Cultural Learning Alliance

Culture is about conversations. And at a time when it seems we’re not talking enough to each other, and generations can be divided, these conversations become more and more important

Dea Birkett
Founder, Kids in Museums


The New National Curriculum – a quick guide

Published 13 September 2013

What has been published this week?

The final version of the National Curriculum has been published and the consultation rounds are now over. 

The curriculum contains the programmes of study and attainment targets for all subjects, at all key stages, except key stage 4 English, Maths and science, which will follow after a public consultation on the draft programmes of study.

The DfE published drafts in February and July, asking for feedback. The July document contained substantial changes, particularly to arts and cultural subjects. We outlined them in this post – the highlights included significant improvements to the History and Music specifications.

You can read a DfE summary of the consultation feedback to the July version here.

What are the headlines of this version?

1. Drama is now represented on the National Curriculum

 We are extremely heartened to see that our suggested paragraph on Drama has been included within the Aims section of the English Curriculum. Up to this point Drama was not included in the statutory section of the document.

The Spoken Language section now reads as follows:

‘All pupils should be enabled to participate in and gain knowledge, skills and understanding associated with the artistic practice of drama. Pupils should be able to adopt, create and sustain a range of roles, responding appropriately to others in role. They should have opportunities to improvise, devise and script drama for one another and a range of audiences, as well as to rehearse, refine, share and respond thoughtfully to drama and theatre performances.’ 

There is still not enough Drama within the curriculum and the document lacks the structured drama learning framework we would like to see, but this paragraph represents a real step forward. It makes a clear statement that all children should learn through and about drama; describes drama as an artistic practice; and makes it clear that young people should be enabled to respond to theatre and performance. It is a first building block for teachers, drama and theatre professionals to base great teaching and learning on. CLA colleagues were involved in delegations to the DfE, Roundtables and submission drafting throughout the consultation process; and all our partners, particularly National Drama, should feel proud that their tenacity has led to tangible change – even though there are further battles to be joined in order to give drama the parity and status it deserves.

  2. Key omissions

No other substantial changes to the arts and cultural subjects have been made to this document since the July version and, as such, some significant omissions and concerns remain,. In n particular:

  • Film and technology are missing

There is no mention of film, digital media or text. This is a real blow, and one that will make it extremely difficult to ensure that young people have the literacy skills to succeed in a world dominated by these forms of communication and expression.

  • Dance is not adequately included

Dance is only sketched in the briefest terms within the P.E. specification– with no recognition that it is a rigorous and complex art-form not simply a physical activity.

3. We must make this work for children and young people

As expected this Curriculum is a very mixed bag, but it is also the final version , and as such, the teachers, specialists, cultural professionals and organisations within the Alliance will need to work with it to make young people’s learning experience as rich, creative and cultural as we possibly can. We will need to find ways and means to inspire and support all schools in bringing the statutory requirements to life, giving every child the opportunity to actively engage with the creation of the arts and heritage.

To help with this, the CLA is proposing to work with its partners and create a slim companion document which helps schools to interpret the National Curriculum creatively. It would highlight, clarify and offer guidance on cutting-edge cultural learning ideas and concepts which embody and support great learning in each of our disciplines. This should complement and support the more detailed resources and training currently being developed and offered by Specialist Subject Associations and others like Arts Council and the Bridge Organisations.


When does this curriculum come in to force and who has to follow it?

This curriculum will come into play in September 2014, giving us a year to plan and adapt to it. (N.B. The DfE asks teachers to note that in the 2014 to 2015 academic year, pupils in years 2 and 6 should be taught the current programmes of study in Englishmathematics and science as children will be sitting existing SATs tests in these subjects. New SATs will come on stream in 2016)

The National Curriculum must be followed by all maintained primary and secondary schools in England. Academies and Free Schools  (approximately half of all schools) are exempt from following it.


See my initial brief thoughts @
Paul Farmer 13 September 2013
Re Digital Media/Film It is disappointing that there is little mention of technology within any curriculum area other than Computing. However, within this new subject area there is a strong focus on digital literacy (including film/media etc) We must ensure that teachers interpret these areas of study creatively and understand which areas of Computing to teach discreetly and which to integrate into other areas of the curriculum. Peter Twining's bliki provides a clear breakdown of the new Computing PoS
Julia Lawrence 25 September 2013
It is indeed heartening to read what has been included now in respect of Drama. The continuing absence of reference to film and digital media is extraordinary. it is as if the curriculum is being written by Luddites, who don't want our children to grow into the future that digital media and technology are irreversibly bringing.
Tim Appelbee 25 September 2013
A notional inclusion of drama is a good thing no doubt but really? No digital? We are seriously neglecting to support our children and young people as they will not be able to understand and control their place in an increasingly technical world if we do not teach these areas. Worrying.
Rhiannon Ellis 26 September 2013
Lets work together to make sure the next generation have access to ALL the arts and cultural learning in schools. I was appalled to hear that the word "Joy" has been removed from the curriculum within the section that talks about music. It is important that teachers and schools find ways of being creative in the classroom in all subject areas and that us cultural organisations are there to support individuals in the education system to deliver this. There needs to be a want and a drive from teachers/parents though as it is easy for creativity to be stifled under the pressure of academic attainment. It is hugely valuable for young people's personal and social development to be involved in arts and culture... Lets make sure despite the curriculum that this can continue to happen.. bring on the radical teachers!!
amy golding 23 October 2013
well i am hoping to become a drama teacher as i was inspired in year 7 but when i moved school the school didn't have drama on their curriculum or in their sixth form so i have to do drama course in uni and i have to do drama after college club. personally i think drama should be an option as a lesson in al schools and should include media and options as subjects as alike. it gave me confidence that i needed and i think it will help others to gain confidence too.
Abbie Harrison 02 December 2014

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Youth Dance England. Photographer: Brian Slater
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