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The National Curriculum

The Requirements of the Primary National Curriculum

This section contains information on the following:

1) The Primary Key Stages (definition)

2) Early Years Foundation Stage requirements

3) Key Stage 1 and 2 requirements

4) General National Curriculum Requirements

5) Withdrawing a pupil from a National Curriculum Subject

1) The Primary Key Stages

In a primary school, the national curriculum is split into three different key stages:

  • EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage, ages 4-5)
  • KS1 (Key Stage 1 - Years 1-2, ages 5-7)
  • KS2 (Key Stage 2 - Years 3-6, ages 7-11)

2) Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)


All EYFS provision must follow the guidance in the EYFS statutory framework.  You need to make sure all pupils study the 7 areas of learning:

3 prime areas:

  • Communication and language development
  • Physical development
  • Personal and social development 

4 specific areas:

  • Literacy
  • Maths
  • Understanding of the world
  • Expressive arts and design

The EYFS framework (link below) also sets out 'early learning goals' you need to help pupils work towards – these are the knowledge, skills and understanding that children should have by the end of reception.

See the framework linked to above, and our range of EYFS curriculum articles, for more information.

    2) Key Stage 1 and 2 requirements

    All maintained schools must follow the National Curriculum.

    Pupils in KS1 and KS2 are expected to learn the core and foundation subjects below (click the links to see the programmes of study).

    Core subjects

    Foundation subjects

    The Primary National Curriculum document (updated 2013) can be viewed on the link below

    4) General National Curriculum Requirements


    You must also teach religious education (RE)

    There isn't a statutory programme of study for this, but there is non-statutory guidance.  The Local Authority has a standing advisory council on RE (SACRE) committee that's responsible for deciding the RE syllabus in our area.


    PSHE isn't statutory, but you're expected to teach it 

    Your personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education provision should reflect the needs of your pupils.

    Where appropriate, it should build on the curriculum requirements, and include:

    • Drug education
    • Finance education
    • Relationships education* 
    • Health education*

    *From September 2020 all schools with a primary phase must provide both relationships education and health education.  The PSHE Association has created a programme of study for PSHE education that may be used as a basis for the school's own PSHE curriculum.


    Schools need to provide for their pupils' SMSC development

    Spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) education aren't discrete subjects but you need to promote your pupils' development in these areas as part of offering a broad and balanced curriculum

    The DfE has several bits of guidance on SMSC.


    Schools are expected to promote fundamental British values

    These are:

    • Democracy
    • The rule of law
    • Individual liberty
    • Mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs

    The DfE has advice on promoting British values as part of SMSC development.


    Subject teaching time

    Schools can decide how much time to spend teaching each subject, or even combine subjects together in topics, as long as they:

    • Meet the requirements set out in the National Curriculum by the end of each Key Stage
    • Comply with the law relating to the school day and year (see page 15 of the DfE guidance on attendance below)

    5) Withdrawing a pupil from a National Curriculum Subject

    Pupils must follow the National Curriculum.  The following table shows which subjects parents have the automatic right to withdraw their child from.


    Religious Education (RE) YES
    Relationships and Sec Education (RSE) and Health Education YES, from some aspects (see below)
    English NO
    Mathematics NO
    Science NO
    Art and Design NO


    Computing NO
    Design and Technology NO
    Languages NO
    Geography NO
    History NO
    Music NO
    Physical Education (PE) including swimming at either KS1 or KS2 NO


    Religious Education (RE)

    Schools have to teach RE but parents can withdraw their children for all or part of the lessons.  Pupils may raise spontaneous questions on religious matters in subjects other than RE, and issues related to religion come up in other subjects such as history or citizenship.  However, the right of withdrawal does not extend to these areas of the curriculum.


    Relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education

    Parents can withdraw their children from sex education, apart from the aspects covered by the science curriculum.  They can't withdraw their children from relationships or health education. 


    Physical Education (PE) 

    Parents can't withdraw their children from PE. This includes: 

    • Swimming in KS1/KS2 (as it's part of the National Curriculum) 
    • Off-site PE activities arranged by the school as part of the curriculum
    • Cold weather - school risk assessments determine whether it's safe enough to carry out PE lessons in cold weather. The risk assessment identifies risks involved and any steps that can be taken to mitigate these.


    Making a request to withdraw your child from a National Curriculum Subject

    All National Curriculum subjects are designed to have a positive impact on the education, health and wellbeing of a child, withdrawing your child from a subject could reduce this impact.  The school is willing and able to make adjustments so that the subject is more accessible to your child.  If you wish to proceed with a request to withdraw your child from a National Curriculum Subject, please consider the following points:

    • Is the subject listed as having 'Automatic right to withdraw child' above?
    • Why don't you want your child to take part in the subject?
    • Does your child want to take part in the subject?  Why or why not?
    • Are there any barriers to your child being able to take part in the subject?
    • Is your child struggling to benefit from the lessons in the subject?
    • Is the reason for wanting to withdraw connected to something other than the content of the subject?
    • How do you feel your child's time could be better spent in the event of withdrawing them from the subject?


    If you would still like to proceed with making a request for withdrawing your child from the subject, please contact the school to discuss this request in more detail with the Head Teacher before putting your request in writing.


    Other withdrawal requests

    There may be occasions where requests are made to withdraw a child from subjects without 'Automatic right to withdraw child' or from other activities (e.g. assemblies, break/lunch time time activities) for other reasons:

    • Health and Safety: the activity places the child at risk of physical or emotional harm due to their individual circumstances, needs or disability.
    • Special Educational Needs (SEN): Recommendations made in the individuals EHCP documentation or by a a connected and approved SEN or Healthcare Professional.
    • Medical: A child is temporarily unwell or has a medical condition or state of health that requires a temporary withdrawal from a subject or activity that is supported by a letter from an approved Health Care Professional (where withdrawal is likely to be required for longer than 1 week).


    In all three of the above examples, schools will use the flexibility available in the full National Curriculum and other Department for Education (DfE) documentation to provide appropriate access to learning in all subjects, as well as completing a risk assessment in partnership with the parents to include at least partial access to the subject/activity and to prevent any unnecessary loss of learning, health or wellbeing.