The National Framework and The Purposes of the National Curriculum

The two broad aims for the school curriculum are reflected in section 351 of the Education Act 1996, which requires that all maintained schools provide a balanced and broadly based curriculum that:

  • Promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society.
  • Prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life.

The Act requires the Secretary of State, local authorities the governing body and the headteacher to take steps to achieve these requirements. The Secretary of State meets his responsibilities in this area by providing a national framework which incorporates the National Curriculum, religious education and other statutory requirements. This framework is designed to enable all schools to respond effectively to national and local priorities, to meet the individual learning needs of all pupils and to develop a distinctive character and ethos rooted in their local communities.

The Four Main Purposes of the National Curriculum

To establish an entitlement

The National Curriculum secures for all pupils, irrespective of social background, culture, race, gender, differences in ability and disabilities, entitlement to a number of areas of learning and to develop knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes necessary for their self-fulfilment and development as active and responsible citizens.

To establish standards

The National Curriculum makes expectations for learning and attainment explicit to pupils, parents, teachers, governors, employers and the public, and establishes national standards for the performance of all pupils in the subjects it includes. These standards can be used to set targets for improvement, measure progress towards those targets, and monitor and compare performance between individuals, groups and schools.

To promote continuity and coherence

The National Curriculum contributes to a coherent national framework that promotes curriculum continuity and is sufficiently flexible to ensure progression in pupils’ learning. It facilitates the transition of pupils between schools and phases of education and provides a foundation for lifelong learning.

To promote public understanding

The National Curriculum increases public understanding of, and confidence in, the work of schools and in the learning and achievements resulting from compulsory education. It provides a common basis for discussion of educational issues among lay and professional groups, including pupils, parents, teachers, governors and employers.

Developing the School Curriculum

While these four purposes do not change over time, the curriculum itself cannot remain static. It must be responsive to changes in society and the economy, and changes in the nature of schooling itself. Teachers, individually and collectively, have to reappraise their teaching in response to the changing needs of their pupils and the impact of economic, social and cultural change. Education only flourishes if it successfully adapts to the demands and needs of the time.