Understanding the School Curriculum in the UK

In comparison to every curriculum baseline across the world, the UK holds one of the most prestigious curriculums in the world. There are a lot of elements that will be compulsory in private schools and public schools alike, but will be allowed to diversify the material they teach to students. This is where schools like a co-educational school in London will be able to differentiate themselves from a public school in the same region.

Here is a guide to understanding the school curriculum in the UK and what it will entail for students of all ages.

What are the compulsory elements of a UK education?

When following the national curriculum in the UK there are a few subjects that students will have to study in a public school. These include:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science (often split into Biology, Chemistry and Physics when they reach GCSE age)
  • Design and Technology
  • History
  • Art and Design
  • Music
  • Physical Education
  • Geography
  • Foreign Languages
  • ICT/Computing

As these areas will allow your child to explore plenty of new skills and opportunities to develop their passions, these subjects will help them discover what they like and dislike about school life.

Other important areas that are compulsory for students are relationships education, personal, social and health education (otherwise known as PSHE) and modern foreign languages from an earlier age.

What are recommended teaching elements that parents have control over?

There are some subjects that will be compulsory in schools and taught to children, but parents can opt out of these subjects if they choose. These will be sex education and religious education – these will vary for parents especially if they are from particular backgrounds. Teachers understand that this will be up to parents’ own discretion.

What tests or exams will students take throughout their time in school?

Children will take on a number of exams from their first years in school right up to when they reach Sixth Form age. These are all set to ensure your child is on track to continue improving their studies as they go through the different year groups and find their true calling.

When they are in the early stages of their studies, from Key Stage 1 and 2, literacy and language will be very important to their studies. Maths and teacher assessments will also be required to ensure your child is on the right track and is provided with pointers on how to improve.

As your child enters Key Stage 2 there will be a few more tests for them to take. Students will be tested on their phonics and times tables, before taking on their national tests at the end of their time in Year 6. Students will be tested on their English reading, grammar, punctuation and spelling skills. Students will also be tested on maths, English writing and science.

These then lead up to Key Stage 3, where the skills they need for Key Stage 4 (GCSE level) will be put to the test. Once they have learnt the skills then they will be ready for Key Stage 4, which is where the most important exams will take place at the end of Year 10 and Year 11.

What do private schools offer?

Private schools don’t have to follow the compulsory curriculum requirements, but they will have a more developed curriculum in place for students. As they are independent schools they will want to find ways to attract more students to enrol, which will come in the form of incredible opportunities, enrichment and further support for students.

Private schools will come from years of expertise and development that has seen incredible results for its students. And the proof is in the pudding with the biggest talents often coming from private school education.

So there is a lot to think about in understanding the UK curriculum, but it will be entirely up to your needs and what your child can manage. When choosing the right school that meets your requirements however, these will be the main things to understand about what the curriculum will look like and what your child will enjoy learning about.

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Buddy Ladner