Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What's the UK Curriculum and How Do I Teach It?

When preparing to teach in London, one of your first steps should be to examine the National Curriculum. So, from the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians, here is a simple explanation of the UK National Curriculum for Canadian & American teachers.

The National Curriculum applies to pupils of compulsory school age in community and foundation schools, including community special schools and foundation special schools, and voluntary aided and voluntary controlled schools. It’s different from anything you’ve probably been exposed to in Canada, but it works.

It is organized on the basis of four key stages:
key stage 1: Ages 5-7 (Years 1-2)
key stage 2: Ages 7-11 (Years 3-6)
key stage 3: Ages 11-14 (Years 7-9)
key stage 4: Ages 14-16 (Years 10-11).

At key stages 1 and 2 all pupils must study Art and Design, Design and Technology, English, Geography, History, Information and Communication Technology, Mathematics, Music, Physical Education, Science and Religious education.

Like I said, it’s a little different.

Students in Key Stages 3 & 4 must study Citizenship, English, Information and Communication Technology, Mathematics, Physical Education, Science, Careers Education, Sex Education, Work-Related Learning and Religious Education.

The curriculum also includes non-mandatory programmes of study for Personal Well Being (which includes the requirements for sex and relationships and drugs education) and Economic Well Being and Financial Capability (which includes the requirements for careers education.)

And then there are “Entitlement Areas” (which are basically what we would call electives) that Key 4 students get to choose from – the Fine Arts, Design and Technology, Humanities (Geography and History) and Foreign Languages.

This all sounds daunting, I know. But no one expects you to have memorized all this – just be familiar with it. And the great thing about teaching under the UK curriculum? Most of your lessons are already planned! That’s right, no more frantic Sunday nights spent coming up with unit plans! It’s all done for you. You need to adapt the lessons for your class though.

A Note on Religious Education (RE)
One thing you will notice right away in London is the inclusion of religion in the public school curriculum.
Canada doesn’t really teach religion, and if anything we avoid discussions about religion in our public school system. In the UK, the approach to this controversy is to teach the students from a very young age about all major world religions. It is a part of the national curriculum and you will have to teach it if you are a primary school teacher.

For example, in my Year 5 Class, we did a unit on Hinduism that lasted 3 weeks. If you’re a secondary school teacher then you will need to understand that your students have been taught all about religions. It will be a part of the school assemblies, and you’re expected to know some basics about world religions.

To see the National Curriculum online and look at specific subjects, see this web site: http://curriculum.qca.org.uk/index.aspx

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