The Education Reform Act of 1988 established, amongst other things, the idea of a National Curriculum (NC) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The National Curriculum set out to “promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society”; and “prepare such pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life”. It introduced Key Stages (periods of school education) with corresponding Attainment Targets (“the knowledge, skills and understanding which pupils of different abilities and maturities are expected to have by the end of each Key Stage”) and Programmes of Study (“the matters, skills and processes which are required to be taught to pupils of different abilities and maturities during each Key Stage”). Whilst there have been changes since 1988, these general structures have largely been maintained.
Ten subjects (plus Religion Education) were set out; and the Act defined a set of ‘core’ curriculum subjects (including mathematics and science) and as well as other ‘foundation’ subjects (including technology).
The Act set out assessment arrangements “for assessing pupils at or near the end of each key stage for the purpose of ascertaining what they have achieved in relation to the attainment targets for that stage”. It emerged that there would be summative assessments alongside teachers’ own assessments; and these took the form of standard assessment tasks (which became known as SATs), or external qualifications such as GCSEs, approved by the Secretary of State or other designated body.
In order to write the content of curriculum itself, the Act established National Curriculum Councils for England and Wales.
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Resource by: Department for Education