * to raise standards of all children and
* to identify key subject disciplines.
The key features identified offer a source of support in teaching and in addition, they provide a direction of learning.
The National Curriculum has an established key stage structure that can provide the coherence needed across maintained schools. However, the key stage structure offers statutory and non-statutory subjects. For example, Design and Technology is a statutory subject at key stage three but at key stage four the subject becomes non-statutory. One of the main key features is to create a national benchmark, and this is done through many forms of assessment throughout a school career. Assessment plays a number of crucial roles in relation to the National Curriculum and since children develop at different rates, providing a national benchmark of level descriptors within the National Curriculum allows teachers and schools to map and judge a pupil’s progress. Furthermore, this can give an idea of how a child is developing in terms of their age as a pupil’s attainment will be assessed and reported in terms of these levels.
Kilpatrick (1918) and Pring (1976) comment that a curriculum provides “the underlying theory of value reflected in the concern for the interests of the child”. This supports the National Curriculum with reference to the key feature of setting out essential knowledge that best meets the needs of the children. However both authors maintain that this cannot be done without a certain hierarchy of values and needs. Maslow (1954) identified these values and needs, and in terms of the National Curriculum they relate to identity, relationships, society and the environment. All these values are fundamental to the progress and development of a pupil’s learning and as a basis of fulfilment and inspiration. If a child can gain knowledge relating to these values, then they will become successful learners who achieve their potential.
For each subject, the National Curriculum proposes a programme of study. Curriculum opportunities in programmes of study, for example Design and Technology encourage working and making links with other subjects. Horizontal integration has taken place within the National Curriculum with regards to resistant materials, electronics, textiles and food technology, as they have all been merged under the same heading of Design and Technology. However, this has allowed vertical integration to occur between subjects within the National Curriculum....