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The school curriculum in England is the responsibility of the Westminster Government. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are responsible for setting their own curriculum policies. 

This briefing provides an overview of each of these four curriculums. It considers their respective futures, highlighting some key issues that may feature in future reforms.

England

England’s national curriculum is mandatory for maintained (council-run) schools, but academies and free schools, which are outside of local authority control, have more freedoms.

The last curriculum review took place during the Coalition Government’s term. The resulting revised national curriculum has been implemented since 2014. There have also been related changes to exams and assessments.

Scotland

Like Wales and Northern Ireland, the school curriculum in Scotland is a devolved policy area.

The 2019 Curriculum for Excellence is the latest version of the curriculum in Scotland. It has been designed to be coherent, sequenced, and integrated over four key stages. CfE is designed to be “a totality of all that is planned for children and young people from early learning and childcare, through school and beyond”.

Wales

In March 2014, the Welsh Government commissioned the Donaldson Review of Curriculum and Assessment from Foundation Phase to Key Stage four. Donaldson had previously carried out a similar review for the Scottish Government in 2010, and his report led to the redevelopment of Curriculum for Excellence.  

The Welsh government has introduced the Curriculum for Wales (CfW). CfW is designed to be flexible for teachers to tailor it to the needs of their learners. There are no programmes of study prescribing exactly what must be taught.

CfW roll-out began in September 2022 in all publicly funded nursery settings and primary schools. Half of all secondary schools opted to roll-out the new curriculum to year seven in 2022-23. By September 2023 it becomes statutory for all year eight pupils. The roll-out will continue every year reaching Year 11 in 2026-27.

Northern Ireland

The current Northern Ireland Curriculum was initiated on 1 Aug 2007. The curriculum covers all 12 years of compulsory education for pupils aged four to sixteen.

The curriculum focuses on the learning process and learner needs, as well as their knowledge, understanding, and skills. The curriculum is designed to provide students with a broad and balanced education, which includes the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and understanding in various areas of learning.


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